The Can't Word
An Animal Rights Article from


Greg Lawson, [email protected]
January 2006

Most people I work with know I am a vegan, which they understand is some kind of a strict vegetarian, but they are a bit cloudy on the concept. This is especially ironic to me because I am a National Park Ranger, and I think that my coworkers should stop hiding from the fact that a meat-based diet negatively affects the environment. After all, we are supposed to be leaders in preserving the wilderness.

I am ashamed that the Park Service participates in the annual thinning of the herd (slaughter) of our own symbol, the bison of Yellowstone, just to appease the cattle ranchers who graze their cows on federal land in the Yellowstone area.

Whenever there is a food event at my workplace, a potluck lunch or a birthday cake get-together, I don't usually go. The reasons are that after all these years, I just don't want to be in the presence of people eating animal products and I don't want to just stand around making people uncomfortable. But, hell, people should be made to feel a little more uncomfortable about carnivorism.

Whenever a workplace food event takes place, someone usually asks me why I didn't attend, and the conversation usually goes....

Me: I don't eat cake.

Them: Are you on a diet?

Me: Cake contains dairy and eggs.

Them: Oh that's right, you can't eat milk or eggs.


Them: There's chili con queso and chips in the break room.

Me: No thanks.

Them: Oh that's right, you can't eat cheese.

At least their understanding of veg*ism has evolved beyond "You mean you can't eat chicken? You can't eat fish?"

I have been getting increasingly annoyed by the CAN'T word, and so I have decided that whenever I hear it again I will respond with something like the following....

"CAN'T means an inability to do something. I am certainly ABLE to eat slaughtered animals or animal fluids and excretions. I CHOOSE not to do so for ethical reasons, because I care about the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture, because I CHOOSE not to cause unnecessary animal suffering, because the thought of eating decaying animal products, even if preserved with the best chemicals modern technology has to offer, is a turn off for me. So that's the reason I just CAN'T eat that crap."

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