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A New Year’s Resolution That Makes Sense: Introducing “The Pushy Vegan Campaign”

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!

19 comments to A New Year’s Resolution That Makes Sense: Introducing “The Pushy Vegan Campaign”

  • There is hope – happy holidays to you all – all best wishes! marc

    Humanlike Violence Is Not Seen In Other Animals
    By Marc Bekoff, Ph.D. on December, 16, 2012 in Animal Emotions

    Science shows nonhuman animals are predominantly nice to one another. Violent behavior is extremely rare. Thus, we can learn a lot about who we really are from paying attention to what we are learning about the positive (prosocial) social behavior of other animals, and harness our own innate goodness to make the world a better place for all beings. There really is hope.Read More

  • miriam
    Marc, your writing makes me feel as close to hope as I ever get. Thank you for everything you do for animals, most deeply and sincerely.
  • lisa shapiro
    GREAT post! To 2013 being the tipping point year, and the “pushy vegan”.;-)
  • Miriam, your New Years Resolution post is absolutely amazing, and right on the money! My love and I have been vegan only since the beginning of August, and it makes us feel TERRIFIC that people we know and love are a bit uncomfortable that we’re not sucking on spare ribs and glugging down milk like they are. Your quote, “pushing your values on us,” was. SORD FOR WORD, one argument we heard very recently, from someone I love very much.

    We’ve decided to become “pushy vegans” already; your post makes us stronger.

    The Happiest of Holidays to you and to Vine,

    Les Roberts

  • miriam
    Les, thank you! If anyone could persuade others to go vegan, you could for sure. You combine the emotional with the logical in an extremely powerful way. We wish you and yours a very happy New Year — here’s to actual peace on earth for everyone.
  • miriam
    TIPPING POINT YEAR — Lisa, I LOVE that!!! Yes, here’s to it!!
  • Great idea…am currently working on “transforming” a friend. Great to see mark Bekoff here as well…one of my heroes!
  • Valerie Traina
    Miriam, thank you for an inspiring post! I will do my best to persuade others to go vegan. I wish you and the sanctuary a beautiful 2013, which I hope will be a watershed year for compassion toward nonhuman animals!
  • Barbara Beierl
    Great idea! I don’t have many friends in Nashua, but I will definitely work on as many of them as possible. I will predict that I may turn them into vegetarians, not vegans, but at least it’s a start.
    Since I was born and raised in New York City, I’m already rather “pushy.”
  • This is one of my favourite Professor Tom Regan quotes, from his 2011 ARZone interview, that I thought might be relevant here. I’m not sure that being pushy is the best way in which to reach out to others and help them to understand that living vegan is a positive and achievable step in their lives, it seems that social psychology might suggest quite the contrary.

    “The last thing other animals need is another reason not to care about them. How we act towards other people can provide just such a reason. Being rude or judgmental doesn’t help any nonhuman. A coping technique I use (to quell my impatience, when I feel it bubbling-up in my throat) is to think of the people who ask questions I’ve been asked hundreds of times as mirrors. Yes, I think of them as mirrors. When I look at them, in other words, what I see is a reflection of who I used to be.

    Like them, there was a time when I didn’t know how other animals were being treated.
    Like them, there was a time when I knew but didn’t care.
    Like them, there was a time when I knew and cared but not enough to change how I was living.
    Like them, there was a time when I was . . . them!

    That’s what I try to remind myself. I don’t want to come across as self-righteous or arrogant. That would give the questioner another reason not to care about other animals, and I don’t want to do that—I don’t want to be that reason.”

