Canadians have already celebrated this happy/horrible occasion back in October, and I've blogged about it over the years in more traditional ways (type Thanksgiving in the search bar if interested), so this time I thought I'd approach it a bit differently:
And while the line above may have come from a schmaltzy movie (which may be an unfair representation as I only vaguely recall seeing bits of it), I think it has a lot to say to both vegans and non-vegans alike.
The first sentence struck me as summarizing a typical view that many non-vegans hold of us: having a holier-than-thou attitude, defining our goodness by what (we would argue who) we won't eat, unnecessarily restricting ourselves from what others view as both tasty and healthy, and excluding folk who don't measure up to our definitions and expectations. And to a degree, they're right. That is, we place undue emphasis on things like meat, eggs and dairy, when as Norm Phelps says,
As vegans, we are not "giving up" meat, eggs, and dairy. We are giving up cruelty and killing. p193 Changing The Game
He's right. It's not about the animal products per se; it's about avoiding the suffering and death that go into the making of those products. But that's not quite right either. Or at least, not right enough. What vegans really try to do is not view animals as products or objects at all, but as beings with the right to live their own lives in their own ways. In other words, we try to respect all sentient beings and remember that our cause is about them, not us.
And in that sense veganism is about inclusion. Including all animals into our circle of compassion, consideration, and showing awareness of their needs and wants, which often mirror many of our own. Family, companionship, safety, security, joy, play, food, shelter, and above all, life. But in many ways, vegans are quite good at excluding others. Other vegans who don't share our philosophies and strategies (I'm guilty of this, for sure), vegans who we feel aren't vegan for quite the right reasons, and non-vegans who are willing to step part of the way onto the vegan path, but not the whole way.
We sniff with disdain at vegetarians, flexitarians, reducetarians, and those who are only veganish, even though the demand for analogs of all kinds is often driven by those who aren't ready to give up animal products altogether. In other words, we bite the hands of those who are helping to feed the demand for less animal suffering. This doesn't mean I wouldn't encourage those individuals to go vegan, but I wouldn't denigrate them either for what they're willing to do right now.
So maybe what vegans need to become better known for is what we say yes to. Instead of being equated with deprivation and restriction, veganism might expand more if it was associated with something that's joyful and celebratory. Not that a misanthropically inclined individual such as myself would be a good role model, snort. No, I'm thinking more of folk like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and Esther's amazingly upbeat dads.
Perhaps if we aspire to be more like them, and to pass on the message in a more positive way, we wouldn't have such a hard time persuading people to go vegan. Maybe we need to become less No people and more Yes people. Maybe being vegan, and even veganism itself, needs to be more fun. And maybe we need to embrace and recreate a truly inclusive veganism that better reflects that.
Then again, we can't lose sight of why most of us became vegan in the first place: to stop the torture and killing of other animals. So if it's not about us, what should our pleasure and fun have to do with it?
As usual, I'm thinking out loud. What are your thoughts on this?