I can relate to this. I was not born vegan and I did not grow up as a vegan. I did believed that eating meat gives you protein. I did believed that milk did a body good. I did believed that salmon provides you with omega 3 fatty acids. I did not believed I can become vegan. Eventually I became vegan, but I did not become one overnight. I gradually gave up animal foods to get to where I am now. It took a lot of research and careful thought to get to where I am now. It took a lot to un-condition myself from the milk propaganda and the food advertisements that have influenced me growing up. I can now understand why a lot of people feel threatened by vegans and even when you mention the term “vegan” to them. A lot of them grew up with this strong cultural conditioning and it takes a lot to overcome it. Therefore, a lot of us vegans should be compassionate towards people who are not vegan despite the negative, judgmental, and hateful remarks we get from them.
A Lot Of Us Have Been Conditioned To Eat Animals
A lot of us have grown up being conditioned to eat foods that have came from slaughtered animals. We were taught that eating meat makes us big, strong, and masculine. We were taught that milk does a body good and there were so many milk advertisements like the “Got Milk?” advertisements. We are unaware of the slaughtering of millions of animals just to put these animal foods on the table. We are unaware of the crops we plant to feed these animals instead of feeding starving populations, especially starving children. A lot of us do not know how much water it takes to raise and feed livestock and the deforestation that occurs because these farmers clear the land to raise and slaughter livestock. Or the pollution that factory farms create slaughtering these animals for food. Or the people living close to these factory farms, especially that the people who live near them are people of color and living below the poverty line. Or the health effects of animal foods and how they are linked to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Food advertisements, animal industries, fast food chains, the media, the government, lobbyists, big business, and even a lot of experts in the scientific and medical community have instilled these beliefs that it is ok to eat animals. Vegans are lucky to be able to see past this conditioning. But because it takes a lot of work to overcome and eventually reject this cultural conditioning, us vegans need to be compassionate towards people who are not vegan.
I read about cognitive dissonance when I took Psychology during my undergraduate years. A lot of people experience cognitive dissonance when they hear about veganism, vegans, or even the term “vegan.” Cognitive dissonance is when our beliefs are challenged by new information that contradicts those beliefs. A lot of us love animals, but we also eat them. This creates a lot of conflicting and paradoxical views. Anything related to vegans and veganism causes anyone who is not vegan to experience these opposing views and causes the person a lot of stress and discomfort. A lot of us love pets and we get angry if someone brutally harms a dog or a cat. However, we do not feel that way to cows, chickens, sheep, or other farm animals that we eat for food. Or wild animals, such as rabbits, deer, and moose. Someone who abuses a dog will go to jail, but it is legal to slaughter millions of animals for food or hunt deer and moose. This paradox regarding animals would cause a lot of nonvegan people to get defensive and lash out at vegans or feel uncomfortable upon hearing about veganism and anything related. I can understand this is one of the reasons that relatives and family friends feel offended just by my mere presence. This is why I need to be compassionate towards them despite how they treat me.
Should Us Vegans Be Nice And Respectful To Everyone Else?
We should be nice to everyone else because they are trying their best to live a healthy and active lifestyle, even if it’s not vegan. One of my family members is pescetarian. At least she is avoiding dairy and meat. Another family member who eats meat avoids red meat and pork. They are not vegan, but I respect their journey to a relatively health-conscious lifestyle. They are doing their best and I can understand that not everyone can be vegan. There are others who bash and criticize me for being vegan, but I also need to be compassionate towards them. They have been so conditioned that eating animals is healthy for you and that animal foods have a lot of protein. It takes a lot to overcome that conditioning to become vegan, so I can understand where they are coming from. I had to overcome that conditioning myself. In addition, my mere presence evokes a lot of stress due to experiencing cognitive dissonance so I can understand how they feel. Although I’m compassionate towards them and their lifestyles, I will not take any smack from them or stop spreading awareness about veganism and how we can save animals, save the planet, and take care of our health. Although I understand how they feel, I have to still speak the truth about the suffering of animals, how animal foods affect our health, and how animal agriculture affects our planet.