In this excerpt taken from Chapter 2 of the new book “Think Like A Vegan,” co-authors Emilia A. Leese and Eva J. Charalambides push readers to take the first step on a journey that’s kinder to the planet, humans and animals.
Vegans Don’t Need Capes
The heroism of veganism is overstated.
We get asked if it’s true if you’ll lose weight, or live longer, and if 100 animals will be spared because of you. People inquire as to whether we’ve always had clear skin, the endurance to run, or the ability to craft social-media-worthy meals. ‘Oh,’ people exclaim upon the news of how we live, ‘that’s really amazing. I wish I could do that.’
We’re not sure how, but veganism has been inappropriately characterised as a spandex-wearing vigilante who isn’t only saving animals, water and land, but ourselves. Veganism has been made out to be the near impossible answer to all of life’s most fearsome villains, and the sometimes-insurmountable barriers to the freedom, body size, or comfort we expect from it. You’ve done your part; you had a vegan chocolate-chip cookie today.
Veganism isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel, or the rope that’s going to get you out of your hole. It won’t illuminate darkness with hints of glitter, or give you the energy to pretend you’re now the indestructible force, gleaming poster child or leading example this world needs.
Despite what social media tells us, veganism won’t make you perfect, encased in a bubble of kale and green smoothies. You’ll still choke on water. Pain and sadness will still find a way into your depths. You aren’t suddenly able to magically overcome what can harm you.
At times, it won’t just be the menu stacked against you. Being unable to find a wool- free formal suit might stir up something in you. The way they always forget to include you
in the office treat day will sting more than the stuck tongue at the end of a carmine-coloured popsicle. You’ll feel the weight of every single person who decides veganism is too hard, and wonder for yourself if it truly is.
You’ll think of every docked tail, every clipped beak; the farm and domestic animals without plush beds to dream on, and those who have whips and hot stage lights for homes. You’ll imagine the eyes and cries of small faces who, despite never asking to be born, have found themselves to be a pawn in this unfair game, where a biased few decide the fate of the many innocents.
You might even wonder how they see you as a pawn. How they managed to first make you believe what we all do is right, and then how they work to make us believe we don’t belong when we don’t take part. It won’t be as straightforward as a bumper sticker slogan or a catchphrase. It will be something constantly begging you to pay attention, be present, make good choices and stand up, go again, and improve.
It’s not about how you’ll feel, or how you’ll do. It’s never been about whether your body will respond or how your mind will fare. You aren’t on a 21-day challenge to perfection, to being able to slide into that cape with the effort and grace that shows everyone you’re infallible. Being vegan isn’t about you.
Being vegan won’t get you the girl, the boy, the job or the celebrity status. It doesn’t exist for your posts, scrapbooks or holidays. It’s not the unbelievable feat of the hero who bounds from rooftop to rooftop, sending shockwaves down into the homes of everyone around you.
Then again, the heroism of veganism is understated.
Veganism makes you feel a bit less small, like maybe you have the strength and speed to tackle some of the horror in the dark alleys of the world. It’s a very small piece of your puzzle, helping you to complete the full picture of your own personhood. You might not get to feel the joy of an embrace from a rescued animal, but you’ll also not have to suffer knowing you’re wearing what’s been taken from them. Seeing the windows of a butcher shop may remain a thorn in your side, but it’s a powerful sword tucked neatly against your other hip. Your ability to fight against what’s expected will need to be understood, questioned, shared. And you’ll get to choose exactly how you explain veganism to others.
You’re not the misery of animal exploitation and its death, fear, hate, pain, separation, loneliness, greed, mistrust, illusions, deceptions, horror, entrapment and shackling. You’re not burdened to trudge on a path forged for you by someone else, bought and sold and bought again in a vicious cycle that once forced you to be a part of the process.
You may look the same, feel the same and act the same, but you’re not the same.
You’re already everything that veganism promises: its goodness, love, caring, understanding, patience and perseverance. You know it’s not about you but about the animals, and you do it because it’s the right thing to do. And without fanfare, you’re a hero. Heroes aren’t their outfits, their habits or their longevity. Heroes aren’t revered for never being hurt or frightened. Heroes are heroes because they choose to recognise
the needs of another, and then they act upon them accordingly.
You are veganism. You choose to take that first step in a lifetime of movement towards good.
Adapted from Think Like A Vegan: What everyone can learn from vegan ethics by Emilia A. Leese and Eva J. Charalambides. Published by Unbound, London. E-book available here, pre-order for hardcopy here.
Lead image courtesy of Unsplash / Unbound.