I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years. That seems like a really long time for anyone who has just awakened the vegan monster within them. But it really seems like just yesterday that I was making fun of my vegan friends, refusing to eat a vegetarian piece of pizza, and flaunting my love of meat (the rarer the better). Thinking back over what I see as a brief but amazing adventure in living a vegan lifestyle – and seeing how others have embraced veganism – what is clear is that everyone’s journey is a little different. I can say that I have seen some different “phases” or maybe “faces” of veganism.
They aren’t in the same order for everyone, but tell me if you recognize any of these. They can last for 10 days or for 10 years. Sometimes I am all 5 at once!
- I’m vegan! I’m my family thinks I am a freak and I want to be loved so I pretty much never mention it to my grandma, and I downplay any inconveniences and never talk about how others hurt animals around people who aren’t vegan. I don’t use the world vegan often and nobody at my work probably even knows. Veganism is a personal, private choice.
- I’m vegan and I want some comfort food! I try to make or eat everything that is labeled vegan. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t eaten a real vegetable in weeks. And I go out to eat with my friends many times a week just to be with like minded people and eat vegan waffles and gravy and cake. Why isn’t everyone vegan? The food is so amazing!
- I’m vegan and I want omnivores to know that vegans aren’t freaks, and I’m normal, so everyone should know that I am vegan. I’ve got vegan pride. So I talk about how good vegan food is to anyone who will listen. And I tell my co-workers how good it feels to be vegan. And I make vegan food for my family, friends, and anyone who will eat my food and let sing vegan praises. I invite others out to dinner. I eat healthy so that I can be a good vegan role model. I rarely mention the animals at all. Just food. And I do everything else normal so vegans aren’t so scary.
- I’m vegan but all of the animal suffering around me still makes me incredibly sad. I want others to discover how easy it is to be vegan. Someone influenced me once, so maybe I can influence others? How can I be supportive and encouraging while also telling the hard truth about how animals suffer in factory farms, laboratories, fur farms, zoos, circuses, and beyond? I’ll do some vegan outreach at the Fremont Fair. I want a vegan world! Veganism is political!
- I’m vegan and I want to help animals right now. I don’t need to fit in anymore. Animals are suffering this very moment and I can’t turn away. I can’t forget them. I want to make a difference. When history is on our side, I want to say that I spoke out. That I made a fuss. That I didn’t let let suffering and tyranny run rampant on my watch. That I tried to do something with my time and talents.
Recognize any of this? I’d say I’ve been stuck in 4 for a while, but have been inspired to be more vocal of the past few years. The idea that being silent on an issue is tantamount to consent has really been on my mind. My friend Pete is fond of the slogan: “Silent = Consent.” I don’t consent to the horrors that are perpetrated in the name of human desires. I won’t be silent. My new favorite quote:
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Elie Wiesel
It’s my favorite because it admits that we sometimes feel powerless – but that even if that is the case, we should still speak out against injustice.What do you think? Recognize any of these? Have there been other faces of veganism for you? Is there a big difference between veganism that is personal and veganism that is political?