Krista is a certified nutritionist, animal rights advocate, author, business owner, and supporter of diet as a cure for cancer.
Vegan? Never heard of it
Twenty years ago you couldn't go into a restaurant and expect the server would know what you meant when you said you were vegan. You'd try to explain that it simply meant you didn't eat any animal products, but the confused, or shocked expression on their face was a sure sign this was only the beginning of the difficulties that would follow.
The understanding that eggs and cheese were animal products was inconceivable to many back then. Even chicken broth had to be explained as not only lacking in veganism, but far removed from vegetarianism. The need for this to be explained seems ridiculous, and even down-right stupid, but in a way, as I'll discuss below, it's completely understandable.
Yes, things have come a long way since then. Not only do most people in the U.S. know what veganism is, but many restaurants now offer vegan options. It definitely isn't perfect, and believe it or not, the question of whether or not chicken and fish is okay for vegans, does still pop up on occasion.
Anyone who's been raised in a society is in essence raised by that society. Here in the U.S., we're raised to eat meat and dairy. The "Four Food Groups" were deeply ingrained in us at a very young age as the correct way to eat in order to be healthy. Even vegetarian households are consistently exposed to SAD (standard American diet) everywhere they go: Schools, fairs, amusement parks, other children's homes, etc. We're taught right away to separate which animals are for love, and which animals are for food. For me this caused a great amount of confusion and heartache. From an early age, eating animals was an act I wished I didn't have to partake in. I don't know if everyone goes through this same confusion before finally accepting it as a fact-of-life, but it's a desensitization process that's been very effective for the majority of people.
Once this thought-process is secured, changing it is a very difficult thing to do. It requires not only the desire to do so, but the act of completely rewiring our own brains. Couple that with the fact that our bodies become accustomed to the food we've been trained to eat, and something very similar to an addiction takes place. Children raised without any refined sugar in their diets finally being allowed to eat a candy bar for the first time, think it tastes ghastly. Our bodies are so tricked into believing we need meat for sustenance, it will think it's starving without it. I couldn't feel full no matter how much I ate when I first gave up meat. It made me give up trying a few times, but I kept going back and forth for two years, until eventually, in 1994, the effects of withdrawal ended, and that was the end of meat-eating for me.
For a lot of people, the need to rewire their brain to eat differently is not only elusive, but a thought that's never crossed their minds. Why change their diet? The standard American diet is the one they were taught to eat, it's what they're used to, and they're perfectly happy with it; so why change? Further more, why would anyone else want to change their diet, either? Why would they want to put themselves in such a slim minority they become outcasts at every party, function, and outing? Why would they want to bring their own food everywhere they go, or abstain from eating at all if they're somewhere non-vegetarian friendly?
If no one's ever told them why someone would choose a vegetarian diet, and if they've never seen or been exposed to the reasons why, how can they be expected to relate to it, let alone grapple their minds around it?
It was a foreign language many had never heard of before, and for the others who had, they just weren't interested in learning it.
More people may be open to it in this day and age than ever before, but that doesn't mean it isn't still a difficult, and often times, undesirable choice to make, regardless of the benefits.
And that is...okay.
But let's check-in with the vegan Nazi's on that one.
The Vegan Nazi
The above picture is the perfect example of true fascism. We can see instances of political parties accusing the other one of being fascist simply because they don't share the same beliefs as the accusers. They don't see that by pushing their ideals on others, they're also being fascists. It doesn't even have to be a question of what's right and wrong; everyone seems to have their own opinion of what those differences are, anyway, and right and wrong is beside the point when dealing with fascism.
