Vegan = (More)(Compassion)2
Last week, Delci, Jasmin and I talked about how to respond to some of the often frustrating comments that we hear from people on the subject of animal rights. For example, we addressed the objection that “going vegan is too difficult,” by pointing out just how easy veganism can be and how it is getting easier all the time. After all, both the number of vegans and the number of vegan-friendly products on the market has grown exponentially in recent years.
However, we did get some feedback on our premise that veganism is a piece of (cruelty-free) cake. One reader commented:
“Saying [that] ‘...You can find a good meal anywhere if you know what to look for’ supposes [that] you live someplace [where] you can eat ... at a restaurant once in awhile and order something other than french fries or dry side salad... I've lived in several different areas of the country and not giving credit to those who do in fact have a struggle with this important but difficult choice is perhaps not giving credit where credit is due.”
Point taken. I can understand the sentiment expressed here because I have been there myself. For two years, my wife and I lived in a very small town where we'd be lucky to find just one variety of tofu hidden next to some wilting broccoli at the local market. And there have been many times when I’ve found myself at an airport, a social event or a business lunch (before I worked for Farm Sanctuary) where my options were limited.
Truthfully, there are situations that challenge even the most resourceful vegan, where even the french fries are spoiled by some needless animal-derived flavoring agent and there is literally nothing that you can eat while smug omnivores stuff themselves and make snide comments about your diet. Yikes! These situations are becoming rare, but in a non-vegan world, they can happen. How does one deal?
One strategy I find helpful is to simply remember the immense suffering farm animals experience every day. How much smaller my own passing discomfort or inconvenience then seems by comparison. What's going without one meal compared to having your baby stolen from you just moments after birth? What are a few insulting comments next to repeated electric shocks urging you to crawl forward on broken legs? To quote a t-shirt I once had, featuring a picture of Albert Einstein (another notable vegetarian): It’s all relative. When I put even my most challenging vegan moments in perspective, they shrink in consequence to nothing more than bumps in the road.
Of course, the above mental strategy is meant to be a short-term, emergency coping tool for “dire” circumstances.
Since vegans are such a pro-active bunch, I hardly expect you to go through life merely putting up with the slings and arrows of a non-vegan world. If you live in some remote outpost where vegan is a four-letter word, here are some tips to make your compassionate life easier.
1) Planning a lunch date? Call the restaurant first and ask the manager or chef for help. If you're polite and appeal to their sense of culinary pride, they'll probably make some effort to accommodate you. It might not be vegan nirvana, but you're going to lunch for social reasons, not to find the best meal of your life. By finding out ahead of time what vegan food is available – on or off the menu – you can spare your waiter a game of 20 questions and focus on the social aspect of your meal. Consider bringing your own favorite vegan condiments in a travel safe container or a handy single-serving packet.
2) If you're the only vegan you know, join (or start!) a local veg club to meet some like-minded people. According to recent polls, even the smallest town should have at least a few people who share your interest in a cruelty-free diet. You can increase those numbers by doing a little outreach work: tabling, leafleting , letter writing, etc .
3) Remember to plant seeds in your current social circle too. I was the only vegan in my family eight years ago. Today, I have two vegan parents, three vegan aunts, and several other family members slowly but surely making their way there. This is partly due to my frequent gifting of books like The China Study, Skinny Bitch, iWant, and of course, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food. My dad’s vegan diet started when I asked him to try it for one month as a birthday present to me. Three years later, he’s not only still vegan but getting his friends to think about the veggie life as well.
4) Don’t neglect the absolutely huge vegan support network that exists on the Internet. Google “vegan” and you’ll find yourself at the gateway to a nearly infinite variety of forums, recipe sites, Meetup groups, blogs, and more.
5) If restaurants and stores in your town are lacking, do some outreach there as well. How will these establishments know there is a demand for vegan options if nobody ever asks?
When you approach the lifestyle with an optimistic and creative mind, veganism is easy. Obstacles will cross your path occasionally, but in terms of good achieved for effort expended, there is nothing else you can do in your daily life that even compares. A vegan diet is the simplest and greatest service you can do for animals , for yourself , and for the environment. And as we live our compassionate lifestyles proudly, leading by example and encouraging others to consider animal-free foods, we make the road even easier for those who come after us.