Two years ago, I had never even heard of the “V” word. Now it’s not only a word I use hundreds of times each day but one that I have found elicits a wide range of reactions from people: from pride to shame, from welcoming to fear, from knowing to ignorance, from admiration to disgust, from happiness to anger. I always knew words were powerful but it amazes me everyday to see the impact, whether positive or negative, of this little, two-syllable word – Vegan.
If you look up the word “vegan,” you will find several similar, yet slightly different, definitions. However, they share the same theme: vegans are “strict” vegetarians, vegans seek not to consume or use animal products of any kind, veganism is not just a diet but also a lifestyle. For me, the learning process was so much more than these definitions. I will tell my story in a later post but for now, I want to say that I love, love, love being a vegan.
So many people I know are afraid to tell their families and friends they are vegan (or vegetarian) for fear of being rejected or laughed at or criticized. They hide their veganism, which, to me, is sad and makes no sense. Why should anyone hide their compassion while the majority of the world engages in cruelty right out in the open? People I know have made jokes, felt the need to stick their meat-filled sandwiches in my face the way a child would dangle a scary spider in front of someone, and have tried to argue the facts (“how do you know plants don’t suffer?”) Others have admitted they know the animals suffer but they do not want to “really know” because then they will have to do something about it. I have told waiters and friends I am vegetarian or vegan only to be asked whether I eat fish or chicken. Yet other people have shown me respect and acceptance, happily eating at vegan restaurants with me, delighting in the colorful bounty of delicious, cruelty-free food.
I am proud of being vegan. I wear t-shirts and buttons that proclaim my veganism. My office has posters, signs, and pamphlets about choosing compassion. While I do not try to impose my beliefs on others, I silently pray someone will ask me why I am not eating meat so I can proudly state, “I AM A VEGAN.” They might reply with “you’re a what?” and that just gives me an opportunity to teach someone the “V” word that I learned not even two years ago. Becoming a vegan is my proudest accomplishment. It has given my life a new sense of purpose and direction. I want others to feel that same way. I want to help bring the “V” word into the mainstream and let vegan voices speak out loud and proud!