Thursday, July 12, 2012

Being Vegan Everywhere and With All Things

Of late, I've been having a lot of combative conversations online with abrasive "friends of friends" who seem to troll their feeds for vegan items- seemingly for the sole purpose of proclaiming their superior rightness.  Funny, as compassion is always "right", I've never considered right or wrong factoring into the equation of choosing whether or not to be vegan; it's more about making a consciously moral choice and bucking habit- which many people are loathe to do.

I recently found myself one of two vegans (an ally!) at a work meeting of about ten extremely bright people.  The subject of veganism came up when I innocuously commented on a co-worker's handbag, which happened to be a relatively obscure, vegan company (Viva Zapata).  The conversation easily segued into veganism in general, as other meeting attendees made different off-hand, somewhat apologetic remarks no doubt triggered in response to being trapped in a room with more than one vegan (hooray for me).  Faced with two vegans, the innate guilt was astoundingly apparent.  One woman mentioned that she's practically a vegetarian, but insisted that she's very environmentally-minded.  When I instinctively replied, "You can't be a meat-eating environmentalist," she was astounded by the idea (I know; easy crowd when these one-liners spark introspection).  Another informed us that she was previously vegan, but loves yogurt (!) and soy couldn't pass muster.  We've come a long way, baby!  This was too easy.  And then..."I do eat meat, but I only buy free-range".  Did you hear the sound?  It wasn't a balloon deflating; it was my momentum.

Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
It's mind blowing how the myth of free range has permeated the psyche of the general, non-vegan public, who have previously acted as though the treatment of animals used for their food wasn't worthy of their attention or consideration.  In fact, I believe the only reason it's being acknowledged now is because the meat industry- via the mainstream media- has given them an out.  The humane myth is sneaky, but brilliant; the public's new personal reality makes them feel as though they are caring consumers because they buy free range.  They fall for this hoax precisely because it seemingly absolves them of their unabashed discompassion by permitting them not to be inconvenienced from their habits and still managing to feel better about themselves.  Paul McCartney (incidentally, still not vegan) once said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.  The internet has become the equivalent of a glass-walled slaughterhouse; there is no one who can truthfully say they do not know what goes on.  But the meat industry has trumped truth by coming up with the false gimmick of free range...and people are lapping it up.

But the difference between the non-vegans I was having a conversation with on this day and the combative ones who hide behind the internet (etc.) is that- whether out of curiosity or genuine concern, the former were interested in something outside of their bubble and open- at least, to a dialogue.  The latter are simply the type who don't want to hear about your international vacation because America is the best country in the world and so they've no need to travel.

Times have changed.  Information abounds, but you have to be open to hearing it.  So here is my proffering.  Forget the online psychos; those battles are not worth the energy.  Concentrate on the thoughtful folks who are open to new ideas of thinking and living.

show Food Fight some love
You might not possess the time resources to leaflet.  Your introvertedness may prevent you from protesting.  So why not simply educate?  You can do that daily!  And, despite what dissenters think, it is not the same as preaching.  If someone compliments you on your shoes, thank them and talk about the style, brand, and compassionate materials.  Some people don't make the connection between leather and a sentinent being.

being vegan is hard
Ask at the liquor store about vegan wine and liquor.  Most likely they will not have realized there would or could be anything non-vegan about wine; I swear I must be the record-holder for educating (and grossing out) the most people about isinglass!  And, I've never had the proprietor of a liquor store not be totally open to ordering whatever I wanted.

yep; all vegan
Who can resist pictures of adorable animals?  No one!  Visit and support a farm sanctuary, then post pictures around your home and office; mine never cease to catch people's attention and elicit an inquiry.  In a few sentences I can impart where they are, why they're there, and how distinct each animal's personality is.  Sensitize the desensitized!

Invite non-vegans over for dinner

Be generous with your favorite vegan items. Share, share, share. But most of all, share. Not everyone knows that veganism is more than a diet. Not everyone acknowledges that there are alternatives to animal tested merchandise. When you see an opportunity, grab it. Plant the seeds. There's more to talk about than tv and the weather.

Remember, it's not about perfection; it would be impossible to live in this world and not inadvertently harm a living being.  Do your absolute best, concentrating on doing the least harm...and pass it on.

As a side note, a co-worker brought a box of cookies into work today.  This was sitting atop:

So much gratitude.


  1. Amazing post. Absolutely love it.
    Personally, I hate it when people stand on their soap box and call others posers for not doing enough, in my opinion that hurts more animals than it helps as it alienates people away from making change. (then again telling people fur is gross, probably doesn't help much either ;) As Howard Zinn said, "small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.” And as vegan activist and SHAC 7 defendant, Darius Fulmer once told me, "every flood started with a single drop of rain." Glad to see this harm reduction approach taking hold!

  2. BYOL- While I agree that harm reduction is the main goal, many people simply are NOT doing enough, precisely because they won't endure even the slightest inconvenience. I just can't give people credit for knowing the problem and not taking the appropriate steps to do something about it. Complaining that it's too inconvenient to find non-milk creamer for your coffee, for instance, is a wholly selfish excuse for not living a compassionate life. The best I can do is live by example; not only is it easy to be vegan, but it's a pleasure to live life with a clear conscience.

  3. Great post - I admire your ability to engage people in thoughtful discussions without offending them. And your willingness to do so. My office mates were very thoughtful, always making sure to bring vegan items to potlucks or order pizza sans cheese. BUT, i remember one ghastly event where I brought a beautiful chocolate cake to an office baby shower and it sat there untouched while the other baked goods disappeared, because no one wanted to eat vegan baked goods while there were other choices. Sigh.

  4. Andrea- I find it's so much easier to do in person; isn't that odd? Unfortunately I have some eager officemates who forget that cream isn't vegan, etc., but for the most part I'm very lucky. Although, on occasion, the same fate befalls my edible contributions; people will eat all kinds of gross stuff (including bacon cookies), but slap the word vegan on it and it's frightening! I hope you ate every last crumb of what I'm sure was a delicious cake.

  5. Abby,

    Very well written and great photos too.


Have you got something to say? It would be so nice to hear from you!
(I know captchas suck, but not as much as spam.)