The other day I wrote a poem. Yeah, I haven’t done that since my angst-y teenage years, but sometimes when emotions become so overwhelming it helps to write my feelings down. You see, recently, I’ve experienced some backlash from people who I love dearly, and that’s forced me to give up my militant vegan approach.
When I chose to become a vegan I felt like the only way to go about changing the world was to be as passionate and powerful as possible. My belief was that you had to be head strong, because let’s face it, you’re going to get a ton of crap, and a ton of criticism that is really hard to take sometimes. So I entered veganism with my fists swinging! I tried to “encourage” (more like push) my friends into veganism, my boyfriend into veganism, and my family into veganism. I wanted to save all of the suffering animals, and every time someone ate a piece of meat, eggs, or dairy in front of me it was like taking a knife to the gut. I felt helpless, like I wasn’t making a change. So I spoke up, and people didn’t appreciate what I had to say.
While this “encouragement” promoted some changes from certain family members and friends (my dad went pescatarian, as did my boyfriend, and my brother ate less meat, and some of my friends began to make slightly healthier choices in front of me), something else began to change too; my relationships. I started bickering with people I love, people started making snide comments, and I became extremely defensive. It all came to a startling halt a couple of weekends ago when a really great friend said, in a not so nice tone, “all you talk about is veganism!” It took me by surprise because, I hadn’t mentioned the word vegan once that day… I was stunned, and hurt. I wondered, how could someone who apparently loved me so much hate such a huge part of me?
That was the straw that broke the camels back. In the end tears were shed and I gave up. I love my friends and family, and I didn’t want to lose them over arguments that clearly weren’t changing anything anyway.
In the end, I decided to make a change. I would no longer present arguments, and I would not take part in debates that others tried to instigate just to get me heated. I would ask and answer questions only when conversations were genuine and they were kept respectful, but not if they started to drift towards anger and resentment. The shocking thing, the second I started doing that my relationships got better, and my loved ones began mentioning that they ate a veggie burger for lunch, or a smoothie for breakfast instead of eggs.
What I learned from this was that sometimes showing your emotions in a vulnerable way, rather than in an angry way, is the most effective way to get someone to pay attention. A militant attitude won’t make people listen, in fact, it does exactly the opposite.
Once I stopped and took an honest look at how I was trying to force my friends and family to see the light–so to speak–and how my attitude was alienating, rather than enlightening them, it scared me. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was lose the love and respect of the people I love and respect the most. And at the same time, the last thing that I wanted to do was to stop fighting for the lives of animals. It felt like I was being emotionally and intellectually cut in half. So I stepped away, and I reminded myself that it wasn’t that long ago that I was consuming dairy, fish, and chicken. And I asked myself, how would I have reacted if someone had come at me with both barrels blazing while I tried to enjoy my food?
So from this point on, I will show my non-vegan friends the same compassion that I give to the animals that I’m fighting for. I won’t harass them, instead I’ll lead by example, and pray that they will one day begin to pay attention to the suffering and brutality that animals have to endure for the food that their consuming. Food that is hurting their bodies as much as it hurts the animals. That being said, I will never stop trying to save animals. I love them, and helping them will forever be a part of who I am.
Wow. Alex and I talk at least three times a day, and I only recently found out about how much grief she’s been getting from her friends. Yes, she can be passionate when she believes in something, but she’s been friends with this group of girls since grade school. They’re truly like sisters, and I suppose that’s why they don’t hold back when something irritates them. And that’s also why Alex felt so free to speak her mind. She loves them and wants them to live long and healthy lives, while saving animals. Having said that, I understand where she’s coming from and I’m so proud of her for realizing that her tactics weren’t working and adjusting accordingly.
Recently I gave a presentation at a women’s wellness seminar on the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. I was so concerned about the reaction I’d get from the audience because let’s face it, food is an emotional topic. Food is very personal, because it’s a big part of who we are. Food defines our childhood, our traditions, and our biggest moments. We all remember what we ate at our holiday dinners, on vacations, when we were sick, and so on, it triggers intense memories. We also know that food can make us well or it can make us sick, and it’s that last part that can really mess with our minds.
Read this article and then the comments, and you’ll see how emotional people become over food. People go crazy when it’s suggested that the foods that they’ve been raised on might be bad for them, even though they know that those foods are probably making them sick. It’s no lie that dairy, especially cheese, is high in fat and cholesterol, and that there is a strong correlation to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Meat is even worse. But that doesn’t matter to people until they find the Grim Reaper knocking at their door. At that point people either choose to get a clue and change their lifestyles (eating habits and/or exercise), or they cross their fingers and hope that drugs will cure what ails them.
Fortunately, the women at the seminar came with open minds and they were very receptive, especially when I showed them pictures of the vegan recipes that they can find on our blog. I was lucky, because I could have found myself defending my lifestyle, and that’s something I don’t like to do. The question I asked them at the end of my speech was, why would you eat food that is strongly correlated with debilitating and life threatening disease when you can eat food that isn’t?
Vegans are strong willed, passionate, and compassionate people. We love animals to our core. We don’t separate animals into categories, such as, pets (dogs, cats, hamsters…), livestock, zoo animals, etc,. We’re an equal opportunity bunch. We believe that every animal on this planet deserves to live a good life, free of oppression, pain, and neglect. We don’t believe that a dog is any better than a pig. We don’t believe that animals were put on this planet for our entertainment (zoos, Sea World, trophy hunting). We do believe that humans are the highest life form when it comes to intelligence, and with that intellect comes great responsibility. We are caretakers of this planet, and it’s our job to make sure that we don’t do harm to others or the environment. Sadly, we’ve failed miserably. And that is probably why there are some pretty abrasive vegans, who piss people off and make them tune out and become even more adamant about defending their animal consumption.
It has been my opinion from the beginning of this healthy, happy vegan journey of mine to be considerate, kind, and thoughtful about how I approach this lifestyle. My motto is that you catch more bees with sugar, not vinegar. I should probably change that-haha! How about, you get more converts with vegan cupcakes, not vinegar? It doesn’t benefit me, the animals, or mankind to lash out, name call, or degrade our own species to save the lives of other species. It only creates confrontations, resentment, and more pain. I’m thankful that my wise and beautiful daughter has learned that lesson sooner rather than later. And my guess is that by being more compassionate and understanding, her friends will soften and start thinking about what their actions are doing to their health, the environment, and the animals. Only time will tell.
Here are a few beautiful videos that will hopefully make you smile and think.