A vegan – transgressing

Earlier today, I took my lovely girlfriend for lunch, and at first we had raw oysters and then mussels & chips. It was the first time in the 22 years that I’ve considered myself vegan that I’ve eaten something animal-based.

Foto: Sara Henriksson

Ok, that’s not totally true. When I came down with Covid last year, I had a terrible cough and the only lozenges we had at home contained honey. I allowed myself to have three of those, but not without quite a lot of thought. And I once bought a pair of jeans with a leather patch on, but asked the store to remove it first – which Sara rightly brings up occasionally to mock me.

Obviously, over the years I’ve inadvertenly eaten animals in some form or another – restaurants fuck up orders, a friend offers something promising that it’s vegan, I misread a lable, etc – but I haven’t done so on purpose. Sometimes, I haven’t enquired as dilligently as a fifth level vegan would – if you’re pouring me red wine I’m not googling what kind of clarification was used, for example. But I’ve gone hungry when there’s nothing else to eat, and the issue of animal rights and not causing suffering serves as a daily guide when I go about my human buisiness.

Which takes us back to todays lunch expedition: I live a vegan life because I find it to be a practical solution – a mental model – of one aspect to a moral life. I believe that causing suffering is a bad thing, and since animals experience suffering (to a varying degree) we shouldn’t exploit them, and going full-vegan is the easiest shortshand for achieving this. Easy enough: If you believe we ought to minimize suffering, but you’re not some kind of vegan – you’re either consciously immoral, haven’t thought through the issue, or you’re an idiot.

Midjourney: Cow made of pieces of meat

But since oysters and mussels don’t seem to experience suffering, eating them doesn’t fall under the purview of a utalitarian argument. So to challange myself, or perhaps because it felt so transgressive, I decided to eat them. After all, if I want to make a convincing argument for a particular moral approach, I should be stringent in my application of it, no?

So we went to Luckans fisk & skaldjur in Majorna and had them prepair three different oysters for me, which I ate in the order they proposed. The last one had a very pronounced iron taste, but all three reminded me of canned mushrooms in brine. I ate them mostly without condiments to get a feel for their taste, so I’ll give them another chance when they’re prepared differently. According to wikipedia, oysters were a popular working class food 200 years ago, which is difficult to reconcile with how expensive they are now.

We continued on to Hasselsons where we had steamed mussels with chips and (vegan) mayo. This was more palatable – easier when the food is warm and served with dill and mayo – but the mussels were less slimy and less challenging to eat. It was tasty and I can see myself making steamed mussels or perhaps a spaghetti Vongole at home.

Midjourney: Cow made of pieces of meat

I feel a different person this evening than I was when I woke up, but I’m not sure what has changed. The feeling of transgression is strong – I can understand the point of those who would abstain all animal-based food because it’s either a simpler argument to make, or a more practical way of living – but I can’t point to what my transgression consists of. Perhaps it’s just that habits die hard.

For all intents and purposes I’ll still present myself as a vegan. Even though it’s technically no longer true, I don’t feel that my values have changed. And saying “vegan” is just so much handier than saying “I won’t consume anything which has caused an unacceptable amount of suffering, please refer to this pamphlet for more information.” But I can understand that others might have other opinions on the matter, and breaking moral rules is never without consequences.