Vegans are the butt of a lot of jokes right now. I take a fair bashing from my friends, the internet seems to be revelling in it and even pub signs are making a dig at vegans these days. I think this is in part because being vegan is viewed as being either a fad or extreme thus making it ok to make a joke of it. But veganism is neither extreme or a fad. For most vegans we do not refrain from eating meat because it is cool right now, seems like a quick fix for weight loss, or because everyone else is doing it, but because we do not believe that animals are here for us to eat or abuse. It is also not an extreme belief, it is perfectly reasonable and rational based on research and information which vegans have read or watched.
I think veganism has fallen into the “fad” or “extremist” category for a number of reasons. First, there are those who just jump on the bandwagon, as with all other things in life! There are those who call themselves vegan to be cool or because their friend is doing it. These are probably also people who actually still have meat or dairy when they are drunk or if they just really cant resist it when they go out for dinner. Therefore are not actually vegan, but give the rest of us a bad name. This is something which celebrities are really good for, they tell the world they are vegan and then the next week are photographed eating a steak! I also think people want to treat it as a fad or extreme as it makes them feel less guilty or more removed from the reality of what eating meat actually is. I hear it all the time from people, when I start talking about issues with the meat or leather industry or animal testing they tell me they don’t want to hear as it makes them too upset. Yet continue to eat the meat or use the products tested on animals. The sooner people stop being vegan and stop talking about it the sooner everyone else can fully bury their heads back in the sand, they want it to be a fad!
We need to encourage veganism out of the fad or extreme category. I think it is really important as if it is seen as a fad or extreme view, the credibility is ruined and it creates a smokescreen for the real issues. Although the meat and dairy industry are probably pretty happy about that! It is very easy to dismiss real arguments on something if it is seen as a a passing phase or extreme. Often the information slagging off vegans online will include the “but bacon” piece which just encourages a “them vs us” attitude in many people and the arguing between the two camps ensues. Vegans are left on one side as extremists and meat eaters sit on the other brushing off all the information they are being given. Both sides can become as bad as each other, meat eaters treat it as a fad and vegans respond in increasingly extremist fashion. No one learns anything as they are at loggerheads!
In this world people believe that we have a right to eat animals and human nature is, if we have the right to do it, we do it! We are brought up to believe that it is normal to eat animals so the vast majority of the population don’t even think about it. Even in our education system we are shown a cut of meat and asked which animal it is from, how is that education?!?! I would rather see a picture of the living breathing animal and confirm what it is!! This just reinforces in children minds that animals are food. Children have been eating meat for years without making any connection in most cases. Also meaning they don’t question where it comes from or how the animals were treated in its production believing slaughter houses to be humane (thats if they even think about slaughter houses). Sadly, they are not! Animals can suffer immense abuse before finally being killed. As a 7 year old child I made the decision to not eat meat as I loved animals. I was able to come to this decision as my mum was already a vegetarian. This seems to be the case for many children who become vegetarian, they see a family member or friend eating differently to them and ask why and it goes from there. If there is no one there to start the question or influence the choices people will just never stop eating meat or consuming dairy. But this influence needs to be done by only giving the facts, not being too extreme, which I think turns many people off to listening about how bad the industry is. So here are some of the facts….
There is such a demand for dairy that cows are milked constantly and are in a small pen with no room to move. In some cases they never even see the light of day. Having my eyes opened to this really made me reconsider my “but I love cheese” stance. In addition to this animals used for meat are often tortured, abused and skinned alive, all in this country not some far off land! I think many people who eat meat are unaware of this. Aside from animal welfare, I have seen a number of documentaries and read numerous articles which show that the amount of farm animals on the planet are causing seriously high levels of greenhouse gasses. We are eating too much meat and consuming too much dairy. If this does not change then we are, as a planet, in serious danger. Finally animals and planet aside, there is a growing movement that not consuming dairy or meat is actually good for your health. There are a number of documentaries out there which will give you all the science and facts but I like to stick with what I know and that is my body. Since I cut dairy out that I feel much better. I am not ill as often as I used to be, am rarely bloated and generally just feel healthier.
Veganism is on the rise and so long as we can show that it is not a fad or extreme and have real, positive conversations with people then others may begin to listen to what is being said. I get that all the people in the world are never going to be vegan, people will (sadly) always eat meat. But if more people just actually paid attention to what is going on around them things may start to change. Those of us who are turning vegan are doing it because we have made the connection and done our research. We do not want to be eating animals or causing the pain and suffering which exists in the meat or dairy industry. We believe that the world would be a much better place if we just stopped treating animals as commodities and starting treating them as living beings. I do not believe for one second that people want animals to suffer. So stop thinking veganism is extreme or a fad and start to really look into it and why it is becoming more common, you may just change your mind.