Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I am two! or: Veganniversary

On the second anniversary of my veganism – my veganniversary – I have been noticing how my understanding has changed since mid-September 2007, when I had a Skinny Bitch-inspired epiphany at my desk.

I have broadened, and somewhat deepened, my understanding of animal rights and welfarism; I have read and read about food equity and down-the-chain cruelties to humans and animals alike. I am better informed and more widely read – and so I suppose it is inevitable that I have noticed changes in how I feel.

I am, two years on, both more and less committed to mainstreaming. I began with the firm conviction that I would do best if I was open and calm, and I still believe wholeheartedly that if I am the only vegan many of my friends know, then the example I set is especially important. I can be most influential when I am most approachable. To this end, I try to be reasonable, rational and intelligent about my positions, and relaxed about social eatering situations. I try bring food to share, and not put my hosts out. I try to adopt an equitable discussion style and I believe very much that although I decry the happy meat-schmappy schmeat movement, that when someone is proud enough of the changes they have made in their lives to buy organic meat or free-range eggs, that I should tell them that I am proud of them too. I believe that to critique someone else’s choices in these situations is counter-productive and plain rude. When they are ready to talk more, I will be ready to talk with them.

I want veganism to become mainstream so that it is accessible and understandable, and a market force. I want veganism to be normalised and demystified and I want it to become as widespread as possible. I see this as the way in which what was originally such a tiny, fringe movement can spread its message and practices to people who may otherwise have no understanding or knowledge of what we do and why we do it.

But I have also noticed that I have developed a small resistance. I find it harder and harder to be silent and I find that my thoughts as I watch someone devour their meaty dinner are more and more filled with disbelief and frustration. I feel this more keenly and more often that I did two years ago. I am more aware, and I am more committed, and I think this has lowered my tolerance threshold.

I have also found friends. Through blogging, potlucking and writing I have found a whole community, spread beyond the Veganville of Brunswick to Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Chicago and those who I know only through their comments. I have found people who I both like and admire, and to meet people who you not only respect but whose company you enjoy is a pleasure.

Although my primary motivation is animals, I know and believe that I am also doing the right thing for the environment and for my health, and that sustains my belief in veganism as a lifestyle, not a diet like locavism or a practice like recycling. It is an everything. There is nothing that would make me want to go back, and there is nothing that would make me feel that I had to.

This is especially relevant as I look towards the next few years of my life which I hope will contain babies and little creatures running around a noisy house. I am certain that having a vegan pregnancy will only benefit both me and my baby, which stems from my deep conviction that a typical vegan diet is three quadzillion times better for you than a typical omnivorous one, and that a consciously healthy vegan diet (the one in which I give up BBQ shapes, beer, chips and spring rolls) will give me the healthiest pregnancy possible, and my babies the healthiest body and mind I can give.

I like to think that I spread a little understanding amongst those I know who don’t know any other vegans. If I can at least cause one omnivore to say to another “Oh, I know a vegan. She’s ok”, then I’ve done a little dance and made a little love, and next time, one omnivore might say to another “Oh, she’s not a pain in the arse”, and the time after that, one omnivore might say to another “I don’t agree with her, but maybe she’s got something sensible to say”, and the time after that, one omnivore might say to another “Let’s not order steak tonight”.

At least, I like to think that I debunk a stereotype. That is, there is a place for the peace-loving, mung-bean-eating, hemp-wearing, loopy-doopy hippie, and there is a place for the activist, militant ALF types. But their place is where they are, and my place is here.

I have never doubted nor wavered in my knowledge that this is it, forever.


lisa said...

Good. On. You!

I am also becoming less tolerant of meat eating as I get on in vegan years (1 vegan year = ? omni years?) though I do still quash the intolerant feelings that rise up from time to time. Hey everyone, let's not order steak tonight!

kristy said...

Great post!

I think I've come to be in a similar vegan place, although I think I was more militant in the beginning, not that I was ever militant but I was certainly more argumentative but mellowed out a bit over the years when I realised that I wasn't helpful.

Mandee said...

Happy Veganniversary!

You write so well and always manage to say what I think, but more clearly!

Some days I am more argumentative but other days I am content to just try and set a good example, like you, in the hope that people see more and more of us as regular people and not odd!

Miss T said...

Thank you. I've just been reading some of the threads on the Facebook group "Real environmentalists are vegan", and while it's a sentiment I agree with completely, some of the posts on there are from people who I think might be completely deranged. Even though I am an abolitionist, I just don't think that talking about human 'tyranny' and swearing a lot is going to win you lots of points in the "I'm totally sane and able to have a thoughtful and mutually beneficial discussion with you" stakes, and there are some posts in one of the discussion topics which are so offensively rude and unrestrained that it's like the writers have no sense of proportion or appropriateness. What you think on the inside is not necessarily how you should use your words to express it on the outside!

