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"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." So allegedly said Mahatma Ghandi - and I’m not about to disagree.
When it comes to veganism - which is taking enormous strides towards the mainstream - we seem to be oscillating between the mocking and fighting phases. It seems almost impossible for me to scroll through Facebook these days without seeing some dim friend of a friend mocking the 'hipster vegans'.
But what are these people doing when they laugh at vegans' efforts?
Veganism hinges on three things - sustaining the environment, eradicating animal use and abuse, and maintaining the optimum health that a well-balanced plant-based diet can deliver.
With leading global scientists claiming a vegan diet is essential to sustain the planet - and with animal agriculture responsible for up to 51 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions - there seems little to mock on that front.
When it comes to animal abuse, many seem to see compassion as something to ridicule. This has always struck me as moronic. There’s nothing weak about standing up against something you see as wrong - especially when this goes against received wisdom.
You only need to look back through history to see a catalogue of abhorrent, unthinkable practices that were once considered normal. I hope the abuse of animals as food and entertainment will one day be seen this way by the majority.
The thing is, when you laugh at vegans and their efforts, you are doing the dirty work of the animal agriculture lobby.
When you laugh at vegans, you are effectively promoting the systematic torture and abuse of animals that goes on in so many slaughterhouses. You are propagating a powerful marketing machine.
Whatever lie you tell yourself about your ‘grass-fed’ and ‘humanely-slaughtered’ meat is just that: a fiction. When Animal Aid secretly filmed in 10 slaughterhouses, campaigners claimed they ‘found evidence of law-breaking and cruelty’ in 9 of them.
Workers were filmed putting out cigarettes on the animals, stamping on them, slapping them. Slicing their throats while they were still conscious, throwing them by the ears. Some slaughtered animals show signs of sexual abuse.
Meat eaters frequently bemoan how emphatic veggies are about their lifestyle choices: in fact the opposite is often true. Look at this poll published in Time magazine. While 30 per cent of meaters wouldn’t date a veggie, only four per cent of herbivores would discriminate against omnis.
When it comes to the health aspect, I don’t care what people do to their own bodies, though I will always laugh at posting #eatclean alongside a picture of meat. With antibiotics given with wild abandon to livestock, and fecal matter found in meat...clean? Really?
Many are calling this year, the year of the vegan: there’s certainly fiscal reasons to think so - just look at the market share plant-based companies are now taking in the milk sector for example. Not to mention the huge number of people participating in Veganuary (some 2,000 per cent more in 2016 than in 2014).
High street chains are starting to offer more vegan options - you can see the tide turning.
With more and more plant-powered people than ever, the openly hostile and aggressive meaters are starting to look tired, their arguments cliched, their jokes unfunny.
The next phase is the fight: After that we win.
This article was first published by The Huffington Post
Maria is a former magazine editor and newspaper reporter. She has specialized in writing content for the plant-based sector for several years, as well as reporting on agriculture, politics and regional news. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.
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