As a vegan, I’m trying to change how people think about non-human animals. We perceive them as property, as things that we can use however we want simply because we can. We are human, and they are not, and this somehow entitles us to have power over them and disregard all of their interests. To me, and I believe to most people, this is unacceptable. The thing is, most people have not yet aligned their actions with their beliefs.
I post things on Facebook sometimes that relate to veganism. I’ll post thoughts and ideas, or quotes, or cartoons, to convey ideas about how we think about and relate to non-human animals. I do not post vitriol about other human beings, the way I’ve seen some vegans do. I simply post what I hope are thought-provoking comments or images.
I don’t hate other people, even those who use animals. I’m not angry, bitter, joyless, or cynical. I just really want people to think about what they feel about animals and how their actions do or do not reflect those feelings.
But there are some people who insist on coming onto my page and commenting when I post something, and they insist on calling me “militant”, “negative” and “judgmental”, and encouraging me to be “compassionate” and “positive”, which, as far as I can tell, means putting other people’s fragile egos and need to have their bad choices validated above the end goal of ending all animal exploitation.
I don’t subscribe to the unicorn-and-rainbows soft-sell approach to veganism, in which we gently and “compassionately” encourage others to slowly drift toward a sort-of, almost-maybe-kind-of vegan “lifestyle”, because that is what is easiest for them. I don’t think that this approach actually fosters a lot of intelligent thought or questioning. I think it makes people “feel good” about “reducing harm” but it does not enable them to actually align their actions with their own values, because it doesn’t encourage them to challenge their own thinking. I want to provide information and intelligent thought and discourse, not mollycoddle people.
I refuse to pet someone on the head and tell him what a good boy he is for “cutting back” on animal consumption. I refuse to congratulate someone for continuing to eat cheese or eggs despite the fact that he KNOWS the harm his consumption causes.
I sure as hell am not going to condone or encourage that kind of thing. Once you know what harm your behaviours cause, there is really no excuse for continuing it, unless you think that your palate pleasure matters more than the lives of the animals who are being killed to provide you with that cheese you just can’t give up.
And if that is what you think, then you need to be challenged in your thinking.
That is what I am doing—challenging people to THINK.
And for this, I am labelled militant, judgmental and negative.
If I were challenging people to think about their own attitudes toward people of color, or women, or homosexuals, I’d be applauded.
But because I am advocating against speciesism, people dig their heels in and insist that I am being militant. Negative. Judgmental.
Would any rational person advocate “baby steps” for child molestors or rapists? It’s okay if you only stop raping people for one day out of the week—baby steps. You can’t give up rape all at once. Rape is a personal choice. Rape won’t stop overnight, or maybe even in this lifetime. Stopping rape is not a moral obligation—you can’t force morality on people.
I don’t get what is so hard to understand here. And since when is asking people to contemplate morality “forcing” it on them?! WTF?
I can see the appeal of the unicorn-and-rainbows soft-sell approach. It’s easy, inoffensive, and non-challenging, and you don’t really have to work too hard. You smile, and simper, and you reassure others that they are good people, wonderful people, even if they continue to exploit animals—because it’s all about people and their feelings. Everyone is just on their own “journey”. You don’t have to read theory about oppression or intersectionality. You don’t have to learn about social justice, and you don’t have to think about tough concepts like animals as moral persons. You don’t have to make connections or learn about other kinds of discrimination and how they are all related. You don’t have to challenge yourself to be better. You can just rave about how awesome kale is and post memes about how to make awesome smoothies (mmm…so yummyLOLZ)!
It’s okay to exploit animals, as long as you are comfortable and not being inconvenienced. Take your time eliminating animal use from your life; after all, ending animal exploitation won’t happen overnight, so just keep exploiting away! Buy that down-filled coat—it’s super-cute, and you are helping so much by not eating animals, so it’s okay if you wear them! Baby steps! Your feelings come first! Don’t feel bad, and above all, don’t think! And by the gods, don’t ever encourage others to think…no, can’t have that. That’s offensive and judgmental.
I don’t know whether to laugh at the absurdity or cry from frustration that some people just don’t get it.
I guess they are happy in unicorn-and-rainbow land. I get that—it’s comfortable and easy there. It’s a feel-good warm fuzzy. It’s all light-bringing and fluffy clouds and beliefs and self-validation. We can all peace out, man.
The only thing is, veganism isn’t about us. It’s about justice for non-human animals.
It’s not about your health, and your glowing skin, and your weight, and your self-esteem, and how you feel inside. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.
And if you can’t understand that, then you are missing a fundamental point, and I don’t know what more I can say besides, “Pet a unicorn for me, will ya?”