There’s a quote that’s been on my mind a lot recently:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Whether it’s a Mahatma Gandhi quote or not (the internet can’t decide) I love it. I think it’s abundantly clear that the vegan movement is in the: “then they fight you” phase.
I’ve only been vegan for coming up on 4 years however I do remember when I turned vegetarian 26 years ago it was generally ignored. My food choices weren’t of much interest to others because, well they didn’t impact those others.
When I first turned vegan I was laughed at. Often by colleagues who joked I’d get all skinny and weak. Lose my gains. Lose my strength. Or by clients who’d mock my “rabbit food” (without ever seeing it mind you) and my obvious zero emotional attachment to food. (I have a HUGE emotional attachment to food)
Right now I’m increasingly aware that “the fight” is being dealt to veganism and more personally to vegans by the most powerful and most influential sources. Mainstream media, huge corporations, government. You know, like with any form of bullying – you get personal when there’s nothing to criticise with the actual message.
It’s hard to argue with the vegan ethic of expanding our circle of compassion. Veganism is a 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. What’s to hate?
The easier target is to paint the individual vegan as extreme, emotional, overly sentimental and intent on forcing our beliefs on others.
I don’t know if this is the right approach however, I’m happy to wear any of these labels:
- If eating plants instead of flesh and excretions is extreme, call me extreme.
- If I have the courage to watch and speak out against the atrocities that would also make most other humans emotional too – and so they consciously keep their heads in the sand and continue to perpetuate the cycle of cruelty that they can’t even watch, call me emotional.
- If loving a dog or cat like a family member is “normal” and yet believing a bobby calf shouldn’t be ripped from his mum at a day old, kept in isolation then brutally slaughtered within a few months for veal so that humans can guzzle the milk designed for a bovine baby, is overly sentimental… you guessed it, I’ll wear all the labels. I’ll also spend all my days sharing these beliefs because I have this hope, this perhaps delusion-ally optimistic hope, that humans are born compassionate and that despite the indoctrination of a Carnist society most of us are born into, we can and we must break free.
Yet there is still:
The Cost Of Being Vegan.
I don’t want to just discuss the cost today, I want to share some self preservation strategies to effectively mitigate that cost. I’m going to draw on personal experience, however absolutely in conversation with other vegans and animal right activists these sentiments are common.
ONE: The cost of spending time with non-vegans.
This isn’t elitist and it’s certainly not something I welcome. I want to easily interact with others who have differing values and beliefs to me. And yet, it seems different when those alternate values and beliefs actively create and maintain a demand for animal products multiple times every single day.
Although I wake up fresh and energised… excited and grateful for the day… and I always have energy for my workouts. I’m finding I get “out peopled” pretty quickly. I use to think it was an ageing thing. Or, gosh am I battling depression? I don’t mean to use that word lightly however I’ve really been questioning why I really need to spend time alone after hours with people. Why I’m really happy to spend the weekend alone after days with people.
Why I crave a sunrise walk along the beaches and will get up at 4.30/5am on my one day off to enjoy that walk… before, all the other people.
Aside from the fact that I live in a non vegan world I’m generally as happy – maybe the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m happy! And yet, I’m starting to understand just how much energy it takes to be in constant conflict so far as your most important values and beliefs with 95-98% of society.
So as well as happiness I also feel so much: Despair. Frustration. Anger.
Can you relate?
My advice for us both is to hunt down and regularly intrench yourself in: Hope. Success. Joy.
I’m going to do my best to make this actionable. Again, for us both!
- Filter in more of the hopeful, joyful stuff. The success’s! You might do this by actively curating your social media and news feeds to prioritise those people and accounts that share more of the positive stuff.
- Get better, faster, ruthless (!) at filtering out the stuff that purely causes you those other less welcome emotions.
- Become an expert in the art of reframing interactions to see the positive in them. I had the perfect opportunity to practice this this morning. A dear client declared she had something that made her “really angry” to share with me. This lady, a partner in a law firm and super adept in presenting her side forcefully informed me: that google has removed the egg from the salad emoji. And that makes her furious. I thanked her for making my day as I see this as a huge positive. She was still hugely riled up – I honestly thought she might be joking however it seems she see’s this as hugely offensive. I inquired as to why. “Because it implies that there’s something wrong with my choice to eat eggs.” I didn’t see this as the time to talk about baby boy chicks being macerated by the 10,000’s and instead focused on the positive. I’m finding someone will match your energy. If you remain calm and positive it’s hard for them to maintain extreme angry energy.
I’m not suggesting any of us block emotions. It’s essential to experience a variety of them and some (like anger) can even help stimulate positive action, however living in a non-vegan world I think we’re easily swamped with the UN-fun stuff and as such we need to build our skills at filtering in / hunting down the good stuff.
TWO: The cost of in-congruency / guilt you feel when you choose silence to protect your sanity.
There are a couple of important considerations here that will hopefully help each of us ditch the guilt (what a waste of time emotion) and go a little easier on ourselves.
First, We need to be in it for the long game.
Second, Being able to operate (infiltrate) among non-vegans lets you have a much greater impact.
