George Floyd and the Vegan Ethical Dilemma of Supply and Demand - Author N. Daniel
My name is Nick. I am an author, two years strict vegan, five years vegetarian and now trying to slowly ease himself off of meat once again. I would like to speak with you about the ethical dilemma at the heart of veganism and something that very much pushed me away from the cause: Supply and demand.
When George Floyd was working at the Salvation Army in 2018 I was there every weekend volunteering with him. I also worked in a suburban food shelf every Friday. I began doing these things as a strict vegan and later vegetarian. One of the biggest moral dilemmas I faced volunteering in food service was, "What do we do with the meat that is left over from the supermarket?" Vegans would argue that people should not eat it because it increases demand and encourages the meat industry to continue to make more waste. Vegetarians would argue that if people do not eat the meat the animal will die for nothing. Both are correct but how is the plant-based movement dealing with this topic as a whole?
I will say that every bit of food waste made at the homeless shelter is given to farmers to slop hogs with. Yes, the hogs eat pork. Maybe that is a conversation left for Earthlings 2. The truth is that this meat waste drove me away from my vegan friends because I felt that it should be eaten and not thrown away. Was I wrong? Volunteering with Floyd is kind of besides the point as this time as every shelter and food shelf does something similar to this. At the food shelf in the suburbs I gave my time to, it was the lambs who got the leftovers. I feel it is important to show that the American system really does its best to use every bit of food that we create, which is a point often overlooked. Organizations like the Salvation Army and Interfaith Outreach are constantly looking out for sources of food waste to redistribute to hungry peoples.
All this being said, I have also had vegetarian clients come through food lines and the outreach organizations in the Twin Cities would actually watch out for these individuals and save meatless meal plates and food items just for them. It is not a cause that goes unnoticed, even in desperate conditions, and I believe that is a symbol of progress. The shelter did have a rather large cooler full of meat products as did the interfaith food shelf. In the kindest way possible, I would encourage the vegan and vegetarian community to be patient with meat-eaters. I believe that lab grown meat will ultimately be the answer for those weaning themselves off of animal agriculture as it is the most similar alternative.
All I can say is be patient my friends! Relief will come in one form or another. Your efforts are not in vain. The world admires your commitment to animal welfare and in reality, we all wish we could do what you aspire to achieve. Hell though, as Zapp Brannigan mused in Futurama, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is spongy and bruised." Perhaps we have the animals confused with ourselves? The world moves at a much slower pace than we would like it to sometimes. Be patient. Be kind as you always are. Be compassionate with those who choose to indulge in the old ways. We will come around with time.