A 30 Day Humility Challenge for Vegans
Be the change, don’t use the change to inflate your ego
Whether you look at it from an ethical point of view, an environmental point of view or, a health point of view, there are numerous benefits of the so-called vegan diet. I ate plant-based for three years during eighteen years of vegetarianism. Sometimes I still catch myself considering ‘becoming’ a vegan, but then I think, ‘What the hell am I talking about?’
The benefits of eating plant-based are profound, but I despise the idea of identifying as a ‘vegan’ and I am not alone. Why are people so averse to ‘becoming’ vegans? I think I know the answer.
Just as the hippies took the spiritual teachings and turned them into a cult, the vegans are doing the same with the plant-based diet.
It is widely documented that vegans have an uncanny ability to work their veganism into most conversations inappropriately.
Not all herbivores do this. There is such a thing as a quiet vegan. I have witnessed it. But don’t tell David Attenborough. He might produce a series on the search for such a rare creature.
A Vegan may argue that, in bringing the topic up constantly, they are educating the people. But, this argument lacks logic. Humans almost never change through getting an unsolicited lecture.
Usually, humans see something happening, they are inspired by it, and then they change to become like that thing. The lectures we receive from vegans are more likely to turn us off from ever becoming vegans.
Some time ago, a group of Vegans raided a steakhouse in Melbourne.
According to The Age:
Dozens of vegan protesters stormed a Melbourne steak restaurant on Saturday evening, shouting chants at diners using megaphones.
Thirty-five protesters from activist groups ‘Direct Action Everywhere — DxE — Melbourne’ and ‘Melbourne Cow Save’ marched into Rare Steakhouse on King Street in the CBD holding graphic posters of cows in slaughterhouses with slogans such as “Steak = violence, death and suffering”.
The motivation was probably good at some level, and I’m sure the ultimate goal, was to help the animals. But what was the immediate goal of the protest?
I look at the protest and ask two questions:
- Was the business affected in any way other than receiving free publicity?
- Did any of the customers stop eating steak as a result?
Was the business affected in any way other than receiving free publicity?
If it had been the steakhouse’s customers or, at least potential customers protesting, the business may have changed. But when the protestors are not your customers, nor even future customers, why would they care?
When egg consumers protested against battery farming, the industry was forced to change.
Vegans do not have this kind of power because by identifying as ‘vegan’, they remove all of their power as consumers.
Consumer power is one of the most potent forces in our society. Businesses do not have morals in most cases. Therefore the only change that a company will usually accept is one that will benefit them. If it means the difference between gaining or losing customers, they will make the change.
In this new era of consumer power, if you’re not at your customers’ disposal, you’re disposable. Even if it might feel counterintuitive, they understand that giving up some control to consumers is actually the best way to restore their power, especially in the digital age. (Forbes)
If you are a customer, they listen. If you are a potential customer, they listen. If you are neither, you are probably wasting your time.
Did any of the customers stop eating steak as a result?
The majority of people eat meat because it is delicious and because they are addicted to it. I know that meat is addictive because, after eighteen years of being a vegetarian, I got hooked again.
After barely craving meat in nearly two decades, I got the urge when a lifelong vegetarian friend said she wanted to try chicken and I agreed to try it with her, but I was scared. I had developed ‘meat fear’. I was afraid of people thinking, ‘He was the man who was a vegetarian, and now he isn’t. He must be a BAD person!’
Considering myself a non-egotistical person, which is a contradiction in itself, I was upset by this revelation that my vegetarianism had become a source of pride and this insight spurred me into an experiment.
I decided to eat meat again so I could give it up again when my pride and fear had dissolved. Simple enough.
I went to eat chicken with my friend. We walked around for an hour like scared children then ordered some chicken skewers.
My friend didn’t enjoy them, but I did.
