OPINION: Don't Be Embarrassed By Vegan Activism - It's Not About You

Activism isn't about being comfortable - it's about opening minds and changing the world
Woman shouts through megaphone
Activism is about speaking out against injustice - not being comfortable (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

There are many types of vegan but a new one is on the rise - the Embarrassed Vegan. These permanently red-faced plant-munchers seem to be ashamed of absolutely everything.

An activist appears on television? Embarrassed Vegan thinks he was too aggressive. Someone posts the truth about animal slaughter on social media? Embarrassed Vegan thinks that will just harden people against us. Liberators save some hens' lives? Embarrassed Vegan thinks that gives us all a bad name, actually.

As veganism becomes higher profile and the community feels bolder, Embarrassed Vegans are increasingly busy. In recent weeks, they've had plenty to get their teeth into: headline-grabbing gimmicks from PETA, the disruption of the Brighton steakhouse by DXE and more. Oh, the embarrassment of it all!

Vegan activism

But Embarrassed Vegans don't seem to realise this activism wasn't carried out with their comfort in mind. Comfort shouldn't be the aim of any revolution, because progress and comfort are mutually exclusive. Countless human rights movements only made historic gains because the bravest of their number were willing to stand up and rattle cages.

And it wasn't just the cages of those 'on the other side' whose bars they shook. Giants like Malcolm X, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Peter Tatchell were first criticized by their own people. Don’t rock the boat, they were told. You’ll only make things worse. Luckily, they ignored such cowering counsel and set about changing the world.

As vegans, none of us have a monopoly on what does and doesn't work. Different things work for different people. From brave, anonymous animal liberators to personality-based YouTubers, from those who showcase vegan cooking or plant-pumped muscles, to those who shiver in the cold, exposing the truths of factory farming - all of these are changing hearts and minds.

Vegan activists storm a steakhouse in Brighton

If something doesn't work for you, it might still be working for someone else. So before you condemn something, ask yourself who it was really aimed at. The diners at the Brighton steakhouse weren't the targets of that protest. The targets were the millions and millions of people who read about it in the media and were reminded of the connection between the meat on their plate and the animals they coo over as they drive past fields. Similarly, PETA's recent 'wool' stunt brought the torture and murder of sheep shearing to public attention.

When activists spray-painted 'Go Vegan' over a butcher's shop window in Kent, they weren’t expecting to make the butcher or local community go plant-based. But as Unoffensive Animal pointed out at the Official Animal Rights March, news headlines about that graffiti meant conversations over the legitimacy of meat consumption 'popped up left, right and center'.

Activism for animals

Whether you agree or disagree with such actions, they're nothing to be embarrassed about. So where does all this vegan embarrassment comes from? Some of it comes from greed. Vegan entrepreneurs don't like people who rock the boat. They want everything to be slick and professional. And lucrative.

But I have a wider theory. Most of us who have made any sort of expression of veganism have been told by at least one meat-eater: "You'll never win people over that way." I wonder if Embarrassed Vegans have been hoodwinked by that statement?

I say hoodwinked because it's obviously nonsense. Saying 'we would do the obviously moral thing but you didn't present it to us in quite the right way' doesn't feel very sincere, does it?

So ignore comments like that and shrug off your embarrassment. It's not about you, it's about the animals.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Chas Newkey-Burden writes about veganism and animal rights for The Guardian, Metro, Indy Voices, Daily Telegraph, International Business Times and Attitude. He is also the author of several books, including 'Running: Cheaper Than Therapy’ and ’64 Geeks’. A calf is named after him at the Retreat Animal Rescue sanctuary. You can follow Chas on Twitter: @AllThatChas

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