A topic of conversation that I have been privy to over the past few weeks is that of vegans and their guilt. In my mind, truthfully, mostly irrationally induced guilt. Perhaps that sounded a little harsh? Well, let me explain my reason for classing it as such… it is irrational simply because unless we have done something within the realms of veganism that would go against our own code of morals, such as bathing in cow puss for example, then why should we feel an excess of guilt at all?
Guilt can be defined as a realised experience when a person believes that they have compromised their own moral standards and feels a responsibility for this. Whilst this realisation often goes hand in hand with a person seeing through the ‘carnistic’ distortion of reality – alongside their role in it – for the first time; once a switch to a vegan lifestyle has been made, why does the guilt also not switch off?
I do ponder this point a lot… I will be reaching my own one year Vegan-aversary in three months time and sometimes I honestly wish that I felt a little more guilt… I mean, just to clarify, I did so in the beginning; so much so in fact that I can still distinctly remember having the rather uncomfortable feeling (to put it mildly) of wanting to skin my own soul and fly away. But where to? Where could I go other than straight to the grave? I couldn’t just take myself out of the picture, “the game”, so-to-speak. I was as much a product of ‘The Matrix’ as Neo was and you still may be.
The guilt I felt back then was assumedly no different to the guilt that any person would experience when seeing the dark side of dairy, or the murderous meat industry in it’s full blood and gore… simply put: the shock induced guilt that a person feels when they see true injustice and their participation in it. You want to scream and shut your eyes and wait for the screen to go black and the credits to roll and for the production to end, but it doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t. And perhaps this is what the majority of vegans struggle with day in, day out: the realisation that this situation isn’t going away this year, or next, perhaps even in our lifetimes. In this sense, of course I understand how easy it is to feel guilty for bearing witness to this reality, in some form or another, every-single-day.
One the other hand – or paw – it honestly get’s my back up when these same good hearted, compassionate and empathetically intact individuals traipse around all mournful and look so utterly remorseful for not doing more. Consider for a moment that the vast majority of the UK population are still in the “but bacon” mindset. That close to the entire population of Planet Earth eat meat, drink dairy, use cosmetics and pop pills tested on animals; all whist wearing murdered baby cow skin on their backs, feet and arses (or, if said individual has a penchant for the embarrassingly tacky fashion label that is Michael Kors; then you can be damn sure that it’s more like murdered puppy skin the person is ‘a-rockin’ all around town). By comparison, then, I think that vegans have much less to feel guilty about. Apart from being so awesome, this I am afraid we cannot help.
I had to engage with an individual of the ignorant kind at the weekend in fact, who literally started the insults a-flowing in my direction the moment that he overheard me ordering my vegan brunch. Now, in fairness, he was well within his rights to judge me for being the kind of person who engages in such pretentious sounding activities as ‘brunch’. But to lay into a perfect stranger based on their personal food choices came across a lot like, well, what a vegan would do in all fairness!
Regardless of the person, guilt and it’s cronies: remorse, sadness, listlessness, emotional fatigue – and taken to it’s logical emotional conclusion – depression, or depressive like thinking; doesn’t motivate as much as it incapacitates. If these feelings are your driving force for promoting the vegan message, then I am afraid that you will struggle as soon as you step outside of our online community and recognise a simple truth: that most people (men in particular) who are not already vegan-inclined, do not outwardly appear to give a flying fook about this cause.
Inwardly speaking can be, of course, a very different story. However, the average straight – and thus normally emotionally confused – young man, can’t be seen to be looking all compassionate and shit in our ‘dog eat dog’ world. In the eyes of that kind of person (AKA the mainstream population) what woman is going to fall for a man who cries his eyes out over Mattessons sausage commercials, refuses to be in the same room as a pair of leather boots and counts his cold-pressed juicer as best friend and potential sexual partner?! It’s a “no” from me I’m afraid.
I can’t say when, exactly, I was able to take a step back and disconnect from what I subconsciously still truthfully feel on an almost permanent basis, yet consciously – dare I say – can distance myself from for long enough so that I can smile in the face of poorly thought out jokes. Perhaps it was around the time when I sadly realised that even if I spent the whole day thinking about nothing more than all of the animals who were in those moments being abused and murdered, experimented on and enslaved; that even when I was in sleepy land it would still be happening…
There was simply nothing that I alone could do to stop it. There never was and there never would be.
Only there is one thing that all vegans can do right here, right now: we can start to rejoice over the fact that we have an opportunity to be on the right side of justice and history, to be liberated from giving some animals, at least, a life of pure hell on earth. We should have gratitude in our hearts instead of guilt for our lives, because we are the ones who get to say that we were alive in a time of unprecedented concealed suppression; and we chose to put our forks up and our knifes down, and began a peaceful revolution every time that we sat down. Every time that we made an ethical and compassionate choice to buy consciously, instead of impulsively (another lesser emotion), and every time that we took a stand by perhaps doing nothing more than standing still and refusing to be moved to (re)act against words designed to test and provoke.
With this said, if I was to amend the above definition of the word ‘guilt’, as defined from the perspective of a vegan, it would read: a person who chooses veganism has had a realised experience where their beliefs no longer compromise their own moral standards. As a result should not feel a responsibility of guilt now that they have re-connected their hearts with their minds, in a carnistic world that requires individuals keep these elements distinctly separate.