Preachy. Self-righteous. Rude. These are the things many vegans have been called when we point out the reality of animal suffering.
I don't want to know. It's my choice. They taste good. These are the things many vegans hear when non-vegans react to our choices.
There are times vegans are labeled angry vegans. And sometimes, I act like one. If that is the case and I was not a good representation of the vegan cause at that moment, I apologize in behalf of nonhuman animals. I do not mean to hurt them and my chances of effectively speaking about their plight.
Allow me to offer not an excuse but an explanation. Please know that when you meet an angry vegan, this anger comes from a place of intense pain. We have witnessed the horrible suffering of our fellow beings and took on that suffering as our own. That is why we are called emotional, because we do in fact take on the emotions of others. We know that for every single second that we do not speak up, animals suffer. We are invested in doing everything we can to reduce this. And even if we are not successful, we are determined to try. Even if you do not agree with our approach, we try, because we would rather do something than nothing. Sometimes we are eloquent and tactful and good with our words. Other times we are confrontational and our timing is way off. When that happens, I hope you can see past the personality and think about the issue at hand. We are sometimes angry, yes, and we are angry for a reason. If we did not feel anger, we would not have felt the sense of injustice and turned vegan in the first place. If we err, it is from a place of passion. If we make a mistake, it is because we are human.
What I do wonder about, though, is the case of angry non-vegans. There are quite a lot of them but hardly anyone considers them preachy or self-righteous or rude, even when they insist they know more about protein than we do, even when they claim superiority over other sentient beings, even when they snicker and roll their eyes when they hear us ordering and making sure our food is free from the cruelty of meat, eggs, and dairy. Angry non-vegans are everywhere. They yell at us when we are peacefully handing out animal rights flyers. They challenge our moral inconsistencies by pointing out that we have accidentally stepped on ants. They tell us with hearty laughter that they will eat two animals for every one that we spare. I do wonder, where does this intense pain come from? I do wonder, why is there such a strong desire to put down our choice? I do wonder, why is it a big deal to them that we speak up and that we are unstoppable?
Is it possible that they want to remain in apathy and it is getting harder and harder to do so? If they allow themselves to feel, is it possible that the guilt would be overwhelming and the pain unbearable? Are they that threatened? Are they afraid because they do not want to confront the way in which they live their lives?
A few vegan friends of mine were upset upon seeing this joke (image above) at a fastfood steakhouse. They were angry at the putdown. They were offended at the irresponsibility of promoting abstinence from cruelty as abstinence from pleasure. The angry vegans were angry at the angry non-vegans. I, however, was partly flattered. If you need to crack a lame joke about vegetarians to sell corpses, that appears to me to be a recognition that your business is in some way threatened. Thank you for the publicity.
There are many angry vegans and many angry non-vegans. Often forgotten in this conflict are the real victims: the animals. We are fighting over who gets airtime, who gets to win the argument, who gets more people to agree with them, whose comebacks are more snappy, whose jokes are funnier. Meanwhile, animals suffer and we ourselves lose our precious energy.
Maybe it's time we stop fighting and labeling and judging. We can all use a little less anger. We can all care a little bit more. We can challenge our compassion a little bit more. As vegans, we can empathize with non-vegans who are struggling if not for the issue of veganism then the other struggles that they may be confronting in their lives. As much as I would love for non-vegans to start caring about animals, that is not really something we have control over. We cannot live our lives trying to please them or trying to win them over. That would be exhausting. As vegans, I think what we can do is speak from our hearts and learn to be more eloquent and effective and ultimately to learn to let go. We learn that there is so much more to learn. We also learn that even at our most eloquent, we may not please everyone and that is okay. We did not become vegan to please others, but we also did not become vegan because we want to get stuck in anger. We may lose friends and relationships, but we must always keep our heads up high. We may be labelled and put down, but we must always remember the animals. We must find a way to lose our anger- if not for ourselves then for the animals, so we can keep speaking up for them and fight for their liberation.