Saturday, April 4, 2015

Avoid Becoming a Vegan Has-Been

Princeton Vegan Book Club Books
Last year a friend reluctantly told me that she reverted back to vegetarianism after being vegan for less than one year. At work a coworker told me that she used to be vegetarian but had difficulty sticking with it because she didn't know other vegetarians.

A lack of social support is a common complaint heard by many one-time vegans. This problem is not to be trivialized if the percentage of vegans needed to bring about a societal tipping point is going to happen sooner rather than later.

According to a VegNews magazine article, "Staying on the Veg Wagon," there are roughly three times as many former vegans as there are vegans. Some of the more frequent reasons cited for this turnabout were:

  1. Food choices were not grounded in ethical beliefs.
  2. Veganism was not tied to one's identity.
  3. A lack of social support.

In the twelve years that I've been vegan I've learned the importance of staying connected and engaged, not only with other vegans and the animal rights community at large (both online and in person), but also with information, ideas and stories. 

In order to advance the rights of animals and work toward ending the injustice of animal suffering and exploitation, it is vital that we employ efforts to stay educated and immersed in vegan ideas and developments, and focused on the moral and ethical reasons for having elected to go vegan in the first place. If we don't, then we will most likely succumb to the majority and their ubiquitous social norms that make eating animal products seem normal and natural. In other words, if you don't use it you may lose it.

To stay connected, we must communicate with others who share our thirst for knowledge, who understand our vegan experiences, and who can help us navigate the nonvegan world as it exists today. Like any pundit in their field, we must stay committed and informed so that we can instruct others so that they too can champion the rights of all animals and adopt a vegan way of life that benefits everyone.

In the last year I've had the fortune to attend the Princeton Vegan Book and Movie Discussion Club. Besides readings, movies and discussions that keep me on top of issues affecting animals, people, and the environment; I also get an enormous amount of encouragement from fellow vegans that I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

Whenever I need to commiserate about a typically frustrating interaction with a nonvegan or share a small victory, it is immensely helpful to share my experiences and to seek advice and support from those who appreciate what it is like to be vegan. 

In addition to community, I cannot overemphasize the importance of making reading a priority for the purpose of staying up to date on policies and topics affecting animals. It is greatly disappointing when people show up to book meetings without having read the assigned materials. With anything else, if we don't read and educate ourselves, we will not be able to educate others. Books like Meatonomics, The Sexual Politics of MeatGreen Is the New Red, Every Twelve Seconds, and Circles of Compassion are as vital to our own lives as they are to the lives of nonhuman animals. We simply cannot change the system if we are unwitting and don't adopt a student mentality.

Carol Adams, Sexual Politics of Meat
David Cantor, executive director of Responsible Policies for Animals, said  "Reading, writing, and conversation - not dependent on advertising and popularity but on individuals' pursuing knowledge for the common good - are crucial for promoting human values over corporate values. Humane treatment of animals and animal rights are human values. That's why animal-rights education must rely on books, not on ad-based media. . . . serious intellectual effort is the key to success for those who intend to establish nonhuman animals' basic legal rights." 

So here's my advice for vegans, regardless whether you’re new to the animal rights movement or are a veteran:
  • Read, Read, Read! Read newspapers, books, and magazines that promote animal rights and veganism. Seek them out!
  • Get active online and offline. Find vegan friends and groups on Facebook, Twitter and Meetup.
  • Get involved with organizations and activities that appeal to you, e.g. letter writing campaigns, protests, lobbying events, etc.
  •  Dedicate and challenge yourself!
It is not easy being vegan in a nonvegan world. I have met very few vegans over the years and while that has been disappointing, it has not deterred me from the most important decision I've ever made in my life. You don't have to go it alone, so stop the excuses. Make your mind up to be the best vegan and animal rights advocate by staying resolute, continually reminding yourself of all those who are depending on you.

Vegan Starter Kit

1 comment:

Richard Evert said...

Good advice, Bethany.