Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gay or Straight; Vegans Need to Be Out and Proud

“Bethany, you’re a flake,” a former boss said with a guffaw.

Now, I know I’m a lot of things, but flake has never been a word I've heard used to describe me, at least not to my face. Am I eccentric? Sometimes. Unreliable? No! An oddball? Apparently so.

When my former boss uttered these words, my languishing social life had been the hot topic of the office. The comment came about after a coworker tried to set me up with someone. (I simply asked if the man in question was vegan.) When I indicated that I prefer to date vegans, my boss—who was typically sticking her nose in where it didn't belong—blatantly yelled out the aforementioned response.

I guess my wish to respect the sentience of all beings in every aspect of my life, and my prerequisite for the same in a partner, makes me a flake. If this is the case, then so be it.

Strangely enough, when a Jewish, Muslim, or Christian person seeks out a partner with identical values to their own, they’re considered quite normal. In fact, the desire of many of us to share our lives with those whose interests and ethics mirror our own is why dating sites like Christian Mingle, Green Singles and JDate exist.

Despite the ridicule, this exchange helped me to realize the importance in speaking my truth, regardless of other people's reactions and name calling.

In her book, Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? And Other Questions People Ask Vegans, Sherry Colb highlights the similarities of being "out and proud" for those in the gay rights and animal rights communities:

They each have proponents, gay people and vegans, who must go out into the world every day and make choices about how 'gay' or how 'vegan' to be in their self-presentations in public and private spheres. . . . Because vegans make a choice about whether they will live in a way that affirms their values, friends and acquaintances who are ambivalent about that choice can try to humorously undermine it in ways that we would recognize as disrespectful were it directed at practitioners of a religious faith instead of at vegans.

Vegans take a lot of guff and verbal insults—always to be taken as a joke, of course! Yet, vegans constantly have to tiptoe around carnists so as not to offend them. Animal welfare organizations are always quick to warn vegan activists not to nettle non-vegans for fear of alienating them. Unlike abolitionists, animal welfarists insist that we should not condemn animal exploitation and animal exploiters because it might offend those who are doing it. But what about the animals who silently suffer while their perpetrators continue to consume their flesh, eggs and milk? 

Yes, vegans were once non-vegans, but we woke up and put our morality where our mouths are when confronted with the unnecessary and cruel reality of animal agriculture and exploitation. Sadly, so many others are willing to look the other way and live with a serious moral inconsistency when faced with the fact that their values (I love animals) are not in sync with their behaviors (I eat animals and their secretions) and the ensuing consequences (I hurt and kill animals).

The actuality is that it is never okay to consume animals or their byproducts. This may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but sugarcoating it does nothing to help the animals whose lives are at stake. If it is morally unacceptable to torture and eat a cat, dog or human, then the torture and consumption of farm and sea animals cannot be deemed any less morally repugnant.

I am grateful that I found my way to veganism. Knowing that countless animals have been spared because of my love and discipline is rewarding. I’m thankful that I can see beyond the advertising and gimmicks that assault us every day from the meat, dairy, and egg industries. And I’m more than happy to be labeled a flake, an oddball, a radical, an eccentric or whatever else people want to call me because I don’t subscribe to the notion that animals are ours to do whatever we wish with.

In deciding how to present ourselves to the people we meet, Ms. Colb once again refers to the experience of gay liberation, which "strongly suggests that visibility is a useful antidote to ignorance and fear. As people learn, from vegans who are 'out and proud,' that farming animals for their flesh, skins, hair, and secretions causes unspeakable and unnecessary suffering and slaughter, they may become more open to questioning the false proposition that meat, dairy or eggs are necessary ingredients in a pleasurable and fulfilling human life." 

I encourage other vegans to be out and proud and to speak up for the animals who depend on us to be their voices, their witnesses. Do not be discouraged. Like the Women's Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement before it, which were all once considered extreme and subversive, veganism and the Animal Rights Movement is on the right side of history and the right side of a socially-accepted wrong.

Vegan Starter Kit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this, and you're absolutely right. I just recently became vegan but why am I silencing myself about animal torture and murder when I need to be their voice? I am going to speak out about being a vegan every chance I get now. Thanks for the inspiration. :) Vegan for life. ♥