I often write short -or not so short!- captions under my Instagram photos but I never get a chance to expand the topic. One of the topics that has stuck with me the longest is the argument that vegans care more about animals than humans.
If vegans are so aware of animal welfare, environmental issues, human health, how is it that they still purchase Nike items? Don’t they know where all the small bits and bobs that form their gadgets come from?
These – omnivores argue – are contradictions. First of all, let me ask omnivores: are all your clothes, household items and gadgets ethical? When is the last time you read a label? Most of the time, if they are honest, they will admit they are not so thorough in their purchases. Fine, neither am I. I confess to owning a pair of synthetic material Nike that I bought a while ago and no, I am not binning them until they are useless; only then I will buy new ethical shoes. Yes, I do own a smartphone. Yes, I can certainly do more for humans. I could watch my purchases to start with, I could do charity, cook meals for the homeless, adopt disadvantaged children. Why am I not doing all these things then?
I believe that humans evolve and evolution takes time. Eight years ago I wasn’t even vegetarian, right? Then I was veggie, then vegan, then an even more aware vegan. I am already reading all the ingredients/materials of all my food, cosmetics and clothing; I buy fair trade and responsibly sourced when possible. I feel like I’m doing a lot in terms of making a statement and carrying a belief, boycotting what I disagree with. However, avoiding all other major brands and going all the way requires superior skills that can only be achieved with a learning process. Ultimately, if I wanted to be 100% ethical and avoid all items that have more or less openly been produced by children or collected by underpaid workers who live in terrible conditions, I would become a hermit. And so would you. I doubt this is the ultimate solution. Somebody has to keep living in society and speaking up after all.
I have always thought that each one of us should do what they are best at, focus on the aspect of themselves that would benefit the community the most. I think I am quite good at spreading the word and creating awareness. I am a gentle advocate for veganism and plant-based diet in general, I don’t post violent pictures of slaughterhouses, I try to catch people’s attention by showing a healthy and happy lifestyle. If I started uploading pictures of blood, that wouldn’t reflect my personality. I’m not a preachy vegan either. In the same way, if somebody’s best talent is rescuing kids from the street, they should focus on that and I won’t question why they haven’t gone veggie yet.
Now, my biggest argument is coming. Veganism is empathy.
Don’t you think, if I managed to make someone more empathetic towards lambs and piggies, calves, horses, fish, whales, wouldn’t they by consequence become more empathetic towards humans as well? If you loved the speechless, the ones you always assumed were a commodity, wouldn’t you also be more empathetic towards the weakest in human society?
Feeling empathy means that you can feel all the sorrow in the world and all the happiness too. Sometimes it can be a bit too much as even reading the news can really affect me. However, this is a tool, an amazing weapon of peace.
Although I don’t call myself religious, I am quite fond of Hinduism and Buddhism. The following quote is from chapter 13, 27-28 of the Bhagavad Gita, which I read for the first time several years ago:
They alone see truly who see the Lord the same in every creature, who see the deathless in the hearts of all that die. Seeing the same Lord everywhere, they do not harm themselves or others. Thus they attain the supreme goal.
I think the key words here are “the same” and “every creature”. It means that we should see the Lord / spirit of the world / energy / whatever-you-want-to-call-it in everything. And most importantly there are no more or less precious expressions of life, because the same precious thing is inside all.
So, going back to the original question, do vegans care more about animals than humans? I don’t think so. I can’t vouch for every single vegan on the planet, however, being one and feeling like a vegan feels, I say no. We just speak for those who can’t speak, nor write; for those who can’t fight, who don’t possess weapons. For those that can’t go to the police when their mum or baby gets killed, those who don’t get an article on the press when they are killed by the millions every day. Because this is what we do best and because loving every creature means every creature.