Today as I read the usual Facebook posts and comments, I find myself wondering, as I frequently do, about the way we were before we were vegan. In my own case, this line of thought often leads me to frustration and I find myself losing patience with myself, shaking my head in disbelief, demanding an answer from deep down inside to the question, ‘What on earth was I thinking?’
Because for me, and for lots of other vegans I know, it’s like that. Once I saw through the lies, through the smokescreen, through the myths and the pretence to the rotten heart of our collective brutality as a species, I truly found it almost impossible to believe that I had ever lived in that alternative world, going about my daily business oblivious to the bloodbath I was leaving in my wake; basking securely in the warm glow of my perception of myself as an ethical ‘animal lover’.
The wisdom of hindsight
The irritation that I feel, looking back at my self-satisfied foolishness could, I’m sure, have easily fuelled my metamorphosis into the stereotypical ‘angry vegan’. Thankfully it didn’t but even so, sometimes in my thoughts, I rage impotently against my stupidity, wishing I could somehow step back in time and give that smug person who wore my face a really good shake and a hefty dose of reality. But I can’t. And as I remind myself of this, I am again resolved to try to reach out to those who are like I used to be.
I mentioned the ‘rotten heart of our collective brutality as a species’. If you’re not currently vegan, I have no doubt that you’ll be thinking that’s a bit extreme. My old nonvegan self would probably have thought that. You see this former self still bought in to the idea that using other beings was necessary for our health and well being, I thought we needed to use animals. And things that were done out of ‘necessity’, well, they obviously needed to happen, but we could at least try to do them in as ‘humane’ a way as possible. I didn’t think too deeply about it, because I thought I knew it all already.
The point to note in that last paragraph was that however I look at it – and I’d really rather not – I was a supporter, a funder, a perpetrator of the use of nonhumans and all the vileness that entails, and all the while believing that I wasn’t. And there, right there, is the core, the very heart of the lie that I was living.
I supported every single issue I could find, petitioning, emailing, protesting about fur and cage sizes, live transport, regulating animal treatment, you name it, I did it. However there is one thing that I finally faced and it nearly broke me to realise it. Every single one of these ‘campaigns’ by definition accepts, condones and promotes – not only continued animal use – but reassurance to the largely nonvegan public that there’s a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to cause this sickening harm. And the self belief that was bolstered with every petition I signed, every email and letter I wrote, allowed me to live this blatant lie and made me all the more resistant to the notion of veganism.
Not looking for answers when we think we know it all
Why would I have been seeking an answer to the behaviour of our species? I didn’t know that we were doing anything fundamentally wrong, hadn’t figured it out. I was still working from the ‘knowledge’ I had learned as a child about what was needed to make me strong and healthy.
I did not even realise that our victims are sentient, did not even begin to see the profound injustice that my deluded species was inflicting on these gentle, trusting and vulnerable innocents. How would I have realised the true depths to which mankind has sunk in its obscene assumption that we are a species superior to all others, when I was fixated on looking for ‘humane’ ways to harm and kill them?
Not one of the mainstream organisations I supported, whose banners I metaphorically waved and cheered, not a single one of them told me that I could make better, more effective use of my time. Not. One. Not one of them told me that not a single thing I was doing was worth anything even close to the impact that I’d have if I became vegan and told other people about veganism. Again, why would they? My nonvegan cash was contributing to their wage bill. They couldn’t run the risk that I would be so outraged to be told that I wasn’t doing enough, that I’d tell them to get lost and stop donating.
Lost. And found.
So I wasn’t looking for veganism. I had an obsession with being ‘humane’, but I knew I was a good person. Or I thought I did. Then one day, veganism came looking for me. It came unlooked-for and totally out of the Facebook blue. I had been led to believe that veganism was some extreme but optional menu choice that some people did after they’d made their donations.
However veganism introduced itself to me as its true self, as a rejection of violence, as justice for our sentient kin, as the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. And when it found me, it broke my heart. It tore me apart and shone a spotlight on every smug, self satisfied shred until I thought the tears would never stop.
I have long since gotten over my ‘humane’ obsession, because with my new vegan eyes I can finally see that ‘humane’ is a word we use to cloak something that we know, deep down, is causing harm, and every nonvegan choice we make, harms someone who is powerless to prevent us.
Now, the most important thing about me, the thing that sums up who I am, is that I am vegan. I’m not particularly proud of that, because to me it’s now a minimum standard of decency that I expect of myself in order to live true to the values that I have always held. And that’s another key point. Most of us have always held to the values of justice, of protecting the vulnerable, of refusing to cause needless harm. I am eternally thankful to have been found by veganism. If you are not vegan, please check it out. What have you got to lose?