a blog by J.M. Cottle
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I am a vegan, and I do not preach

I am the good sort of vegan. If any type of vegan is palatable to omnivores, it is me.

I never bring up my diet until it’s unavoidable. I never justify my choice, giving the most banal of explanations when questioned, nodding and smiling at your profession of respect and understanding and “I could never do that” until you are reassured that I am not judging you. Then I change the subject.

I am the good sort of vegan, because I will not “preach”, or try to change your mind, or complain. I will not inconvenience you; I will happily order the one option at your restaurants. I will not make you face the question that I face every time I sit down to eat.

And I am utterly ineffective. My veganism has no claws. No teeth. No power.

Those of us who care about animal suffering are encouraged not to “judge” others for using animal products. Live and let live. Respect each other’s autonomy. Nobody wants to be criticized, so keep your opinions to yourselves.

These people are equating animal abuse with a simple lifestyle choice. As if it’s as innocuous as a haircut. As if it’s as harmless as a favorite color.

When I see people I love paying for animals to be tortured, I don’t always have an emotional reaction – I couldn’t, or I would spend my entire life feeling conflicted and miserable. (I imagine this is why a lot of vegans are so uptight and unlikable.) I have to put this emotional reaction aside for my own well-being. I have to keep it to myself, or I would lose all of my friends.

The reason I don’t “preach” is not because I don’t care if you change. Don’t get me wrong. I want you to change. I find animal abuse monstrous. It’s blatantly immoral and the fact that most people don’t care – most of them know that they are paying for animals to be tortured and they simply do not care – it fills me with a hopeless, impotent rage that, if expressed, would cause everyone to think that I  was being the unreasonable one.

The reason I don’t preach is because I know it won’t help. It’s a strategy, both for keeping my friends and for helping to alleviate animal suffering. I didn’t become a vegan because a vegan harangued me; I became a vegan because I was horrified by what I learned, and then I found out through my own research that veganism was a valid option.

My hope is to show people, through my own example, that veganism is a valid option. It is a slow, quiet sort of activism. It hardly makes any difference at all.

I want to preach – I want to get up on a soapbox and tell the world every terrible fact I have learned, to explain exactly where your meal came from, exactly what the animal went through before it arrived on your plate, exactly what its sickness is doing to your health. I want to show you a better way and I want to convince you to follow it. I want to make the world healthier, happier, more compassionate, less hungry and less cruel.

If I spoke, would you hear me? Or would my words turn you cold, make you feel more justified in your immorality because I am one of “those people” and we are so distasteful that you could never align yourself with us?

That’s what I thought.

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