I am vegan. It’s 2017 and I live in Amsterdam. I’ve been vegan for more than 9 years, time in which I’ve had numerous occasions to observe a myriad of shifts in behavior and perspective towards veganism. The term ‘veganism’ was coined in 1944, so it’s been around for a while, though it seems only in the last 20-30 years did it become more ‘heard-of’. I don’t dare say popular, since it’s definitely not popular yet. But especially in the last 10 years I’m sure it picked up attention more than ever before.
A mixture of memory and imagined thoughts make me think that I heard someone once say that any major change takes around 50 years to come to fruition. But I think, depending on the change, it might take even more than that.
There is a reason for every single human being on this planet to go vegan, I believe it’s just a matter of finding that reason within oneself. As society is constructed right now, I encounter daily more carnists than vegans and thus interact more with meat-eaters than with people who, for whichever reason, decide not to consume animal products. This, in turn, creates a variety of contexts in which, should veganism come up, I am constantly exposed and bombarded with all sorts of statements, resulting from the putting in motion of defense mechanisms. There is always a reaction. There is always a detonation happening, always something short-circuiting the brains of those that interact with vegans.
Similarly to how our views of the world and our existence and thoughts are challenged whenever we find out something new, whenever we learn, whenever our core beliefs, our fundamental patterns are questioned, whenever we see other individuals step out of the line, it provokes us, it makes us think, it helps us go in a state of constant re-evaluation of ourselves and our behavior. Surely, the depths of such introspective attempts are very relative to the individual, but for the most part, it has been pretty much scientifically proven than humans have no natural desire or urge to kill or harm another being and they generally express empathy when faced with the suffering of another creature.
I’ve been presented with many attitudes when enunciating my beliefs and one of the most common ones is that of having my philosophy and ethics considered a matter of “personal choice”. Without a doubt, it is also a matter of personal choice, but this simplification people engage in has no other purpose than to lead away from the fact of the matter. Choosing to not consume or use any animal products must definitely be on another chapter of personal choices than having short hair, for example. It is also a way to dismiss any further interaction on the topic, as everyone is entitled to make his or her own life choices. How bizarre then, that within the vast majority of carnists who mostly avoid really thinking about what they’re consuming, there’s also a special kind of people who not only demand to have their choices not questioned but also exhibit an aggressive stance towards those who are questioning their choices simply by having made different ones. I’m talking about the anti-vegans, the ones that go on fits of fury when they hear you’re vegan, the ones that can’t help themselves from iterating all their frustrations with themselves and the gaps in their knowledge, logic and sometimes empathy. It’s striking how abusive these specimens can be and it only makes me wonder what kind of experiences they must have been through to have led them to become such conflicting spirits.
In the past 10 days, I’ve had a couple of episodes I feel are worth mentioning, although I have not had the ‘chance’ to encounter one such conflicting spirit recently, just heard about one from a friend.
Firstly, I was asked whether I believe fish is meat or not. In all honesty, I felt slightly dumb-founded, and I think I probably had 30 seconds of profound disillusionment and disappointment in the world and in humanity. But 30 seconds was enough to remind me that I didn’t have much illusion or hope for the world anyway, so not much has actually been lost in the end. I can acknowledge that there might have been some debate at one point in time regarding the ability of fish to feel pain, I can see how it’s easier for humans to empathize less with creatures they are so much more different from, but I cannot understand how some people can take facts of nature and make them questionable. Of course, question everything! But we were not talking about ethics, we were talking about biology and meat is the flesh of an animal. A fish is an animal, therefore fish is meat. I feel such basic logic should not elude the foundation of anyone’s life.
Secondly, I overheard a conversation in which someone who earns at least 3 times more money than I do, was complaining about how the things that vegans eat are so exaggeratedly expensive that it’s simply impossible for her to do it. Yet again, a wave of chills down my spine, to accompany the sadness which engorges my being every time I’m faced with such blatant contradictions, with such twisted perspectives. I’d say more about it, but this sadness is such a weakening feeling that I don’t even know if it’s worth mentioning that when there’s a will, there’s a way. With the added bonus that if you go to the financial aspect, I literally earn less money than most of the people I know, amounting between 150 and 350 EUR per month ( or less ) for all expenses (besides rent). And I’m not doing so bad actually, since there are people who live with 20 euro or less or none. So I am not in any way complaining but I am also unable to not feel disgusted when I’m given the financial argument.
Should I even mention all the health risks which carnists expose themselves to, that can always lead to diseases which, in whatever form they come, cost money. A whole lot of money. And they can make you completely dependent on pills, for life, which will cost you more money forever. Because at one point, you chose to believe the lie you’ve carefully constructed for yourself, that eating healthier is more expensive. And mind you, by healthier I mean vegan, because in all honesty, I really think that even the worse kind of vegans are healthier than most meat-eaters.
Thirdly, something tangential to my veganism. The attitude of my work colleagues towards the food that I bring to eat in the break. Since day 1, it created a stir as no one knew what it was and even after I tried explaining, there was still bewilderment to be seen on their faces. It was just quinoa. As a matter of fact, it was even dutch-grown quinoa, so not the one imported from South-America, you could say that well, it doesn’t grow here so I don’t know about it. Of course, it’s still exotic and to a certain degree I can understand the bewilderment, but I would have thought that it would eventually dissipate, that they would get over it. Certainly, almost two years later, they haven’t. I did expose my veganism from the very start as I “couldn’t” have any of the cakes they would serve on birthdays and although it is not something that comes up everyday, there are constant reminders of a subtle disapproval, of a subtle frustrated opposition. And so I get to hear how my quinoa doesn’t really look so good or how it’s so impressive that I can eat 6 bananas and still take a shit. All of it, delightful pieces of information, coming from people in their 50’s, most of them not looking tremendously healthy, with spouses or relatives that go through heart-attacks, strokes and other illnesses. People who eat a bread and ham sandwich or alternatively, bread and cheese sandwich, with confidence and determination.