I’ve often said that every vegan journey goes through stages.
My own began with anger, lots and lots of anger. I think that’s only natural. After all, what we do to animals is heinous and deserves our outrage.
I’ve never been the type of person who shies away from anger, just the opposite. I’m not a stranger to conflict, and confrontation doesn’t bother me a bit.
I’m not trying to imply I like these things; I don’t.
But these things can happen in life, and I’m not one to not speak up for injustices. It’s just part of my DNA.
It’s the year 2016. I’m eleven years into my vegan journey now, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’m a much different vegan today than I was eleven years ago.
In those early days, I didn’t hesitate to call out people for doing harmful things to animals. I didn’t mince words as I deconstructed the non-vegan world around me.
Like anyone else, I was heavily influenced by the information I surrounded myself with. In those days, I spent hours researching the multitudes of ways that humans use animals. I watched horrible videos; I subjected myself to terrible images and read countless books on factory farming.
My soft heart took beating after beating as I consumed more and more media. I spent nights crying for the animals who were lost to greed and the tastebuds of others.
These things strengthened my vegan resolve and fueled the growing anger I felt. I funneled my rage into this website and onto social media, having argument after argument about living a vegan life.
While my advocacy style certainly got me attention (and a VegNews award), it didn’t get me a reputation for being quiet.
Over time, my writing style changed.
I moved away from being aggressive in my approach and instead focused my attention on being what I like to call ‘thoughtfully critical.’ I still wrote extensively about veganism, but I reframed my writing to look at the broader, grey-area concepts, rather than individuals and specifics.
That can be a challenge, by the way. It’s not easy to be critical of someone’s actions without also being critical of who they are as a person. It’s an important distinction, and I think it’s one that is hard to do.
Nevertheless, I tried to make sure I didn’t attack people; instead, I focused my attention on actions and concepts.
During this time, I decided to stop consuming violent media. I could no longer view graphic images or videos; my heart couldn’t handle it. I surrounded myself with people in a similar place in their vegan journey as me, thoughtful but critical of the direction of the vegan movement was going in.
These changes helped a little, but I was still very much influenced by all those years of immersing myself in violent media. I was a full-blown cynic and still very much angry at the lives forced upon animals.
My cynicism is apparent in the last few years of my writing. When small victories for animals happened, the news was met with derision scoffs because why can’t people live vegan already?
I wanted sweeping changes, and I wanted them now, and baby stepping wasn’t getting us there fast enough.
Reflections & Contradictions
Looking back now, I can tell you that my cynicism helped no one. Certainly not my state of mind and not the animals either.
Gone was the happiness and joy I felt during the first few years of my veganism. I no longer felt the kinship I used to have towards my fellow vegans. Instead, I spent time lamenting about how frustrated I had become at other advocates who renounced their veganism in favor of plant-based alternatives like veg, veganish, v*gan, or plant-whatever.
I allowed my cynicism to not only inform my writing here on Your Daily Vegan, but I also allowed it to impact how I felt about life in general.
And that’s a bad thing indeed.
Allow me a moment of contradiction; I believe some of my best writing came from this cynical place.
During this time, I wrote most tutorials and guides, and I’m proud of how they turned out. I’m not saying that everything I wrote was negative and full of cynicism; it wasn’t. My writing was never more thoughtful and respectful towards others than during the last few years.
But the passion I had for advocating veganism was gone, influenced by the hostile environment that I had put myself in.
The Movement is Changing
As veganism has moved more solidly into the mainstream, it’s meaning has been diluted and watered-down by people who have no interest in the liberation of animals. These people eat a plant-based diet but still consume animals in other ways like clothing or makeup.
The watering down of veganism has created a great deal of conflict within the movement. Instead of advocating a clear and consistent message, vegans are forced to argue about the very definition of the word and whether or not labels even matter.
It is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, including myself.
The definition of veganism is, “as a way of living which seeks to exclude – as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and promote animal-free alternatives.”
The conflict within the vegan movement is growing.
Some want to redefine veganism. Some spend time in comment sections leaving aggressive tirades towards others whom they believe are not vegan enough. Then there are bloggers and vegan groups who send mixed messages about what veganism is- going so far as to pick apart other activists they deem as too extreme.
There have been shocking online fights between abolitionists, welfarists, and intersectional vegans. Over the past seven years, the environment that I’ve been blogging has changed dramatically, and not necessarily in a good way.
Earlier this year, I voiced my support for distancing ourselves from these types of arguments.
Veganism does not need to be redefined; it has a clear definition already. Infighting is antithetical to the compassion that the vegan movement is inherently based upon. Creating this type of environment is toxic, not only to me but to others as well.
Who wants to be a part of a movement about compassion, yet is full of vegans attacking each other left and right?
How to Make Vegan Friends and Influence Non-Vegan People
I want to admit something to you.
Do you know that I regularly receive angry, antagonizing tweets from non-vegans? I do. I also regularly receive incredibly rude emails and comments on the site. I’ve been attacked for being vegan, for defining veganism, and for merely existing in my own space.
These things made me question if blogging was the right fit for me. It’s not the first time I felt that way over the past seven years, but it is the first time that I took drastic measures to begin the process of change.
Because something needed to change. Or rather, someone.
I love animals. I love living vegan and I’ll never, ever not live vegan.
I knew it from the moment my eyes were opened to the injustices being done to animals.
But what I forgot in the past few years was how much I love to blog. I love to cook and I love sharing vegan food with people. My mother-in-law is one of my favorite non-vegan taste testers.
I love to help people. I forgot how satisfying it can be showing people where to find an adorable pair of vegan shoes or a vegan baseball glove. I forgot how much fun social media can be when not participating in arguments about who is more vegan than another.
I forgot about the joy in living vegan and the joy in sharing it with others.
I decided to distance myself from those who are bent on arguing and who can’t see that we’ll never achieve that vegan world we all want if all we do is pick apart progress.
Instead, I’m re-focusing my attention on helping people to live a vegan life.
When I think back to the past few years and all of the accomplishments that vegan advocates have made, I feel proud of how far we’ve come. Yes, we have a long way to go. But we’re getting there, one animal-free meal at a time.
I’ve become a much happier vegan in the last month. I’m still the same unapologetic Donald Watson vegan, who started this website way back in 2009; that hasn’t changed and never will.
But I’ve come to realize that sharing the joy of veganism is a powerful form of activism. I can advocate a clear and consistent message while staying true to my vegan ethics, and I can do it with kindness and compassion.
We can’t force change upon people; we can only inspire it. That’s what I hope to do; inspire change and maybe influence some non-vegan people.
What about you? Let’s talk about it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Photo / Maaike Flissebaalje