Something that I’ve noticed over my years of being vegan is the range of responses that people can have towards veganism. They broadly fall into three camps: all-star ally, supportive and antagonistic. This is a thank you letter to people who support veganism, or who are all-star allies. Your empathy and understanding helps me feel safe in our relationship, connected to you, and also like a core part of what I care about can be seen. Your support is essential to the success of the vegan movement.
I think empathy is much more difficult than judgment. By being a supporter or an ally of veganism, you have decided to try to see the world through a different perspective. What a mark of courage.
After I learned more about factory farming (the social, environmental, and animal costs), I can no longer see the world in the same way. Common occurrences, such as walking past the deli section of a supermarket, or seeing meat in a restaurant, can evoke tremendous sadness.
It can be difficult to describe this experience to people who are not vegan, because from a young age we are conditioned to hold a set of beliefs that promote the consumption of certain animals (farm animals). The best way that I can explain this sadness to people who are not vegan is as follows: imagine how you might feel if you walked past a section of the grocery store dedicated to dog meat products or saw/smelled a dish made from dog meat. Your support makes it easier for me to navigate these daily challenges.
The purpose of this letter is to explain a bit more about how vegans see the world, and to extend a thank you to vegan supporters and allies.
I want to leave no room for ambiguity: the purpose of this letter is not to try to change how you eat. Right now, I’m of the mind that relationships are not the optimal forum for advocacy. When I’m filled with sadness about factory farming, it means the world to me to know that you understand this perspective. I’m grateful for each effort—going out of your way to cook veggie burgers at a BBQ, bringing a vegan dish to a potluck, or even having an open mind with trying new foods and recipes.
For the vegan movement to progress, and also for relationships to be as fulfilling as they can be between people holding different beliefs, we need allies.
P.S. A thank you to Melanie Joy and her wonderful body of work on carnism, vegan advocacy, and non-violent communication. Her concept of the “vegan ally” resonates very much with me. I would highly recommend her work to anyone interested in veganism, communication, or social movements.