Knowledge is power and it is the first step to finding the compassion within ourselves towards animals treated as assets
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of people at the very least care for – if not love – and value the planet, animals and their health. When approached at a deeper angle from a vegan perspective, it seems that people become lost and begin to sink into hypocrisy on these topics, which results in defensiveness and denial. The French for ‘vegan’ is ‘végétalien’ and yes, to many people, veganism is alien.
A simple exchange with a colleague had me bewildered when I was asked if I wanted one of the brownies that were being shared; I kindly declined only to be met with “oh yeah, you’re the weird one”, followed by similar comments. Having not mentioned any hint of my (newly found) veganism in this conversation, I was confused as to why it was being ridiculed. If someone else had said no to the brownie, nothing would’ve been thought of it, but with this person knowing of my veganism, they felt the need to express their unease with it.
I can take a joke don’t get me wrong but lifestyle and dietary choice is personal, the same as non-vegans may say that their meat and dairy diets are personal to them. If, like the brownie offering, I asked a meat eater if they would like a bean burger and they declined, would I say “alright then freak meat eater” just because that’s their preference? It seems to say more about the person who is clearly misinformed by Veganism in general. This encounter, along with many other conversations, had me wondering why people are so offended by this lifestyle.
I used to dismiss Veganism as a fad and as unhealthy but it isn’t difficult to grasp, and is actually common sense once researched fully. It really is a radical way of life, contributing to the planet, health and compassion towards animals. We’re not limiting or depriving ourselves of anything; we have all we need and a bountiful diet, when approached and researched properly. When we were children, many of us were taught to love animals, show them respect and empathy on some sort of equal level, as if we have something in common, which we do – many things in common.
It’s odd though, that at the same time we are taught to eat animals and their produce because they are supposedly good for us. There is a disconnect between animals we have relationships with to animals we use (and abuse) for apparent necessity. The compassion of the workers is inevitably suppressed because they need to make a living, but it must affect them in some way. We now know that we don’t need these products to survive, so why do we keep on insisting that we do?
One common question for those who haven’t (yet) made the change to veganism is ‘what on earth do you eat?!’ Well… there’s an abundance of choice. As well as the obvious no dairy (all animals’ milk, cheese, butter, cream) and no meat, there are subtle foods to avoid that have hidden dairy in them; cakes, biscuits, chocolate, even pesto (egg in pesto? Why?!) to name a few. The staples are pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat alternatives, cheese substitutes, many choices of milk (almond is a fave), non-dairy ice cream and chocolate is widely available, and everything meat eaters consume that doesn’t contain dairy or meat. Not that restricted then.
My switch was fairly gradual. A friend I work with is vegan. She mentioned it to me and gave me a few reasons why she didn’t consume animal products which made me curious to learn more about it, so I did my research. I watched YouTube videos, all the documentaries (Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Forks over Knives, 101 Reasons to Go Vegan and more) and read articles. After watching the documentaries, I was ready to adopt the Vegan lifestyle straight away and completely cut dairy and meat consumption. My body and mind were clear of these animal products that were neither enhancing nor enriching me. Myself and another girl I work with, Annie, went from being Vegan sceptics to embracing it. It is affordable despite the myth that it is somehow a more expensive lifestyle.
Educating myself on veganism and watching the visuals on the documentaries left me confused and outraged that this is normalised and accepted within society – not just accepted, but encouraged. After seeing the animals on video, helpless and in pain, it made me want to fight for these creatures that have no voice.
How has it got to the point that we completely dominate other species without a second thought about consuming them or the dairy they produce? How are so many people oblivious to this or at least dismissive of it? People care so deeply for their pets, but the victims of the agricultural industry are equally sentient beings. Compassion is in everybody, at least a little. It may be harder to withdraw from some people, but I’d say that everyone has it in them, and if they became more aware of what they were buying and consuming, studying the industry they were contributing to, then they’d likely have a change of heart.