How to Answer Common Vegan Questions

Discover insightful and articulate responses to the most common vegan questions. Learn how to address inquiries about why you're vegan with confidence and grace, empowering you to advocate for yourself and for compassionate choices in any conversation.
post featured image
Woman standing in front of a pink wall in a thinking pose, pondering the most common vegan questions and how to respond to them.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you. Please read my policy page.

If you’re living a vegan lifestyle, you’ve undoubtedly encountered those all-too-familiar vegan questions. You know the ones—the “where do you get your protein?” and “do plants feel pain?” inquiries that seem to come up every time someone learns about your dietary choices.

Navigating these questions can sometimes feel like a never-ending conversation loop, but fear not! Here, you’ll find insightful and articulate responses to these common vegan queries, empowering you to address them with ease and grace.

And for those moments when you’d rather not engage in a lengthy debate, you can always share these responses with friends and family who have these questions. Remember that most people ask these questions because deep down, they are trying to understand why you’ve decided to be vegan and what it means to be vegan, so try your best to be patient and kind!

Where do vegans get their protein?

Vegans get protein from plants, all of which have protein! But have you ever met anyone with Kwashiorkor? Kwashorkor is the scientific term for protein deficiency. We don’t have diseases of deficiency in developed nations. We have diseases of excess. Our problem is not what we don’t get enough of. Our problem is what we get too much of.

What about plants? Don’t they have feelings too?

While plants do exhibit responses to their environment, such as growth towards light or wilting in response to drought, these reactions are typically considered to be physiological rather than emotional or conscious.

Plants lack a central nervous system, brain, and other structures associated with consciousness in animals. They do not possess the neural pathways or brain structures necessary for experiencing emotions, pain, or awareness in the same way that animals do.

While some research suggests that plants may respond to stimuli in ways that resemble certain aspects of animal behavior, such as the release of chemicals in response to injury or predation, these responses are more accurately described as adaptive mechanisms rather than indicators of consciousness or sentience.

Even if plants were capable of experiencing some form of awareness or sensation, the scale of suffering involved in animal agriculture far exceeds any potential harm to plants. The vast majority of plant-based foods require significantly fewer resources, land, and water to produce compared to animal products, making plant-based diets more environmentally sustainable and compassionate overall.

While it’s important to respect and appreciate the complexity of plant life, the ethical considerations surrounding animal welfare and environmental sustainability remain paramount in discussions about dietary choices. Choosing a plant-based diet allows individuals to minimize harm to animals and the environment while promoting health and well-being for themselves and future generations.

Beautiful pollinator friendly flowers in a garden bed in Sacramento.

I don’t believe people are lying awake at night concerned about the pain and suffering of cauliflower. I think this distracts us from the issue at hand: that animals do suffer and feel pain. Most of us have no problem pulling lettuce from the ground or cutting the limb off of a tree, but most people are unable or unwilling to cut the limb off an animal or stab him in the heart. There’s a difference.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

In nature, animals eat other animals, so it’s natural for us to do so, as well.

The argument that because animals eat other animals in nature, it’s natural for humans to do so as well is often used to justify meat consumption. While it’s true that carnivorous behavior is observed in many animal species, including humans’ omnivorous nature, it’s important to recognize that the concept of “natural” is complex and multifaceted.

Firstly, humans have evolved to possess the capacity for both herbivorous and omnivorous diets, meaning that our biology allows for the consumption of plant-based foods as well as animal-based foods. This flexibility in diet is reflected in the diverse cultural and historical dietary practices observed across human societies.

Furthermore, the fact that something occurs in nature does not necessarily make it ethical or desirable. In nature, animals also engage in behaviors such as infanticide, cannibalism, and territorial aggression, but we do not use these behaviors to justify similar actions in human society.

Moreover, the argument from nature overlooks the significant differences between wild animal predation and industrial animal agriculture. Wild animals hunt for survival, typically targeting weaker or sick individuals in their natural ecosystems. In contrast, industrial animal agriculture involves mass production methods that prioritize profit over animal welfare, resulting in widespread suffering and environmental destruction.

Ultimately, while it’s true that humans have historically consumed animal products, it’s also true that our understanding of ethics, compassion, and environmental sustainability has evolved over time. Choosing a plant-based diet aligns with these values, allowing individuals to live in harmony with their values of compassion, respect for all beings, and environmental stewardship.

Cow Hug Illustration Rescued Cow from a Farm Animal Sanctuary

Which animals? Yeah, the carnivorous animals eat other animals, but why are we using them as our model? Why do we compare ourselves to the flesh-eating lion rather than the plant-eating elephant? There are actually more animals who don’t eat other animals—but conveniently, we don’t use them to justify eating more plants.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Are Humans “Designed” to Eat Meat?

