Watch any documentary about animal abuse or the meat industry, and you will be convinced that veganism is an ethical global lifestyle, and not just because it ameliorates the grotesque conditions under which animals are forced to live. Environmentally, veganism is an antidote to most of the issues we, as a planet, face today, including carbon emissions, toxic waste, deforestation, the extinction of wild animals, the wealth gap, and excess water usage. Veganism also presents an alternative to privilege that includes dietary meat, animal – based clothing and makeup, and pharmaceuticals. Politically, it creates a rebellious route against ingrained societal greed and ignorance, as well as the fusion of capitalistic endeavor and legislation.
So, why aren’t more people vegan? Obviously, it involves an element of sacrifice, which some may find difficult to conform to. However, there are millions of people in this world who are highly capable of converting. The root issue, therefore, lies in awareness.
While we undeniably live in a world still influenced by racism and sexism, these perceptions have at least been validated as existent. The issue about to be birthed into controversy is that of “speciesism.” In the documentary Earthlings, every being on the planet is described as an equal inhabitant of the earth. The documentary suggests that we are obligated to live consciousnessly under a greater force of nature that transcends political barriers, varying ethical beliefs, and even differences between species.
Bezawit Hailu, an international student, is a vegan. Last Friday, she gave an important seminar on the inhumanities of the meat industry. In doing so, she objectively discussed the major flaws in the Western diet and superiority complex in regards to the rest of the planet. Her seminar is a good example of raising awareness without forcing judgment onto those who were previously ignorant of their responsibilities as dominant species.
James Aspey is an animal activist who remained silent for one year to promote awareness about veganism. In an interview, he says that he “went voiceless because they are voiceless – I thought. But then I realized they’re not actually voiceless. They cry in pain… The problem is that we’re not listening, because they have wings instead of arms… they have fur, they have scales… they’re a different species. So we don’t take their suffering seriously.”
All this said, the attention that veganism garners threatens it with becoming another ephemeral cultural obsession, status amplifier, or personal competition. It is a beautiful decision, but one that requires much thought, dedication, and self – actualization. Like any spirituality, there is a fine line between passion and radicalism. For example, as a former anorexic, an unhealthy vegan routine offered me a glorified path into starvation.
Now, when speaking to some outspoken vegans, I feel judged at times because of my perceived “selfishness,” lack of “discipline” or my unfortunate allergy to legumes. Here’s a phrase more people should be aware of: dietism. There may be a reason why James Aspey decided to lead by a wordlessly profound example.
The reality is that I, like many others, am trying to find my way to the true veganism that encompasses societal and personal respect. Don’t judge those of us who are carefully, intentionally, wading into the waters yet again. By nature, veganism is a yin – yang of the individual and the great society of life, and only begins with changes in diet. It is corrupted when it becomes an idol of self – promotion and materialism, and no longer stands for the shared spirit that drives all beings of life on earth. Veganism cannot exist without fluidity between the species of the self and of the world.