Are vegans elitist exclusionists who hate everyone who isn’t vegan? Does not being vegan make you an awful person worthy of a swift kick in the groin? I share my personal position on this matter whether I hate non-vegans.
Sometimes, when I’m trying to advocate for the animals, educate about the horrors of the animal products industry, and make some sort of difference in the world, I admit that I can come off as rather snarky. I think it’s a pretty common conception that vegans can be judgmental and elitist. But do we vegans hate all non-vegans?
First off, I can’t speak for all vegans because, whether you believe it or not, we really aren’t a covertly connected club with secret nightly meetings and a worldwide underground tunnel system for the international transport of tofu.
(I’ve said too much.)
Seriously, though, this post will mainly be my personal perspective on this issue, unlike my main educational nuggets, which are more research-based and unbiased. (Though still snarky from time to time.)
So, let it be known that I am not the universal voice of all vegans. (Sorry to disappoint.)
Vegans are as diverse a lot as non-vegans with just as many varied opinions and viewpoints, evidenced by the unfortunate in-fighting and fracturing off of various vegan factions, both dietary and philosophical.
But back to this post’s premise: Do I hate all non-vegans? The short answer is no.
Now it is possible to hate the action a person takes without hating the person. The common saying is “hate the sin and not the sinner.” I do very much hate the torture, rape and murder of sentient beings for nothing more than a meal. I hate the exploitation of billions of lives just to satisfy human appetites, fashion, or a monetary bottom line. I hate the utter callous disregard for non-human animals so often displayed by our society. And more than anything, I hate willful ignorance.
As a child, I was very bitter against my own species. I would lie in bed at night crying, overwhelmed with the enormity of suffering in the world and humanity’s seeming indifference to it all. I couldn’t understand how people could be so cruel and uncaring. And I hated them—all of them. But I think it’s important to note that what my cynical little angry five-year-old self really hated was the injustice—the utter unfairness of it all. I wanted to know why no one cared, and I felt powerless to make a difference.
I believe that is where so much of what is often seen as vegan “hate” really comes from–a devastating sense of loss, a profound mourning, and a feeling of utter powerlessness. When your eyes are opened to the extreme enormity of unnecessary animal suffering and death at the hands of our species, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed with anger and disgust. As the saying goes, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. And it’s true–there is plenty to be outraged about in this world.
And I think vegans should never lose touch with that anger and passion. When we lose that flame, we lose the drive to make a difference.
Of course, this passion can sometimes overwhelm us and come out sideways in petty aggression or arguments. But to my non-vegans out there, know that this almost always comes from wanting so badly to save the lives of innocent animals and feeling powerless against what often seems to be a losing battle.
It’s equally important to note that many non-vegans honestly and truly don’t know any better. They of course know that meat and eggs and dairy and honey all come from animals, but they lack that true connection. I think we vegans who are now so hyper-aware of the truth can easily forget how powerfully obscured the reality of our food is in our society. We forget how inundated we are since birth with the acceptability of animal exploitation. And we forget that most of us were once there too.
Most vegans, including myself, are not born and raised vegan. We once were the very non-vegans that we can now so easily judge. So do I hate non-vegans? No. How can I? They are where I once was.
Of course, once someone has learned the truth about animal products–if they then choose to continue to live a life of exploitative practices, then personally, I may choose to distance myself from them. But do I automatically hate them? No. Am I frustrated? Absolutely. Discouraged, angry, disheartened? Sure. And hey, I’m not perfect–I’ve acted out on occasion.
But I have learned since being a little hate-filled five-year-old with early-onset acid reflux, that aggression, hateful speech, elitism and exclusion are not effective means of educating. If I approach non-vegans with the premise that they are bad people, then I’m doing a disservice to not only them, but also to the animals. And if I portray veganism as an exclusive club completely beyond their “humble” grasp, then the animals are the ones who ultimately suffer the most–they could care less about petty differences and personality conflicts. They just want to live free.
Now all of this is not to say that it is okay to eat animals and animal byproducts. Don’t think I’ve gone soft on you. The exploitation, enslavement, torture, and murder of another being is never okay. It is never excusable or acceptable. And it’s not a lifestyle choice or personal right to support such atrocities. I covered the issue of personal choice in diet extensively in this video so please reference that before saying I’m out to kill personal freedoms.
The point here is that categorically hating an entire group of people categorically without considering where they are in their journey is unfair and ineffective activism.
Everyone deserves a chance, human and animal alike.
Now that you’ve heard my thought on this topic, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re non-vegan, do you get the assume that all vegans hate you or are exclusive, rude, aggressive or elitist? If you’re vegan, do you find it difficult to interact with people still actively exploiting animals? How do you navigate those relationships? What methods of activism and education have you found most effective? Let me know in the comments!
— Emily Moran Barwick