  • miriam
    Carolyn, I agree that obnoxious behaviors toward friends are generally counter-productive. That isn’t what I meant by pushy, however. I meant literally pushing the issue. Saying to friends and acquaintances hey, you know what, eating animals and their products is bad. I know you don’t mean to be bad, but this behavior is bad and it needs to stop. Let me tell you, let me show you, the misery it causes when you include these things in your diet. Let me educate you as to what benefits you bring to the world when you adopt a plant-based diet. Let me help you change your diet. Watch this movie, read this book, whatever, and do these things because I’m your friend and I’m asking you to. That’s all — literally pushing the issue, harder. Because while it was true that most of us began as flesh-eaters, there has to be a step beyond simply extending that understanding to people. The animals need us to push the issue. That doesn’t mean being rude, but it does mean stepping things up a notch.
  • miriam
    HAHAHAHA I love that New York pushiness. :-)
  • miriam
    Anne, let us know how it goes, please! And please let us know what tactics you find successful!
  • miriam
    Valerie, we wish you and yours the same, and please do tell us how things go!
  • […] to change the world. Much like VINE Sanctuary recently proclaimed, let’s make 2013 the year of the Pushy Vegan! Loudly and strongly wear your ethics for all to see, and do all you can to make your voices heard. […]
  • I can’t join the “Pushy Vegan Campaign” – Already in it (or so all my friends/family/acquaintances say) — BUT I can be in the Pushier Vegan Campaign! That will do quite nicely.

    The truth is – If I mention I had Tofurky for Christmas dinner I’m already frowned upon for bringing “that” up again… Might as well go for the brass ring and gear it up a notch. Nothing to lose!

    The best to you and yours during the coming New Year! ;)

  • Sometimes you need to gently plant a seed in someone’s mind with a hint. Sometimes you need to smash their worldview with a wrecking ball. Vegans have an arsenal of tools and arguments in their pockets. Learn and study. Know your numbers. Read Campbell, Esselstyn, McDougall and Fuhrman so you can talk about health and actually answer that “Where do you get your protein?” question. Know how many pounds of grain and gallons water it takes to raise a pound of beef as opposed to what we eat, so you can talk about environmental issues and how we really CAN feed the world. Have a few places on the web that you can suggest or a few films to recommend to show people how animals don’t really live happily on Old MacDonalds Farm as they were taught in a kids song growing up.

    You are selling veganism whether you admit it or not and like a good salesman you should have a few stock answers to the standard questions:

    Where do you get your protein? How much protein do you think I need?

    Animals are here for our use. That’s what they said 200 years ago but it was race not species, where people drew the line. Why is anyone here for your use?

    Animals are dumb and that’s why we’re ok with eating them? Why don’t we eat toddlers?

    What if it was you and a chicken on a desert island? I have the same chance of being on a desert island as I do being stranded on a dessert island but that choice isn’t what we’re talking about. I would personally do what I had to do to stay alive but when you sit down in a restaurant with 25 choices and you choose to make a choice with your palate as opposed to your heart you are not living in line with a compassionate life.

    What about back yard farming? I live in Manhattan so I generally ask people if they have chickens on their balcony, if they have a balcony, but I talk about where baby chicks come from and how the male chicks are just ground up alive or smothered to death in trash cans. I talk about making a lifelong commitment to an animal, not merely
    keeping her until she’s spent and then eating her.

    You see where this is going, give yourself the tools to rebut the objections you’ll hear.

    Also remember that if you can make a vegan on the spot that’s great. But if you plant a seed so that when I have a conversation I’m watering that seed, that’s great as well.

    Congratulations on your being vegan, it’s more than a diet, and good luck in making another one.


  • miriam
    Marty, thanks for the great thoughts and ideas! You are absolutely right, we need to know what we are talking about and be ready for all kinds of rebuttals.

    My mother (of all people) actually gave me an excellent line that was tested by another activist with great success a few weeks ago. When my mother tells people she knows what I do with the sanctuary, they ask her, almost every time, why I’m not doing something to help starving (human) children. She replies, “Why aren’t YOU doing something to help starving children?”

    That usually stops them dead because the reality is that most people really aren’t doing a damn thing to help anyone, human or otherwise. Furthermore, being vegan not only does not take time away from other pursuits (such as helping starving children), but also allows one to be MORE productive in those other pursuits as being vegan makes us healthier and gives us more energy.

    So yes — be prepared and always be on the lookout for teachable moments — we never know when they may arise, and it’s best to be ready for them!

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