It’s nearing the end of the year. It’s also apparent, given that we’ve passed December 21, 2012, that the world is not going to end as we’ve been promised it would by all sorts of Maya-Calendar-Believing people. Princess Nakamaru also clearly got it wrong, as we have not been plunged into darkness (unless you count the seemingly endless gray Vermont days as darkness); and if there’s any other kind of spiritual rebirth going on, I am definitely not feeling it.
So, it seems we still need to attend to the concerns of daily life – most importantly, the concerns of the non-human animals whose very lives depend upon us, as animal rights activists, to continue to fight on their behalf.
That’s why, in honor of the time of year when many people make resolutions, VINE is introducing The Pushy Vegan Campaign.
To flesh eaters, all vegans are Pushy Vegans. Even if we never open our mouths about veganism at dinner, we are still accused of being pushy about our veganism. Merely mentioning that our shoes are made of cotton canvas instead of cow skin will result in accusations of pushiness. Most flesh-eaters get so defensive at our very existence that it would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.
An increasingly popular response made by many vegans to these accusations is to become Ever More Polite. Writing a letter to the world’s largest pig torturer? Be Polite! we are told. Picketing the world’s most destructive circus? Be Nice! we are told. Responding to a belligerent happy meat farmer? Don’t Get Angry! we are told.
Those who deviate from the polite party line are increasingly marginalized and accused of undermining the movement. In the mainstream cupcake-happy vegan movement, there’s really never a time for vegans to be anything but happy, polite, zen-like creatures cheerily munching our way through the vegetables of the world.
This reminds me of something Pat Califia said many years ago. People who hate queers will hate them no matter how polite, how normal, or how boring they act. It’s girls having sex with girls, not whether or not we have mohawks, that sends bigots through the roof.
In other words: We can never be polite enough to make flesh-eaters stop thinking we’re pushy, because it isn’t our behavior that’s creating their discomfort in the first place. It’s their own often-unconscious suspicions that their diets are problematic that makes them hate our guts. For them to find peace with their own choices, they need to denigrate us. “You’re pushing your values on us,” they say, even when, in fact, we are not. Thus they get themselves off the (meat) hook.
Well, we say if people think we’re pushy even when we aren’t saying a word, we might as well embrace the term and BE pushy. Seriously. They already think we’re “pushing our values on them” so why not – um – push our values on them?
That’s something like what GLBT people did, purposefully, beginning a few decades ago. The whole concept of coming out as a political tool seems a bit archaic now, especially now that the movement has gained such (relative) traction, but one of the reasons WHY it gained such traction is specifically because GLBT folks stopped being invisible and started being our queer selves. Encouraging queer people to come out to family, friends, bosses, and co-workers was a major campaign when I was coming out (in the early 1980s), and I’ve seen the power this one simple action has had.
No, it hasn’t fixed everything, and yes, there are lots of other ways GLBT folks have pushed for our rights. But it has been critical, in part by increasing numbers of queer people refusing to act straight just to make straight people comfortable.
Let’s put these two things together: coming out and not censoring who you are. What would that look like for vegans?
Well, for one thing, it would mean not humbly and quietly eating salad and bread at the holiday party your friend is throwing. Instead, it would mean asking whether or not she’d prepared any foods that didn’t have dead animals in them. It would mean explaining to those who were shocked at that question what kind of misery lay behind their food choices. It would mean not backing down when people got belligerent.
For another thing, it would mean not feeling we must hide our anguish, our rage, our despair, at the endless, countless examples of animal torment and death that surround us. If someone wants to know why we’re agitated, we could say it’s because we’re thinking of the sows languishing in gestation crates so people can munch on pig flesh instead of making up something about a fight with a girlfriend.
And for another, it would mean getting pushier with our friends. Yes, I said it. Those of us with friends and acquaintances who are not yet vegan need to ramp it up. We should no longer be content by Leading By Example, or Being Kind and Patient while we know that someone we love is contributing to the immense suffering inherent in the consumption of animals and their products. We need to speak the truth, keep speaking the truth, and do whatever it takes to help them understand. We need to believe that deep down, they don’t want to be adding to the pain in the world, both in terms of direct animal suffering and the impact upon global climate change.
And so we arrive at the New Year’s Resolution portion of this blog. It’s simple. This year, resolve to convert two non-vegan people whom you know, either as friends or acquaintances, to veganism. Resolve as well to enlist at least one other vegan person you know in the effort, so they can convert two people also. Use whatever techniques work: lend them “Earthlings” (and make sure they watch it), send them articles about the realities of animal agriculture, ask them out to coffee to explicitly talk about these issues, visit a live market, buy them the China study – whatever it takes, do it.
If each of us helps two people adopt a plant-based diet, we will effectively triple the number of vegans in the world, and if each of them does the same thing – well, imagine the impact.
Of course, like all strategies, this is just one piece in a much larger puzzle. But it makes for a good New Year’s Resolution, don’t you think? So resolve to be a Pushy Vegan this year. Get out there and Make Us Some More Vegans!