You know the meat eater who loves to recall that time they met a rude or judgmental vegan? Generally they saunter through their days blissfully ignorant to the advertisements for McDonald’s so NOT “Happy Meals” on the buses sailing past. Bacon wafting from that cafe smells enticing not like the death of an 8 month old pig. Nothing on display at the supermarket, on a colleagues plate or being devoured on the train next to you is the least bit confronting. But one vegan once made they feel a little uncomfortable?
Try having ALL your senses assaulted constantly. It’s exhausting and yet it’s NOTHING compared to the actual violence inflicted on the animals we’re advocating for.
To make choosing silence to protect your sanity actionable here are a few considerations:
- Pick your battles. Speak up when you feel you have the best chance to have a positive, impactful interaction.
- See silence in some situations as not “letting the animals down” however rather conserving your energy to come back stronger:focused, calm and compelling with the next time you do break your silence.
- Choose silence when you know you’re don’t have a well informed response and instead use this as an opportunity to do your research and become better informed. I heard my fav activist Earthling Ed speak about this recently. Ed, is the most articulate, calm and compelling activist I’ve heard. When asked what his trick was to remain calm irrespective of how angry or irrational the person he’s interacting with is, Ed shared in the early days he noticed he wasn’t getting the reactions he was hoping for. He did a lot of self reflection to understand how he could be more effective and realised it was when he didn’t have the knowledge he felt confident in that he would get more judgemental or confrontational and the conversation would spiral downhill.
THREE: The pressure / urgency to have a greater impact because the situation is so horrific and dire.
I know every animal rights activist struggles with this pressure. My advice is to always bring it back to your why. If your why is the animals then the most important thing is effective advocacy.
It’s not about being the most vocal, the most famous (ughhh – that’s repulsive) or the most constantly seen at every event / in every online interaction.
To better manage the pressure / urgency to have a greater impact here are a few considerations:
- Prioritise those things in your life that keep your mind and body functioning effectively. Anything that has the potential to be overwhelming is only made worse when you let go of the valuable habits that you know keep you healthy. The fact is: whether we’re talking animal rights activism or business or running your household, You will never get it ALL done. So it becomes a matter of first, focusing ONLY on what you can control. Second, prioritising so that what you do get done are the most important things.
- Prioritise those things in your life that keep you happy and grateful. Hopefully you have an idea of what these things are for you. If not, it’s certainly a valuable use of your time to get some clarity here and then lock and load them into your daily and weekly routines.
- Take your EGO out of it. As much as each individuals actions count – it’s not ALL riding on you, or me! The older I get the more unattractive and limiting I realise ego is. In contrast, a calm certainty of self and certainty of purpose is compelling, effective and attractive. As it can be natural and habitual to default to ego in certain circumstances I’m starting ask myself: WHY am I really doing this?Is it to be seen? Is it to live up to / conform to some superficial ideal? Or is it to be effective?
As a final note finding some way to work both a recognition of and an appreciation for the progress you are making in your vegan lifestyle, as an animal rights activist – in fact in any area of life in which you feel pressure / urgency to have a greater impact is vital. For me this take the form of documenting 3 references points for success (with my 3 things to be grateful for) every evening.
To get actionable today if my experiences regarding The Cost Of Being Vegan resonate with you I have a couple of previous podcasts and podcast guests that I really recommend. First up, E552 with Dr Melanie Joy where we discuss Carnism and Creating Effective Communication Between Vegans and Non-vegans.
I strongly recommend you check out the amazing Dr Joy as her thoughtful, unique and articulate insights have given me such a sense of relief, hope and understanding despite the unavoidable, horrific truth and scale of animal exploitation globally.
I’ll admit, when I first heard the term “Vystopia” I actually chuckled. I was a new vegan. I wasn’t yet an activist and I thought, “well that’s a bit extreme, I’m not feeling the least bit anguished!” How wrong I was. Now I’m incredibly grateful for Clare’s ability to proceed the content and the support needed by her vegan community.
That’s it for today in Healthification. If you’re enjoying these solo show and longer form chats I’d really super appreciate it if you’d please share this podcast with someone you think would find value in it or rate and review it in iTunes. It takes a couple of minutes and it means so much to me. It 100% makes my day.
Huge thanks to YOU for sharing this week with me. You rock and I appreciate your support!
The Healthification podcast is proudly bought to you by my FREE ‘Easy Vegan’ plan. It took me 25 years to transition from a meat eater to a happy, healthy Vegan! You can do it in just 3 days with my simplified ‘easy vegan’ plan! Get the fit, strong, and healthy plant based body you deserve… while avoiding ALL the mistakes I made along the way!
Till next time, remember Creating a body and life you love is Freedom. (If this ex-carb queen, non genetically gifted, naturally uncoordinated vegan chick can do it – so can YOU!!!)
If you liked “The Cost Of Being Vegan and 3 Self Preservation Strategies” you’ll like 638: PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk | Animals Are Not Ours To Experiment On, Eat, Wear, Use For Entertainment or Abuse In Any Other Way.
If you liked “The Cost Of Being Vegan and 3 Self Preservation Strategies” you’ll also like E600: 14 Vegan Legends Share The Best Advice I Wish I Knew Prior To Adopting A Vegan Lifestyle.
If you’re yet to share the Healthification love – just click here to zip over to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review. It’d help me out big time. With gratitude, Kate.