the smoking vegans

Friday, April 15, 2005

 

The right reasons

I was having a conversation over dinner with some friends recently, and it got me thinking about why I'm vegan -- or more specifically, what are, IMNSHO, the right reasons.

The bottom line is that the reasons for my veganism have changed since I first made the leap about six and a half years ago. Becoming vegan is a lot like going through puberty a second time (which is why, for any kids that might be reading this, I recommend going vegan around age 12 or 13, so you can compound the awkwardness of the worst years of your life). It's a bigger change than most people realize, because often it's accompanied -- or rather, precipitated -- by a shift in certain fundamental values. Suddenly, nothing is the same again. It's a growing experience, to be sure.

When I first made the step to becoming vegan, I was a militant little prick. Not in a bad way, I mean I wasn't a vegangelical, if that's what you're wondering. But at the same time, I was significantly less tolerant of nonvegans, particularly in the realm of taking shit from nonvegans about being vegan, than I am now. Part of what nurtured the growth of that militancy came directly from the endless amount of chiding I'd get from omnis and lacto-ovos alike. Oddly enough, I often got more shit from the lacto-ovos than from the omnis, although I suppose that's a bit besides the point. The other part of what nurtured that militancy, of course, was the amount of Earth Crisis I listened to (and still do). I think I was probably the only high schooler in America that walked around with homemade A.L.F. patches featuring the Avenging Angel graphic, or my homemade "Praise the Vegan Jihad" patch. Yeah, so I kind of got rid of that last one after 9/11. Anyway.

When I became vegan at the time, it had very little to do with the health issues. As you've probably noticed from prior posts or just the title of this blog, it still has very little to do with health issues, something I'll get back to in a minute. No, at the time, it was all about the ethical issues (sorry, I cringe at using the word "moral," I don't know why). I felt like the one guy in the Cave allegory. If I tried to talk to anyone about the ethical issues of why I was vegan, they either wouldn't believe me, or would just tune out completely. My favorite response, "Ew! I don't want to hear that!"

After I was vegan for a few years, I kind of stopped thinking about the "why" as it became just another part of my life. In retrospect, I think the only real reason to go vegan is from the ethical standpoint (animal rights/resource consumption/you like furry animals/etc.) After the dinner conversation, I left feeling like there are probably more wrong reasons to go vegan, though. So here are some things I think anyone should consider before becoming vegan.

The big question is, are you doing it more for animal rights and social justice, or more for yourself, i.e., for selfish reasons? Here are some reasons not to go vegan.

1. It's healthier. Granted, it's much, much healthier. And I kind of lied, because this isn't a reason "not" to go vegan. My point in sticking it in this section is that some people do just go vegan for the health benefits, and I think that's silly and selfish.

2. You can feel better about yourself. That's fucking retarded. Veganism isn't about giving yourself a pat on the back because you didn't eat at McDonald's today. Being vegan is one of the best decisions in life you can make, and one you should feel good about. Just make sure you're not considering becoming vegan as some way to absolve yourself of some liberal guilt, or so you can feel like you've done your bit for social justice and can be lazy about other such struggles.

3. Moral superiority. Sorry, but being vegan will not make you morally superior to others. Now, you might already be morally superior to others, like me, but going vegan for the purpose of lording it over others or becoming a vegangelical is irritating as fuck, and in many respects negates the very "moral" reasons that you're supposedly doing it for, and that would make you "morally superior." (Note that I do not really think I am morally superior to everyone else... just most people.) In many cases, becoming vegan is, unfortunately, a privilege. Most people in the world do not wake up in the morning with the option there. Keep this in mind.

4. Because [insert celebrity/personal hero] is vegan. Going vegan can't be part of jumping on the bandwagon. It is something that, for most people -- especially at the outset -- takes a lot of commitment. No one likes to hear some asshole spout off about how "Oh, yeah, I used to be vegan." It's demoralizing, makes the rest of us look bad, and is generally imbecilic. The general rule: if you're not vegan now, than you never were. It's great if someone you look up to inspired you to make the leap. But they might not always be around for support or to look up to. In my case, Earth Crisis broke up. I can think of worse reasons to go vegan than because it can, occasionally, become a fad. All I'm saying is, if you're going to become vegan, it should be something you're going to stick with. And it's easiest to stick with if you really know why you're doing it.

Now here's the bitch of it all: it is cool, in many cases morally superior, and always healthier to go vegan. And there are a lot of hot celebrities that are vegan. I guess my point in all of this is that the right reason to go vegan is pretty singular: the needless killing of the innocent and defenseless is wrong.

Lastly, here's one of my biggest pet peeves with many vegans: they treat it like they are "sacrificing" something in being vegan, for the welfare of others. Like, "I'm making sacrificing my chance to eat a hamburger today or buy these Ugg boots -- for the animals." That's irritating and misses the entire point about being vegan. You're not sacrificing squat, because doing the right thing isn't a form of sacrifice. For the love of god, don't bitch about how tough you have it being vegan. The worst effect that type of behavior has is in turning off others from becoming vegan. Remember, people are often lead to become vegan by the example of others. Don't fuck it up by being an annoying twat about it.

Comments:
There are plenty of vegan police out there, but these are, in my limited experience, the folks who are usually the most insecure about what they're doing. They use their own policing to cover up the fact that they're not really sure about shit.

As for the question of sacrifice, you're on the money there. As vegans, we do give up certain things, but there's a liberation in giving that up too, and I think this is what new vegans need to recognize. Sometimes, that realization takes time, but I think it comes along. This is why I think it is important to always seem to be satisfied with your veganism, even when you're in a bind, even when you can't eat shit on the menu, even when people are picking on you for being a complete fuckin weirdo.
 
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