Other vegans think I’m an asshole
I’ve come to expect non-vegans to despise me. With each post I write, literature I recommend, and dairy-free cheese platters I serve, I expect their meat sweats to kick in and incite a verbal lashing. After all, I’ve made it my full-time job to help educate people who aren’t vegan to understand why they’re wrong (unapologetically, no less). The thing is, the non-vegans I encounter have never sworn at me. None have taken the time to call me out in a public forum, or recommend boycotting events I’m involved in. At worst, they implore as to how they’ll survive without bacon. Not a single non-vegan has called me an asshole, at least not in respect to my vegan activism. Sure, I’ve seen “dear vegan” sorts of rants on YouTube that I’m sure I fit in to, but non-vegans have generally left Eva Lampert alone.
Now, some vegans on the other hand, have taken every opportunity to tell me what’s wrong with my character, my feelings, and my approach, and in the process, removing animals from the equation almost entirely. While I strongly encourage debate and discussion on the articles I write and the subject matter I present, I can’t claim to welcome name calling (although that’s an unfortunate side effect to publishing your work online). I wonder how having an unpopular viewpoint on morality and an emphasis on making new vegans has made me a target more worthwhile than the exploitation of animals, and has afforded me my own space to be mounted on the hall-of-fame walls of vegans other vegans hate.
For those unfamiliar with the divide in the vegan community, look no further than our Facebook page. If I criticize the efficacy of ‘meatless Monday,’ PETA, or other well-known welfarist organizations and advocacy efforts, other vegans always come out swinging. How dare I say that the animal rights activism of a non-vegan is frivolous when they participate in killing animals themselves? How could I possibly believe that regulations that control how animals are killed make it easier for businesses to be celebrated for “caring” about animals while killing more of them? And oh my gosh, she did not just criticize [insert famous person who eats vegan meals sometimes]. I shit you not, I have been single-handedly blamed for turning people off of veganism because of my online existence, by people who themselves are functioning vegans despite me (hah). All the while, those who disagree with me have nothing to support the claims that the information I share is incorrect, that their methods are more effective, or that I’m truly an asshole (they’d have to know me to know that).
Thing is, I’m not interested in whether or not you think I’d be worthy of sharing a vegan taco with. I don’t mind being unpopular if it means I get to continue doing work for animals, and communicating respectfully with those who will listen. The focus should always, always be on what’s being said, and not the speaker. Otherwise, our bias or preconceived notions are going to get in the way of logic. When our ideas are challenged, we have to work out how we feel for ourselves, and not react based on how we’re told to feel. This isn’t a battle we should let the right hemisphere of our brains win, as most appeals to veganism target our emotions and can bring up a great deal of pain. We need a healthy dose of left-brain to see things critically and logically, so we can figure how best to guide our hearts. I don’t think these name calling vegans are mad at me as much as they are upset about the state of the world – the difference is the world just isn’t listening.
So many of us are still in the dark on a number of topics. I hope that I reach people before all the petitions, donation buttons, and graphic imagery meld to somehow craft the sheltered “angry vegan” that non-vegans ridicule, the same people that think dismissing me through name calling is going to welcome the lurking non-vegans to get on board. I don’t care so much about re-writing “the vegan” stereotype because I’m too busy focusing on veganism itself, and the stereotypes surrounding the impossibility of the lifestyle aspects. Still, it stings to hear my non-vegan sister say it’s the vegan who harass me that make her afraid to transition.
It’s the disconnect between veganism and morality, and the way people believe religion owns morality, that makes vegans fear me like a nun with a ruler. But all the negativity in the world will not shape me because if it did, I’d probably not be a vegan at all, right? Maybe I’d just reduce my meat intake, start wearing a Ricky Gervais t-shirt, and attend enough charity BBQs to make my backside match the size of my heart. But those things do nothing for animals, and neither does keeping my mouth shut, or playing along with the welfarism model.
A handful of vegans spend more time deciding whether or not my actions will offend non-vegans than all my non-vegan readers combined. And while they’re insisting someone ought to kick me, or hide meat in my food, they’re focusing on how no one is perfect, when perfection isn’t the goal; veganism is. Am I the self-entitled, arrogant “fuckwad” that vegans make me out to be? Only if non-violently sharing my views makes me one. Only if believing part-time vegans and people who feel like exploiting animals when it’s convenient aren’t doing right by animals. Only if believing that everyone has it in them to make the right decisions for themselves and the non-human animals that are counting on them. We don’t need another voice recommending people take baby steps or begin buying humane, and I’ll never be that, no matter how colorful the language used to describe me gets.
If Mahatma Ghandi’s famous line were spoken in the era of social media, it would read this way:
First they ignore your website
Then they laugh at the content on your website
Then they fight you in the comment section of your website
Then you win
In this case, “winning” isn’t having the last word in a thread; it’s knowing that all great social movements require scrutiny, and that explaining veganism as it pertains to morality is going to have a lasting, positive effect. The role of vegan education is not to make more friends, it’s to make more vegans, and to do so nonviolently with non-humans and humans in mind. Until the shift comes, I’m just going to have to be comfortable being labeled an asshole, because I’m uncomfortable being censored.