Veganism is at times a irritating avenue to have wandered down. As with any community that contains individuals with differing opinions and ideas it can become tiring and disjointed. There’s nothing more disappointing than to see Vegans arguing with each other on how to deliver the Vegan ‘message’. There is no one size fits all, the delivery is adjusted to suit the audience. The watering down of what it means to be Vegan also causes confusion, Veganism is not just a diet, it’s a whole lifestyle change, an ethical and philosophical standpoint that integrates not just what you put in your body but also what you wear, clean your house with and put on your face. When this simple concept becomes muddy this is where the animals lose out and ‘I’m vegan but I wear leather’ or ‘I’m vegan but I eat honey’ becomes acceptable. In situations such as this it doesn’t matter how politely you point out that no, that’s not Vegan, people get defensive and accuse you of being the ‘Vegan Police’. Imagine that, your own community calling you out for trying to be consistent with your message.
There is also the urge that most Vegans have for everyone to just wake up and become Vegan, we know it’s not difficult so why on Earth are they not doing it? It’s that desire for everyone to just hop on the bus that makes us angry. Now there’s nothing wrong with being angry, it’s an emotion that when recognised, utilised and discharged appropriately can be a great catalyst for growth and change but you also get told within the community that being angry is ‘wrong’.
This is something that other liberation movements have in common, they are told a lot that they are ‘too angry’ but even when activism is peaceful and quiet they get told that is wrong too. No wonder activists burn out and become disillusioned, if someone’s activism doesn’t float your boat, instead of being a real pain in the proverbial with them, move on and find one that does.
I became Vegan 4 1/2 years ago, I’d been vegetarian for 19 years before that. My Veganism occurred after a life changing event. In 2012 I nearly died and had to have life saving brain surgery and during a slow recovery with lots of Post Traumatic Growth I became Vegan in 2015. It was a sudden decision one day stood in my kitchen when my brain just told me that it ‘didn’t want to do this anymore’. I didn’t want to be complicit in an oppressive system that commodified and tortured and killed my animal friends. I thought as a Vegatarian I was doing the right thing but it’s only after looking into eggs and dairy that I realised I was still hurting these wonderful sentient creatures.
It was only looking at the Vegan community through my new lens, due to my now wonky brain from abled to disabled, that I realised, just like wider society, that there is a large amount of ableism within the movement. The Vegan community is not perfect, NO community is perfect, I know this. All protests, actions and gatherings are organised with the presumption of being fit, healthy and abled. I have tried to offer my services to various local groups, stating that I can’t do anything too physical or spend long days marching or standing but I can help in other ways - organising, fundraising, helping with admin - all the ‘unsexy’ stuff behind closed doors and what I got in response was silence. I’m sure there are others out there like me, on the fringes, wanting to get stuck in and do our bit but no one makes room for us. I could make that room for myself and do my own thing but I see strength in the collective, why have lots of tiny little groups that have a spattering of members when we could come together and have something massive? It’s like The Life of Brian. Am I in The Judaean People’s Front or The People’s Front of Judaea?
Don’t get me wrong I love being Vegan, I think it’s a wonderful thing and there are some pretty wonderful people out there but every community must critically evaluate itself regularly so it can evolve and keep making strides. When will we realise we are stronger together? When will we stop infighting and arguing amongst ourselves? All these disparate voices can find common ground and work in sync. When will we grow up and stop getting defensive over everything and have the important conversations and truly listen to each other? When will we stop putting our energy into arguing with anti vegans on YouTube and turn that energy into forward motion and liberation. We are making this movement about us. This is not about us, it’s about the animals.