The Flaming Vegan

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Why Us, Not Them?
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Why Us, Not Them?

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.

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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of several books including HOSPICE HOUNDS, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death (Lantern Books); CANINES IN THE CLASSROOM, Raising Humane Children through Interactions with Animals;(Lantern Books) DO DOGS HAVE BELLY BUTTONS? 100 Questions and Answers about Dogs(Adams Media); THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN SLOW COOKER and THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK(Book Publishers, Inc.) and ON DOGS AND DYING (Purdue University Press). She is also an essayist and has been published in the vegetarian essay book “Voices from the Garden.” She is a freelance writer/editor and along with her Certified Therapy Dogs, a Humane Educator and R.E.A.D tutor. Michelle is a past blogger for and a writer for several online publications including eHow, Livestrong, Rachel Ray, The Daily Puppy, USA Today, Cracked and others. She has two Certified Delta Society Therapy Dogs: Murphy, a Golden Retriever, and Tabitha, a Standard Poodle; and two cats. All are rescued animals. Michelle lives in South Florida with her husband, John, an attorney, and is the proud grandmother of three lovely children, Austin, Alexander and Adrienne.

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  1. wpbvegan
    I feel your pain and share your experience. And it is not only limited to restaurants. Ever go to Universal Studios where people are walking around gnawing at a turkey leg while they walk the park? Talk about barbaric . . . I have told friends and family members that if they are eating animals, then they can't really love them after all . . . that explains why I have very few non-veg friends and as far as family, we only dine together when someone is visiting from out of state.
    1. DogWriter
      YES! And at the fair too! I hate the fair because of all the animal exploitation but I have a friend who likes to go on his birthday and since I love him I want to go with him. I see people walking around gnawing on turkey legs and sausage and OMG yuck! I am in the same boat. Not a lot of friends.
    2. Akanksha
      Well, I was a non-vegetarian with lot of veg friends...thankfully, I turned into one :)
  2. Claire
    I often ask myself these questions. Why am I so sensitive to the suffering of other creatures? And more importantly, why are these people so insensitive? Recently I have been feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the seeming insensitivity of others in many aspects of my life, including of course the area of animal suffering and while it hurts a lot of the time to see so much apathy, I have to conclude that it is a gift to be so sensitive. Our love and sensitivity is a gift to the world and we should be proud of our empathy, and not let others tell us we are 'wrong,' (as they often do) to be so sensitive. On the other hand it seems like many people will quite possibly never change, which is sad, but ultimately their loss.
  3. Akanksha
    Great post Michelle! Yeah right, I stopped eating meat a few years from now and can't think of going back. My reasons were however a little different. Promise to share them in a post soon.
  4. Tatterhood
    My husband has a hard time every time he consumes meat or dairy in front of me. I'm not giving any hairy eye-ball looks, I'm usually just making meal time conversation, however, he says he feels my disapproval in the air. I think it's his guilty conscience. My response has been that I just can't understand how he can eat it without feeling he can put his palette above the suffering...especially when vegan meals are so much more interesting and pleasing. To his credit, he does eat vegan 3-5 days per week with me, but at the end of each of those meals, he's almost grumpy. Meat eating is so ingrained in us, as is dairy consupmtion that it's going to take a long while before more people make the leap. Most simply don't want to look, don't want to dig any deeper...because they know how bad it is. I find it really odd that they'd rather continue the suffering rather than take a positive step.


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