The Invisible Moral Force

Have you ever been accused of attempting to “force” someone to go vegan? Of shoving your ideas down their throat? If you’ve been vegan for more than a week, and have been outspoken about it in any fashion, your answer is probably “yes.”

Let’s think about that, though. What would it mean to actually force someone to go vegan?

Well, you’d have to coerce them — likely physically, but maybe emotionally, monetarily, or some other creative way I can’t think of — into never consuming meat or animal products again. You’d have to watch their every move to ensure they don’t sneak a bite of beef jerky. You’d have to replace or remove altogether all of their gelatin-encapsulated vitamins, their egg-white shampoo (seriously why is that in there?), maybe even their leather belt.

Or perhaps you’d coerce them by successfully passing a law that completely bans meat and animal products. Are there vegans who wish to do this? No doubt. But we make up all of 2ish% of the population, and only a fraction of us would attempt to pass such a law. We wouldn’t even get enough signatures to get a measure on the ballot in Portland, Oregon.

Even if we could do that, it goes without saying that it’s not actually happening. In the absence of a push for such a measure, no one can reasonably say that vegans are trying to pass laws that force people to go vegan.

No one is forcing anyone to go vegan, not on an individual level and not on a policy level. So why are we often accused of forcing people to go vegan? The answer is the reason why, I believe, we may come to see a vegan world. And not by force.

At least, not by our typical understanding of the word force. The fact is that people who believe they are being forced into veganism have a conscience, and it is an internal moral force that is compelling them to reconsider their non-veganism. The call is coming from inside the house.

You’ve almost certainly felt this before, too. We are all constantly learning how to become better people. At some point, we’ve all been informed that something we said or did was hurtful. We likely felt that this person was imposing their worldview upon us, that we did nothing wrong, that they are selfishly forcing us to live by their rules. And then we realized, maybe a long time later, that they were right. We realized that our perception of ourselves as a good person was threatened, and our response was to immediately feel that the treat was external. This reflex can result in strange accusations, like that anyone is forcing you to not eat something.

In fact, you’ve probably felt this about veganism, unless you grew up vegan. Most of us cited the common arguments — protein, expense, nature, and so on — to fend off the moral force. But it stuck with us, and it eventually won.

That’s why we should be optimistic in light of this observation: the moral force wins. There is perhaps no pressure more persistent, less relenting, or anywhere as constant, as that applied by a guilty conscience.

When we have a world without animal-based meat, dairy, and eggs, it will be in no small part because of the moral force.

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