Vegans are called many names by non-vegans, a few common names include “annoying”, “judgemental”, and “extreme”. I’ll examine the reasons behind this name-calling and explain how these names can be applied to non-vegans as well. We all might even learn something in the process.
Have you ever heard the idiom “the pot calling the kettle black”? If you know it already, skip ahead to #1.
There are two interpretations:
1) The first is about a pot and a kettle, who have both become equally blackened by being hung over a fire. When the pot calls the kettle black in this interpretation, it is accusing the kettle of a fault they both share.
2) The second is about a pot and a kettle as well, but in this case the pot has been kept over a fire (resulting in a dirty, sooty exterior), whereas the kettle has been kept on hot coals (resulting in a clean, shiny exterior). When the pot calls the kettle black in this interpretation, it is accusing the kettle of a fault that only itself possesses, as it is the pot’s own sooty reflection it sees in the shiny exterior of the kettle.
* Note that what is written below is about a large number, though not all vegans and non-vegans. There is an exception to every rule. I am not trying to generalize, but for those of you who can identify with this (and you know who you are) the following applies to you:
Have you ever said any of the following about vegans?
1. “Vegans are judgemental”
The very statement “vegans are judgemental” is judgmental in itself. However, there are a few differences in the reasons and type of judgement that is going on between us.
a) We are judgemental of you because you are causing the torture and murder of sentient beings, which is something many vegans morally object to.
b) We often are not judgemental of you as a person, but of your actions. You could be the nicest, sweetest, most caring person in every other respect, but the fact that you don’t show this side of yourself to animals who have done nothing to you is something that we tend to view as being inconsistent with your claimed ethical beliefs.
2. “Vegans are self-righteous and preachy”
self-righteous (adj.): a person who is smugly moralistic
preachy (adj.): having a tendency to give moral advice in a tedious or self-righteous way
If you’re coming from a religious standpoint (and you may not fully grasp the concept of the golden rule, which every religion has some sort of variation of), you reason that animals were given to us to use as we please; that their entire purpose — their entire reason for existing — is to be used and exploited by us for our gain. How is this not being self-righteous?
If you’re coming from a scientific/evolutionary standpoint (and you may think of yourself as some sort of badass he-man/she-woman nature-dominating hunter type), you reason that because humans are “at the top of the food chain” that we are somehow morally correct in exploiting them.
“Was there ever any domination that did not appear natural to those who possessed it?” ~ John Stuart Mill
In both cases you are viewing yourself as superior to someone else because of things they have absolutely no control over (called speciesism). You may often make a point of debating with vegans on issues regarding animal rights and on how you are morally correct in using animals to your benefit for either of the above “reasons”. How is this not being preachy?
In either case, I think you would benefit from reading my post: The Logic of Animal Rights.
3. “Vegans are pushy and annoying”
What’s pushy and annoying to me is having to see a never-ending chain of advertisements and endorsements from the moment I wake up to the moment I sleep, pushing pictures of dead mutilated corpses in my face; people laughing and dancing around while eating dead beings, mocking them and me with images of happy farm animals who want us to kill, eat, and steal from them; people next to me in the grocery store buying animal carcasses, talking about how “healthy” and “eco-friendly” their grass-fed beef and organic milk are. What’s worse is that I have to hear all of this from people I barely know, people I work with, friends, and even my family. You want to talk about who’s being “pushy and annoying”? — Look in the mirror.
4. “Vegans are weird”
It’s so weird to actually care about animals, the environment, and our own health. It’s so weird to eat a vegetable from the ground instead of a rotting carcass from a slaughterhouse. It’s so weird to not have to worry nearly as much about getting heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, or diabetes. It’s so weird to be a person who not only gives a crap, but is also doing something about the problems humanity faces such as deforestation, topsoil erosion, groundwater contamination, and endangered species extinctions. It’s so weird to be a person who practices what they preach. It’s so weird to be a true animal lover who doesn’t pick and choose which animals they love and which they subject to torture. If this is weird, then I don’t ever want to be normal.
5. “Vegans are disrespectful”
I suppose we all have our own definitions of “disrespectful”. For you, “disrespectful” might mean “calling me names such as carnist, speciesist, cruel, corpse muncher, etc.” or “talking to me about issues I would rather not hear about”. For me, “disrespectful” means “supporting and perpetuating the killing, abuse, exploitation, and torture of an animal for your own fleeting pleasure” or “not wanting to listen to the effects of your selfish actions”. I wonder who is just a tad bit more disrespectful: me, for calling you out on your actions, or you, for doing them?
6. “Vegans are extreme”
“For the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.” ~ Plutarch
Vegans are no more extreme than the heinous acts we are fighting to put to an end. What I see as extreme is ending an animal’s life and cutting his or her lifespan of many years down to just a small fraction just so you can eat one meal, when there are plenty of alternatives out there; consuming animal products in excess even though our bodies are physiologically not fit to digest them; taking a mother cow’s milk away from her baby calf so that fully grown, adult humans can drink it (as well as human children who have already weaned off their own human mother’s breast milk).
