Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
I know I’ll probably catch some heat for saying so, but I disagree with characterizing being vegan as easy.
Being vegan isn’t easy, and we can know it isn’t easy because of the number of people who try it on and then leave off doing it. (We can know by the number of vegetarians who flirt with the idea for years too, as I did.) In that respect, it’s like quitting alcohol. Easy to talk about, and even easy to do for days at a time, but when the social situations encourage it, or when internal pressures make it easy to fall back on old habits, fall back on old habits we will.
Once a person fully accepts the moral value of other animals and understands the rights-based argument for veganism, then it becomes easier. But promoting it as “easy” isn’t helpful, I don’t think, because when people try it, and find that it isn’t at all easy for them, they may assume that they aren’t the kind of person who can be vegan. Sometimes vegans are thought of as being different kinds of people.
If you are vegan, or if you are a person who does things that others might not, especially such as commit large portions of your time to volunteer work, or missionary work, then you may have heard others say “I don’t know how you do it, you’re a special person, living the life you believe in. I wish I could be more like you.” Now, if you respond to this kind of statement by saying, “Oh, it’s easy, anyone can do it”, your words will likely have the affect of of criticizing the other person. After all, if it’s so easy, you are, in a way, implying that there’s something wrong with anyone who wouldn’t do as you do. That’s bound to be not helpful.
I also believe that’s there’s something else at work in the minds of those who ask “how do you do it?” I believe that people want to be the best they can be, and that they want to be challenged to answer to their better angels. We all want to be special in some way. When we tell others that whatever we do “is nothing, and anyone can do it” we cheapen the value of what we are doing, we make it less special and make it less likely that others will want do it too.
Better to say, “Yes, it can be difficult, but it is important to me, and I believe that it’s important to others, so I do what I can.” This is honest, and it is accepting of others, as they try to come to understand what they are able to do in their own lives.
Now, there is a huge difference between that which is easy and that which is simple.
The best analogy I know of is long distance running. For example, running a marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 Kilometers) is quite simple: Quickly put one foot in front of the other over and over again until you cross the finish line. That’s about as simple a thing as a bipedal primate adapted to running can do. Obviously, especially to anyone who has tried, it isn’t easy at all. The good news is that anyone (barring those with serious physical limitations) can do simple things, even when they are not at all easy to do. My 82 year old mother completed marathons when she was 77. She and I walked 9 miles last Sunday. It wasn’t easy, but it’s always worth the effort, and if she can do it, so can you.
Being vegan is simple: one just stops using other animals as things in every way possible. It’s simple, but I don’t think it is all that easy in a speciesist society. It’s still worth the effort though, and if I can do it, so can you.
The original can be viewed here: http://timgier.com/2011/01/13/is-being-vegan-easy/
Interesting post, I wanted to talk about it......I find it very easy as far as food is concerned, no problem, there's always a solution. Although I put a post about palm oil, as for me it's not at all vegan, and I never have any product containing it, but the french online vegan shop (we are starting, so just have one!) sells many products containing palm oil....
But I have many questions as far as medicines are concerned:
imagine you have a serious illness and you have to take some medicine that, of course, has been tested on animals: what does a vegan do?
In fact, the problem is more general, as ALL MEDICINES ARE TESTED ON ANIMALS.......don't you ever have any medicine?
Another question is homeopathy: I always have homeopathic medicines. But, not long ago, I bought a book and discovered (maybe I knew it.....) that some homepathic medicines are made with animal products. What does a vegan do, if he's or she's ill and has to have that medicine?
thanks for your answers.......
(by the way, Tim, you put that post twice! if you don't want people to get mixed up, you should maybe just keep this one!)
Blackpanther, if I genuinely needed a drug that had been tested on animals and would die otherwise, I would use the drug. In that case, using a non-vegan product would be unavoidable ... just like it's nearly impossible to avoid paper, which can be sized with gelatin. And difficult to avoid organic produce, which is grown with manures, blood meal, bone meal, etc. And nearly impossible to avoid the animal based adhesive in the plywood in my house ... and so on.
I don't think there's a way to avoid all animal products and still live in this world that uses animals so commonly and casually. We can't prevent all harm to others, but we can cause the least amount possible.
