In Support of a Vegan Omnivore Alliance, A Guest Post

By Dawn Carlock, Guest Contributor

In a controversial article published last week, Tom Philpott of Grist.org proposes that vegans and omnivores work together against factory farming in the awkwardly titled, “Vegan Omnivore Alliance Against Animal Farms.” There are no specifically stated goals to said alliance, but what I took away is that he is trying to promote the idea that we are a much larger force if we battle factory farming together.

I didn’t find the article itself to exactly express warm welcome toward vegans, but it is an interesting concept if we can look beyond that.  If done successfully, a Vegan Omnivore Alliance or VOA (for short) could offer a unique resource to everyone who eats.

It is well known that there are already many excellent organizations (PETA, Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary, HSUS, the list is a long one) out there who work tirelessly for animal welfare and rights.  They do outstanding work and I support them 100 percent.  But, why not have a specific resource for the curious omnivore and interested vegan to come together, respectfully discuss their concerns and share information and resources about realistic alternatives to supporting factory farming?

The traditional animal rights/welfare and vegan groups tend to attract folks who have already embraced veganism.  The facebook page comment threads of these orgs are not exactly welcoming towards the merely curious.  I don’t speak of the organizations themselves, but rather the “commenters” on their pages.  It can be intimidating for example, for an omnivore who might be potentially open to something like part-time veganism, to post questions or concerns on one of the threads and then be shot down (no pun intended).  It can be completely off-putting.

Unfortunately anger and frustration in online communication seem like an epidemic in the debate about food and farming.  It doesn’t help either side to be heard.  Many times I see posts and comment threads online that ooze with contempt, hostility, even hatred.  This level of conflict plays out in every possible debate (vegans with vegans, omnivores with vegans, omnivores with omnivores, etc.).

As a new vegan (since Dec. 2009), I can honestly say I had very little information (beyond a sneaking suspicion) regarding the depth and breadth of the problems of animal agriculture.  Despite the fact that I ate any and all animal products, I was still a kind and compassionate person who cared very much for other people, the environment, and animals.  I was ignorant of the information I have now, which I certainly expended significant energy and time to obtain.  I made getting information on farm animal raising, production and slaughter a priority in my life for many months.  Not everyone has the resources, drive or time to do this.

No one told me or pressured me to go vegan or I might have rejected the idea, as many fiercely independent people tend to do.  It can be too much, too assaultive to the ego to acknowledge our own contribution to torture and cruelty through an act as simple (and as complex) as eating.  It was only after seeking my own answers through in-depth reading and research that I came to know what would work for me.  I also found a supportive online community to help me with the rest of my transition.

If we acknowledge the dearth of information people have regarding animal agriculture, how much work it takes to really learn what is going on and how to completely overhaul our diets and our lives to support our beliefs (and mourn the loss of our old habits, foods, and comforts and make new ones), we will have somewhere to start.  Our awareness of food issues is growing as a culture: Oprah and Ellen’s recent shows, Martha Stewart getting on board, many developments in various food movements, certain omnivore writers as household names, Kathy Freston’s popularity, the list is quickly growing and that is wonderful.  Even so, many people are still in the dark.  We must also keep in mind that some of the people we love most dearly are omnivores.  At least they are for now.  Everyone has the ability to change.

I would like to make the process of getting information and support a little easier through a Vegan Omnivore Alliance.  I would like a VOA where curious omnivores could feel safe posting questions or concerns about animal welfare or cruelty or how to go about eating some plant-based foods, where part time vegans could get support to become full time vegans, where we could discuss the challenges of veganism openly without being criticized or told we are “not vegan” or “bad vegans” for our questions or our answers.  I would like for willing vegans of all schools of ideology (abolitionist, welfarist, etc.) and to whatever degree they follow veganism or eat a vegan diet to be able to engage with and support each other for the larger purpose of reducing suffering and death of farmed animals.  I would like for all willing participants to have respectful (and maybe even enjoyable) discussion without taking things personally and getting offended at every comment.  I propose a skilled moderator be an active presence in an online forum of a Vegan Omnivore Alliance to assist with these goals.

Throwing in some humor wouldn’t hurt, either.  I am usually far more casual and fun than this when I talk about veganism with my friends, which also would have made for quite a different article.  Normally, I make jokes and use swear words and complain about eating kale (don’t get me wrong, I love kale, but I joke about it).  And it helps.  And people listen.

Editors Note: Posts from guest authors may or may not contain the ideas or opinions of Your Daily Vegan, or our staff writers.  We appreciate the opportunity to have frank discussions about veganism and hear as many different views as possible.

Photo: Metropolico.org