“My family isn’t supportive.”
“I can’t get the nutrients I need to meet my fitness goals.”
“I can’t eat anything.”
“The jokes and public ridicule never stop.”
“My husband only eats meals with meat.”
“I crave animal products all the time.”
NONE OF THOSE ARE THEM.
Do you notice any vegans complaining about these things? No – not anyone who commits to a vegan lifestyle in full for a time period long enough to reap the benefits. Why is that? Because these are actually excuses or ideas perpetuated by dominant culture, and by people who aren’t vegan. These may be occasional annoyances for vegans, but things that are truly, actually hard? No. They’re reasons people give themselves to not go vegan, because if you’ve never done it, how would you know what’s hard about it? The interesting thing about choosing to omit as much harm as possible from your life is that your perspective on what is “hard” drastically changes, because your priorities and the way that you view the world shifts dramatically. Let me explain.
1) Dominant culture assumes that vegans think we’re superior to everyone. That we’re “preachy” and believe that our moral framework is the only one that matters. The hard part about that: We are vegan because we DO NOT believe that we’re superior to anyone. Illegitimizing and silencing social movements is the norm, therefore dominant culture and what is accepted as truth is what takes on an actual role of superior “knowledge.” We are actually challenging that superiority with a different framework.
The idea that humans are the superior species is rooted in religion and history (patriarchy and white supremacy) and science has been used to justify colonization and destruction of our planet based on this assumption. Animals are here for us, not with us, and therefore we should dominate them and consequently dominate nature and the earth. Even so, throughout history only the most privileged groups of humans have truly benefited from this thinking. From my experience, even the vegans who stop eating animals for health or environmental reasons eventually conclude that we are not superior to all the other souls on this planet, we were just lucky enough to be born into the body of the species that happens to be on the top of the food chain for this very short blip in time. But the universe is vast, and to assume my life is more important that anyone else’s is not only foolish, but naive and selfish. The proof is in climate change, preventable disease, species extinction, world hunger, and institutionalized inequality.
Ultimately, I do not think that we can break down systems of power and inequality without realizing that each day, 99% of the population is choosing to dominate and kill other species based on the idea that we are inherently superior. And these choices are not only killing animals, but our earth and ourselves as well.
2) Watching my friends and family members pay to perpetuate a system I strongly want to dismantle is hard.
The closest thing I can compare this experience to is the connection people are now making with “the personal is political.” Whether you choose to admit it or not, the food choices (and basically every choice you make) is a political one. You vote for the world you want to live in every single time you spend money or make a choice. How you live your day-to-day life is your political position whether you’re willing to admit it or not, just by existing and navigating throughout your day.
Some people are beginning to realize this, and it makes it harder to separate our friends and family from their political choices. Rightfully so. It seems that until recently many of us were willing to overlook our loved ones’ behaviors and somehow compartmentalize them into a political box separate from their identity. In my opinion, that is absurd.
Therefore, choosing to be vegan is a political choice. Watching friends and family claim to love animals but then eat and wear them makes no sense. Having those closest to me seem disturbed by violent and horrific factory farming practices pay their hard-earned money to keep these businesses afloat shakes me. Most people claim to be kind and compassionate – in theory we want to do as little harm as possible because we are empathetic beings. But we have separated ourselves from our food production to the extent that our values directly contradict our behaviors. And many of us are complicit to continue down this path of least resistance even though the cost is so high. We’re consuming death, and therefore we’re dying and our planet is dying. It’s impossible for me to accept that once you know these things your behavior wouldn’t change. But most of the time, for most people, it doesn’t.
Accepting that our friends and family are the ones working in direct opposition to our goals and their own best interest (even when most of them know the truth) is hard.
3) Going vegan will cause you to hold yourself at a higher standard of behavior, and therefore recognize that it is your responsibility to challenge this unjust world to help it become better. You have to do this through example, and some are waiting for you to fail. That is hard.
It’s an extremely complex thing to explain, but once you begin to reject violence as normal, everything in your life will change. There is a consciousness shift that occurs once you remove harm from your day to day life that will ripple positivity outward into everything you do. For me, this began with going vegetarian, then vegan, then I began asking myself what other ways I’m contributing to harmfulness in the world. How can I be better? I can shop locally, I can be more mindful of the clothes I buy, I can support companies who value animal and human rights above a larger profit margin. Going vegan influences all of your decisions, and I would argue, only in a positive way. It’s like you’re systematically eliminating the negativity from your life when you stop accepting it and paying for it.
Personally, I’m more motivated to reach fitness goals because I feel more physically capable. I quit drinking alcohol altogether and try to eat less processed foods which has vastly diminished my depression and anxiety. Intellectually, veganism has encouraged me to keep learning. For the first time in years I feel motivated to write so I started this blog and have been freelancing a bit on the side. And ultimately I’m realizing that my purpose is pushing me toward education and activism so I can more formally teach these ideas. And the best part of all these positive changes is that they multiply, and spread from person to person, making my relationships and community better.
Because all of this is so AMAZING and life-changing, vegans want to share it with everyone. And few people are willing to listen, and even fewer people are willing to change. So this can be discouraging, sad, and frustrating. It can be difficult to not feel defeated and depressed because the world is changing slower than we’d like it to. That is hard.
But I come back to that mantra: “Choose your hard.” I’ve chosen truth over convenience, and I believe that is the key to happiness. As Shawn Achor says: “Happiness is striving toward your potential.” Unless you’re willing to face these truths, I don’t believe you can achieve your potential as someone who can enact change outside of yourself to make the world better. Veganism helps to widen your lens outside of your own selfish ego and personal needs to recognize knowledge is peace and that these issues are much larger than ourselves.
The “hard” things in my life now stem from a place of compassion, kindness, and positive social change.