Whilst living in Birmingham in around 1995 I became friends with Pato Bantan and a guy I knew only as “Cadbury”. Cadbury worked in a local chocolate factory, but I won’t say which one for legal reasons. Pato, if you don’t know him, had a one hit wonder collaborating with UB40 on a song called Baby Come Back. Both these gentlemen were very religious, and specifically they were members of a religion known as the Urantia Foundation. Urantians believe that Jesus was an alien from Nebadon whose real name was Michael. Michael was a light being, but he wore a woolly jumper to disguise himself as a human. The light he emanated would escape the collar of his jumper and shine brightly up the back of his head. Urantians believe that this is represented in art by the humble halo. 1995 was a long time ago and I was only a young lad, however if I correctly remember the end goal of the Urantians was that if they studied the word of Michael then they would learn how to power spaceships with only the energy of their creative mind. This would allow them to travel to far off galaxies for some purpose I cannot recall.
Now you might ask where Pato and his mates found out about Michael and his spaceship fuelling techniques. Well that one is straightforward. Some ladies who lunch were at their friend’s house enjoying a stich and bitch in 1930’s Chicago. Without warning, the husband of the host went stiff as a board and announced in a rather deeper than usual voice that he was Michael (not his usual name) and that he has something to say. He waited a moment and then impatiently asked the knitting circle if they intended to get a pen or if they were going to just sit there looking at him. Get a pen they did and over the following 20 years across many sessions they obediently wrote down every word that Michael uttered. The result was the Urantia Book.
What has this got to do with barbeque? Well, it shows that I have some experience of unusual beliefs and possibly even cult like behaviour. That will hopefully allow me to now speak some absolute rubbish with an air of authority. The rubbish I am about to speak is on the topic of veganism. I have some big issues with veganism and most of them are to do with the fact that I firmly believe it shares a lot in common with a religious cult, and I believe this cult is ultimately harming animals and the environment. I believe a lot of vegans are vegans because they care about their health, and for the most part those vegans are the ones that don’t announce it every 5 minutes and I have plenty of respect for them – even if I have no idea if they are right or not. I believe more vegans are vegans for genuine reasons around animal cruelty and the envirnoment. I think they might be misguided, but they are well intentioned. But there is a small but deadly group of vegans that I don’t believe care about animals or the planet.
OK, so vegans, Urantia, cults, witnesses, where are we going here? Well, I read a paper on Jehovah’s Witnesses once that answered a question I have long wondered – why they only try to convert you in pairs and on your doorstep. I have been friends with and have worked with many JWs and they never brought it up anywhere else. The author I read believed that the reason is because the rejection they receive on doorsteps causes them to feel – well rejected – and then they turn to each other for comfort and reassurance. This reinforces a sense of belonging within the community and a sense that everyone else is an outsider and the enemy.
For this to work the word and lifestyle the evangelists are spreading must be undesirable enough that most people will reject it, but reasonable enough that most people will feel they can argue against it. Urantia was not a cult, because quite frankly the book is a masterpiece of comedy-science-fiction, and no sensible Christian would ever engage in a debate with a dedicated believer in Urantia. That means if a Urantian were to arrive on your doorstep and tell you about Michael the luminescent spaceship pilot, you would probably say “ah bless” or like I did say “here, this sounds like a laugh – sign me up”. Neither is a desirable outcome for a cult. But imagine they rock up and say the world is ending in 1878 1881 1914 1918 1925 1975 sometime soon
like the JW do. Or you suggest that Christmas is a pagan traditional that should not be celebrated by Christians. That is unpleasant enough to put off too many people signing up, but also not so off the wall that people won’t disagree and get annoyed. So, now you have the perfect recipe for rejection, mutual reassurance, and strengthening the bond with the rest of your religious comrades.
By now you have probably figured out where I am going. But I want you to stop for a minute and consider something. About 20 years ago I tried vegetarianism. I did so because I genuinely believed that the world needed a break, and that meat was not good for the planet. My belief in vegetarianism was as short lived as my interest in Urantia. I still believe the world needs a massive break, and I still believe we eat too much meat. I also believe that there is a massive amount of animal cruelty in the world and that intensive animal farming methods are cruel and need to end.
I believe that some vegans are contrary unlikeable people who are directly descended from goths and emos. They are vegan because it helps them belong. At every possible inappropriate moment, they spout their nonsense about taking babies from their mothers, meat is murder, and animal products cause cancer. They expect and need you to scorn them and tell them to piss off. They then retreat to their vegan Twitter circle and vegan Facebook groups where they find a sense of belonging and shared rejection. They become insiders, everyone else becomes an outsider. They are Vegan Witnesses.
Who cares? I care. I care a lot. The reason I care is because vegans are right. There are massive problems with farming that are contributing to the death of our planet and the unhappiness of animals. But guess what? The problem with cults is that they are designed to make you an outsider and to make you seem unreasonable and stupid. They are designed to make you turn against the cult so as the cult members turn inwards into themselves.
This is a massive problem as now we are all turning into anti-vegans, which means we are defenders of agriculture and defenders of a lifestyle that is over reliant on meat. Vegan Witnesses are giving farmers a huge support group that is less likely to question or to look for change. Vegan Witnesses are making it impossible for reasonable groups to ask us to eat a little less meat or more sustainable meat, because when they do then vegans start saying “eat none, you murderous bastards” and we get our backs up and stop listening. Vegan Witnesses are also a problem for organic farmers and ethical farmers as “all meat is bad” means no exceptions and “I disagree” means all meat is good. Vegan Witnesses are immensely harming the drive for sustainable and ethical animal husbandry.
In my opinion, the best way to deal with the scourge of Vegan Witnesses is to always reply “I think you are right, and I really respect you for being a vegan”. This disarms and confuses them. Thereafter every time they open their mouth just say “shhh” before they finish a sentence (see Austin Powers
for more on this technique). Then eat better meat.