While humans are often classified as omnivores due to our ability to consume both plant and animal foods, it’s important to recognize that our biology differs significantly from that of true carnivores.

  • Digestive System: Carnivores have short, simple digestive systems optimized for processing animal flesh, allowing for rapid digestion and elimination of meat. In contrast, humans have longer digestive tracts more similar to herbivores, which are better suited for breaking down and extracting nutrients from plant-based foods. Additionally, humans lack specialized features found in carnivores, such as sharp claws and teeth for tearing flesh, and acidic stomach pH optimized for digesting raw meat.
  • Nutritional Needs: While animal products can provide certain nutrients, a balanced plant-based diet can also meet all of our nutritional needs. Plant foods are rich sources of essential nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are crucial for overall health and well-being. Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the health benefits of plant-based diets, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
  • Physiological Adaptations: Unlike true carnivores, humans lack physiological adaptations for hunting and killing prey. Our hands are designed for grasping and manipulating objects rather than capturing and subduing prey, and our jaws have a wider range of motion suited for grinding plant foods rather than tearing flesh.
  • Behavioral Patterns: Carnivores typically exhibit instinctual behaviors related to hunting, killing, and consuming prey, whereas humans have the cognitive ability to make informed dietary choices based on ethical, environmental, and health considerations. Many cultures around the world have thrived on plant-based diets for centuries, further illustrating the adaptability of humans to diverse dietary patterns.

In summary, while humans have historically consumed animal products, our anatomy, physiology, and behavior indicate that we are not obligate carnivores. Embracing a plant-based diet aligns with our biological characteristics and can promote optimal health, ethical considerations, and environmental sustainability.

Weren’t animals put on this planet for us to eat?

Viewing animals solely as existing for human sustenance can be seen as a self-centric perspective that prioritizes human interests above all else. This viewpoint disregards the inherent worth and autonomy of animals, reducing them to mere resources for human consumption.

From a broader ethical and moral standpoint, it’s essential to recognize that animals have their own interests, experiences, and intrinsic value independent of their usefulness to humans. Embracing a worldview that acknowledges the inherent worth of all beings fosters empathy, compassion, and a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of life.

Moreover, the belief that animals exist primarily for human use can contribute to a sense of entitlement and exploitation. It perpetuates systems of exploitation such as factory farming, where animals are treated as commodities to be exploited for profit, often subjected to cruel and inhumane conditions.

By contrast, embracing a perspective that respects the inherent worth of animals acknowledges their right to live free from harm and exploitation. It encourages us to consider the well-being of all beings and to make choices that align with principles of compassion, justice, and sustainability.

In essence, shifting away from a self-centric view that prioritizes human interests at the expense of animals allows us to embrace a more inclusive and ethical worldview that honors the dignity and worth of all living beings.

Furthermore, the animals we eat, humans “put” here—in the sense that we created them, we breed them, we genetically selected them. We play God. Not to mention that we were the prey of the large predators before we developed weapons and methods for killing them.

Isn’t veganism is a bit extreme?

The concept of extremism takes on a different light when we examine the practices of industrial animal agriculture. It’s indeed extreme to perpetuate a system where billions of sentient beings are brought into existence only to be slaughtered for human consumption. This cycle of breeding animals for the sole purpose of killing them is inherently extreme, both in its scale and its disregard for the lives and well-being of these animals.

Consider the staggering numbers: our species of 7 billion annually consumes around 120 billion land and aquatic animals, subjecting them to lives of confinement, suffering, and ultimately, premature death. This level of exploitation and destruction of life for a food source that is not essential for human survival or health can rightly be viewed as extreme.

In contrast, choosing a vegan lifestyle is a response to this extreme situation—a conscious decision to opt out of a system that perpetuates such widespread suffering and environmental degradation. The vegan lifestyle offers a compassionate alternative, rooted in the recognition of the inherent worth and rights of all living beings, regardless of species.

From this perspective, the real extremism lies not in choosing compassion over cruelty, but in perpetuating a system that prioritizes convenience and tradition over the lives and well-being of billions of sentient beings. In striving for a more ethical, sustainable, and humane world, the vegan ideology represents a rejection of this extreme status quo and a commitment to creating positive change for animals, the planet, and future generations.

Extreme? Extreme is bringing billions of lives into this world only to end them. We breed to kill. We—a species of 7 billion kills 120 billion land and aquatic animals every year for a food source that is completely unnecessary for our survival or health. If you ask me, that’s extreme.

– Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Wouldn’t we be overrun with animals if we stopped eating them?

