Let me apologize in advance for the length of this, but I wanted to share some things from a book I have been reading. I hope some might find some support in it. So many people on this site - flirt, vegetarian, vegan - often struggle with things in their daily lives. I found a book that has been just what I needed for rejuvenation of my spirit - Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegan's Daily Companion. I know many people on this site listen to her podcasts or use her cookbooks. This book provides recipes, excerpts from books and poems, thoughtful reflections, and individual stories of omnis or vegetarians gone vegan and their reasons for doing so. It is a wonderful read to remind you of why you are on your journey, provide suggestions on interacting with others who ask about veganism or make negative comments, and even for just understanding why some people have found this to be the way to live peacefully and happily. I highly recommend that it be purchased and shared.
The title of the post, or something similar, is one of the things a lot of veg*ns struggle with responding to. Many veg*ns get up in arms, and many others say that it is everyone's personal choice. I myself don't believe it is a personal choice for reasons beyond ethics (though that is a huge part) - I also don't believe that it is a personal choice when that choice has local and global environmental consequences as well as healthcare consequences for me as a U.S. taxpaying citizen. But those are my own views, let me share Colleen's.
I found Colleen's view compelling - she has a page dedicated to this, and how one might react when a person says they respect your choice not to eat animals and you should respect theirs to eat animals. To her, she sees a problem with this justification because it "assumes there is no victim, no other." She writes about how as a society there are certain personalpreferences that are inappropriate or immoral, especially when they cause injury to another - such as spousal or child abuse. At one time those things were protected. To her, personal preference involves painting your bathroom or styling your hair, not a choice to hurt someone else. I found this a wonderful view from the ethical side of things - that animals are an 'other.'
That's one of the more controversial things for some vegans, but much of what Colleen writes about is how to keep yourself going without becoming overwhelmed or disheartened and how to interact with others in a way that won't shut them down. Some of her suggestions:
1. Don't be afraid to cry and laugh, as it is good for our health. There are many terrible things in the world, but it's okay and even good to laugh to keep your health. On the other side, don't be afraid to cry when dealing with scenarios of animal abuse or the pressure of being vegan.
2. Don't forget your own story - most of us haven't been veg*n our whole lives. When some says they could never give up meat or cheese you can say that you didn't think you could either, but you gave it up not because you stopped liking it but because you didn't want to cause more suffering.
3. Instead of responding with answers, respond with questions - depending on a person's remark ask - Why do you think you could never be vegan? Or What do you think would happen if you knew about what happens to animals?
4. Get away from you "can't" have that, whether in your own head or when others ask if you "can" eat something. As many of us have said, a better frame of mind for success and communicating with others is "I CHOOSE not to have that."
5. One of the most important things that many people struggle with - she has pages entitled "Speaking Your Truth" and "Asking For What We Want." Essentially, these pages are about not being afraid of letting others know you are vegan or not eating a meal that another has made because it is not vegan. Often these struggles come about because of not wanting others to feel uncomfortable or not wanting to appear rude. As Colleen asks - why should others' comfort be more important than our own principles?
If you feel like you need support and inspiration, Vegan's Daily Companion is a wonderful book in which you can flip to any page and find a heartwariming story of the vegan journeys and successes of others and tales of animals rescued from heinous conditions going on to lead happy lives. We DO make a difference.
My best friend was considering going vegetarian after he went vegan for lent and felt amazing. I was really disappointed when he changed his mind and celebrated easter with a steak. He told me "I'm respectful of your choice, why can't you respect my choice." You know, if his choice didn't hurt anyone but himself (like his smoking and drinking) I could respect his choice. It just can't understand how anyone can know what is done to animals in factory farms and be ok with eating them. I told him that I love him no matter what, but I can't lie and pretend I'm thrilled he's eating animals.
Like I said - different views, even among vegans. That's why I found Colleen's take on it interesting (I didn't mean to make my view a talking point, but rather her view) - her view that by justifying it in that manner, it sort of ignores the existence of the animal that has been killed, it assumes there is not that other that is being directly effected by that choice on our plates each and every day (as she compares it to a type of justification of child or spousal abuse - I guess sort of like my home, my family, it's nobody's business what I do in my own home - that's only true to a certain extent, plus the additional evolving views of women and children as persons rather than property). That's what I find interesting about how she views it. It gave me another way of thinking about it, the denial of the victim on the plate. I find it a compelling argument.
I just spent a great day at Sasha Farms in Manchester. MI, they had a walk/run to raise money for the farm. I went with non-vege friend and her husband who also is non-vege was generous to donate money. Then we went for pizza (vegan for me) and she ordered pepperoni on her pizza. I think the bottom line for most is their is a disconnect between what they put on their plate. They don't see that pepperoni as the cute pigs we saw nor do they see the suffering a dairy cow goes through to produce the cheese for them. I also think they just think this is the food chain and how it's supposed to work. I appreciated her coming and her husband donating funds so I didn't feel it necessary to say anything. Brow beating people doesn't work. My boyfriend is way more receptive to the lifestyle now that I say nothing. He's almost completely vegan. When we go out to eat he even says. honey don't let me get anything non-vegan by mistake. I think the longer you do it the eaiser it is and we have to accept others will not feel same way we do, and that's ok, we are doing our part and we are smart for it :)
cheryl - That seems like precisely what Colleen is talking about - the denial of the victim on the plate. A good thing about this book is that she gives precisely those types of tips - how to handle things without coming across as overbearing or holier-than-thou. She gives a lot of great advice for the questions I see on here all the time - what do you do when you go to someone's house for dinner, how do you handle getting the same questions over and over again (like where do you get your calcium, etc.). So I think it's a great resource for people who struggle with that. Even though I don't personally have issues with those things, I just love this book, seriously! It was just what I needed for rejuvination of my spirit, especially after being asked for the umpteenth time by my family if I am still vegan.
Smurfy - that's always a great feeling, that you have inspired someone else to go vegan. My roomate went vegetarian at home when I went vegan. Then went vegetarian altogether. Now, he is vegan/vegetarian-when-his-family-has-get-togethers. Unfortunately, his family is not accomodating. So he often just ends up eating veggies with butter, unless he is able to cook.