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Everyone Hates a Preachy Vegan Except the Animals

I read an interview the other day from one of my favorite bloggers. This blogger started out five years ago and has successfully built their blog into a full-time job. Generally speaking, it’s a great, informative interview, but something struck me as I read this:

I really try hard to keep it light and fun and totally non-preachy, so that people who are just curious feel welcome.

Something about that statement didn’t sit well with me and still doesn’t.

First, let’s define “preach.”

Preach: /prēCH/ (verb) Publicly proclaim or teach (a religious message or belief).

By definition, is preaching a bad thing? If it is, why do folks go to church to listen to someone preach the gospel? Is the interviewee saying that vegans should avoid publicly proclaiming or teaching someone about veganism? I’m not calling out just this particular blogger either. It is not the first time I’ve read a statement like this. In fact, the past few years have sprung a whole new movement dedicated to talking about “how to be an inspiring vegan without being preachy.” Google it, there are lots of articles about it.

Frequently, I hear this statement during an interview with someone promoting something: a book, a website, a vegan business, or themselves. The interviewee is trying to delineate themselves from those vegans, presumably because they want to appeal to the most amount of people. But in doing so, are these advocates actually promoting stereotypes? Not all vegans are preachy, nor can it be said that all passionate discourse is preaching.

Perhaps they feel as if they are trying to break vegan stereotypes by showing that not all vegans are “preachy.” But does this statement really do that? Let’s look at it another way. Let’s pretend it’s an interview with a successful mathematician, a woman, who said this:

I try to keep math fun and, unlike other women who are poor at math, I really grasp complex equations.

Now, I realize this seems silly. No one would ever say such a thing, but my point is stereotyping. It’s a stereotype that women are not good at math just like it’s a stereotype that vegans are preachy. Stereotyping is wrong. Worse, it could encourage someone not to speak out on behalf of animals for fear of being viewed as preachy.

If veganism is about compassion for animals, then our compassion must extend to all animals, including human ones. And if that is true, then we must extend compassion to all types of humans. Everyone is unique. We all thrive in different conditions: some people love to cook, others do not. Some people love to be in the public spotlight, others do not. Some people love debate, others shy away from confrontation. The world needs all types of people: shy, introverted, silly, extroverted, passionate, outspoken. Indeed, if it weren’t for outspoken people, we would not have had any of the social justice movements throughout history.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870. It prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (think: slavery). In other words, black men were permitted to vote. Women, on the other hand, fought hard for years, but did not earn the right to vote until August 26, 1920- fifty years later. And although African-American men had the right since 1870, it wasn’t until the 1965 Voting Rights Act that both black men and women were fully protected under Federal law.

(Of course, in many parts of the world women still don’t have the right to vote- or any rights to speak of.)

Black disenfranchisement and women’s suffrage were about rights passionately fought for. Should those advocates not have spoken out? Should those advocates instead have stood by, waiting for rights and equality to be given voluntarily from those who sought to oppress them?

Similarly, veganism is an issue that advocates are passionate about. If veganism is about compassion, and that includes towards humans, then why are we perpetuating negative stereotypes within veganism against vegan advocates? Perhaps instead of proclaiming ourselves to be different from those vegans, we should dissuade others from the notion that one way of vegan activism is better than another.

Let us remember, no one single action or activist style has brought about veganism overnight. And let us remember too, there are injustices being done to animals every single second of every single day. We need passionate voices, outspoken voices, calm voices, and kind voices to speak out on their behalf. We need as many voices as we can raise.  We need to join together, not separate ourselves by advocacy style.  Together we are stronger.

And if we’re all on the same vegan team, shouldn’t we want to be stronger?

Before you leave me a comment about how you know someone who [insert once upon a time statement here],  now is a good time to interject that I realize that there are people out there who are pushy with their veganism. Listen, here’s the thing: We humans are an interesting bunch. What preaching is to one person could be passion through the eyes of another. What I’m saying is that speaking one’s mind doesn’t automatically mean one is preaching. Let’s not judge someone for the passion they feel about animals. Let’s instead admire their convictions and commitment. If we’re asking for respect from others, we must give it ourselves, even if that means we don’t approach things in the same manner. We are all unique, right?

All of the gains made that we received in the area of civil rights have come about because the Negro stood up courageously for these rights and he was willing to aggressively press on. So I would think that it would be much better in the long run to stand up and be aggressive with understanding, good will and with a sense of discipline. Yet these things should not be substitutes for pressing on and with this aggressive attitude. I believe we will bring the gains or other civil rights into being much sooner than just standing idly by waiting for these things to be given voluntarily.  – Martin Luther King, Jr

Without passionate vegan voices, the vegan movement would  not be as mainstream as it is today. Passionate vegan voices protesting, organizing, leafleting, campaigning, or taking undercover footage speak out on behalf of those who can’t: the animals. They need us. Veganism is a social justice movement. It is a movement about life and of death. It is a movement worthy of our passion.

Let us join together instead of standing apart.

Photo: More Good Foundation