I have been vegan for three years now, and the ease of eating out has much to do with the consideration and thoughtfulness of those around me. It actually just boils down to asking me if a particular restaurant is a place where I could enjoy my food.
That did not happen today, unfortunately. And in retrospect, I cannot recall a single time when a family meal amounted to me being asked if it was a choice that I could enjoy. The times that the restaurant had good vegan options came out of sheer luck, not choice, not because anyone did any research, but just because they happen to be available. Today was a particularly frustrating time for me. It was supposed to be a family lunch, and there I was, spending so much time on my own at a mall looking for something I could buy and take back to that restaurant. It was a restaurant that served buffet and nothing else, and they only had unexciting salads and fruits that I could eat, and I am unwilling to pay a thousand bucks for food I cannot enjoy.
It is the first day of the year and I didn't want to feel angry or hurt or sad, but those are precisely the things that I felt. How hard was it to ask me a single question? How difficult would it be to consider my ethical choices? It's not as if I turned vegan yesterday. It has been three years!
This frustration, admittedly, has been growing roots. The only times that I get to choose where to eat as a family is on my birthday. 2010 I chose to go to Greens, and much as I wanted everyone to order vegan, some intentionally ordered dishes with dairy products. But it was my first birthday as a vegan, so I let it pass. 2011 I decided I want my family to try the vegan options at People's Palace. I chose that place because I thought the taste of the vegan dishes there were omnivore-friendly. I sent everyone an email and a text message saying that my one wish for my birthday is for us to have a vegan meal together. The moment we sat down, I heard comments about squid and chicken and some other animal-based dish, so I reminded everyone that I will do all the ordering to make sure everything is vegan. Jokes were cracked to my face about where they would go eat after this meal. My niece refused to eat the dishes laid out in front of us, and my brother ordered chicken for her. I thought this was insulting to me, and reflected poorly on him on so many levels. How hard was it to grant my one wish for a few hours? How hard was it to teach a toddler respect for the ethical choices of others, and the benefits of eating vegetables. That meal left me in tears that come 2012, I decided I will just leave Manila altogether and I ended up spending my birthday in Boracay.
It was a slap in the face how my ethical choices were disrespected. And I don't know how to deal with the blatantly speciesist views of treating animals as things. My brother has two labradors, and he said that the veterinarian wanted him to "do a lot of things" but "it's not worth it." I asked, "What if it were your child?" He replied, "But it isn't my child. It's only a dog." That again, brought me so much pain and sadness. It hurts me that he represents the vast majority of human beings who see animals as mere objects. It hurts me that this individual dog had to suffer because his freedom from pain is dependent on someone who could not care less about him. It hurts me that my brother is this desensitized, and it worries me to what extent this self-centeredness could expand. I am hurt, and mostly, I am sad.
It is a slap in my face that adjustments were not made to accomodate my choices. I feel so much pain, and yet whatever pain I feel cannot be compared to the pain that these nonhuman animals feel in factory farms and small farms, laboratories and slaughterhouses, zoos and puppy mills, circuses and all these other places and industries where animals are used and abused and killed.
Angry vegans are aplenty, and sometimes, like today, I am one. I am angry that change is not happening fast enough. I am angry that the apathy of human beings is causing so many others so much suffering. I am angry that there is a simple solution to end much of the world's violence, health problems, food shortage problems, environmental problems, etc and yet not enough people are taking the necessary steps- all for taste and convenience.
And so it is times like this one that I need to dig deep and draw courage and positivity from people I look up to, to keep going, to keep doing what I do. Because you can slap me in the face like this again and again and again, but you cannot shut me up. Not now, not ever. I live to speak up for the animals. And my own family may be speciecist, but my vegan family is awesome. To this, I look into my Jivamukti tribe, my vegan heroes like Philip Wollen, John Robbins, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and so many other famous vegan advocates, and mostly to my vegan friends who like me struggle but never ever give up the fight.
For the animals.
Until every cage is empty.
Until all are free.