Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vegan Club vs Vegan World

Lindsay S. Nixon, the Happy Herbivore, recently put up an insightful post, along the lines of Jack's longtime motto: "We want a vegan world, not a vegan club." (Thanks to Lana for bringing it to our attention.) Here are some excerpts, reproduced with permission.

I'm Not 'Vegan' Anymore

I feel compelled to finally say it: you win, I'm out.

For the past five years that I've been "vegan" I've been told, repeatedly, I'm not vegan enough.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter how perfectly I thought I was living, something I did was always wrong. The vegan police were always ready to jump in and take away my vegan card.

For example, I once tweeted I'd eaten cotton candy at a baseball game. Big mistake. I received a wave of angry texts and tweets about how I wasn't vegan if I ate cotton candy, and how unresponsible it was of me not to source the sugar in the cotton candy first.

What I don't understand is why are these vegans taking the time to run around and tell people trying to be vegan they're not vegan enough, instead of using that time and energy helping someone who isn't vegan at all?

Is veganism some cool club that I'm not worthy to get into? Do we really want to make it about exclusivity rather than inclusivity?

Someone said to me once, and I think this is painfully true, for cruelty-free dieters, vegans sure are cannibalistic!

To the vegan police: Know that if you continue down this road, you are only hurting your cause, not helping it. Had I been newly vegan, or more unsure, the events of yesterday would have made me run for the hills screaming "vegans are crazy extremists!" and then you've accomplished the exact opposite of your goal: you'd have made me eat more animal products, not less...

I don't know how much luck these others have had 'converting' people with their methods and attitudes but from where I'm standing they've just lost me, so that's a -1. Over a dozen people left comments like this one yesterday, and I think it speaks volumes to how harmful - not helpful - drawing lines in the sand within our community can be:

"The comments here have made me re-think the way I describe myself. Even though I am a "vegan" by the strictest definition this is not a group I want to be a part of. I no longer consider myself a vegan."

As plant-based eaters, we need to spend our time helping others eat more plants and less animals, not deciding or judging who is or who is not vegan enough for their standards.

I have always tried to make Happy Herbivore a safe space where anyone can feel welcome and not judged. I've learned that if you want people to make a change you must show them kindness and compassion. You must build them up rather than tear them down.