Vegans don’t need capes
The heroism of veganism is overstated.
I get asked if it’s true if you’ll lose weight, if you’ll live longer, and if 100 animals will be found freed from their wrongful sentences because of you. People inquire as to whether I have always had spots of acne, the endurance to run, or the ability to craft Instagram worthy meals. Oh, people exclaim upon the news of how I live, that’s really amazing. I wish I could do that.
I’m not sure how, but veganism has been inappropriately deemed a spandex-wearing vigilante that isn’t just saving animals, water, and land, but ourselves. It’s been made out to be the near impossible answer to all of life’s most fearsome villains, and the sometimes insurmountable barriers to the freedom, body size, or comfort we expect from it. You’ve done your part; you had a vegan chocolate chip cookie today.
Veganism is not the light at the end of the tunnel, or the rope that’s going to get you out of your hole. It won’t mask that darkness with hints of glitter, or give you the energy to pretend that you’re now the indestructible force, a gleaming poster child or example this world needs.
You’ll still choke on water. Words will still find a way into your depths, where their acknowledgement, recognition, or denial will still not lift them. You aren’t suddenly able to magically overcome things that can hurt you. Your love might grow in the form of soft side handles, but those cookies are still vegan.
At times, it won’t just be the menu stacked against you. Being unable to find a wool free formal suit might stir up something in you. The way they always forget to include you in the office treat day will sting more than the stuck tongue at the end of a carmine-coloured popsicle would. You’ll feel the weight of every single person who decides veganism is too hard, and wonder if it is.
But you’ll think of every docked tail, every clipped beak…the animals without plush beds to dream on and those that have whips and hot stage lights for homes. You’ll imagine the eyes and cries of small faces who, despite never asking to be born, have found themselves to be a pawn in this unfair game where few decide the fate of many.
You might even wonder how “they” see you as a pawn. How they managed to first make you believe what we all do is right, and then how they work to make us believe we don’t belong when we don’t take part. It won’t be as straight forward as a bumper sticker slogan or a catchphrase. It will be something that constantly begs you to pay attention, be present, make good choices and stand up, go again, and improve.
But it’s not about how you’ll feel, or how you’ll do. It’s never been about whether your body will respond or if how your mind will fare. You aren’t on a 21-day countdown to perfectionism, to being able to slide in to that cape with the effort and grace that shows everyone you’re infallible. Being vegan isn’t about you.
Being vegan won’t get you the girl, the boy, the job, or the celebrity status. It doesn’t exist for your posts, scrap books, or holidays. It’s not the unbelievable feat of heroism that bounds from rooftop to rooftop, sending shockwaves down into the homes of everyone around you. But then again…the heroism of veganism is understated.
Veganism makes you feel a bit less small, like maybe you have the strength and speed to tackle some of the horror in the dark alleys of the world. It’s a very small piece of your puzzle, one that will help complete the full picture of your personhood. You might not get to feel the embrace of a rescued animal, but you no longer suffer the denial of adorned pieces of their fragility. Seeing the windows of a butcher shop may remain a thorn in your side, but it’s a powerful sword tucked neatly against your other hip. Your ability to fight against what is expected will want to be understood, questioned, shared. And you’ll get to choose exactly how you explain veganism to others.
You are not the misery of animal exploitation and its death, fear, hate, pain, separation, loneliness, greed, mistrust, illusions, deceptions, horror, entrapment and shackling. You are not burdened to trudge on a path forged for you by someone else, bought and sold and bought again in a vicious cycle that once forced you to be a part of the process. You may look the same, feel the same, and act the same, but you’re not the same.
You are already everything that veganism promises, its goodness, love, caring, understanding, patience and perseverance. You know that it’s not about you, but about the animals and you do it because it’s the right thing to do. And without fanfare, you are a hero. Heroes are not their outfits or their longevity. Heroes are not revered for never being hurt or frightened. Heroes are heroes because they choose to recognize the needs of another and then they act.
Whether you get to experience the health benefits or the gratitude in the eyes of an animal you’ve helped, you’re exactly what people who never slip on a costume expect. You are veganism. You choose to take that first step in a lifetime of movement towards good and away from evil.