Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World

“Please don’t take one or two bad experiences you had with one or two AR
advocates and then present them as if they’re the norm, as if this is
how most of us conduct our advocacy.” – from the comments section of this article.

As someone who is often met with the expectation that I’m some sort of over-the-top extremist when I mention that I’m vegan (vegetarians, …I’ve found, are often more readily accepted), this is a great article below .  And while I could never even BEGIN to compare the little work I do to the type of activists that they talk about, I can definitely empathize with the polarization of being a vegan in a non-vegan world.

This is a condensed version of the article.  You can read the full one here:

So the next time you’re geared up to tell animal rights advocates to get a life, to ridicule their activism and way of living, or to dismiss what they’re trying to say to you, stop. The next time you’re ready to presume that you know more about animal issues just because you’re in the majority, and the people who devote everything they can to learning about and speaking for the animals just must be crazy, stop. Stop and ponder whether you really know what you’re talking about. Consider that many, if not most, of us were once where you are in terms of how we lived day to day and how we saw animals–that we were as certain as you about the way things should and could be–and that we must have realized something extraordinary to get to where we are now.

Consider that all the time and energy we’ve put into learning about animals, considering various perspectives, questioning our assumptions, digging through the layers, reflecting on the truths and implications, and fighting on the animals’ behalf just might give us a little clearer, deeper perspective on nonhuman animals, their experiences, and their place in this world than someone whose beliefs and habits are simply inherited, unquestioned, and what they’ve always been–just the beliefs and habits handed down from and reinforced by parents and society. Tradition–even centuries-long tradition–doesn’t make something right or true. And a new way of thinking and living isn’t inherently wrong just because it’s new to you and different from what you’ve known before.

When your instinct is to attack and ridicule, instead stop and ask yourself why we’re doing what we’re doing, what we’re getting out of it. Why alienate ourselves from friends and family who don’t understand our stances? Why subject ourselves to ridiculing remarks, name-calling, and “extremist” labels? Why willingly struggle each day to change this world instead of sitting back and taking life easy, instead of doing all the other things we’d love to be doing? There are even dozens of other noble causes to which we could devote our time and energy and be commended rather than ridiculed. So why choose this? Mustn’t we have seen and learned things impossible to ignore? Mustn’t there be overpowering reasons for making the changes we’ve made and for taking on this fight?

Animal rights advocates spend their time, energy, and resources speaking out for animals not because it’s fun, not because it’s lucrative, not because we get lots of praise for it. We are compelled to engage in this struggle because it’s right, because what’s happening every second of every day to millions of animals is wrong, because it has to change, and because we were once where you are, and we know that you have kind souls and the capacity to get where we are now, to a place of compassion, a place where you can envision a more peaceful way of living.

We aren’t crazy, nor are we doing it because it’s “trendy”. We don’t think we are better than you.

“Consider that many, if not most, of us were once where you are in terms of how we lived day to day and how we saw animals–that we were as certain as you about the way things should and could be–and that we must have realized something extraordinary to get to where we are now.”
People are often surprised to hear that I’ve only been vegan for a year and a half.  They start going “well you dont understand because you’re vegan” ya ya ya ya and I have to go “Hey, dude, I was a proud omnivore for the first 23 years of my life.  My ex and I used to have jokes about how often I talked about cheese.  My favorite restaurant was a steak place in Glendale. ” I am not some weird creature from planet vegetable.  I LOVE (present tense) food, and have crap self restraint (I ate about a cup of pure cake frosting the other night.  On it’s own.  If this was solely a health or dieting thing, I wouldnt have lasted, trust me).

Being vegan is a difficult thing to do, and not just for the obvious “removal of foods that you have eaten and loved for most of your life” but because this is a topic that turns most people off.  And contrary to what many people believe, most of my friends are omnivores who will be that way for the rest of their life, and I accept that, and love them just the same.  All I ask from them is that they, in turn, respect me and where I’m coming from as well.  There are the usual jokes and teasing, and I can usually laugh and correct them without coming off like a bitch.  Occasionally, I sigh and move on, and it’s almost always read as me the “overly sensitive vegan who can’t take a joke”, when in fact, its just irritation because I’ve heard the same joke 10 times in the last week.

I once had a friend tell me (after admitting that she actively wished I WASN’T vegan, because it made being friends with me “more difficult”) say “I know that you feel so strongly about this because you are AROUND it all the time.”, to which I responded that I had, at that time,  a total of maybe 2 vegan friends.  It doesn’t make me popular, and  I don’t do this so I can be “different” either, trust me (I am weird enough on my own without needing any additional hats).  I do it because, after learning more about it, I honestly couldn’t see NOT doing it.

As someone who second guesses and overthinks almost every aspect of her life, I can honestly say that going vegan is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.  Shouldn’t that confidence be enough to have you respect and maybe even admire why I do what I do?

~ by Alli on Sunday, June 6, 2010.

2 Responses to “Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World”

  1. Yo girl. Love checking in on your blog now and then and good post.

    Just don’t let what you eat define who you are. There’s more to life than your diet. I notice that every time I frequent your Facebook page and blog, it seems like a majority of your posts are about you being vegan. ‘I just ate a vegan cupcake.’ Why not just write, “I ate a cupcake.” Does it really matter that you made it with agave sweetener and Crisco? We all know you’re vegan at this point, and most educated people know what vegan is, and understand that some of their favorite foods have vegan versions. I was vegan for a while too so I understand everything you’re saying, but I also agree that I sometimes came off sounding like someone who just converted to a new religion and wanted others to covert too. “My faith is the only correct faith.”

    Diets and food practices are like religions and must be handled sensitively as such. One man’s Atkin’s diet is another man’s raw lifestyle, and each person comes with their own cultural traditions, beliefs, practices and understandings of ethics and health. Vegan is not the most correct way of eating– maybe for you it is, but there’s no one correct or healthiest practice. After being vegan for about a year, I had tests done because I was feeling generally ill, and turns out my hormones were out of whack because of the soy OD and I was deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients that you can only find in non-vegan items (or find in more abundance). So, it wasn’t meant for me.

    I dare you to just ditch the word ‘vegan’ for a week. Make your impact, do your thing, but we all know you’re vegan at this point, so after a while it becomes a little over-zealous and semi-religious. :]’

    That’s probably what your friends mean when they joke or make comments. It IS harder to be around friends who have specific dietary agendas or are dieting. No question, it’s more challenging, but they are still your friends, no?

    I commend you for what you’re doing– just wanted to share my point of view.

  2. the funny thing is, when i DONT write vegan, i always (and I mean ALWAYS) get at least one person going “ohhhh, that vegan?”

    I appreciate your point of view, and definitely the respectful way you put things. The funny thing is, Ive been trying to be MORE vocal about it, because i feel like i clam up a lot because im afraid im going to be judged by my omnivore friends.

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