Have you ever sat down at a restaurant and really looked around at all the people? After many years as a vegan and a vegetarian long before that, I am still amazed at how apathetic people appear. I mean, I see people ordering veal and rack of lamb -- I can’t even stand to use that phrase – rack of lamb – I mean, what is that? Large male bucks have racks; bosomy women have racks; baby sheep don't have racks, do they?Anyway, I see them tearing meat off bone and pushing it into their geeps and and I don’t understand why they aren’t horrified at what they are doing. So I wonder, why are some of us so very empathetic and see things as they really are, part of a living being, instead of a food item; and others just don’t care?
I can’t tell you the number of times people, upon hearing I am a vegan, will say some version of the following: I used to be but I went back to eating meat because (fill in the blank, the excuses are many and colorful). In my experience, those who went vegetarian or vegan for ethical reasons, that is, they did so because they learned about animal suffering on factory farms, stayed vegan. It’s hard to unring that bell. Once you’ve seen what goes on in factory farms, battery cages, gestation crates and veal farms, it’s pretty tough to get that image out of your head. It’s shocking.
Those who went veg for health reasons are usually the ones that “backslide,” to borrow a term from organized religion, and are lost to carnivorous behavior again. I don’t understand why some can regard a meal of steak and potatoes and see a simple dinner while others feel a hurt right in the middle of our chests that only another vegan feels. How is it some can dine on plates full of wings while others, like me, see that plate and think of how a mother chicken uses her wings to protect her young? Why is it so simple for some to turn away from what they know is the truth?
I attended an event in Ft. Lauderdale not too long ago where Gene Bauer, Co-founder and Director of Farm Sanctuary, spoke. He said when we start talking to people about “going veg” and they say they can’t bear to hear it and begin telling us how much they love animals we should ask them why they are living a lifestyle not in sync with their own compassionate ethics. I thought that was a pretty smart thing to say and I’ve tried it a few times.
Who knows if it will have an effect? It’s possible that they will wake up in the middle of the night and say “Wow, she’s right, I’m not living my ethics!” Vegans don’t really want to haunt their friends every time they get together. If they did, they wouldn’t have any friends. Our friends say they love animals; we are quick to point out that they love "some" animals, not all. We are rewarded with a weird look. The only reason we try to get others to adopt a plant-based diet is because if we lower the demand for animal products we may be able to put those factory farms out of business altogether. So forgive us if we sound a little preachy, we’re just trying to win hearts and minds for the animals and our version of shock and awe is about as hard-core as you can get.