A case study in trying to be a better human.
I have been vegan for 3 years. It’s been great. But before you close this page down for fear of this being a hugely self congratulating and sanctimonious post please stay and listen to the next bit I have to say. Which is that before that I spent maybe 3 years thinking that I should be vegan and not doing anything about it, during which time I ate anything and everything.
Veganism seemed too extreme. It seemed too hard. It turned out it was neither of those things but I struggled for a really long time to make the change because I was trapped by those ideas. And also on some level it was an effort that I was unwilling to make. It didn’t matter that I knew veganism was better for the environment and I also had ethical concerns about farming animals. It took moving away from all of my family and friends for me to make the change because I couldn’t do it under scrutiny. I was too scared of other people’s reactions, what they would think.
This is crazy. It sounds crazy to me now. But it’s also true.
Before I was vegan I was too apathetic to do anything. Fighting this apathy is what this post is about. And it’s really hard. Maybe because it’s normal to do things that are convenient and easy and it’s really hard to be abnormal. Humans are tribal animals, we like to be part of the pack. And we don’t want to be judged.
Realising that and stepping away from that fear has been hugely liberating. I wanted to take responsibility for some of the things in the world that I don’t agree with and I have finally gained the mindset that allows me to do just that. This argument is like your mum telling you that just because everybody in your class is jumping off a bridge that doesn’t mean you should too. I don’t mean to be patronising.
The truth is that it’s far worse because this isn’t people doing ostensibly stupid things like jumping off bridges. This is eating beef and dairy for every other meal even though farming cows is a leading cause of climate change. This is buying bottled water when you’re on the go because you’re thirsty and then throwing it in the bin because it was convenient and not recognising the huge growing problem of non-biodegradable plastic waste. This is buying asparagus from the supermarket because you feel like it even though it’s been shipped to the UK from Peru and you could be supporting local businesses and produce growers. This is stuff that you might do every day without thinking about it because it’s normal and easy and you have never thought about the negative consequences. And if someone was to tell you about the negative consequences you might become defensive and angry because you would see it as an attack on yourself.
I’ve realised that being the best person I can be involves taking a step back every time I feel defensive in that way and asking why. If I feel defensive because I know I could do better then my response should not be anger, it should be acceptance. It should prompt me to change my behaviour for the better.
Choose to be a positive force in the world. At first it will feel uncomfortable. Then it will feel normal and you will not be able to imagine how you did things any other way. And if your actions make other people in your life uncomfortable remember it’s because they are struggling with the very things you were before you accepted the need for change. Making other people uncomfortable was my worst nightmare. Now I’ve realised that that’s the only way we grow. It’s not my responsibility to tread lightly for fear of offending. My responsibility is to live my life in the way that causes least harm and promotes most good for the planet and everything that lives on it. You don’t have to lay down your life to do this. You just have to think about where you spend your money. It’s as simple as that.