This is a post that has been weighing heavy on my heart for some time…
My new year’s resolution for this year was to do something about the injustices that bother me most in our country, something more than just talking about them. While it is not the only cause I chose to champion at the start of this year, animal welfare is the one people notice the most. I went vegetarian in January of this year, after a brief brush with vegetarianism several years ago that fell away while I was in college, and about a month later, I went completely vegan.
If you had asked me about vegans prior to becoming one myself, I probably would have said the things that now bother me so much. They’re preachy. They’re elitist. They think they’re better than everybody else. And while there are some vegans who do fit into this mold, I would have been largely mistaken. Most of them are quite well-intentioned.
I’ve been blessed to have friends and family who are largely supportive of my vegan choices, although some of them still don’t understand that this isn’t a phase or that I’ve chosen this path for ethical and not health reasons. But I’ve also learned to expect certain trolls on Facebook, and I’ve adjusted to the idea that there are always going to be people who think the whole thing is something to mock.
I’ve learned that you need to develop a thick skin, because a lot of people just don’t get it.
I ultimately chose veganism over vegetarianism because I watched the documentary Earthlings, which chronicles the industries that abuse and exploit animals for profit and has been called the “vegan-maker” because of the effect it has on people. I had heard of it before, but spent years avoiding it because I knew it was going to distress me. I don’t know what finally gave me the courage to sit down with it through 90 torturous minutes, but I did. I was crying by minute 15, bawling openly because of all the ways we’ve not only failed to protect, but have actively tortured the gentle, intelligent species we share this world with. I skipped the section on fur entirely, because it comes at the middle of the film, after the viewer has already suffered through pet overpopulation, factory farming, and leather, and I just couldn’t do it. But I watched everything else, and when the credits started rolling, I knew I would never be anything other than a vegan again.
I’m including the trailer for Earthlings below. It contains graphic depictions of violence and animal abuse, but I think everybody should watch at least these two minutes, if not the entire documentary, which is free online. If you’ve ever said you’re an animal lover while still eating meat, watch it. If you’ve ever said to somebody talking about factory farming, “I don’t want to hear it, you’ll spoil my dinner”, watch it. If you’ve ever made fun of a vegan, watch it, and see if you still think your joke is funny. If you’ve ever taken part in any of the industries that exploit animals, watch it, because if you’re going to provide your monetary support to those industries, the least you can do is bear witness to the unbelievable suffering they cause.
Ignorance might be bliss, but it’s never solved any problems either.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to watch Earthlings, or any of the other films like it, because there’s nothing we can do to solve this problem. And it’s true, my choice to be vegan has not ended animal suffering. But it does save about 33 lives per year, and while that’s not a large number at all compared to the hundreds of millions of animals slaughtered each year, I would rather be able to say I tried to do something than live in my complacence doing nothing at all. If you watched the trailer above, and if it made you angry or sick or sad, do something about it. If you know what you’re seeing is wrong, do something.
The reality is that the implications of Earthlings aren’t hard to grasp, nor are they hard to implement without anything more than a minor inconvenience to ourselves. Go to a local rescue or shelter, where millions of animals are waiting for a loving home, instead of getting your next pet from a breeder or a pet store and contributing to the problem of pet overpopulation. Reduce your meat consumption, consider local farms where the animals are at least raised humanely, or, my personal favorite, cut meat out of your diet altogether, and learn how to cook all the amazing plant-based recipes floating around the internet. Learn to love Daiya cheese, Earth Balance butter, almond and coconut milk, and all the other dairy-free options we have on the market today — you’ll barely taste a difference (seriously, we’re the only species that consumes animal milk past infancy — it’s not natural or good for us anyway.) Embrace the vegan alternatives for leather and fur, which are both vanity products and nowhere near necessities. Stop buying tickets for shows that profit from animals in captivity. Only buy beauty and cleaning products that weren’t tested on animals — cruelty-free companies are numerous, and with Ulta and Amazon, they’re easier than ever to find. There are even some great options in drug stores.
“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening…When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
When people say vegans are elitist, it makes me laugh. I wish I could say that my veganism was some huge sacrifice, and that I was being this great champion for the animals around me. But the reality is that veganism was nothing more than a minor inconvenience in my life to begin with as I adjusted to the transition, and now, it scarcely takes any effort on my part at all. It was as simple as switching to non-dairy essentials (all of which I can find in my local Giant store), figuring out which vegan food bloggers were my favorites, and learning what items I could eat at my favorite restaurants (I still eat often at Chipotle and Panera Bread, where I was a regular before changing my diet). And then there are all the benefits: I have more energy, I’ve lost weight, my skin is clearer, and my grocery bill is notably lower, just to name a few. People have this notion that veganism is difficult, but in truth, I’ve found the transition incredibly easy. I didn’t go vegan to be an elitist — in fact, nothing would make me happier than to be surrounded by more vegans, to not be set apart by this lifestyle choice at all.
And that’s really why vegans get up on their soapboxes and preach, I suppose. Because most of us who have chosen the lifestyle for ethical reasons did so because we witnessed the suffering animals experience in their servitude to us, and because we were deeply agonized and infuriated by it. Because we continue to be agonized and infuriated by the knowledge that they are suffering every day. Because we are constantly witnessing the hypocrisy of people saying they love animals while continuing to participate in the industries that abuse them. Because we’re scared of human egocentrism and what it can do. Because we know that veganism is easier than ever if people just make the commitment. Because we force ourselves to believe that the reason more people aren’t vegans is because they don’t know, and if we can just make them see, maybe they’ll understand.
Because if we had to choose, we would rather live in a world with people who are ignorant of animal suffering than people who know about it and choose to do nothing.
There’s a line at the end of Earthlings that I like, when the narrator says, “But it takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” Kindness towards the living beings we share the earth with is a choice, and usually not one that requires more from us than simply refusing to be a part of the suffering. Vegans preach because we don’t understand why more people don’t choose compassion. When it is so simple to just choose a path of nonviolence and instead we continually see people choosing their own pleasure, their own amusement, and their own convenience over the lives of innocent creatures who did nothing to deserve their fates aside from being born non-human, we don’t understand.
It’s not that we think our preaching is going to make everyone around us see things the way we do. But maybe, if we say the right thing, if we strike the right chord…maybe it will ring true with just one person, and like me when I sat down to watch Earthlings, that person won’t be able to ignore what they know is wrong any longer.
And that’s worth something.
“It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong. They don’t have to be convinced. They just have to act differently. I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right. I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.”
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
Helpful Links for New Vegans:
- Cruelty-Free Makeup and Beauty Products
- Top Vegan Food Blogs
- Vegan Starter Kit
- 11 Tips For New Vegans
This post was originally published on my Author page, L.C. Grau – Fantasy Author