After years of being Vegan and feeling deeply the pain of other animals, I went through various phases in my activism. At first, I tried to convert everyone around me by telling them my newly discovered Vegan truth. I felt very evangelical (even though I am not religious) and thought that if I got it, surely others would to.
Disappointment set in really fast when I realized that most people around me were very disconnected or didn’t care. I tried to loan documentaries, get them to see information online but nothing worked (or seemed to work). I became obsessed with wanting to make people « get it ».
After reading The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, I suddenly « got it ». It wasn’t about converting others, it was about being an example. That part made a lot of things easier for me. I started opening more hearts to the message and I stopped being constantly angry, which was obviously not healthy for myself either and didn’t help other animals.
But the part that kept nagging at me was the guilt I felt for missing on a protest, or not being part of an event or feeling like, no matter what, I didn’t do « enough » for the animals I wanted to save. My friend Susan Sommerset claims that I « want to save the world » and yes I do suffer from that syndrome. Until recently, I couldn’t understand why she didn’t see that I HAD to do as much as possible because I HAD to save lives.
But she gets it. Because she was there once. I had to learn to release the guilt of not being enough for the animals. Because, in truth, we can’t do it all, no matter how much we want to stretch ourselves. We have jobs, families, other responsibilities. We live in a world which makes demands on us constantly. We can’t physically, psychologically and spiritually do it all.
I sometimes wish I had a twin sister who could go on one protest while I was home writing or doing something else. It is difficult to accept at first that we can’t do it all because we are a minority of caring people trying to reduce such a large amount of suffering. The task seems overwhelming and impossible to achieve. Some days, I don’t see an end to all the monstrous torture that is inflicted on other animals (and human animals).
The best service we can give to them, however, is to be authentic with ourselves while serving them to the best of our abilities. As I told my friend Jennifer, « No one asks you to be Super Vegan all year long ». We can only do what we can according to our unique situations.
So let’s stop feeling guilty for feeling like we don’t do enough. If we do what we can, we are in fact doing as much as possible. I never liked it when people make you feel guilty if you don’t attend some protest or a Vegan event of some sort. While I agree we need as many people as possible for each, making others feel guilty is simply wrong. Not everyone also has the same level of comfort or ability to do the same. For some of us, there can be also health issues, family issues, work issues or even a basic fear of going out there. I remember experiencing it in my early days.
For some, protests are not how they choose to help other animals. Some prefer impressing non-vegans with great foods, others (I’m one of them) prefer to write. We are all unique and we all need to find the unique skills which can help other animals. There are Vegan artists, writers, chefs, singers and of course philosophers and protesters. Are some doing more than others? Possibly. But is one form of activism better than another? No. They are all valid because we don’t know what might trigger compassion in someone else. Being with others is obviously how we bond and support each other. But I do encourage you to find your creativity and not just imitate others. Veganism is about evolving too. This is not a finality.
The bottom line is: if you love to protest, by all means do it. But if that is not something you are comfortable with or you simply don’t have as much time as some, then you are probably called to talk on behalf of other animals in a different way. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this.
We are all on this journey together and we all have the same goal. How we navigate on this path, however, is unique to each of us. As my friend Kara said: « It’s about attitude ». Activism is about quality and efficiency more than quantity. So, if you do only one protest a month, do it with all your heart and mind and be the shining light for other animals.
Picture of my early days. (2008)
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