Vegans have a reputation for being judgmental, abrasive, and aggressive. Although not all are like this (I think much of the negativity stems from cognitive dissonance), there is some truth to the stereotype. I’ve seen some vegans describe eating meat as “eating dead animal carcasses,” and I’ve seen many look down on those who are partially vegan, pescetarian, or just don’t explicitly fit the label.
Being a vegan, I never understood the logic behind this. Why would anyone want to join the movement if its members are condescending and defensive? No one wants to listen to someone who makes you feel bad about yourself. The whole premise of veganism is to be compassionate toward all living things– so why should humans be treated any differently?
The discourse needs to change. Not everyone has the same values regarding the environment, animal cruelty, or health as you do. Others may simply be blind to the truth behind their meat-eating practices.
Until about a year ago, I had no idea people around the world, including children, are enslaved to farm and harvest cacao beans for chocolate. I didn’t even know slavery was still in existence. I’ve only bought fair trade chocolate since then, but was I a terrible person before for buying chocolate from big companies like Hershey’s or Mars? It wasn’t until I was made aware of the mistreatment of humans that I changed my behavior, and I’m willing to bet a lot of meat eaters just aren’t aware or don’t understand the issue enough to make a change.
Although educating the public about animal cruelty and the effects of industrial farming on the environment is immensely important, I think it’s equally important that we as vegans do not preach. Unless you are an expert in the farming industry, a respected filmmaker, or an experienced researcher, you simply don’t have the ethos to convince anyone of changing their behavior. You can’t force anyone to become vegan by shouting it from the rooftops– the will to change has to come from within. It’s like forcing your child to love football or trying to convert someone to Christianity; if they aren’t wholly ready for it, you’re not going to able to change their mind.
And lastly, vegans will never be better than anyone else. Do you shop at Amazon? Do you wear clothes from Forever 21? Do you use plastic bags? If yes, then you have no right to feel holier-than-thou. Being vegan is great, and it’s certainly something to be proud of, but it’s no reason to look down on others who you may feel are less ethical. No one is perfect, and we are all working to better ourselves in some way.
I’m not trying to bash the vegan community; I think we are doing a lot of great things for the world and the majority of us do not fit the negative stereotype. However, the few that do put a bit of a damper on the whole thing. It makes me feel embarrassed to say I’m vegan, for fear that others will think I’m shoving it in their face or that I’m pretentious.
I would like to see the image of vegans shift from hostile, exclusive, and privileged to loving, accepting and whole-heartedly compassionate. I think the only way to do this is to shut up, let those who are willing and ready to discover veganism join us, and leave everyone else alone. Just like we become annoyed when [a select few] meat eaters get offended when they learn we don’t eat meat, we shouldn’t get offended by those who do eat meat. We are all on our own paths. :)