So, if *I* think these people are freakin' freako freaks, how will omnis and the not-yet-informed take it? By thinking that all vegans are freakin' freako freaks. And how does that help at all?

There is no room for freakin' freako freaks. The best activists and militants are (or should be) capable of rational debate despite the horror of what they see, and if we are not intelligent and sensible beings, then there can be little intelligence or sense in what we do.

Theresa said...

Love this post! Although I was never a militant freakin' freako freak, I think that my vegan journey has been the opposite of yours--started out as less tolerant, becoming more tolerant as I get comfortable with myself and my position. And I like where I am now, which is (minus the baby talk) similar to where you are. It's good here.

Niki said...

Go you! Happy veganniversary!

I hope I can reach the stage where I feel more tolerant about other peoples choices. Listening to my friends say 'oh those poor orangutans in Borneo' whilst devouring a hamburger, or complaining about the 'sick individuals who would abuse an animal' whilst they eat their steak just sounds insane and hypocritical to me.

And don't even get me started on global warming!

For fear of pushing people away I end up saying nothing at all.

Anikee said...

Happy veganniversary! This is a great post.

I would have skipped vegetarianism and went vegan years earlier if the first vegans I ever met thought like this. Instead they were just plain rude to me and treated me as though I had no valuable opinions because I wasn't a radical vegan feminist anarchist etc etc. After a week of this company it's no surprise I spent the next two years with a very low opinion of vegans and veganism.
The next vegans I met 2 years later (im sure I met other vegans without being aware they were vegan) didn't criticise me for eating organic free range eggs and dairy that I thought were perfectly ethical. But through out the course of the afternoon/night it gently came up in conversation why these aren't as ethical as I thought. I was really surprised I hadn't thought of these things myself and went vegan that night.

I can't help but think how many lives would have been saved if the first vegans I met were open about their veganism and not judgmental.

steph said...

This is a great post!

I try hard not to get all lecture-y at people, and I try to only talk about it if someone else brings it up first, but sometimes the actions of people can be so hypocritical and I often give in and say something! The time someone said "Those Chinese pretend to like animals by loving the panda but then they go out and eat horse!" - and well, first of all, EXCUSE ME, and second of all, how is horse different from cow?

I read a blog post this morning by someone (a meat eater) who said they can't sympathise with characters in books who don't want to be vampires - if the character eats animal, how is that worse than drinking the blood of a human (which at least doesn't kill the human)? Which was an interesting theory, I thought.

Miss T said...

Thank you, everyone; you have all expressed so well what I wanted to say.

Anikee, I think your story in particular is why being a cool, calm and collected vegan is better than being a screamy extreme one. What a horrible experience for you.

Feeling deeply about something does not mean you can approach differing viewpoints with hatred.

There is no excuse for bad manners!

I'm Philippa O said...

happy veganversary! it's good that you're able to reflect on how you've changed and grown. becoming vegan is a process, no doubt you know and learning stuff everyday about yourself, and the world around you whether it opposes or nurtures your values is all part of it, eh? did you have cake?

Minta said...

Happy Veganversary!!!

Yay you! Awesome post. Totally agree with everyone. I'm always treated like a militant freakin' freako freak in my small red necked little country town, and all I ever say is "No thanks, I'm a vegan." That seems to be enough for them to launch an attack.

But I forgive them because they know not what they do! heehee...

Actually on reflection, I seem to be getting more gentle queries on veganism than the all out attacks I used to get; so maybe just leading by example is working after all.

Anyways, like you I LOVE LOVE LOVE being a vegan, and it keeps me in a happy place.

The Voracious Vegan said...

Lovely post, it is wonderful to see a thoughtful and genuine post on veganism. I really enjoy your writing style.

I'm glad to see you acknowledge the wide variety of vegans there are, and the NEED for a wide variety of vegans.

I am an outspoken, debate ready, passionate, no nonsense vegan who tries my absolute best to remain friendly and approachable.

My husband is a quiet, gentle, very easy going vegan that tries his best to speak his mind in uncomfortable situations.

He has swayed people to consider veganism that would have been turned off by my attitude, and I have swayed people to consider veganism that wouldn't have heard his voice clearly enough to listen.

It takes all kinds! :-)

artistkate78 said...

Well said Rachael, well said *clapping* :)