Oh, and I think tires have stearic acid in them. Here's a pretty comprehensive list of all the things that contain animal products along with alternatives to them. http://www.happycow.net/health-animal-ingredients.html
I would characterise going vegan as similar in difficulty to moving out of home as a teenager (say at age 18 for e.g.) - having to learn to cook more than you did before and learning to do shopping again, i.e. know which items are where in the super market as well as the shops to go to for decent clothing , shoes etc.
Thats the actual process , its often situations with friends,family, work colleagues etc that prove difficult, particularly depending on your own personality. I can be quite quiet until I know people a little but relatively intense and recently a work colleague has started down the path to veganism based on conversations with me and without making analogies about ducks and water , she is quite impervious to questions and criticism due to her overly out there and bubbly personality.. she literally laughs with them or laughs it off but is unwavering in her experimentation with all things vegan.
In the scheme of things and in terms of what we actually achieve by it, I would still characterise veganism itself as easy, other people can certainly be difficult, what I wouldnt do is characterise it as an easy process to anyone who is thinking about embarking on their own conversion but hasnt fully embraced the ethical ideas, without that fire in their mind their first failed vegan pizza might be enough to send them crying back to a fast food outlet!
I am glad you posted this.I am sure a lot of people have shared the same thoughts as you, but been too scared to mention it because of how some people may react.
It is easier for some than others. It is so individual. Some have a hard time because of not finding alternatives at the grocery store, while other have a hard time because they do not get the support they need.
I wanted to go vegetarian early, but because of a strict dad I couldn't. Though one day, with help from my mum and brothers, I managed to live a vegetarian life without him knowing. So yes it depends on what kind of support you get.
I promote veganism, but I still do not call myself a vegan since I still haven't gotten there. I do not buy any animal products, and I have stopped consuming diary and eggs in its physical form, but I still have a problem with items that kind of ''hide it''. When I make my own food it is vegan, but when for example my mum makes something vegetarian (unless it is cheese) I get these weak spots and let myself consume it. I think it has a lot to do with craving for something and not having the alternative. You don't always have time to bake a cake, make waffles, etc.
I find it a lot easier to say no when I am out, but at home I will always fall for the temptation and taste some and of course regretting afterwords and being mad at myself for doing so. I thought being passionate about animal rights was all I needed, but I keep having these stupid moments where I ''give in''. But like with my younger brother it is the opposite. He managed to go straight to being a vegan without even going through a stage of vegetarianism.
So yes, I am one of those who find veganism hard. Though, I am not saying everything about it is hard. There a lot of things that aren't hard and like with most things, when you get the hang of it, it gets easier and you don't even think about it. I think the most important thing is trying and not giving up on it no matter what. I feel like a hypocrite when I give in for my stupid cravings, but it doesn't make me want to give it all up because I find it a bit hard.
I think it is great that some people say that veganism is easy, but we're all different. It is really hard to know how to approach it all. You don't want people to give up because they didn't find it ''as easy as you'', but neither do you want to make it sound like it is something they can't handle.
I guess all you really can do is approach it with how it felt for you when you switched over and help the person as much as you can. It really isn't a black and white issue.
i think that it depends on what is meant by "easy": for me, the honest answer is that being vegan is completely effortless in terms of "cravings" and that kind of thing (which i think is what most non-vegans are visualizing), but as others have mentioned, of course being vegan in the current state of our society is tricky simply because of all the myriad ways in which animal cruelty is woven into the fabric of our culture, and also because if your plans for the day go awry, you may find yourself in a situation with limited options.
no one wakes up thinking, "boy, i'd really like to have a microscopic portion of whey, and then use some lotion that has a microscopic amount of "fragrance" that was tested on animals today. but when non-vegans are imagining veganism as difficult, i don't believe that they're thinking about these arcane matters. that comes later, and brings with it a whole trail of other realizations . . . such as an awareness of the value of SIMPLICITY in consumption of all kinds.
Wow, everyone has such valid points here that make sense. As Tim said commitment is certainly easier once the moral value of animals and the rights they deserve is understood. It's almost a eureka moment, that for me would be impossible to go back on now.
I definitely flirted with veganism as a teenager, but only because it seemed like a good, and I tempted to say heroic, thing to do in itself. I don't really know, perhaps even I was like Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim where "being vegan just makes you better than most people". Anyway, it wasn't till I stumbled across here, and started reading, and educating myself that being vegan became imperative as Lisa said. It wasn't something I wanted to think about anymore. It was what I had to do. Obviously the physical change wasn't instant, but the mind shift was.
