I’ve read more tweets, Facebook posts, and “news” stories about Anne Hathaway wearing vegan shoes and mentioning vegan ice cream at the Oscars this week than I can count.  I’ve even had my own discussion about her this week and it was that conversation that spurred this post.

Whenever I start talking about vegan celebrities I get unfollowed on Twitter, unliked on Facebook, and I’m told I’m condescending.  Perhaps it’s my natural aversion to idolizing celebrities, perhaps it’s my sweeping generalization that celebrity culture as a whole is absurd, or perhaps it’s my views on veganism itself that pisses people off.  I’d like to say I’m sorry about it, I really would- but I’d be lying.  I don’t get worked up over seeing someone who starred in a movie or sang a song eat a vegan meal that one time, just like I don’t get excited over Meatless Mondays.  I’m not saying that these things don’t have benefits, of course any time that someone leaves an animal off of their plate it’s a good thing.  But celebrating these types of things as “wins” baffles me, I always feel like they miss the vegan point.

And oh, people hate that.  They do.  They think that every step deserves a celebration- a party of fanfare, tweeting congratulations, write-ups on popular vegan blogs.  If you aren’t celebrating alongside them it’s because you’re a compassion-less asshole who doesn’t recognize that everyone gets to veganism in their own way and time.  Worse, you’re part of the vegan police.  That elusive group of people who troll the internet looking for people who muck up veganism so that they can attack them with barbed words in the form of comments.

I’m none of those things.  I’m a thoughtful, compassionate person who approaches each conversation with respect and an open mind.  I’m that person that will actually sit down and have a long conversation with anyone about anything because humans are just so damn fascinating to me.  I’m that person who actually wants to talk about the ethics of veganism, even if we are on separate sides of the slaughterhouse.  But also, I’m that person who is going to speak her mind- I believe that respect does not equal acquiescence.

When I say that I don’t consider someone a badass for putting on a pair of vegan shoes, it’s not because I’m being an asshole.  It’s because I don’t think it’s badass to wear shoes.  Most everyone wears shoes.  If I say that Kevin Bacon ordering a vegan cookie one time at a restaurant isn’t vegan news, it’s not because I’m being a jerk- it’s because it’s not news.  It’s gossip and it doesn’t require a celebration.  It doesn’t help the animals, not in any meaningful way.

So when I saw that Anne Hathaway wore her vegan shoes and talked about vegan ice cream on the same night she also wore a custom designed silk gown, I grouped it into the same category I usually do with other celebrities- fluff.  But I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I didn’t know much about Anne Hathaway as a person, I admit.  I don’t know how she came to be vegan- if she does it for her health or for the animals, I still don’t, but I had read some quotes by her that sounded pretty ethical and it was just confusing.

After some research, some conversations, and a lengthy Facebook discussion, I found out that Anne is a new vegan just starting out.  Or, that’s what I was told.  I still have no idea what’s true about Anne Hathaway, I don’t know her.  But the general consensus is that she’s still learning about veganism and is trying to move in the right direction.

I keep thinking about that.  It reminded me of my vegetarian days.  I honestly thought that I was doing the right thing for animals.  I didn’t eat them but I still consumed dairy in the form of yogurt on a very regular basis.  I didn’t know about the connection between dairy and veal- I didn’t know that cows didn’t produce milk continuously their entire lives.  I didn’t know about the lives of animals.

If I think back, I had been taught at a very early age that cows produced milk- no one ever explained how and I just assumed it happened on it’s own.  Every cartoon I watched, coloring book I had, story I read- they never mentioned one time that a cow doesn’t produce milk unless she has a babe to feed.  Similarly, I was never informed that a lobster isn’t red unless cooked, chickens don’t get pregnant, or other facts about the lives of animals.  Instead I was fed the same fairy tale that all children are fed- farm animals live on a picturesque farm with a loving farmer and his wife who care for them.

I had forgotten how much I didn’t know in those early days and how outraged I was when I realized the truth.  The moment I learned, I evolved.  I have never, not once, craved a single non-vegan food.  I have never, not once, gone back to consuming animals in any way.  The truth really does set you free.

Anne Hathaway reminded me of the value in sharing information with others and remembering that some people haven’t been given the proper amount of knowledge in order to make good decisions (like more information about the lives of silk worms perhaps).  That, sometimes, vegans do things that aren’t vegan because they have no idea it’s not vegan.  That we all have a lot more to learn about the lives of animals- a lot more to learn and a lot more to share with each other.

It’s a good reminder to have.

Photo credit: Hourstr4n via Flickr