I’ve already touched on this subject previously, but it never hurts to talk about it some more.
When I first started talking about veganism, I knew what I was getting myself into. Well, to an extent. I’ve only been vegan for a few months now, but I am still hesitant on ever bringing it up to others. This uneasiness doesn’t reflect how I actually feel, as I am very passionate about the lifestyle and stand firmly behind it. But knowing how I saw vegans before transitioning, I understand that the time and place to discuss veganism is rare.
Veganism is still fairly new and is still very dominant in bigger cities, especially on the west coast. So for someone living in a conservative, agriculture-heavy state, any attempts to “infiltrate” the general public is intimidating. I think it’s going in the right direction toward becoming a more everyday concept, but we have a long way to go.
When I first think of veganism, I immediately think of the stereotypes, which in some cases are accurate. I’m not going to deny that there aren’t some people with dreadlocks eating fruit and salad at every meal (technically considered “fully raw“), or people who are very angry and outspoken, constantly stuffing the vegan message down everybody’s throats (someone like Freelee the Banana Girl). Even just the people who occasionally stand along the sidewalk passing out fliers on the meat and dairy industries, I know my peers who walk by those people take the pamphlet and immediately throw it away or discredit it, even if the information and research is evident.
Veganism is by no means an easy mindset to adopt. Food is a very personal, traditional part of society. It brings people together and helps form connections. We form memories and emotional connections to certain dishes and recipes. And most likely those involve animal products. But most vegans did not grow up in the lifestyle. They too drank their recommended three glasses of cow’s milk a day and enjoyed turkey on Thanksgiving. A lot of vegans even enjoy the taste of dairy and meat. I can’t tell you how much I loved cheese growing up, and even yogurt was hard to give up. The difference now is that as vegans, we’re taking ourselves away from those universally accepted products and asking ourselves “why?”
When we eat those animal products, we see the food as food. We don’t necessarily consider how that food ended up on our plates. We grow up associating certain animals as pets and others as food sources. How we ended up choosing those, don’t ask me. We don’t look at a burger thinking of the cow it came from. Or wondering how happy the chicken is that provided your omelet. If you live on a farm or you specifically buy from local agriculture, those thoughts probably cross your mind more often. But they still don’t explain why cows, chickens and pigs now only live for our diets.
Which, might I add, we biologically aren’t designed to eat. No other species on the planet drinks another animal’s milk. And an animal that we aren’t even closely related to. If we wanted to drink milk better suited for humans, we might as well start impregnating monkeys and drinking that lactation. And when you see a cow or pig, you probably don’t get hungry. Your instinct isn’t to attack the animal and start eating it. We don’t even get hungry when seeing the raw flesh after an animal is slaughtered. But take a steak or pork chop and now we’re talking. But unlike carnivores or omnivores, our digestive tracts aren’t favorable for meat consumption. Rather than very short intestines that digest meat very quickly, our tract is lengthy. So when meat passes through that system, it isn’t healthy. Now in our early times when food sources were scarce, we had no choice but to eat meat, helping us evolve into the species we are today. But we now live in a society where that isn’t necessary or reasonable.
Look at me. I didn’t even mean to start rambling, but when you learn the information, you just want to share it. It’s a human instinct, and if they go about it the right way, vegans shouldn’t be punished for it. We’re not condemning and taunting you for eating a conventional diet, because we were there, too. We just want everyone to be as informed as possible, to know the effects of their actions. The food we eat has greater repercussions than we initially realize.
And vegans don’t just look like hippies. Any gender, age, body type, ethnicity, or location can be vegan. Heck, there are vegan body builders.We aren’t weak because we don’t get protein, iron and calcium from animal products. And most of us don’t even care for salad that much. We can make any dessert without cow’s milk and eggs. We still love (veggie) burgers and pizza (without cheese). Even at any restaurant, we can find a vegan option. A lot of the foods you already eat are probably vegan. We might have to get a little creative, but making those substitutions is becoming increasingly easier.
This movement is by no means slowing down. Even my own hometown, a place where most families hunt and fish on the weekends and love their bacon, is offering more vegan options and has even opened up a co-op full of great products. Somewhere I usually feel so out of place is starting to become more welcoming. More and more people are no longer seeing veganism as a foreign concept, but as a very approachable, reasonable lifestyle.
So my advice to vegans, the best way to spread the message is to simply lead a healthy, happy life. Show others how simple the changes can be, how easy it is to choose more vegan-friendly options. When people around you see the benefits you gain, they’ll naturally be curious. Don’t ridicule others for their meal choices. If you want to convince family and friends who may be uneasy about your transition, suggest watching a documentary together. But please don’t just throw bloody, beaten factory farm animals in their faces. The information we learn can feel so eye-opening that we want to shout it every chance we have, although it’s probably not that effective.
And for non-vegans, keep an open mind. Obviously veganism’s goal is to have everybody living a vegan lifestyle, but we don’t expect that overnight. Even just a simple change like switching cow’s milk for almond milk or practicing Meatless Monday can make a huge difference. Even if you’re not about to make major adjustments, just start learning more about what vegans stand for. That we aren’t just radical tree-huggers. Don’t make assumptions about our personalities. We aren’t just throwing out meaningless ideas. If you eat meat and dairy, learn about where it comes from. Greater awareness and less ignorance is key.
Who knows, maybe I too look like an angry hippie. But if that’s because I’m practicing the beliefs I stand so strongly behind, I’m okay with that. Because I’m certainly not stopping the vegan conversation any time soon.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie