Compassion or Conflict?
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Being a vegan is rather like being in a group that many on the outside feel threatened by, and suspicious of. Why? If you start paying attention, going on vegan Facebook groups, doing some googling etc., vegans are seemingly hostile people. There's a huge amount of bickering in the vegan groups; vegans picking on vegans. This person isn't vegan enough because they smoke, or that person isn't vegan enough because on occasion they eat backyard eggs. Raw vegans are the only real vegans. If you're a vegan who loves to eat junk food (and trust me, there's plenty of vegan junk food), then you are not a serious vegan. If your food isn't “certified” vegan then you're really not playing the game properly. There are arguments about what to feed your pets that become so heated it's almost scary. I've left several groups because the level of hostility is counter productive everything I believe in.
People are strange creatures indeed. I think that any time somebody is making an effort in the right direction, no matter how small, then that should be applauded. Loudly and often. Instead, the person who ate a couple eggs that their friend who has pet chickens gave them is ripped to pieces. The person who owns a horse and (gasp!) rides it, is abusing animals because he/she dares to own a horse and then has the audacity to sit on it. The person who takes life saving medication that may have been discovered through animal experimentation has some serious explaining to do. Are these people the majority? No. Definitely not. I've met many lovely, kind people who do their best to discuss veganism and activism in a kind, compassionate mature manner. Unfortunately, as any large group, a few bad eggs (pun intended) can cast a dark light on everyone.
Maybe, it we were all to take a step back, and focus on what people are doing that promotes positive veganism, environmentalism etc.; maybe if we did that, then we could see the change that actually is happening. There are so many positives and yet, there are so many who are waiting to pounce on every transgression; waiting to yell “See! You are not as good a vegan as I am!. You aren't doing it right!” It rather reminds me of a bully in a schoolyard only on a much grander scale. I am, at times, uncomfortable being a part of this “group” of people, this small population that makes us all look bad. I cringe a little inside when I tell someone I'm a vegan. I wait for the backlash that often comes, and I'm convinced that, at least some of the time, that backlash is a result of people being exposed to the “extremist” end of veganism. I'm learning though, slowly but surely. I'm learning to answer the questions as openly and gently as I'm able. I try very hard to not judge; we are all on our own journey. It can be difficult to do this, however, when one feels a desperate need for change, when there is this urgency to make change happen now, to try and get people to see how needless all the suffering is and how many, if not all, environmental issues would improve with such simple changes. Difficult, but necessary.
Change cannot be forced, and when we turn on each other, we lose power and we lose the ears of those who thought maybe we were worth listening to. If we're bickering within our own ranks, why on earth would anyone want to join us?