The word vegan and all it’s misconstrued connotations are currently buzzing like an old refrigerator.
The larger the vegan population grows and the louder it gets, the more adamant the adversity toward it becomes; which is, as with any movement encouraging consumers to change ingrained habits of behavior and long-held ideologies, to be expected. But at this time in history it seems veganism has reached the point of no return, the point in which it can no longer be ignored by the majority.
According to The Economist, “2019 will be the year veganism goes mainstream.” In their online article, The Year of the Vegan, it was said that, “Interest in a way of life in which people eschew not just meat and leather, but all animal products including eggs, wool and silk, is soaring, especially among millennials. Fully a quarter of 25- to 34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians.”
All who are fortunate enough to reside in developed countries and civilized societies are being faced with the decision to either entertain and engage with veganism to some degree, even if by just tolerating it, or ignore and even combat vegan ideals with talking points that protect the traditional standard Western diet and lifestyle. But either way, veganism is here and it’s here to stay, and there is no denying that, even for the companies in the animal ag industry who run and hide from it behind their “happy farm” and “humane meat” marketing ploys. To say that veganism has caught on is a profound understatement.
Veganism: “A philosophy and 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” – The Vegan Society, circa 1944
Ultimately when it comes to making veganism stick as a mainstream practice it is extremely important that vegans do not scare people off with political extremism or a radical concept of moral high ground, and instead provide a positive and practical approach. This can be difficult considering that the real, true center of veganism is technically not diet or health, but ethics as it relates to the animals. This fact tends to turn people off to the movement because they may be inclined to associate veganism with groups of far left political leaning, “animal-lovers”, and overall emotionally-biased thinkers. Contrary to popular belief, veganism is not a fringe trend for hyper-liberal care bears (though those types of people have certainly hijacked it and continue to misrepresent it.) It is also a common misconception that avoiding animal products contributes to a higher likelihood of nutritional deficiencies, which, when coupled with the common notion of soft, “soyboy” vegans, makes it all too easy for folks to dismiss veganism as a joke or an impractical craze before even being made aware of the actual, sound reasons for being vegan to begin with. It is simply easier to label veganism as a new age virtue-signal for progressive fanatics that will eventually phase out than it is to consider that something different than the mainstream may be the more ethical foot forward for society (and for people.)
But here’s the thing: Veganism will never phase out. It has become too huge in too short a time and continues to infiltrate the mainstream media and conversations in the public eye. And when it comes to such a rapidly and widely exploding movement, there is no such thing as bad press. Adversity is the first stage of acceptance, which is why negative coverage of veganism should be regarded as lip service, necessary even. Who are these kooky millennials to tell me that I can’t have my cheeseburgers? is the mentality we see from “live and let live” traditionalists. To many people, the subtle suggestion to decrease consumption of what are frankly unnecessary, unhealthy, and unethical products is somehow equivalent to banning them altogether. So you can see how it can be easy to disgruntle said people with the idea that those products should actually be banned, an idea that any vegan worth their salt would agree with.
Cheeseburger addiction aside, the bigger issue here is the merging of veganism with all things far left. The expanse of veganism in recent years marks the beginning of what will be a long, steep climb for the vegan movement to ultimately stand independently from the growing basket of liberal intersectionalism, into which sensible and critical thinking are thrown and left to erode and rot away into a pile of cutesy emotional mush.
Living a vegan life and spreading the vegan message does not have to involve political intersectionalism or political correctness, and it is honestly quite disadvantageous to the movement when it does. Tying veganism in with popular ideologies that have become extreme political concepts (like feminism, gender politics, race politics, etc.) only serves to push away the majority, who generally feel uncomfortable with what they deem as punitive, draconian propositions.
Now to be fair, animal liberation is technically a social issue, one might even call it a social justice issue (forgive me Father for I have sinned), but the inherent political nature of making societal change does not necessarily qualify the entire subject matter as political. Meaning that veganism quite literally has nothing to do with any other factor of societal existence, and certainly is not merely a matter of politics. Progressive philosophies are generally lumped together, as are conservative philosophies, and therein lies the problem. So often we see activists and advocates of all things hard left attempt to piece veganism in with their all encompassing parade for social justice. And this gives vegans an unfair reputation, tainting the image of the movement and what it stands for in the eyes of those who have yet to hear the reasoning and make the connection with the rationality regarding the core of the message.
To be vegan – a true vegan, not a fad dieter or phony poser (which admittedly the former and latter do exist) – requires a certain level of delicate social awareness. It can be difficult being privy to the immensity of needless animal suffering while simultaneously remaining relatable and seemingly normal to those who consume the products that result from that suffering. To know the sights and sounds of the suffering and dying – to be all too familiar with their screams and chokes and gasps and agony – while also staying aware of the fact that people are human and worthy of respect, can be a difficult balance to manage. But there is no room for smug moral posturing where we intend to spread a message that is supposed to be a positive thing in all aspects.
It appears that when we show veganism to the world through a lens of mob-like, cultist political fanaticism, the message isn’t taken too kindly. When you follow it up with “not only should you be vegan, but you should also be a feminist, socialist, anti-gun, pro-illegal migration, “LGBT” advocate as well, otherwise you’re still an ethically-flawed person”, it is no surprise when veganism gets dismissed and labeled as another flaky pop culture trend of the snowflake era. The vegan movement is not about some queer disco party, this is about victims of incomprehensible acts of senseless cruelty, for the sole purpose of steaks and milkshakes.
Trillions of sentient individuals each year are being used and exploited for their bodies, molested, raped, forcibly impregnated, stolen from, neglected, abused, tortured, mutilated, and killed during their childhood en masse to support American consumer demand alone. This is too severe and urgent of a matter to be tying political snootiness into the conversation.
Veganism is not for liberals, it is for all. It is not for the educated, or the wealthy, or the health-obsessed or fitness-minded. It is for everyone with a modicum of basic rational decency and the lowest level of compassion for the innocent.