There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted with an enquiry from someone who is not vegan, about whether a vegan would continue to participate in activities that used nonvegan equipment. Sharing my response.
Question: ‘I do have a question as to your opinion though about the extent that veganism goes…. could a vegan play football or cricket or support a team that does when the ball and some equipment is made from leather?’
Response: ‘Thanks for getting in touch. Yours is a good question that I’ve not been asked before and I intend to share my response in a blog because I’m sure others may have wondered the same. I can’t and won’t give you a one-line answer but I doubt if you’d have asked me of all people if that was what you wanted.
Sometimes, there is a perception of veganism as a restrictive list of do’s and don’ts and often those who wish to trivialise or ridicule the idea, present it as such in the media.
In fact, veganism has only one central guiding principle, and that is the refusal to deliberately harm other individuals. That’s it. All of it. The rest is a matter of being knowledgeable about the harm that our choices cause when we are not vegan, and about taking the decision not to be part of it.
Our vegan life thus becomes, not some process where we have to check the rule book to see if something is on the ‘permitted’ list, but rather a process where we live true to the values that we have always had, only this time with the background knowledge that allows us to be informed about whether our choices have harmed another individual or not. Armed with that knowledge we choose to take the path that has caused the least possible harm.
I can only recount my own experience for this next bit. There is no escaping the fact that we live in a world where every species is regarded as a potential resource for our convenience, irrespective of the triviality of our requirement or the devastating result of that indulgence. I too was once oblivious to this but once our eyes open to this fact, it is staggering, shocking, sickening to realise ‘just how deep the rabbit hole goes’ – to quote Morpheus. And the knowledge doesn’t just stop – every day we discover further ways in which our careless species wreaks havoc.
When I first became vegan, I looked around – not just my fridge – but my home and my life and I was crushed to realise the extent of the use of nonhuman animal-derived substances and practices that surrounded me, and about which I had been blissfully ignorant. And this is where we are all faced with a dilemma. Adopting a plant diet is actually the easy bit, but what do we do with the relics from the days before we were vegan?
Much has been written on this but once again, there is no rule book; there is only our self and our conscience. I’ve written before on the concept of ‘waste’ as we apply it to nonhuman animal-derived substances in the time when we may be struggling to reach the conviction that other beings do not belong to us. Eventually we must face it that they never did and what we took in the past was not ours to take.
What do we do about the activities that we once were happy to participate in but required us to overlook the most fundamental rights of helpless members of other species? Indeed, what do we do about the friends, family and loved ones around us who are cheerfully continuing to leave a bloodbath in their wake, just as we once did ourselves?
I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I know that for me my view is constantly shifting as my knowledge of the atrocities of our species increases. For me, the key to everything is education and awareness. For ourselves and for others; that, and a determination to cling to the hope that at heart everyone holds the same belief in fairness and justice and does not want to hurt anyone.
So, to return to your question. As vegans, we all continue to live in the same world with the same people and it is utterly impossible to shut ourselves off from the fact that our entire culture is underpinned by the deaths of countless billions of sentient individuals each year and the torment and agony of countess others whose every moment is determined by our use of them as commodities.
We each find our own way to come to terms. I consider that sharing information about the horrors we support as nonvegans is the key to helping others to see for themselves that being vegan makes sense from every angle.
Specifically, footballs, as far as I know, are no longer made of leather, but recently a famous cricketer hit the headlines by challenging the use of leather to make cricket balls. And thus by drawing attention to the hidden horrors that we have all disregarded at one time, the information spreads. Those whose conscience is troubled may look past the media hype and inform themselves. They may even become vegan!’
Be vegan. It’s the right thing to do.