As vegans move from a tiny fraction of a fraction of a minority in the United States and other countries globally, it is an ideal moment to begin to reassert our lifestyle in a positive manner. Veganism is compassion; compassion for all living beings, humans included. When newspapers report on the “extremist” views of vegans, we do not need to respond with attacks, instead we should resort to a more honest and open discussion in order to achieve a better success rate.
Looking at the statistics globally, the rise in veganism is one of hope. Google revealed in May that searches for vegan on Google have doubled since 2011 in the UK , Germany, Israel and Romania. The vegan diet trend is now officially a worldwide trending phenomenon.
Vegfest UK , celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, ran a series of vegan festivals and exhibitions in the UK and have reported that traffic to their websites has trebled. This is a sign that times are changing, and so are the perceptions of vegans at a grassroots level.
Recently, my family visited, and inevitably the conversation turned toward vegan and animal rights issues. My parents will never understand the driving force that directed me toward being vegan, even if they read Animal Liberation, Eating Animals and the numerous volumes that so eloquently describe the need to end animal exploitation. I have come to terms with this reality.
But one issue my mother brought up was the need to source our information. While they have largely reduced much of their animal intake, going “cold turkey” on turkey will probably never happen, but if presented with evidence in a compassionate and understanding way, they are open to change. 10 years ago this would have seemed impossible, if not a dream.
We, as vegans, must hold onto our truths, our facts and our hope for humanity, even if those we care about and love will never follow suit. My mother, who grew up Catholic, is unwilling to place animals, however intelligent and aware, on the same level as humans. This is the reality she believes in. Changing that will not happen. But like my parents, there is an opening that can be discussed: the idea of nonviolence and compassion.
Gandhi once said that you can “measure a society based on how one treats its animals.” This holds true in today’s world as much as it did nearly a century ago. The rise in factory farming, animal testing and the murder and slaughter of animals for human consumption and pleasure is at an alarming level. But it can be changed and vegans are on the frontlines of this “war” for public awareness.
Society and culture changes, despite what ardent meat eaters may claim. Slavery was a stalwart industry in the United States for hundreds of years. “It was culture.” Today, we understand all too well the horrors of the slave trade and the impact it still has on American life. Eating animals is also a mainstay of current popular culture. The advertisements and continued belief that animals are here on this Earth for human pleasure and needs can be changed. Vegans can make this happen, one bite at a time.
At the end of the day, as we vegans look for new ways to enhance and divulge the benefits of a plant-based diet, we must also strive to create a culture of nonviolence and compassion that is linked to being vegan.
No longer can we continue to be on the offensive, striking back at media, bloggers and others over their eating habits. We may find it abhorrent and appalling, true, but there must be a new route taken in order to create new edifices that help the compassionate vegan shine through.
Christina Pirello, writing in The Huffington Post, summed up best the concept of being vegan and how we should react to others, even as they “throw it in our faces” with meat eating and animal consumption.
“As a committed vegan, I am deeply concerned about the way we treat our animals, and about how we produce them for food. If we think for one moment that farming and producing meat, poultry and dairy products that take the lives of more than 10 billion animals annually can be done in a compassionate, healthy and humane way, then we are more out of touch with reality than I feared. I also believe that there is no reason for me to eat animal food. That is my choice,” she wrote.
She continued, however, to discuss the means in which we respond to attacks and how using a nonviolent, compassionate strategy can do more good than we could possibly realize. She says other vegans often attack her for not being “vegan enough.”
She says she has refused “to berate people who choose to eat animal foods; I don’t protest with violence; I don’t feel contempt for anyone not playing in my sandbox. As distasteful as that choice is to me personally, I am not so arrogant to think that I am constantly and consistently right — and self-righteous.”
For her, being vegan means being understanding, peaceful and open to a real discussion that helps to advance knowledge and truth.
“I prefer the philosophy of catching more bees with honey (pun intended). If we are peaceful, inviting, open and welcoming to all we meet, do we not stand a much better chance of them hearing what we have to say and thereby effecting greater change? Seriously, who wants to be scolded? It’s exhausting to be so self-righteous, for us and those who must endure us,” she added.
And she’s right. We must be more peaceful in our handling of adversity. The media will support us, then attack us, praise us and lambast us. This is modern media. We must learn to live within these parameters, allow the truth to come forward in a manner than is inviting and soft, instead of pushing our beliefs, however right they may be, on unsuspecting or unwilling citizens.
Vegans can, and are, creating a better more peaceful world, one that is witnessing a transformation of public thought, animal welfare and overall harmony with our environment. There is still much work to be done in order to continue to facilitate this change of cultural perspectives and through nonviolent, compassionate language and actions, vegans can move the world into a healthy coexistence that does more good than harm.
Categories: Say What