If there’s something all vegans have in common, it’s most likely the experience of being discriminated for their values and consequent dietary choices.
The hate of vegans runs through all social strata – I’ve heard nasty remarks from homeless and working class people, as well as from psychologists and celebrities.
The degree to which the ostracising of vegans is seen as perfectly socially acceptable, is exemplified quite well by this article on the BBC website, which claims to look at the reasons for anti-vegan hatred. However, beneath that seemingly neutral title lies just about as bad an abyss of ignorance and prejudice, as is easily found any where else.
The level of almost innocent belief in the hypocrisy of vegans, as expressed in the sentence “But even when vegans are coherent…” is staggering (and the “examples” for that supposed lack of coherency are insane). I’ve long since noted that methods of oppression are always the same, no matter who uses them against whom.
With the discrimination against vegans, people are of course projecting their cognitive dissonance, which could reasonably be called moral incoherence, They are not aware of the disconnection between what they eat and buy, and the animals they see around them, and often claim to love. But they react with intuitive defensiveness when this dissonance is threatened by the truth (i.e. veganism).
So there’s no doubt that everyone loves to hate vegans in our society, in order to uphold the status quo. But does that mean that they should be considered an official minority?
Apart from the simple fact that there are less vegans and vegetarians than carnists, the term minority usually also carries a legal connotation. There are ethnic minorities, for example, who are recognised by the law, and who are thus placed under special protection (at least in theory).
Perhaps closest in general nature to veganism, are religious minorities, as they too face discrimination based on their differing beliefs from a majority. This similarity became indirectly acknowledged by Canadian law in 2015, when secular beliefs were added to the list of creeds which fall under legal protection in the province of Ontario.
Based on this, firefighter Adam Knauff from Ontario filed a claim of being discriminated for his secular creed of veganism against his employer in 2019. He was denied vegan food when fighting forest fires in Williams Lake, B.C., and got suspended when he voiced his anger about this.
However, in July 2023 he was still waiting for his hearing, and the animal rights group Animal Justice was denied the role of intervenor in his case. Knauff received significant social backlash for his speaking out, he lost his job, and is suffering from the authorities’ slow proceeding.
Knauff’s experience is an extreme example of what psychologists Clare Mann and Shiri Raz have termed “vystopia” and “vegan’s trauma” respectively. The awareness of the unspeakable injustice done to non-human animals on a daily basis, along with the discrimination by other people and society at large, is a great source of affliction for many vegans.
Very frequently a lack of understanding and acceptance also is found in family and friends, leaving vegans socially isolated and ostracised.
“There’s some healing that needs to happen,” as Mark phrased it during his and Sharon’s interview on the Piece Of Heaven Project podcast.
This is one of the ideas behind the POHP retreat – giving “burnt-out” vegans a chance to rest and recharge, as well as to reconnect to the reason for being vegan in the first place.
It seems unlikely that vegans will be considered an official minority under the law any time soon, but of course the goal is to grow in numbers any way. And for that we need effective activism, which is powered by inspired vegans.
So if you suffer from "vystopia" as well, the key to healing is to connect - to yourself and others who share your vegan values.