Whenever someone forces their views and beliefs on another person and expects them, or forces them to adopt them, it's fascism. There's a fine line between that, and healthy debate to get an argument across and even that is unwarranted if the other person didn't ask for it, or doesn't want it. It doesn't matter if the issue a person is pushing is an important one, or even the right one, if they're pushing their ideal on an individual, it will not only get lost, but most likely completely buried. It makes sense. When someone is forcing their religious beliefs on me, which just happened yesterday in a grocery store, my first reaction is to say no thank you, and walk away. Unfortunately I was in line and stuck with her. I told her I wasn't interested in the card she was trying to push on me, but she kept on; telling me about the lovely rainbows in heaven if I accepted Jesus Christ into my life.It was uninvited, and obviously unwanted, yet she continued until I was quite annoyed. She didn't give a single care whether or not I was uncomfortable with her advances, and whatever message she was so desperately trying to get across was not only lost, but archeologically buried.
It's been a number of years since I've been in the thick of the animal rights/vegan movement, but I still see that vegan fascism is going strong, particularly on social media. It's part of the reason why I chose not to pursue veganism more seriously long ago. So many of the vegans I knew behaved overly militant and seemed, well, crazy, not to put too fine of a point on it. They would come into a person's house and search their cupboards for any sign of non-vegan foods; they would question them if they were vegetarian, and tell them they were setting a poor example and should be vegan; if anyone, vegan or otherwise, had beliefs out of line with their own in any way, they risked beratement, judgment, and/or shunning.
I believed for a long time that this craziness could've been from malnutrition, or possibly a good argument for the B12 deficiency theory. Being as I still haven't gone crazy after being fully vegan for some time now, I know their craziness or radicalness is most likely NOT from any kind of deficiency. I thoroughly believe it's just a really bad case of self-righteousness, coupled with a strong sense of powerlessness. They believe the world would be a better place if everyone adopted their beliefs, but have no power over what other people do so they get forceful about it. I've seen this urgency get much more intense in people who've been in the movement a very long time. They begin to loathe people, and the human race in general, and can't see much past that. I admit I was beginning to move in that direction, myself. All I could see was the planet getting sicker and sicker, and more and more animals suffering because of the selfishness of humans, and most people in the world being obtuse about it, or just downright ignoring it. What put me in check were two things; number one, I own a business and have to work with people everyday who are NOT even vegetarian, let alone vegan. This extends to most of my family members, too. Do I hate these people? Absolutely not. I love my family and clients and not a single one of them is vegetarian, or involved in any movement for change in any way (except my mother is primarily vegan). If I hated people who I believed were part of the problem, I'd have to hate everyone, and I simply can't do that. Number one made me very aware of number two, which is the fact that we're all connected as inhabitants of this amazing planet, even if none of us really deserves to be here. There's a third component to this, too, and that was to free myself from the unproductive burden of living in hate and anger. Confucius say, "holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die." I don't think Confucius really said that, but it sounds like something he'd say, and it's a great motto to live by, nonetheless.
Vegan Nazi's believe that if you're not completely vegan, and don't hold onto their ideals, you're contributing to the problem, which happens to be the destruction of the earth and the cruelty and extinction of other species. They don't take into account that their behavior may be contributing to the problem, but in a different way. By pretending they're perfect and angrily forcing their ideals onto others, they're turning people completely off from the movement. No one wants to be associated with a crazy, militant, fascist; let alone BE one!
I saw someone make a comment to someone else who was posting a lot of messages about the plight of abused horses, but was known to support horse-racing. The commenter had gotten fed up with all the contradictory messages he was sending out, so she gently brought it to his attention that race-horses suffered tremendously, too. That year alone, eight had died as a result of breaking their legs. I never saw him post another message about horse-racing again, so hopefully that seed flourished.
Just because someone is vegan and doing everything they can to limit their carbon footprint, doesn't mean they're not causing a negative impact in other ways. Being human is to be part of the problem to some degree or other. With that being said, It isn't a vegan's job to judge anyone or their individual contribution to that footprint. It's the vegan's job to live as an example by doing the best they can do, and if choosing, by HELPING others to achieve whatever goals they've set for THEMSELVES, IF asked. That includes supporting them at whatever pace is comfortable for them. If they're eating vegan, but wearing leather, let them. If they're vegetarian, but wearing fur, let them. If they eat meat, let them. If they want to eat fake meat products, or other junk food, let them. Do not berate them for not being as perfect as you may be. There are effective ways to initiate debate about most subjects, but if it can't be approached without disdain or anger, then don't touch it. If the other person isn't interested in your debate, don't touch it. Eventually more connections may process for the fur-wearing vegan, or maybe they won't. We are the seeds of change, not the enforcers of change, and certainly not the persecutors for those who don't fit in our perfect definitions of what a vegan is, or what a vegetarian is, or who's the source of the problem, or who's not doing enough to enact change. Until we, as established vegans, realize that, we're only going to do more harm than good.
