The Myth of the Malevolent Vegan
*I used dictionary.com to find the word malevolent. I googled “opposite of compassionate” and found my way to malevolent. The definition is: “wishing evil or harm to another or others; showing ill will; ill-disposed; malicious.” I just wanted to be transparent in case you read the title and thought: Why does she have to use such big words? Does she really think she’s that smart? What does malevolent even mean? I didn’t really know either. Now we all know!
**Also, we are currently in Hawaii for THREE weeks, enjoying beautiful weather and time with family. Please follow our eating adventures on Instagram and a bit on Facebook. Hint: we eat a lot of fruit.
When you tell someone that you are vegan, there are often a lot of follow up questions and/or incredulous reactions. Seasoned vegans have heard them all. One comment that I have noticed that really gets to me is this: “Why do you care so much about animals? What about all of the people in need? Shouldn’t you spend your time/energy helping them?” I’ve also seen it worded this way: “I wish there were people that cared as much about other people as you do about animals.” On one hand this is a nice compliment (“You’re so passionate and caring!”) On the other hand this is sort of a jab at my particular choice of passion (“But why don’t you care about PEOPLE?”). This bothers me on two levels. One: Why do you, personally, care about what I choose to be passionate about? Two: Why does caring about animals mean that I can’t also care about people? There is not a finite amount of compassion or love in the world. There’s certainly enough to go around!
Here’s a few things that are also important to consider when accusing vegans of caring “too much” about animals and not enough about people. Animal agriculture is literally ruining the planet that humans live on. So caring about that means that we care about humans and our future. If we continue to consume animals at the rate that we are today, we won’t eventually won’t have a habitable planet. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of: species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction. Currently livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. Please visit this page and read some statistics. We are ruining the planet because of the way that we eat.
Also, what do you know about how the animal agriculture industry treats its workers? The majority of these farm workers are immigrants, many of them undocumented. The draw of undocumented workers is that they are less likely to complain about work conditions and/or pay. These workers are underpaid, overworked, and their work is often dangerous (both physically and mentally). One site that I find incredibly insightful is The Food Empowerment Project. I may have referenced this site before; I have seen the founder, Lauren Ornelas, speak and can attest to her passion and dedication to this cause and the amazing work that she is doing to benefit both people and animals. Or, do a google search for “slaughterhouse work conditions” and try to imagine what it must be like to have this job. Yes, I care about the animals on these farms and the senseless abuse and eventually murder that they endure, but in doing so I also care about the plight of the workers in these settings. These workers remain as nameless and faceless as the animals, but please think about them before choosing your next meal. They matter just as much as the animals.
One last thing to consider: I feel such deep compassion for animals because they are innocent beings who are truly at the mercy of the humans that use and abuse them. They have no ability to free themselves, or stand up to their abusers. Besides the stories that you read of animals who escape, most of them remain faceless, nameless, and voiceless. Those who dedicate their time and energy to bringing awareness to their plight are some of the most compassionate, kind, and selfless individuals out there.
Also consider this: you don’t have to dedicate your life to animals in order to help them. You can simply choose not to consume them, and then dedicate your time/energy/money/etc towards whatever cause that YOU feel passionate about. Simply leaving animals off of your plate does so much good, with so little effort.