Vegans are generally very nice people. They care about the Earth, animals, and each other, which makes them pretty laid back and accepting. I know, because I’ve been a vegan for a few years now, and most of the vegans I’ve encountered are pretty chillax about this whole life thing.
Except when they’re not.
Have you ever seen a vegan rally? No? Lovely, let me paint you a picture. There are hundreds of tofu lovers assembled on what once was a quiet street, or outside of a stadium, or meat-market, or dairy farm. They are holding signs that depict very cruel acts being done toward very afraid looking animals. Chickens. Cows. Pigs. Kittens. Blood and mayhem and indescribable terror.
The people holding these signs are chanting phrases such as “Meat is Murder!” and look a bit scary with their furrowed brows and wide-open mouths.
I was once invited to a vegan rally, and I decided not to go because it seemed an awful lot like evangelism. Never encountered an evangelist either? Wonderful. Picture an old-ish, serious-looking man with a bald spot, wearing spectacles, standing on a street corner with a huge wooden cross. He stops to ask you,
“Do you know, for sure, that you’re going to heaven?”
You say something like, “No thank you” or “I’ve never seen that film, I’m sorry” or “Sarah with an H,” or “Yes I would very much like fries with that.”
As you walk away, this innocuous looking gentlemen shrieks, "SATANIST" while pointing a very long, very yellow fingernail at you.
Feel like going to church now?
Feel like going vegan?
The thing about any group of very passionate people, vegans or evangelists or left-wingers or right-wingers, is that they think (or they “know”) that their way is the best way. The only way. Everyone else be damned.
Except, depending on who you ask, the jury is still out on whether meat will kill you, and even though I personally cannot justify eating corpses, I can understand that not everyone shares my belief.
Isn’t that insane? Not everyone shares my belief. And not everyone agrees, believe it or not, that our president pussy-grabbing man is psychotic, or that public school teachers should earn more money because they are LITERALLY shaping our future. Some people believe men and men alone are capable of being CEO’s and despite the damaging repercussions of this belief, the people who believe it will likely believe it until they die.
I’m not saying we can’t change our own minds, or each other’s minds, I’m just saying that doing so forcefully, like by shoving a picture of a bloody chicken in someone’s face, is probably not the best way to enact change.
There is one thing that will forever be understood, across every sort of socially constructed divide we’ve invented, and that is love. (Yes, this is cliché, I know. Cue the eye roll). People are born with love. We all understand it. We learn fear, and hate, and embarrassment, and shame. We learn to be self-conscious. Worst of all, we learn to despise those who are different from us. Could anything truly be sadder? Even worse still is that we often don’t realize our own capacity for love. You are able to show love to anyone. You can. I promise.
“Sarah, you’re so naïve,” I’ve been told, about 100,000 times. But the people who hate that I love are fighting their own battles. It's not a me thing, it's a them thing. If I’m naïve because I believe that love wins, then I don’t want to know the cynical world, where love loses.
So, the next time you see a vegan protestor or a cross-wielding evangelist, maybe stop and listen. If listening is too difficult and painful for you, maybe just smile. Simpler yet, don’t let it ruin your day. The vegans are chill. The evangelist is out to save you (even if you don’t want or need saving) and the best thing you can do is approach each of them with an open heart.