There is a teeny tiny part of me that I switch on to see things from a meat-eaters point of view. And sometimes (but not very often) I wish I could keep it on.
I suppose you could call it a coping method – tuning into the idea that of course humans are the most important beings in a world we’ve built and adapted to suit us; one in which animals are useful – providing us with food, tools, and warmth. A world in which each one of us is the most important.
Recently I’ve let my passion for veganism fall by the wayside. I still identify as vegan of course but I am constantly fretting my actions or at least my indifference doesn’t always reflect my compassionate choices.
I scroll through my Twitter feed and ignore the pleading eyes of pigs sent to slaughter, laboratory animals peering fearfully between bars, foxes torn to shreds, petitions against culls, circus animals and forest destruction. In fact I pretty much stopped going on Twitter. I pass homeless people on the street, because thinking about it will only cause me distress and frustration that I can’t do anything. Or maybe I can do something but I am too tired, or worse – lazy.
There are a lot of vegans who criticize fellow vegans for not taking part in campaigns, spreading the word, or doing some kind of advocacy. I get it.
My usual response is that I work full time and I don’t want to alienate people around me. But the truth is, if I really wanted to do something about it, I would. And that’s hard to admit.
And not just that but being vegan can often lead to predicaments in everyday life- from being the awkward one at a dinner party and being asked to buy meat or dairy for a family member to being cajoled into going to a farm park attraction or zoo with family. Sometimes it just feels easier to be ignorant.
Recently I sent a bouquet of flowers to a friend feeling low, and on behalf of two other friends. I refused to order the flowers with chocolate as suggested by my other two friends. I felt like a bit of a d*** but I knew if I relented, I was just letting my insecurities of what people think of me get in the way of my ethics. And they probably did think I was being harsh and unnecessary, and that still bothers me.
I rarely post vegan stuff on Facebook for the same reasons of worrying what people think. But if you can post one picture of the fearful expression of a sheep being transported to a slaughter house, hens crammed in cages or a Vegan Sidekick strip then maybe, just maybe, one person might take heed.
There are so many grey areas when it comes to creating an amicable balance between living in a manufactured human world where animal exploitation sadly makes up the heart, and an idealist one where all beings live alongside one another in sentience (like the one Simon Amstell imagined in his documentary ‘Carnists’) that it can become exhausting.
As a friend recently said, empathy can only be effective in moderation. Looking after yourself is also important because you could burn out either physically or mentally or both.
If I’m going to feel guilty all the time then I may as well switch that button on permanently and pretend animals don’t get abused,used and tortured physically and emotionally. And that cows permitted to potter around a green field aren’t suffering and wondering where their calf got taken to and whether they’ll come back. But in reality that’s not an option.
If I have time to lament over how guilty I am, then I have time to leaflet at a vegan event, or to research effective responses to questions or arguments, or to educate myself on effective advocacy. Even if it’s just one day out of a month.
And I will keep you posted about when and what I do because I’d hate for you to think I’m just an all-talk, self-righteous narcissist.