Every one of us is interconnected, even the vegan to the hunter, because history has shown us that even a hardcore cattle rancher can suddenly go vegan and become an activist for change (Howard Lyman). But always remember that the higher the horse you pulpit from, the less likely your voice will carry to those who already aren't listening. If there is such a strong, frustrating, burning, desire to ride that high-horse, steer that sucker straight into the legislature and lobby for the change you seek. Redirect that energy into something positive! If nothing else, you'll be kept quite busy!
The Product of Change
Once the brain rewiring happens, other changes can start taking place in the brain, too, such as other connections that were lost through the programming of our youth. If we didn't see it before, we may start to see that the pig is just as deserving of life as the dog, and that all life has value across species. We become more aware of the creepy spider moving across our ceiling, and less reactive to killing it. More questions seem to start popping up, too, and we may be able to see things through a different, possibly clearer, filter than we might have before. There's a sense of empowerment that goes along with such a big change. A sense of being closer to what's natural and fair in the world, than the other way around.
I view my veganism as a spiritual and physical freedom, but it was difficult, at first. It was much more like a sacrifice, but a sacrifice I was more than ready to make. I not only had to rewire my brain to accept the fact that I didn't need cheese to live, but I had to retrain the way I lived, too. I couldn't just go out to eat with everyone anymore. I had to plan ahead, sometimes days ahead, and many times, just not go at all. I had to train myself to like cooking and preparing my own meals, because I never really enjoyed cooking before. It was a big adjustment, even though I was already a practiced vegetarian, becoming vegan added a whole new level to it, and that seemed to add more levels to my consciousness. Like anything else, it just takes practice. Any vegan who said it was an easy transition for them was either raised that way, or they've forgotten. It isn't easy, even though the rewards are well worth it.
Being patient, caring, and understanding with other people is a big key to enacting change, whether it's diet, or any other aspect of lifestyle. If vegans can just think back to the time when they weren't vegan, but just as clueless as anyone else, the hate and persecutions will stop. With the population of vegetarians and vegans ever increasing, every single person we come across has the potential to become part of the change we in the vegan/animal advocacy movement have been hoping would come. Education is key, and support just as important. If we band together in unity, rather than in competition and judgement, I think even more progress will be made. It can be as simple as recommending a good vegetarian/vegan restaurant, or cookbook to someone who's interested in knowing.
In turn, if a vegan Nazi passes your path and stops for a while to unload on you without provocation, try not to take it too personally. Move-on and try not to hold it against the movement itself. Not every vegan is a Nazi about it, and most, in fact, are very tolerant and understanding of other people and lifestyles. Just don't start the debate if you really don't want it! I don't go on a long spiel about my diet when people ask me how I get my protein, I just tell them that all protein is originally plant derived, mine just comes unfiltered.
I know it's idealistic and probably a bit unrealistic to believe everyone in the world will suddenly go vegan, but things are definitely looking up. Eating vegan these days is as easy as ordering from Grubhub. The town next to mine has at least four, fully vegan restaurants within it's city limits, and more are springing up all the time.
I never believed vegetarianism/veganism would get to this point in my lifetime so who knows what the next twenty years will hold. I'm guessing it's going to be pretty amazing!
Keep planting those positive seeds, whatever they may be!
Thank you for reading! I welcome any and all discussion on this important topic.
© 2019 Krista D'Ambroso
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 23, 2019:
This is an interesting article about vegans and the vegan nazis. I never heard of them. I think people have a right to choose without being harrassed by vegan nazis.
Many more restaurants have vegetarian options now, which makes life simplier.