I’ve been questioning my own beliefs as a vegan recently.
I haven’t changed my diet. I’ve thought briefly about changes, but I think just for the sake of doing introspection it’s not worth it. If it’s a strictly internal change I want to make, I don’t need to eat meat to prove a point.
The main things I have been questioning have been my motivations and my approach. I think sometimes I’ve been too angry about it, or too judging, or too invasive in my attempts to get others to see the light.
Recently I’ve been doing introspection as well on my relationship with the women I’m attracted to, and I’ve seen this same subtle invasiveness. In working on healing that, I think I’ve made some steps in healing the pushiness with veganism too.
By the way, it’s a bit embarrassing to talk about my faults like this. I wish they weren’t there. But I think it’s important to be open with them, at least as important as being open with my triumphs. It’s a bit harder to open up about the former than the latter.
So with veganism I think I was too pushy, too self-righteous. I think in the crusade I was on, I largely lost sight of the reason why veganism was important in the first place. I think this reason is something much more gentle in nature.
I think I found it a little difficult sometimes to accept non vegans as they are.
I think sometimes I got too serious about my beliefs, too certain.
Eventually this feeling disconnected me with the kindness and gentleness that is at the heart of the vegan philosophy. So I ended up feeling very inconsistent and felt the urge to investigate that.
I don’t think you can really be vegan without accepting other people as they are. If veganism is about loving, then it’s about giving people space to be themselves and wishing them the best happiness, even if you don’t want to encourage some of their actions.
Veganism is about equality for the rights and wellbeing of animals. It’s not about fighting a war on their side. War would imply enemies, but we have no enemies.
War is the very thing that gives rise to inequality. Whenever someone decides that power over someone or something is more worthy than love and respect, we have inequality.
We can only win our war by not winning it; by not having a war; by being on one and the same side as all living beings, everywhere.
Only love can end a cycle of hate.
Only respect can end a cycle of inequality.
This goes for everything, and not just for veganism.
I want to get the vegan message out there. I do believe in that, even though I’ve seen it done invasively and disrespectfully.
I want to get the message out there in my way. This means: I want people to know that they are accepted first and foremost, and THEN let them know what I think.
I want to work *with* people to realise their vegan-ness. I want people to see that it’s something already in them. I’m appealing to the kindness and desire for internal coherence that’s already in them. In this way they are my ally and not my enemy.
I think a lot of people are defensive with vegans. I think part of it is because deep down, they judge themselves. I think most people have some measure of discomfort with eating animals and don’t like to be reminded of it. Part of it, though, is that vegans judge them and they know it. And no one wants to hear from someone who doesn’t accept them for who they are.
As a vegan, I apologise for the actions some members of the movement I’m part of.
That said, I understand them. I also understand you. (Addressing myself to non-vegans). I understand and want to work with both of you. We are all on the same side.
Let’s form a peace here. Vegans, make peace with non-vegans. Let them know they are loved before you ever try to change their mind. Non-vegans, make peace with vegans. Forgive them their zeal, accept they think differently, and try to accept the vegan in you too. Some part of you doesn’t want to hurt animals. You can accept that without necessarily changing the way you live. Accept that your desire to not hurt animals isn’t as strong as your desire for certain foods, or your desire to not complicate your life, or whatever else it is that makes you a non-vegan.
This is valid. It’s okay to say “You have something that I can agree with but I don’t feel willing to change my lifestyle, at least not at this moment.”
I readily admit that accepting this can be the first step to changing your lifestyle. That said, changing your lifestyle was not the primary motivation for anything I wrote in this article. First and foremost, I want peace between all of us. Conflict won’t take us anywhere. Neither vegans will ultimately benefit, nor non-vegans. Only with cooperation can our mutual needs finally be met.
So let’s talk. Non-vegans, I’m here for anything you want to talk to me about. Vegans, I offer this as a proposal to a new round-table discussion on how to go about reaching our goals. I think we can do better.
The best book making a case for a more-or-less vegan lifestyle is “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s written by a non-vegan even though its conclusions inevitably lean towards veganism. I think this is its strength.
I’ve surfed the web a bit looking at opinions on this book and I was struck at how much power it seemed to have compared to works by many hardcore vegans. I saw one vegan complaining that one of Foer’s talks was filled to the brim with people while one of *his* (the vegan’s) talks was almost empty and frequented mostly by people who were already vegan.
I think there’s something here about not identifying as a vegan which let Jonathan Safran Foer still feel like he was on the same side as other people. People didn’t feel judged, and for that reason they were much more able to listen.
I don’t think we need to BE non-vegan to have this effect. As I said, I briefly considered eating some meat but came to the conclusion that the change I wanted was entirely internal. I think we can make a case study of Jonathan Safran Foer and be vegan, or live vegan at any rate, while at the same time allowing our non-vegan brothers and sisters space to be as they are.
For some further thoughts on being vegan while not being vegan, I encourage you to read my post on The Vegan Label.
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