We Need Fewer Allies and More Vegans

There is a certain breed of person that I simply cannot understand for the life of me. If you’re reading this, there’s probably someone in your life that fits this description.

They’re not vegan or vegetarian, but they think it’s really cool that other people are. They’ll make it known to all who will hear that they enjoy vegan and vegetarian food, that they know there are good reasons to not eat meat and other animal products, and that they’re looking out for the vegans and vegetarians around them.

To illustrate as much, they’ll talk enthusiastically with you about recipes; they’ll have your back in arguments against the more ignorant omnivores, unlike them; they’ll take some sort of pleasure out of making a vegan dish just for you; and they’ll worry about whether the restaurant you’re going to has vegan options — far more than you would ever worry about such a thing.

In short, they’re vegans by proxy.

It can be great to have one of these folks by your side: you never have to justify your suggestion for a restaurant as you might have to do with other omnivores; you never feel like you’re inconveniencing them; and in a way, you feel taken care of. They get it.

But they don’t get it. If they did, they’d at least go vegetarian — assuming they’re capable of doing so. It feels like they actually believe being kind to a vegan or vegetarian is somehow a substitute for making such a lifestyle change themselves. It comes across like they think it’s cool to go veg, but it’s just not their style.

This can be quite uncomfortable at times. It’s a bit like an ardent anti-abortion protester who cavorts with other like-minded people having an abortion once every few years or so. To the other anti-abortionists, it’s great to have a friend who shares their beliefs. But also, to what extent does the person actually hold those beliefs if they directly contradict them somewhat regularly?

This is not to say that people who “get it” must all go vegan, otherwise they must not share the same goals as us. Veganism is a lifestyle change that takes some getting used to, and mistakes and slip-ups happen. What I am saying is that the people who understand the reasons to go vegetarian or vegan ought to make an effort to reduce their consumption of meat and animal products themselves, lest their sometimes overwhelming concern for the herbivores around them come off as empty.

Sometimes, these allies are hanging on to one or two arguments against veganism that they believe to be legitimate — protein is commonly featured among these. They also seem to have some hang-ups around making the jump: they don’t want to be known as that vegan or that vegetarian or, worse, they might feel that they have to act in a stereotypically vegan or vegetarian manner if they make the commitment. They’re afraid of the label because of the stigma associated with it.

That’s exactly why we need more vegans and fewer allies. The more people who jump in and aren’t afraid to call themselves vegans or vegetarians, the less stigma associated with the terms. These labels and stereotypes serve as rather formidable barriers — the only people willing to go vegan or vegetarian are those insufficiently afraid of some inevitable amount of ostracism, mockery, and social discomfort. The more folks on the edge who make the leap and do not fit the stereotype, the quicker the stereotype dissipates, and the less others will be afraid — an expanding circle.

 

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