If you're not aware - vegan means no meat, no milk, no eggs, no honey, no figs. No fur, no leather, nothing that involves animal testing or cruelty to animals in every way. And very few places cater to someone who eats that way. There are many paths to such a lifestyle - some are born into it, either with activist parents or from a vegetarian culture such as Hinduism, Sikhism, or Buddhism. Others, such as Bill Ward, the drummer for Black Sabbath come at it in other ways. Apparently one day as a small child he was curious as to what the red fluid was that was coming out of his medium rare steak. When informed it was blood he connected that "chicken" the food was "chicken" the animal, and "beef" the food used to walk around on four legs. Apparently he stopped eating meat that instant and his family supported him completely.

Back when I was working and living on the left coast, we would gather together at work at around 11:45 in secret in a vain attempt to get out of the building for lunch.

I say vain attempt, because invariably just as we'd be out the door a head would meerkat pop up from behind a cubicle.

"Oh! Going to lunch? Hang on, let me get my purse."

And that meant that yet again, we'd be going to the Thai palace around the corner. The only place in town that served food that was vegan. We'd been eating at that place for months. Just once, we wanted to go somewhere, anywhere else - because we were sick of Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, etc. etc. etc. and wanted something else.

But we liked her, and didn't want to hurt her feelings by saying "no, please, you eat on your own, we want something else for a change" - so there we were, glumly ordering "the usual".

No node on veganism would be complete without pointing out that to most people, it's obnoxious.

Let me be clear - most people agree with veganism in principle. Nobody really likes or relishes the idea of cruelty to animals. If we were forced to have to slaughter our own food, or watch factory farming and the incredible amount of pain and loss that that entails - seeing into the eyes of a terrified animal that only wants to live - we'd be alongside them. People from farming families have at least one story of heartbreak when a child gets attached to an animal, bonds with it as a fellow soul - and then dad makes that child kill that animal, to harden the kid up and burn out the core humanity you need to lack to dispatch and hurt creatures for your own profit.

And honestly - every single argument for veganism is right.

Vegans are a casual reminder that we accept brutality, pain and cruelty as the cost of doing business in society. We want a cheap hamburger - so we raise animals in appalling conditions and butcher them brutally. We want to make sure mascaras are safe so we burn out the eyes of rabbits. We want to know if drugs and medical procedures are safe, so we vivisect animals, first cutting out their vocal cords so as to become more immune to them struggling against our carving them up alive. We wake up and nourish ourselves first thing in the morning with milk stolen from cows and eggs that come from farms that throw male baby chickens alive into a grinder the moment they hatch. We add to that a strip of pig carcass.

So even if they're not preachy about it, and a lot of them are - there's a core social obnoxiousness to someone who goes about life as living proof that yes, it is entirely possible to live and in fact thrive on eating nothing but plants. They're living proof that most of us are mindless about what we do. We drive a car oblivious to the fact it creates strong hurricanes. We buy T-shirts not really caring that children work in sweatshops for nothing to produce those goods.

And when someone's preachy about it?

Veganism is often a way station for some people into a world where they descend, like a do-gooder's Rake's Progress - into narrowing further and further the box of what's moral. First it's not eating meat. Then it's not eating meat or anything involved with an animal. Then it's how dare you cook your food. Raw veganism or nothing. And some go even yet further into fruitarianism in which nothing that involves death or suffering to a plant is allowed. And they're vocal, with placards holding up photos of flayed animals and contrasting a cute kitten with a cute calf saying "why eat the one and not the other" and so forth.

But that's what happens when you get into the subject of ethics. Even when two people decide not to benefit from the death or suffering of an animal, you get corner cases. Some will not discard leather or silk purchased prior to their lifestyle change out of respect for the animal that died for them, and others argue that by keeping furs and leather around you merely encourage more of the same. Veganism by definition says "as possible" as part of its mission statement. You can't always escape animal byproducts.

This is starting to become somewhat of a moot point - we're going to have to start looking at the lifestyle not necessarily from the angle of suffering or "Buddha Nature" but for very real and practical reasons. The raising of animals for meat is an environmental disaster. As we scale up the human race, we also scale up the need for millions of tonnes of grain and of water, precious resources that we're starting to lack. The hormones in the feed, the antibiotics cast around like water that are no longer working anymore - and we can no longer discount methane from cow flatulence as a source of global warming. And go ahead and ask Bill Clinton and Samuel L. Jackson, two men who were given nearly certain death sentences from heart disease told their only chance was to avoid consuming ANY animal product ever, and being alive years later as a result.

But all of this is like a Cassandra in the background warning, warning and warning again: you can't just live the way you want and you can't just go about life mindlessly. And to that, most people turn a deaf ear, on principle.