The concern about overpopulation of animals if we were to stop eating them is a common misconception. In reality, the number of animals bred and raised for food is artificially inflated by the demand created by consumers of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. These industries selectively breed animals to maximize production, leading to large populations that far exceed natural ecological balances.

If we were to shift away from consuming animal products, the demand for breeding animals would decrease significantly. Farmers would naturally reduce the number of animals bred for food as the market demand diminishes. This would lead to a gradual decline in animal populations rather than an overwhelming surge.

Moreover, the land and resources currently used for animal agriculture could be repurposed for other more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices such as plant-based agriculture, reforestation, or conservation efforts. This would help restore natural ecosystems and biodiversity rather than perpetuating the cycle of overproduction and exploitation.

Additionally, adopting a plant-based diet reduces the strain on resources such as water, land, and grain, which are currently used to feed livestock. By transitioning to plant-based agriculture, we can more efficiently utilize these resources to feed a growing global population while reducing environmental degradation and addressing issues of food scarcity.

Overall, the notion of being overrun with animals if we stopped eating them is not supported by evidence. Instead, transitioning away from animal agriculture presents an opportunity to create a more balanced and sustainable relationship with animals and the environment.

We’ve created an artificial system by which we bring animals into this world only to kill them. Once we stop artificially inseminating these animals, there will be fewer of them. But frankly, it’s disingenuous to feign concern about the very animals we’re tormenting and killing for consumption. If we were really concerned, we’d stop eating them.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Isn’t being vegan expensive—isn’t it for the privileged elite?

While it’s true that some vegan products can be pricey, particularly specialty items or plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, a plant-based diet can actually be quite affordable and accessible for people from all walks of life. Many staple foods in a vegan diet, such as grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, are typically affordable and widely available.

In fact, plant-based foods tend to be some of the most budget-friendly options at the grocery store. Additionally, buying these foods in bulk or choosing seasonal produce can further reduce costs.

Historically, meat, dairy and eggs have been considered symbols of affluence, affordable only by the wealthy and denied to the poor. It’s a sign of prestige if you can afford to buy animal products. And now, even with government subsidies favoring animal products, whole plant foods, are still more affordable than meat.

Furthermore, plant-based diets have been historically common in many cultures around the world, particularly in regions where meat and dairy products are less prevalent or prohibitively expensive. Traditional diets based on grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits have long provided nourishment to diverse populations without the need for animal products.

Vegan Lentil Bolognese Pasta with a Protein-Packed Sauce
Budget-friendly lentil “bolognese” pasta sauce over spaghetti.

Moreover, the notion of veganism as elitist overlooks the socioeconomic and environmental implications of animal agriculture. The resources required to raise animals for food, including land, water, and feed, contribute to environmental degradation and can exacerbate issues of food insecurity and inequality.

In contrast, adopting a plant-based diet can have positive effects on both personal health and the environment. By reducing reliance on animal products, individuals can save money on groceries, improve their health outcomes, and contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Ultimately, while there may be certain vegan products or specialty items that come with a higher price tag, vegan food as a whole is not inherently expensive or exclusive. With mindful shopping, cooking, and meal planning, most people around the globe can enjoy the benefits of a nutritious and affordable plant-based diet.

“But…I could never give up cheese!”

The love for cheese is certainly understandable—it’s a versatile and flavorful food that many people enjoy. However, it’s important to recognize that there are countless delicious and satisfying vegan cheeses available for those considering a transition to a plant-based diet.

The growing popularity of plant-based diets has led to an explosion of plant-based cheeses on the market, offering a wide variety of flavors and textures to suit every palate. These alternatives are made from ingredients such as nuts, soy, coconut, and nutritional yeast, and they can be surprisingly similar to traditional dairy cheese in taste and texture.

Exploring the world of plant-based cheeses can be an exciting journey, allowing you to discover new flavors and creations that you may not have considered before. From creamy cashew cheeses to tangy vegan gourmet cheeses to melty vegan mozzarella, all the way to vegan blue cheese and parmesan sprinkles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Additionally, many people find that their taste preferences evolve over time as they adjust to a plant-based diet. By gradually incorporating more plant-based foods into your meals and experimenting with different flavors and recipes, you may find that your cravings for cheese diminish naturally over time.

Transitioning to a plant-based diet doesn’t mean giving up the foods you love. It’s about exploring new possibilities and finding delicious alternatives that align with your values and preferences. So if you’re hesitant about giving up cheese, know that there are plenty of options available to satisfy your cravings while still embracing a compassionate and sustainable way of eating.