After the weird sensation (mostly in my mind) passed, I felt different. I was liberated from fear and my body felt different. Over the next few weeks, I ate more meat and lost my appetite for vegetables. I became a carnivore — the King of the Jungle — and I had more energy, confidence and power. I turned away from greens and took up a meat-only diet. (I have an extreme personality). I started to feel angry, anxious and depressed and I got horrendous reflux.
My newfound power turned to tiredness and exhaustion. I remembered my initial plan to give up again, and I realised I had failed miserably. I had underestimated the addictive nature of meat and my ability to overcome it. I had become a meat junkie.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, remember the vegans protesting in the steak restaurant? The question was, will the customers change their eating habits?
Or is protesting in a steakhouse like going into a pub and protesting about the negative aspects of alcohol to alcoholics? Or like pitching the downsides of heroin to heroin addicts?
Meat eaters aren’t eating meat because they hate animals, or because they don’t know where meat comes from. Protests like this are sad because they presume that meat-eaters are violating some universal moral code and that they are bad people.
In reality, they are just enjoying their dinner. Many people don’t want to hurt animals, but they still eat steak. Heroin addicts know the dangers of heroin. Alcoholics and gambling addicts know lives are ruined by their habits. Still, they find it almost impossible to stop.
Nobody can argue that we are meant to be vegan. There is not a single creature on this planet that craves something other than its natural food. A gorilla craves plants. It is a herbivore. Cows don't dream about burritos. Lion’s don’t consider whether they are getting enough greens. As humans, we crave both meat and vegetables therefore we are omnivorous. This is indisputable. Does this make it morally okay? Probably not, but you can’t deny that the urge to eat meat is strong.
To tell people, it is wrong to hurt animals is preaching to the converted. It would be better to convince them that steak tastes bad since that is the deciding factor here.
I have found a more balanced dietary situation. I eat eighty per cent vegetarian, and I am okay with that. At first, I was disappointed to not be a vegetarian. But I realised that our identification with such labels does more harm than good.
Isn’t it the actions that matter and nothing else?
If I am vegetarian five days a week, isn’t that what matters? Arguing whether that makes me a vegetarian or not is like arguing about the qualities of fairies. It is something that does not exist. (Actually, I remain open to the existence of fairies).
This brings me to my point. If I am vegan three days a week and I call myself a vegan, how does that make you feel (as a vegan)?
- Do you feel any anger towards me, like I am claiming to be a fully-fledged member of your club when I am not?
- Are you using your veganism as a way to inflate your ego and identify yourself?
Vegan is just a word. If I am Vegan for the next thirty seconds, do I have as much right to call myself a vegan as someone who has been vegan for thirty years?
Aren’t we are defined by what we are in this moment? Think back to the worst thing you have ever done. Do you still define yourself by that today? Even if I had bacon for breakfast and I plan to eat fried chicken for lunch, I am a vegan because I am not consuming any animal products right now.
Most vegans will probably say that avoiding animal products is the essence of their veganism. But to test whether this is the way you feel try this:
For thirty days, do not admit to being vegan at any point and do not bring it up in any conversation. If somebody asks you if you are a vegan, say NO and see how your mind reacts.
Notice how your ego squirms when you go against it? You will be a better person as a result of this experiment. It is handy to remember that in some life situations it is more effective to walk the walk without talking the talk. People change because they are inspired by something. No one ever changes from being lectured to.
Ultimately, I don’t suggest you try my method of eating meat to overcome your pride because you may end up like me: ‘A recovering meat addict’. But, if you go about your business quietly, you will succeed in being the change you want to see in the world. You cant grow a tree faster by watering it more.
If it is really about the actions and you keep performing those actions, why should you care about the labels which bring no additional benefit to anything but your ego?
‘Loud’ vegans need to be aware of their own counterintuitive pride because, in a world where consuming fewer animal products would be good for everybody, your ‘Veganism’ is really getting in the way.
Photos: Ekrulila, 9GAG, The Age, Harry Dona, Arleen Wiese.
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