Society at large tends to condemn bullying and emotional abuse, but if the subject is a vegan, there’s an unofficial free pass floating in the air for anyone who wants to take it.
Picture this: I’m sitting at a meal with my friends, close friends, who happen to not be vegan.
“Hey, did you see the photo of Lauren and that pig at the sanctuary?” one of them asks, pulling out her cellphone and passing it around the table. “Aw! I would just love to kill that thing and make a ton of bacon out of it,” one of the women says, elbowing me. I stare blankly at her, wondering in what world it’s appropriate to make such a loaded comment to someone you care about. The next day, I walk into my workplace, and my boss towers over me, smiling. “That’s a pig for eating!” he says. I assume he’s seen the photo as well. In the picture, I’m grinning, beaming really, over a massive, muddy hog that lazes happily in a puddle of dirt and grass in an open field. My hands are globbed with mud as I scratch at his belly, and it’s clear the both creatures in the photo are gleeful. It’s one of my favorite photos. It was taken at a local animal sanctuary, where, as expected, most of the animals inhabiting it are rescues, whether they fell from the back of a delivery truck or were found being kicked around in a parking lot by some bored teenagers. It is a peaceful place born out of unimaginable suffering.
I can’t lie, when I heard my friend call the pig a piece of future bacon, what I heard was, “I couldn’t care less about the suffering the pig went through. I realize that you care deeply about something, and so I’ve decided to degrade and embarrass you.” It takes a certain kind of individual to turn to someone you respect, whose convictions run deep in their souls, and make a passing joke about taking the life of an animal with the intention to cause hurt. Okay, I say certain kind, but these individuals exist in no kind of shortage. Violent rhetoric aimed at vegans in the norm, it is socially acceptable, and it is inherently abusive. Is it because vegans are oppressed? No, that’s not the angle I’m taking here- it’s that abuse is repeated hostility and degradation from one person to another, and I’m so very sick of being the butt of those comments.
Now don’t get me wrong, these comments come often from people I love, who are gentle in many other aspects of their lives. I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just don’t get it. I have been told that vegans should go to an island to die, by a group of men whom I care about, and been expected to laugh this off. I have been tricked, many times, into eating hidden dairy in a dish served to me, as a means of creating laughter for those watching. I have put up with vicious jabs from family friends, and been called weird and stupid.
In January, Maria Chiorando of The Huffington Post published an article that made the assertion that mocking vegans means openly laughing at animal abuse, and I would agree that she is completely correct. She mentions the sexual and physical abuse that is the norm in animal production, and asks, how in the world is this a funny thing? It’s easy to make the disconnect as a meat-eater, I suppose. When you’re on top of the food chain and the social chain, there’s no comment that will go left unsaid.
I’ll take this a step further and say that on top of the hideousness surrounding making fun of animal abuse, it’s just plain fucked up and mean. It’s supremely nasty. It’s looking at a friend and disregarding something they have poured their hearts into, all for the good of- what? So you can feel better? So you can make them look small? I’ll admit it- vegans are small. We’re growing, but we’re in the little league when it comes to US population, and it puts us in a vulnerable position. Making your friends feel like shit and telling them they’re stupid is not cool or edgy, it is downright cruel. The worst part as a vegan, is that nobody other than your fellow vegans seem to realize this, and you’re left alone in a group again, being laughed at and shamed. This is me being vulnerable here: it fucking sucks. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world, knowing that something I work so hard to communicate compassionately, knowing that a part of my identity and who I am is going to be seen as a joke by people I love very much.
If you’re a vegan who has had to deal with this, and especially if you come from a background of being abused in other ways, you are absolutely not alone. It’s a hideous cross we carry around, but I do strongly feel that one day, maybe not in this lifetime, but one day, the world will find itself much kinder than it was before.