I agree with Lisa that once you've arrived at the destination it's not hard like it can be getting there. Especially as in Just A Girl's case. The important thing I think is she is trying. And Just A Girl, I completely get you. Dairy and eggs in their physical form I find repulsive now, and although I refuse products containing them too now I am often tricked. My friend gave me sweets she assured me I could have the other day and it wasn't till later I found they contained beeswax. I don't get worked up over it. I just learn from it.
As Michelle and blackpanther mention animal products are in everything, and it does require vigilance. If you mess up you don't lose your vegan super powers, it's not like that. It's about living a life where you aim to renounce suffering on others through your actions. If you know something is wrong you're not gonna do it. But sometimes you had no idea, and sometimes it can be completely unavoidable.
It's very personal though, and I don't think it can be defined as hard or easy, it's a personal choice and people making the change should be given all the encouragement you can give yourself, without making it sound so easy anyone could do it, or to difficult that only super heroes can.
Just make it clear it's not impossible, as with Roger's scenarios, the extent of which it will challenge people varies.
Wow, everyone has such excellent points here. I would have to say for me it's not easy. And not because I don't get it. I DO get it. And so I struggle constantly. What makes it more difficult for me, is that I have numerous chronic health conditions that require daily medication. And being raised with a certain way of eating, it's all I know how to do. So I've done this several times now. I HATE the idea of eating meat! Period. And I'll start off saying that's it I'm going vegetarian. Baby steps. And then I starve. I literally become weaker, because I don't know what to eat. If I could live on bread alone hey it would be easy. But to add to my difficulties. I also have Celiac's disease, can't have gluten. And do not tolerate yeast and too much soy is not good for me either. So I struggle. With what do I eat. What do I make for dinner, lunch etc... And then after growing weaker from not eating well. I'll pull chicken back in. And at least try to stick to free range.
I would love to go completely vegan. As I have also heard there are many medical benefits as well. But HOW! How does someone like me do it with so many obstacles in my way. So for me, it's not easy. And yet I desperately want to!
i can definitely see how Celiac's disease would complicate matters! good for you for sticking with this and working to figure it out! i'm sure that other posters will have other resources for you, but this is my take, based on my ever-developing vegan journey: when i first went vegan, and more or less for the next several years, i went the route of making foods that i already ate, but with vegan substitutions (in other words, a lot of "fake meats.") over the past couple of years, though, i've just really gradually gotten more into simplicity: brown rice, beans or tofu/tempeh, and vegetables. although it may seem like i have a variation of the same thing every day, i love it so much that it doesn't feel that way. (i posted a couple of my typical dinners in the ARZ recipe group). maybe you could work with your doctor to find a few basics that you like, that meet your nutritional needs? i've been thinking about these things somewhat because on fb i belong to a neighborhood recipe group, and it's been sort of eye-opening to me that women feel so much pressure to prepare a different style of meal every night of the week for their families. this seems to me to be a very artificial approach to eating: most traditional cultures have a basic cuisine based on the local food (i.e, rice, beans, corn in Mexico; dahl, rice, coconut in southern India, etc.), and from day to day the food is similar, with seasonal variations depending on the availability of fruits and vegetables. i'm not sure how relevant any of this is to the particular struggles that you are encountering, but for me, i have just been going through a process of appreciating simplicity. one of my very favorite meals is just this: brown rice (can you eat this? or other grains?), black beans, half an avocado, a slice of red onion, a tomato, and drizzled with toasted sesame oil.
good luck, and bless you for your efforts!
Thank you :O) I LIKE SIMPLICITY!! THAT WORKS FOR ME LOL :O)!!
"women feel so much pressure to prepare a different style of meal every night of the week for their families."
This is SOOOOOO true. I feel like I need to come up with something different every night. And right now it's just myself and my son and he's old enough to cook for himself. However you never seem to get out of that role that you have to be the one to cook. And I become overwhelmed with ... WHAT do I make. And often times just won't! I'll say it's a fend for yourself night, and I'll just have a baked potato or something. I have a very finicky stomach. I seem to handle white rice better than brown. However, I could try the brown again. Thanks for responding! I'll check out the recipe group also.
baked potatoes! i always forget about them--that's a good reminder :-) a baked potato with broccoli! as i've been reading this neighborhood blog, i just keep thinking that this whole "monday is Mexican food and tuesday it's Little Italy" thing just smacks of some 1950's scam to make "housewives" feel insecure about the work that they do, not to mention a weird colonial undertone.