I’ve seen it so often, ‘I’m trying to go vegan but I’m not there yet’. When I read or hear that, it tells me that the author simply doesn’t ‘get it’ …. yet. It tells me that I need to try harder to find what it is that the author doesn’t yet know about the horrors that our non vegan consumer choices unavoidably cause, I have to find a way to reach them.
Now before that sparks off a defensive retaliation, please don’t get me wrong – I have never made a secret of the fact that it took me years, decades, to ‘get it’. The point is that I didn’t know any better. Until the penny finally dropped for me I had hardly even heard about veganism, except as a word without definition, or at best, a word with a whole host of preconceptions. I thought it was some weird abstemious diet for people who were ultra-strict vegetarians. It actually made no sense to me whatsoever. Why would anyone actually want to eat stuff that (presumably) tasted like sawdust, even if it was healthy? I even had my doubts about the health aspect – it was all just a mystery. I thought veganism was a diet. I thought it was about humans.
Did I actually know any vegans? I don’t think so, but if I did, and if by some chance they were reading this, I’d like to tell them something. I wish with all my heart that they had told me the truth. I wish that they had slapped me – metaphorically or in reality – really hard and explained to me what veganism actually is. I wish they’d told me that veganism is a lived ethic that utterly rejects unnecessary use of other individuals to gratify the indulgence of our sad, pathetic species. I wish they’d pointed out that violence is part and parcel of everything we do when we are not vegan. I wish they had swept away my preconceptions and given me the gift of truth. Gift? Yes, when I finally found someone to explain veganism to me, it was truly a gift and one beyond price.
Veganism’s not meant to be a struggle. It’s not meant to be difficult. It’s a release. It’s an escape. It’s a joy. A sense of freedom and kinship. Liberation is a word I seldom use, because it’s seldom warranted. However becoming vegan is a liberation for each of us. It liberates us from the shackles of ignorance and conscience. It liberates us from our unending efforts to convince others – and more significantly ourselves – about how much we ‘love’ those gentle, innocent ones who are being condemned for our pretentious self indulgence. Becoming vegan saves us from the futile struggle that we face as we repeatedly turn over and redefine the word ‘humane’ to mean anything we want it to mean. Becoming vegan frees us from the endless trials of fictionalising and re-scripting our use of others in our vain attempts to avoid seeming like monsters even in our own eyes.
On the day we really ‘get it ‘, on the day we finally understand that other individuals are not ours to use; that we have absolutely no right to perpetrate the horrors of our self destructive and needless abuse on their trusting innocence, we cannot stop harming them fast enough. Our days of ‘trying’ are over. And they’re over – not because we are being judged by anyone, not because we are having anyone’s viewpoint ‘forced’ on us. Our days of ‘trying’ are over because our own sense of decency stands up and asserts itself – loudly. Once we see and recognise the truth for what it is, there is no going back.
Do vegans ‘judge’ people? Maybe, I don’t know about what others think in the privacy of their thoughts. However only those whose opinions we value have the power to hurt us, and when I look back at the dark time in my life before I was vegan, there is someone that I definitely judge. There is someone whose behaviour disappoints me deeply, wounds me to the point of grief. That person is myself.
Judge yourself. And be vegan.