You don’t have to. There are plenty of delicious non-dairy cheeses you can still enjoy—made from the milk of plants rather than the milk of animals! But honestly, if you say “I could give up meat and eggs, but I could never give up cheese,” then I would say give up everything but cheese. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

What about “Free-Range” & “Humane” meat?

The terms “free-range” and “humane” are often used to imply that the animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy are treated more ethically and humanely than those in conventional factory farming systems. While these labels may suggest improved welfare conditions for animals, it’s important to critically examine what they actually entail.

“Free-range” typically refers to animals raised with some access to the outdoors, allowing them to engage in natural behaviors such as grazing and foraging. Similarly, “humane” labels often imply that animals are raised in conditions that prioritize their welfare, such as providing more space, better living conditions, and access to natural light and fresh air.

However, it’s essential to recognize that these labels can be misleading and do not always guarantee meaningful improvements in animal welfare. For example, “free-range” does not necessarily mean that animals have ample space to roam or that they are provided with adequate living conditions. Similarly, “humane” labels can be subjective and may vary widely in their standards and enforcement.

Even in systems labeled as “free-range” or “humane,” animals are still ultimately raised for slaughter. They still endure practices such as debeaking, tail docking, and castration without anesthesia, and they are still subjected to the stress and trauma of transportation and slaughter.

Instead of relying on labels that may not accurately reflect the reality of animal agriculture, choosing a plant-based diet allows individuals to align their actions with their values of compassion, justice, and respect for all living beings.

Why Help Animals When So Many Humans Need Help?

The question of why we should help animals when there are so many humans in need is a valid one, but it’s important to recognize that compassion is not a finite resource—it can be extended to all beings, human and non-human alike.

Supporting animal welfare does not mean neglecting human welfare; rather, it reflects a broader commitment to justice, empathy, and inclusivity. Many of the issues affecting animals, such as environmental degradation, food insecurity, and public health crises, are interconnected with human well-being and social justice.

For example, the environmental impact of animal agriculture exacerbates issues like climate change and deforestation, which disproportionately affect marginalized communities around the world. By advocating for sustainable, plant-based food systems, we can address both animal welfare and human welfare by promoting environmental sustainability and food security.

Supporting animal welfare can also have direct benefits for human health and well-being. A plant-based diet has been linked to lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, which are major public health concerns worldwide.

Moreover, extending compassion to animals fosters a culture of empathy and respect for all beings, which can have positive ripple effects throughout society. Teaching children to be kind to animals, for example, can help instill values of empathy, compassion, and responsibility that extend to their interactions with other humans as well.

Ultimately, helping animals is not about prioritizing their needs over those of humans; rather, it’s about recognizing the interconnectedness of all life and striving to create a more compassionate and equitable world for everyone, regardless of species. By embracing a holistic approach to justice and welfare, we can work towards a future where the well-being of humans, animals, and the planet are mutually respected and supported.

Obviously meat harms animals—but what’s wrong with milk?

While milk may not involve the direct killing of animals like meat production does, there are still significant ethical concerns associated with dairy farming.

Firstly, the dairy industry relies on the continuous cycle of impregnating cows to keep them lactating. Calves born on dairy farms are usually separated from their mothers shortly after birth, causing distress and emotional suffering for both the mother and calf.

Male calves are often considered unwanted byproducts of the dairy industry and are typically sold for veal or raised for beef, while female calves are raised to replace their mothers as dairy cows.

The living conditions for dairy cows can be harsh and cramped, especially in intensive dairy operations. Many cows spend their lives confined to crowded indoor spaces, deprived of opportunities to engage in natural behaviors such as grazing and socializing.

Furthermore, cows naturally produce milk to nourish their offspring, not for human consumption. To maximize milk production, dairy cows are often subjected to selective breeding, artificial hormones, and constant milking, which can lead to physical discomfort, stress, and health issues such as mastitis.

From an environmental perspective, dairy farming also has significant impacts. It requires large amounts of land, water, and feed to sustain dairy operations, contributing to deforestation, habitat destruction, and greenhouse gas emissions.

While milk production may not involve the direct killing of animals, it still involves exploitation, suffering, and environmental harm. Choosing plant-based alternatives to dairy products can help reduce the demand for animal products and support a more compassionate and sustainable food system.

newsletter offer

Enter to Win Our Monthly Giveaway!

Enter for a chance to win over $1,000 of prizes—including a Lomi electric composter, a Zwilling chef’s knife, modular pantry storage cubes, and The Friendly Vegan Cookbook! You’ll also receive our free newsletter with plant-based recipes galore. Come back each month for a chance to win new prizes!

Thank you for subscribing!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

no comments

Stay Inspired!

Thank you for subscribing!