I Am A Vegan Writer and Dad
First up, the reason I mentioned that I’m a dad is that, from looking around vegan websites (this “I am a Vegan” section included), you might be led to believe that all vegans are female. The reasons behind this phenomenon are probably complex and multi-layered, but, if I were a betting chap, I’d wager it’s something to do with old-fashioned mainstream toxic masculinity, the idea that men aren’t allowed to have empathy, or kindness, or that being uncruel to animals is somehow going to “turn you gay/female/soft”, or some horrible nonsense like that. (Mainstream hetero ideas of manliness really are pretty daft, on the whole. I could easily go into a whole ranting essay about why it makes more biological sense for the gender who has dangly genitals to wear skirts than for the gender who have nice neat tucked away netherbits, but I won’t. Goodness knows anyone who knows me has already heard enough about that particular topic.) Anyway, thought I’d hit that issue on the head straight off the bat: believe it or not, the amount you respect the welfare of other beings doesn’t actually have any relationship to your gender, sexuality, strength, or anything else. Indeed, if anything, you actually have to be a stronger person to choose animal welfare over the lazy ease of conformist corpse-eating!
Secondly, the reason I mentioned ”dad” rather than just “man” is because it wasn’t until I became a father that it really hit me how appalling the dairy industry was. I was, like every other soon-to-be-vegan ever, convinced that I could “never give up cheese”, and had never really thought about what milk and cheese actually implied: in my general mainstream-y kinda ignorance, I’d never really fully appreciated that, in order for a mammal to create milk, there needs to be pregnancy involved. It never really dawned on me (somehow – I do feel like a bit of a dimwit in hindsight) that for every cow that is milked, there is a baby calf going without; for every cow that is milked, some farmer has gone and forcibly impregnated a female cow with an artificial insemination device. Seeing my partner breast-feeding my new-born daughter, it all kinda fell into place, as though my eyes had just opened, as though some sort of veil had been lifted and I could finally see what was really there. And I didn’t like it. As someone who is fairly stringently anti-rape, anti-child abuse, and anti-cruelty, it was not long before I became a vegan. (And giving up cheese actually gave me the mental and emotional tools to deal with loss in other areas of life: living a life without dairy has actually made me a more resilient, adaptable, resourceful, and more honest person. Strange but true!)
Thirdly, I don’t actually like the word “vegan”. I mean, I like doing all the things that a vegan does, but I’ve never been much of a joiner, and I particularly don’t like labeling myself as being an anything. I prefer to think of myself as “the individual Mat Blackwell” who has certain qualities, rather than as Being a Bunch of Different Things. I mean, there’s lots of Buddhism that I relate to, but I’d never call myself a “Buddhist”. I agree with nearly all of the Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth, but I don’t call myself a “Satanist”. It’s like if there was some special word for “people who don’t poke you in the eye with a pointy stick”: to me, not poking someone in the eye with a pointy stick just seems to fall under the umbrella of “being nice”, and doesn’t need some special label. It’s like that: I just see veganism as being a subset of “just being a decent person”. So yeah, I’m a “vegan” who doesn’t like being called a “vegan”.
And lastly, I’m a writer. I’ve been writing comedy for TV for over a decade now (I’ve written gags for Barry Humphries, Waleed Aly, Paul McDermott, and a host of others), and I’ve recently published a novel called “Beef”, which is set in a post-vegan future where everyone eats meat grown in laboratories, and where the very idea of raising an animal for slaughter is just mind-bendingly shameful and bizarre and embarrassing. I think of the novel as like my version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, in a way: rather than telling people what they should do, I’m just kinda saying “hey, just imagine what it might be like if we didn’t kill and eat other sentient beings, just have a little think and get back to me”. Because when you become a vegan in a non-vegan world, you automatically have to become an activist, to some degree: when the “normal” is so powerfully awful, and the mainstream so awfully powerful, each and every act outside that systemic horror is a small act of rebellion. And who doesn’t like being a rebel? I doubt “Beef” will change the world… but it might!
Mat Blackwell is a multi-award-winning writer, a visual artist, a prolific chaos-musician, and a reclusive troglodyte who veers between feeling universal oneness with all living beings, and wishing that everyone would just hurry up and die.
He has written jokes for performers as varied as Waleed Aly, Paul McDermott, Corinne Grant, Wil Anderson, Amanda Keller, and Barry Humphries. He also co-created and co-wrote the hilariously grotesque sharehouse-black-comedy-meets-convict-period-drama BRUCE, starring (amongst others) Angus Sampson and Rich Davies.
When he’s not cranking out the gags for TV, or penning satirical novels for discerning adults, Mat writes philosophical essays on music, art, humour, and morality. He has too many cats and not enough beard.
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