It is almost impossible not to love animals when they are so unconditionally loving towards us. That doesn’t necessarily apply to humans. Knowing about animal abuse can make us see red. However, hating people is never the answer. Treating them with contempt is a sign that we are not processing our own suffering effectively. It is a personal issue and has nothing to do with vegan advocacy. In fact, it is irresponsible behaviour and hurts the vegan cause because it alienates the very people who carry the key to our success. So how can we handle this situation more constructively?
Processing Our Emotions On Our Own Time
Living a functional life is sometimes difficult when you expose yourself to the sheer enormity of animal suffering on a regular basis. For example, knowing that 2,000 farm animals are being tortured and killed right now, and every second of every day, can be stressful when we feel disempowered to make a difference. We need to process this information in a mature and constructive manner.
This starts with accepting that as long as the abuse of animals continues, we are responsible for stopping it. In addition, we need to accept our culpability for the abuse that continues when our efforts fail. So it is up to us to find creative, non-violent methods to educate people about veganism effectively.
This is a big ask and often it is more than we are willing or able to accept. Instead we find ourselves focusing our anger outwards and taking our own frustrations out on the people around us who are not vegan. This usually starts with the retailers and farmers. It then progresses to include people we don’t know, like the vivisectors, or foreigners who eat animals that aren’t eaten in our culture. Soon it includes anyone who refuses to like or share our Facebook posts.
‘They’ Are Not The Enemy. They Are The Solution
The action of ‘otherising’ non-vegans can also be found at the core of all discrimination. Drawing a line between ‘them’ and ‘us’ is the very same technique that ordinary citizens use to kill the enemy in wartime. It is the same thought-process that made it possible for people to buy and sell human beings of other races. It is the same justification used by wife abusers and rapists. It is the same tactic people use to justify eating animals. It is this precise mindset that veganism is striving to overcome.
Allowing this hatred to fester would block all communication with the very people we want to awaken. The same people who are not vegan now will one day be the vegans who populate our vegan world with us.
The people who are not vegan now are just not vegan yet:
they are who we were a few years back before we went vegan
and we are who they will be in the future when they go vegan.
How can showing contempt towards the only people who can help us make it happen be an effective strategy for achieving our goal? They are not the enemy. They are an integral part of the solution; we just have to unlock it. This is a huge responsibility and will require respectful communication channels to bring about the paradigm shift we are working towards.
Hatred Doesn’t Achieve Anything Except More Hatred
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
— Martin Luther King Jr
Hatred is ineffective as a means of persuading someone to join a cause that strives to create positive change in the world. You will be attracting a sub-section of society who are themselves already filled with hatred before they even hear the principles you stand for. They will be using your campaigns as a means to express their contempt. Your organisation will give them the opportunity they need to claim the moral high ground, and you will have given them a target as well as a justification for their misanthropy.
Contempt is the primary cause of any communication breakdown, and it serves to alienate the very people who will be our allies in this struggle. Isn’t it time we stopped blaming them for everything they are doing wrong and rather focus on educating them about what they can do to change it? The more you tell someone they are wrong, the harder they will resist change because their pride will not let them admit they are wrong.
It doesn’t matter who is to blame. If we really care about animals, then we need to let it go and invest all our energy into creating a better future.
Compassion Leads to Transformation
The majority of people get extremely distressed at the sight of animal abuse. They know it is wrong, but they just don’t have the courage or emotional energy required to look at it or even think about it. So they procrastinate and put it off until another day when they hope they will have the strength and time to face it. We need to help them get to that day sooner. One way we can do this is to welcome them into a community of vegans who will support their transformation. They need to know that our aim is to create a compassionate, ethical future… together. This is not an exclusive, members-only club. We want everyone to be vegan. Everyone! We will not discriminate on any grounds.
Do you remember how traumatic it was for you to hear the truth and really ‘get’ it for the first time? You felt like everyone in the whole world had betrayed you, including your parents, the farmers and your favourite mom and pop shop, because they lied to you and made you participate in this unthinkable holocaust. Do you remember the nights you couldn’t sleep because you couldn’t get the images from Earthlings out of your head? Are you still unexpectedly overwhelmed and unable to function when confronted with yet another instance of animal abuse? Do you remember the tsunami of guilt that hit you as one fact after another piled up and convicted you as an animal abuser when you first went vegan? Do you still remember the process you went through to go vegan?
If you can still remember, then you know what awaits people who are not vegan yet. Instead of showing contempt towards omnivores and vegetarians, perhaps we could honour their journey and extend a compassionate hand of friendship that will help them find the courage they need to face the truth and then transition towards veganism at their own pace. Because this is the only way they will remain vegan for the long-term.
This is not a hall pass for non-vegans to continue abusing animals. It doesn’t mean that consuming and exploiting animals is ever acceptable for any reason whatsoever. It doesn’t mean we should ever forget what the animals have endured at the hands of humans. And we should never dilute the message of the abolitionist approach to animal rights. Instead it is our act of forgiving the unforgivable acts of the past, asking them to help us work towards creating a brighter future and asking for that future to start today. It is offering non-vegans an open invitation for them to become part of the solution, now.
All Vegans Are Advocates For Veganism Everywhere
At this early stage of our progress towards a vegan world, it is possible that you are the only vegan the person you are talking to will ever meet. This means that everyone who goes vegan is automatically a representative of veganism everywhere. We need to take this responsibility seriously. We need to process our own frustrations and anger as a separate issue in our own time and not let it infiltrate into our vegan advocacy.
There is just too much at stake – for animals, people and the planet.