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/
That was a brilliant reply Michelle, you are so right, we try to make our lives so complex. One of my favourite things cooking that way is to cook far too much, I just can't do small, and then freeze and refrigerate the rest for later. I like your emphasis on seasonal, it's the cheapest way to be :)
Dawn, if you go to the doctor I'd be interested to know how they respond to you, I really hope they'd be encouraging. But you really don't need these vegan processed foods.
My diet consists of mostly grains and vegetables. Making sure I get my legumes and pulses. &then I throw in fruits, nuts and seeds too. :)
I have found in our supermarkets over here, a lot of the vegan prepared stuff is gluten free as well. We're often grouped together, which I am sure is a great thing x
Whether I've found being vegan easy or difficult during my four years of veganism has depended almost exclusively on the type of people I happen to be with.
Alone, or with other vegans, it's an absolute piece of vegan cake. There's no hostility or defensive behaviour to have to put up with; other vegans are willing to walk the extra block for a cafe that serves soya milk; they understand the necessity of spending longer in the supermarket to check the labels; they would never invite you to X activity which involves the exploitation of nonhumans somewhere along the line; they don't offer you “specially cooked vegan food” which you later find out contains honey; they don't sneer or turn their noses up at the vegan offerings you bring to work/their house/in your own packed lunch; and they are willing to go to vegan restaurants and cafés even if they're on the other side of the city.
When I first went vegan some friends (vegetarians!) were downright hostile and unpleasant. I almost had to drop a friend of 15 years for her verbal attacks on me, calling my choice “ridiculous” and worse, and I have found vacations with non-vegans to be one long exercise in endurance.
Being with non-vegans in any sort of situation I find hard. Life really does seem to revolve around eating and drinking, and every couple of hours some sort of 'test of vegan will power' comes up. Conversely, I love being vegan alone or with vegan friends, I find it effortless.
Needless to say, I don't see my non-vegan friends as often nowadays.
@ Susanah--yes, exactly! and that's why i think it's important to ask what is meant by "easy." i think that when non-vegan's imagine veganism as difficult, they are not visualizing the kind of social situations that you describe, which only come up later. what they are visualizing is the sheer "will power" that they imagine must be involved in resisting non-vegan food.
what i think is that veganism *in itself* is easy, it's living in a non-vegan world that can be tricky. :-) i think that's what people mean when they say "veganism is easy"--that the actual act of eating a plant-based diet does not entail sacrifice. to me, the other bits (reading labels, etc.) isn't difficult, any more than being picky about your fashion choices, or having a hobby of one sort or another. any activity that you're invested in doesn't feel like work--but it looks like work to people who don't share the fascination. it's like if someone is really into golf, you wouldn't go up to them and ask, "wow, that looks hard! isn't it a lot of work?"
as far as growing apart from people who don't share your values, i think that tends to happen with anything--for instance, if you change religion, or go to grad school, or have children, or get involved with a political issue. i think that issue is a little distinct from veganism per se.
I think it's more of a personal thing. It was pretty easy for me to realize that this is disgusting- so now what? Veganism was the solution. After that, the hardest part was figuring out what was vegan and what wasn't. Plus, I'm only a freshman in high school.
I can imagine it being difficult for most people though. Too many of us are raised on this belief that animals are ours to eat, to be entertained by, etc... etc. I think it's less about being able to completely take on the label vegan as it is to actually do your part and make the best effort you can to not contribute to the torture and slaughter of animals.
Thanks for this helpful comment. I've been thinking about issues that relate to Roger's first post, the availability of vegan staples for folks that live in rural areas. I'm seeking recipes that use easy to get items (not just stuff from natural food stores in large urban centers) that can be used to make meals that everyday people will readily take to. In other words, make veganism easy for everybody! My idea was to try and make meals by shopping exclusively at Walmart (there is one or two stores within 5-10 miles of almost every US citizen and many are open 24 hours). The first trip was eye opening, and I realize I need to have some recipes similar to what you mentioned, so I can easily create something on a budget (another important issue in making veganism easy) and with limited time - no room for excuses from anyone that it's too difficult. I'll try and find your recipes. Thanks also to Tim for the original post.
Tim, I agree with you. It is not easy.
Especially if you are the only vegan in your family or the only vegan among your friends or co-workers. Where I work, for example I get so darn angry when there are parties involving food and everyone brings a meat dish and if they bring vegetables they seem compelled to add some type of pork product to it. If they are thoughtful to order a vegetarian pizza, for example seems they eat that first and then dig in to what they brought. I was always the "odd person out" in most cases. So, in my opinion, it is neither simple or easy to be vegan in a meat eating world. Go to most main stream grocery stores or convenience stores...what "fast foods" are available??? Meat based products, how many places can you run into and grab a vegan anything? Fact is, in most cases you really can't. How about someone that is vegan and then buys a puppy from a puppy mill, how about people that decide not to eat meat and are oblivious to all the pesticides sprayed on all our fruits and vegetables? How about the people that are trying to maintain a vegan lifestyle and use plastic bags and/or containers? There is so much to this topic that I have to say no, it is not simple and/or easy.
I just made a cross country drive from the east to Arizona...do you realize if I had not brought my own foods along, I would have been very hungry, because I would have, in most cases only had a few vegetables to choose from.
I think what made it so difficult for me from the beginning was the fact that social lives tend to revolve around eating animals. From the earliest years I can recall, there were always "family barbecue's", families getting together to do what?...to eat.. and whether it was to meet at a restaurant, or at a home, it was about eating. You were not a good host if you didn't provide meat. Most buffets you go to Meat, chicken, sea food are the star of the show. When I would tell my family and/or friends I didn't want to eat the meat, they would make fun of me and although they it was hurtful to me, they didn't realize what they were doing. People have been conditioned to eat meat and not think of the fact that what they are eating is a precious being. Think of people that hunt for sport. What is wrong with their thinking that they could do that and not even feel badly about it? I believe it is how most of the world is raised and conditioned. To believe it is okay, natural and normal.
Think of the holidays... all revolve around what??.... Turkey, ham, or what ever poor animal used for protein you can think of. Heck, even the mashed potatoes if they aren't made with broth, milk, or some kind of cream, have gravy on top.
I first became vegetarian in my late teens and going out to eat with friends was very painful for me because all the "burger joints" "steak houses" didn't want to deal with me asking for a burger with no meat in it or a plate of steamed vegetables. LOL
I remember asking my grocery store to please stock vegan products as I learned they existed, and them telling me no because it is not profitable for them to do so. Finding that a pack of veggie meat costs $5., while a pack of "real meat" can be purchased on sale for much less. Simple? Easy? not.
For me, being vegan has become simple after years because I have educated myself on how and what I need to do to continue being so. It is who I am. It is what I live. However, It is a continual process, a way of life. But simple? no, for many it is not and will not be as long as the world doesn't change the focus from a meat eating society to a vegan society.
Regarding Roger's question about the "sound bite:"
"It's easier than you think."
"It also gets much easier pretty quickly, and you'll always have lots of support from the vegan community."