I am constantly surprised when I meet individuals who have no knowledge or awareness of what a vegan is. I have even met one individual who, when I explained that I was vegan, thought that the word meant I came from the planet Vega, and I was having a joke with them!
Awareness is critical. You’d have to be an alien visitor not to know what a vegetarian was, but veganism still takes people by surprise. It’s still a minority that have full-blown knowledge of the suffering and death that is still caused by eating dairy, eggs, or any product that comes from another creature. If nothing else, knowing of the harm that is perpetuated in our names may be a way of provoking thought and consideration, and if this is the beginning of change for some, we should all be broadcasting the desperate need to end this suffering, loud and clear.
But if you then consider the import (if not the actual words) of previous blogs such as ‘Actions Speak Louder Than Petitions’ or ‘Time To Shout About What You Believe In’, you might find yourself asking “How much of a difference am I making personally, in ensuring that the message gets out?”
For most people, the greatest issue is possibly one of platform. What opportunities do they have to espouse beliefs and prick the consciences of those around them? We don’t all have blogs, websites, or even people who are interested in hearing what we have to say. If you’re one of those who doesn’t, have you ever thought about using yourself or your vehicle as a vegan billboard? The internet is replete with websites that offer clothing espousing veganism. They are almost limitless in the varying styles (and degrees of taste!) available. Some companies will make items to your personal colour specification, or even with the precise wording you want. Elsewhere (although often on the same sites) a vast range of vegan bumper stickers, car magnets and decals are available. The ones that adorn our SUV mimic the 'Intel Inside' logo (see the mini version below - it's much bigger in real life). And if you see me out and about in warm weather, the chances are I will be wearing one of my vegan T shirts (my personal favourite one is above, but no, unfortunately that’s not me modelling it!)
I have no problem broadcasting exhortations to those around me. Consider the alternative: The fashion industry likes to make us walking advertisements for their brands and products. Many people will pay vastly inflated prices for fairly ordinary items of clothing, just so that they may be seen to be associated with a vogue name. For my part (and many years ago now), I used to only purchase Ralph Lauren clothing simply for the cachet I felt the little polo player logo offered. But how facile a choice that was. What a waste of an opportunity for me to proclaim something that was worthwhile; something that I actually believe in.
So why don’t we all become walking adverts for the vegan cause? How many of you reading this are prepared to make a point to your friends and those around you? Don’t you want to stand up for what you believe in? Don’t you feel that strongly about it? Don’t you want to make a difference, even in such an undemanding, passive manner? Are you afraid?
Well, it could be that when faced with a real live vegan, a carnatarian’s response could run to anything from disdain and teasing, to out-and-out abuse and ridicule. When habit and deeply held beliefs are challenged, even in an ambient fashion, conflict may ensue. Recognise that if this were the case, a perpetrator would be displaying another sort of fear. That fear is a deeper and more unsettling one than anything which will be experienced by the hapless vegan, because it is borne out of an insidious, deep-seated knowledge that carnism is a despicable act of cruelty that is fundamentally wrong, at any moral, intellectual or spiritual level you may care to explore it on. Reactionary responses are always a possibility.
Does that mean that you should hold back?
In truth, the worse thing I have encountered is people whispering behind my back (literally) as some of my T shirts use double sided messaging (why waste a selling opportunity?). More often, I have been the recipient of interested comments, approbation, thanks, and even a request for to “Give me a high five, brother” (from a shelf stacker in Superstore!). But most significantly, what I wear has prompted questions and raised awareness. I see no reason why it should be any different for you.
So, the next time you decide to update your wardrobe, think about adding something that is meaningful; something that might just make a difference. Don’t be afraid to be a walking advertisement for a kinder way of living. Be proud of what you believe in and let everybody else know about it. Ralph Lauren really doesn’t need you. Animals do!