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 moral standards and feels a sense of personal responsibility for this. Whilst this realisation, in terms of veganism, often goes hand in hand with a person also 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 will be reaching my own one year vegan-aversary in three months time and sometimes I wish that I felt a little more guilt. 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 to some level always will be.
The guilt I felt back then was probably 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 that a person feels when they realise true injustice, as well as their participation in it, for the first time. 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 knowing that this situation isn’t going away this year, or next, I’m sure not even in our lifetimes. In this sense I understand how easy it is to feel guilty for bearing witness to this reality, in some form or another, every-single-day for the rest of your life.
One the other hand, it honestly gets my goat when these same good hearted, compassionate and empathetically driven individuals 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 the planet eat meat, drink dairy, use cosmetics and pop pills tested on animals. By comparison I think that vegans have much less to feel guilty about. Apart from being so awesome that is! 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 is supposed to do!
Regardless of the individual experiencing guilt and it’s cronies: remorse, sadness, listlessness, emotional fatigue – and taken to it’s logical emotional conclusion – depression, or depressive like thinking; these emotions don’t motivate as much as they incapacitate. 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 (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 what woman is going to fall for a man who cries 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?!
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 increasing numbers of animals a life of pure hell on earth. We should have gratitude in our hearts instead of guilt for our lives. 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, our knifes down and began a peaceful revolution every time that we sat down to eat.
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 they 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.