Two Sides of the Same Coin.
Veganism is Activism.
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” ~Veganism as defined by The Vegan Society 1979
I’ve spoken a lot about what vegan is and the, “trend of veganism”. I don’t randomly go up to people and tell them that they are not what they claim, but I do feel the need to make sure people understand…
Being a person who consumes a plant-based diet does not automatically make you vegan, but being vegan means you lead a plant-diet.
One is based on trends, research, and the latest fad, one is based on learning, understanding, and taking a stand aka being a catalyst for change; an activist.
There are many types of veganism, but we can, for the most part, boil them down to Ethical veganism, that has a large focus on speciesism, and Environmental Veganism.
I’ve noted over the years, at least, 3 major reasons a person will become vegan:
- 1) health reason and/or to live a healthier lifestyle
- 2)animal rights
- 3)to help preserve the ecosystems
We can choose any one/combination or all of these reasons based on our understanding of what is happening in the world. These personal reasons and experiences are our guiding force as a vegan. It’s all about reform whether we can easily admit that or not.
People often assume a vegan’s personal choices for choosing the lifestyle because it’s easier. They often do not realize that they are stereotyping and regurgitating information. Like the idea that every vegan supports PETA, so people feel the need to constantly inform you of PETA’s unsavory past. Or that we all live off of Spaghetti and Salad. Or even better, that since we don’t consume animals we aren’t getting protein. I’ll be honest, however, one of the most interesting experiences that I have had, as someone who leads a primarily vegan lifestyle, is that people ( let’s be real, other activists) assume that Vegans think we are superior.
Now vegan elitism does exist and I’m going to briefly explain how that elitism is not the whole movement but in fact a segment (like most movements have their elitist segment). The folly of individuals, including other activists, laying a general claim that vegan is elitist is that they are being hypocritical in their reasoning.
Not only do they forget that in their activism they are pushing for change that recognizes the sentience of other beings, but they often forget that minorities and people without money are largely underrepresented in the media perception of many movements.
These are the same things that they constantly discuss and work to change, but because veganism is now challenging something that makes them personally uncomfortable, the idea that the entire movement is elitist is fostered, as well as the assumption that we all have exuberant amounts of disposable income. It’s an excuse to not admit what you are truly experiencing, which is confusion about your perception of the world around you. The people who make these claims forget that they must make a conscious decision to go against a belief and lifestyle they were brought up in.We do this as well.
But this is not just non-vegans fault. As a vegan, if we are not helping to guide, spread information, and educate on proper nutrition from all socioeconomic backgrounds, we are not helping our image. If anything our supposed elitism comes expecting others to choose veganism and know what to do and judge them harshly for not doing it our way.
I’ve had this experience, and I’m very open about my life experiences. One of the reasons it took me so long to transition was because I struggle with managing an eating disorder. I struggle with food guilt and body image. Before I finally managed to make the transition, I had a person who had been vegan for quite a number of years tell me that I was being ridiculous for choosing to be a vegetarian as I learned food nutrition, and to balance my bad habits. It took me almost 3 and 1/2 years before I felt confident in my nutrition knowledge and started inching into the full transition. I know first hand, because this individual was not the only criticism that I faced, that some vegans do not try to see and help people understand what they can do for their situation. They just react.
So many don’t even try to understand the definitions of being vegan, the philosophies, the mindsets, the support, and the education that goes with it. That, however, does not turn an entire activist movement elitist, just shows us where to pick up our slack, and we have. In the vegan blogosphere, there are student bloggers, single bloggers, bloggers who are parents, bloggers ( like me) with non-vegan others, budget vegans, and so much more. We are making strides to be better and more proactive about the needs of people interested in the ideologies encompassed by veganism.
As vegans, it is not our job to make people comfortable, but to make people think. We do not need to hide our beliefs and opinions any more than a non-vegan individual must. We should, however, be humane and compassionate. We need to learn what it means to be an activist before we make such overarching statements about activism. Activism is about uncovering the ugly truths that people strive to hide. Activism is the foundation or at least a very large part of the vegan movement.
For more on this subject check out my post on Design and Scheme.