What It Really Means To Be Vegan.
If you are vegan, chances are you have that friend/cousin/stepbrother. The one that can’t let a family dinner or social outing go by without taunting you and your vegan ideals for the world to be amused by. You may love them to bits, you may wish they would very quietly disappear into the cracks of the floorboards, you may be used to the jabs and over the bickering, but either way- a vegan lifestyle seems to require constant defending and ongoing justification.
I guess at some point you get so used to it and just take it as part of the meaning of being vegan. But sometimes, I look at it- I really deconstruct it and look at it. And when I do, I get confused.
Why does someone with a vegan lifestyle feel the pressure to explain and justify his or her choice to live a cruelty-free lifestyle? Why do we have to describe the reasons why we don’t want dead animal flesh or by-products in or on our bodies? Why do we need to go to sit through debates about protein by ill-informed people? Why do we need to get sniggered at when we scrutinise menus or bring our own beautiful food to social gatherings?
I’m not sure.
I’m not sure why living a healthy, sustainable, cruelty-free existence that is beneficial for our body, our environment and the creatures we share this planet with, is the oddity, rather than the norm.
I keep seeing posts by well-known bloggers about how they have given their vegetarian or vegan label the flick.
These posts irk me for several reasons. But mainly it is because I feel as though these people don’t really ‘get’ what it means to be vegan. You cant turn animal suffering on and off with a switch. Being vegan may not always be easy. But it is a single choice, and from there, everything else is straightforward really. If people feel restricted by their vegan label- that is because being vegan HAS restrictions- ones that you know and understand because that is why you make the choice to switch to plant-based living.
It isn’t a fad.
It isn’t a diet.
It isn’t a trend.
It is a lifestyle. A choice to live a life that doesn’t contribute to suffering and pain and destruction on a local and global level. If you choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle it is because you understand the truth behind factory farming, the dairy industry, the leather industry and the cosmetic industry- turning back isn’t ever really an option. Once you jump down the rabbit hole and accept the truth, you’re down there with those little furry creatures for good.
I don’t want this to be an angry vegan rant- because we have that stereotype don’t we- of being angry, of being extreme, of being eccentric and a little maladjusted!
When people find a hair in their food at a restaurant, they are mortified, disgusted, they send the dish back to the kitchen.
They are angry.
Chomp away on a chicken leg filled with hormones, swig milk that contains puss from the swollen cows abused teat, enjoy veal ripped from its mother only hours after birth, poach some eggs that have been laid by birds who live in a cage for their entire lives, gloat about that bacon you savored from a pig so large it cannot stand up.
No worries at all.
So yeah, maybe we get angry, maybe we are extreme, maybe we all too often talk about things others would rather continue to pretend didn’t exist, so that Sunday Roasts and morning cappuccinos can be consumed without the guilty conscience.
Believe it or not, I don’t throw veganism in the faces of the people I know and love. I educate gently, I offer alternatives, I praise the changes they make and their openness to try new things. I know that the world wont change overnight and that a vegan population may never ever exist.
We live in a very hypocritical world, and I am not immune or separate from this. The fact that people are switching to organic dairy, free-range eggs, local meats and sustainable seafood brings me hope. These switches are indeed the better of two evils. Are they the perfect answer in an ideal world? No, not in my eyes, but they are making people think about WHERE their food is coming from. They are opening people’s minds to how they choose to eat and consume- and this is the first step.
Will I always suffer ridicule from my family? Will I always be the one that is difficult to take out to dinner? Will I always be the one that cries when I see a cattle truck on the highway.
Would I give those things up to make life ‘easier?’