Most vegans are called “extreme” because the idea of abstaining from any and all animal products is something inconceivable for many meat-eaters. How do we survive? By actually knowing what we put into our bodies, paying attention to facts, and eating a varied plant-based diet. Think outside the meat-box. There’s a world of amazing food out there, if you’re willing to try it. Vegans get all the nutrition meat-eaters get, minus a significant amount of pound-packing saturated fats, inferior animal protein, and harmful LDL cholesterol.
Vegans are boycotting industries that conflict with their beliefs. If this is extreme, then the Montgomery Bus Boycott (which began after vegetarian, Rosa Parks, refused to sit at the back of a bus), the United Farm Workers lettuce and grape boycotts (led by vegetarian, Cesar Chavez), and the Swadeshi Movement (led by vegetarian, Mahatma Gandhi), are acts of extremism as well. In this case, I am very proud to be called extreme, as these historical acts brought about change that has benefitted society in many ways — changes that the majority of the population, as well as the governments of many countries, at one time thought were just as silly, futile, and extreme as veganism is perceived to be today.
7. “Vegans are elitist”
Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight; whose views and/or actions are most likely to be constructive to society as a whole; or whose extraordinary skills, abilities or wisdom render them especially fit to govern. ~ From Wikipedia
Based on the definition above, how exactly is it not elitist to rule and dominate over animals? Vegans are not trying to rule or dominate anyone, we are trying to stop people from doing these things to animals.
8. “Vegans are naïve and idealistic”
What you’re saying is that because vegans want to help the world become a free and peaceful place, that we are “naïve and idealistic”. I suppose you also consider Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks “naïve and idealistic” as well? No positive change would have ever occurred if not for strong people throughout history fighting for their ideals. If we give up our quest for a perfect world, we’ll stay stuck in evolutionary limbo. If the notable figures listed above lived by that philosophy imagine what our world would be like today. Would you want to live in such a world? Maybe it is not vegans being “naïve and idealistic” but rather non-vegans being cynical and pessimistic? Good luck improving the world with that attitude.
What strikes me as being truly naïve is overly trusting the false notion that everything the meat, dairy, and egg industries tell you is true. The belief that the environment isn’t being negatively impacted by animal agriculture; that animal products don’t play a part in the development of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis; that animals can’t feel the pain and torture inflicted on them from the moment they are born to the moment they are slaughtered. Naiveté goes beyond blissful ignorance — it’s easily accepting and believing that what we were told is true, even when what we can see proves it is not.
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard
9. “Vegans are overly sensitive”
Being sensitive to any degree can either help or hinder us in our dealings with the people around us. Coming across as either insensitive or overly sensitive depends largely on how one should react to the issue or situation at hand. The difference between being sensitive and being overly sensitive is that to be overly sensitive, one must be more sensitive than one ought. One cannot be overly sensitive when it comes to considering the feelings of others and how our actions impact their well-being, but one can be overly sensitive when it comes to taking offense at being called out for supporting actions which don’t take the aforementioned into consideration.
The Moral of the Story…
One can logically draw only one conclusion from all of this: two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because we both may exhibit some faulty behaviors, doesn’t somehow make these behaviors acceptable. We BOTH need to stop attacking each other. We’re like two kids in a shoving match pointing at each other saying “they did it first”, thinking this is a valid reason to continue fighting. It’s time to grow up.
To the vegans: Fighting fire with fire is not solving anything. By attacking non-vegans with blaming and name-calling we are accomplishing two things:
1) casting all vegans in a negative light (do you want their image of a vegan to be the one of you yelling and screaming about how they are a murderer?)
2) putting them on the defensive so they are sure not to listen or consider anything you are saying because they are too busy defending themselves
I am NOT saying to be submissive or moderate. You are right to be angry. I’m angry too. Being angry and loud can be beneficial in the right environment and when directed at the right target (ex.: home demo in front of the house of a vivisector). Yes, yell and scream at politicians and other string-pullers in government or at corporations like Monsanto and Tyson, but don’t yell and scream at the people that we once were ourselves. At some point in our lives we were just as ignorant, confused, and stubborn as they are, but we came around eventually.
To the non-vegans: Try to keep an open mind. Don’t have your mind made up before you even hear the information. You might learn something that could change your life.
“Re-examine all you have been told, dismiss what insults your soul.” ~ Walt Whitman
Accept the fact that you may not know everything. Realize that people who challenge the accepted ideas of the majority have always been met with resistance, but that just because things are new, revolutionary, or “weird”, doesn’t mean that they cannot be possible or beneficial.
Try to separate the message from the messenger. We don’t want to be your enemy. Sure, some of us come off a little strong — and some can even come off darn-right rude — but behind all of that is the urge to help. Realize that vegans are trying to help you when we talk to you about going vegan. We don’t like seeing our species kill animals, the planet and ourselves. We don’t want you to die of heart disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity. Even if the messenger is flawed, the message isn’t. Please don’t allow animals to continue suffering simply because you didn’t like the way someone talked to you about veganism. It’s not the animal’s fault. Of course this doesn’t excuse rudeness, but it certainly doesn’t void the validity of the message.