I became vegan almost two years ago. I decided I wanted to make a small difference to our world, and now everyday, I make important choices that are directly saving the lives of animals; helping to reduce the supply and demand economics of animal-based industry and commerce (therefore not relying on multinational companies as often); and supporting local businesses, who are battling the inequalities of both killing animals, and the Zero Waste movement.
But for 18 years of my life, I ate meat. For 19 years I was not vegan, and I know (alongside a couple of my best friends, who are an incredible support system for me, as they became vegan too) how hard transitioning to veganism can be. The food is the easy part. The difficulty is linked to your upbringing. Childhood books lie to us about what dairy farming is like; there are stories depicting happy farms with happy animals and happy people. We are taught that we are supposed to eat 5 fruit or vegetables a day, but when that’s the only thing we choose to eat, it’s ‘not good for us,’ and we ‘need’ the meat. Our culture and the discourse surrounding food and its advertisement (‘milk will make your bones strong’) is how we are fundamentally socialised into believing that animals are ours to consume, use, and watch in circuses. How can animal lovers love animals if they eat them? Of course, because so many people are not vegan (and I do not want to vilify non-vegans, as I once ate meat, and have many friends who do so) the answers that veganism provides, in regards to how eating animal products make us ‘stronger’ or ‘healthier’, falls on deaf ears.
Some people don’t want to know. But with consistency and kindness, you can explain how veganism benefits the individual and the masses. Think about when you were not a vegan (or are on the cusp of transitioning). What would you want to hear? What would make you want to become vegan? For me, the answer is how synonymous veganism is with environmental impact. Everyday I feel like I am accomplishing a goal; lowering my carbon footprint, reducing water wastage and preventing needless suffering. I am not a vegan to be better than anyone else, I am a vegan to be the best (still trying!) version of myself.
Other people (including some of my previous housemates, who I have discussed this topic with at length) are interested in veganism’s arguments, and can understand its moral positionality, but have decided that the La Vie Vegan is not for them. They have got their own routines, their own likes and dislikes, or their own cuisine. That’s okay. Social conditioning is strong, and some people do not want to draw attention to themselves, or seem different in today’s society. At social gatherings or parties or restaurants, people often target, mock or extensively question me about my dietary choices; people try to catch vegans out. Therefore, as much as I enjoy my friends’ company, it is also important to surround yourself with people that do not think factory farming is an acceptable lifestyle to contribute to.
We are almost 30 years away from 2050 (is a vegan future possible?), and social media is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to connect with other like-minded people. Since I decided to cut my dependence on animal products, social media and the internet has allowed me to educate myself, and deepen my interest and awareness of the inequality, injustice, and unjust social movements; such as sexism, racism and ableism, that exist within the power structures that daily control our lives. Seeing other people, of other nationalities, and cultures, and also similar ones to yourself, signifies how uniting veganism is, and how unnerving it can be against the people who see animals as money. By watching protests, activists, and documentaries, I am continually inspired by what other vegans are doing to protect animals’ rights. By 2050, there will be a rise of activists are celebrities and children using social media to present their own views on veganism and disseminating their understanding, and it is crucial that we listen; we need to elevate vegan voices.