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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.


Go Vegan.


The original can be viewed here: http://timgier.com/2011/01/13/is-being-vegan-easy/

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I think it's much easier these days to obtain vegan equivalents of meat and dairy products, which, in turn, makes it much less difficult for people to become vegan than it was in the past.
There is still the social difficulty to overcome though, in that most friends, work colleagues and family members of new vegans will still be non-vegans, who may give the new vegans a hard time. This is where local vegan groups can play an important role, by offering new vegans a social environment where they can be given confidence and feel at ease.

For me (after 40 years of veganism) being vegan is as easy as falling off a log, but then almost all my friends and several of my close family are also vegan, which almost certainly wouldn't be the case for a new convert to veganism.

For me being vegan is both a blessing & a burden. Going vegan from vegetarian for me in regards to food was indeed easy. Nothing hard about giving up eggs & dairy etc. Choosing cruelty free products is easy as there are now so many of them for cleaning, personal care etc. I never frequented circuses or zoos.

 

The burden is the emotional part. I was not ready for the horror that confronted & continues to confront me. In every aspect of my day I am vegan & it carries with it great heartache.

 

Whenever being vegan is spoken about & people ask about it I say it's for the animals, it is always for the animals. It isn't about me. That makes it easy!

Really?  I have a hard time thinking that anyone who is devoted enough to change their lifestyle wouldn't be all about helping other people change theirs, especially considering that most of us consider it a matter of morality.  I think most vegans are delighted to support others in learning to become vegan.  We're forever trying to give "tips" to people who don't even want to be vegan, in fact!

Are we just not doing a good job of actually supporting people in a truly helpful way?



Roger Yates said:


Interesting what you say about support from the vegan community - that is something we could improve massively in my view. It seems to be a bit of a lottery for new vegans - who they interact with first and what they may be told.

I absolutely agree with Roger on this. I had a friend in tears begging for help to defend herself against the violent bullies in Vegan:UK not so long ago. This person made the "mistake" of suggesting that a vegan advocate, other than Gary Francione, had a body of work worthy of consideration. She was immediately viciously attacked for saying so, warned that her behaviour was not in accordance with the "rules" of Vegan:UK, and then booted from the group. Only to learn that AFTER being booted, they continued to ridicule and verbally attack her for days. 

If new vegans stumble across these people, what hope do they have? 

(I should clarify that the Facebook group I refer to is the closed Vegan:UK Facebook group, run by Rob Johnson) 


Susan Cho said:

Really?  I have a hard time thinking that anyone who is devoted enough to change their lifestyle wouldn't be all about helping other people change theirs, especially considering that most of us consider it a matter of morality.  I think most vegans are delighted to support others in learning to become vegan.  We're forever trying to give "tips" to people who don't even want to be vegan, in fact!

Are we just not doing a good job of actually supporting people in a truly helpful way?



Roger Yates said:


Interesting what you say about support from the vegan community - that is something we could improve massively in my view. It seems to be a bit of a lottery for new vegans - who they interact with first and what they may be told.

There's not a lot we can do to prevent new vegans stumbling across the sort of "nasty" vegans that Carolyn mentions. What we can do though, is to give such new vegans really good "friendly and supportive vegan" alternatives. I think the creation of strong networks of local vegan groups is essential for this, as new vegans are likely to want to meet other vegans near to where they live, as well as communicating with distant vegans via the internet.

This is a good question, and offers people the opportunity to talk about their process of becoming a vegan, which is sometimes not at all easy .  I'm very grateful to find this site and find it filled with inspiring people and useful information.

As far as changing my eating habits is concerned, it was off and on to start, and a gradual process, but there is definitely an enjoyment of simple natural foods now and I'm enjoying cooking in a more creative way than before when I just went in the supermarket and had a wide range of ready made to choose from. 

Speaking of the supermarket... I'm finding I avoid going wherever possible now, because its really hard seeing the bodies of animals on the shelves everywhere and everyone filling their shopping baskets, mostly unaware of the conditions on factory farms and abattoirs.   I find the worst thing about being vegan, is waking up to become aware of the suffering of animals.  Before, I was in denial.  Now, I'm in what can only be described as living hell.  No, living hell would be to be an animal on a factory farm...I'm just empathically observing their living hell.  It was only recently that I saw any footage of what happens in factory farms and abattoirs.  I'd been a vegan for some time but still, had always turned away from any information about animal suffering because it was too painful to look.  Some weeks ago I decided I couldn't do that anymore.  Had to stand and look, because only if I knew what was happening to the animals, understood more about each animal, could I help raise awareness.  I'd say now that the worst thing about being a vegan, is how painful it is to let the scales of denial fall away, the comfort of denial, and to see the world we are living in more clearly.  The sad thing is a lot of people do care, but they actually can't bear to hear or to look.  Which unfortunately leads them to continue to contribute more to the suffering. 

I'm finding ways of switching off, finding my centre, thinking about something else and stay connected to the joy in life.  But seeing it everywhere in everything, and knowing the lives and deaths those poor animals suffered, are suffering right now, in their billions all over the world....is, for me, the hardest thing about being a vegan.

Oh...I am sorry. My really depressing post yesterday seems to have stopped the flow of an interesting conversation. Its just I've only recently opened up to all this and it had just become overwhelming and was struggling to deal. But then... just listened to the fantastic interview on ARZone podcast with Jose Vallez and Sharon Nunez about their activism in Spain... and the black cloud is completely lifted.  To hear how much they do, the lengths they go to, their creativity and passion, drive...amazing !  Just want to learn as much as i can, get involved, and get to the place they are at, helping animals that effectively too.  Great interview, thanks Carolyn, Tim, Roger !

Tim, I think you're right 100%. Thanks!

Louise, I don't think your post stopped the flow of the conversation, or even that it was so depressing.  There had already been 3-4 pages worth of conversation, during which much had already been said.  I'm glad you found such inspiration from Jose & Sharon, though. They really ARE amazing, aren't they?  It's nice that the Zone brought them to you. :)

Louise, London said:

Oh...I am sorry. My really depressing post yesterday seems to have stopped the flow of an interesting conversation. Its just I've only recently opened up to all this and it had just become overwhelming and was struggling to deal. 

Thanks Susan:-). 

 

You're welcome!

:)

Thanks, Louise! 

I think Jose an Sharon are awesome too. 

I think we all feel a little overwhelmed at times, but I always try to think of people like Jose and Sharon, and other activists who have been around for 30 or 40 years and are still going every bit as strong as they were 30 years ago, then I feel encouraged to keep doing my best, and learning as much as I can, in order to make a difference. 

Thanks for listening to our podcasts, it makes us feel so encouraged when wonderful people like you offer us such positive feedback! :)


Louise, London said:

Oh...I am sorry. My really depressing post yesterday seems to have stopped the flow of an interesting conversation. Its just I've only recently opened up to all this and it had just become overwhelming and was struggling to deal. But then... just listened to the fantastic interview on ARZone podcast with Jose Vallez and Sharon Nunez about their activism in Spain... and the black cloud is completely lifted.  To hear how much they do, the lengths they go to, their creativity and passion, drive...amazing !  Just want to learn as much as i can, get involved, and get to the place they are at, helping animals that effectively too.  Great interview, thanks Carolyn, Tim, Roger !

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