A major stereotype in the animal rights community is the preachy vegan, someone who won’t stop forcing their views on other people, as I’ve heard it often put.
I want to share with you why I will never be offended by the word ‘preachy’ and why I will never stop forcing my views on other people (yes, I admit to both!).
The force of any social justice movement generally comes from the people afflicted first, and as they make themselves heard, they gain sympathy and support and eventually make change. This is true for any movement, whether we are looking at slavery, women’s rights, the civil rights movement (led by a literal preacher, I must add!) and so on.
Animals, however, can’t speak for themselves, this is what’s particularly unique about the animal rights movement, it must start and spread by the compassion and goodwill of others, rather than the outcries of the victims themselves. This is the main reason vegans are often labeled preachy. You won’t hear the animals speaking up for themselves at the dinner table, therefore, I have to. That being said, I still evaluate the situation and decide whether or not it is an appropriate time to start a conversation, although a majority of the time someone else is curious about what I eat and I don’t have to start the conversation at all, I just merely participate in it.
The other reason vegans are negatively labeled is the same reason that anyone who participates in any social justice movement is negatively labeled: we’ve identified a major injustice in society and, by speaking up about it, we’ve become a threat to the status quo, we are challenging the majority’s belief system, therefore threatening their way of life and even their power in society.
When it comes to eating meat, most people either don’t want to acknowledge or are unaware of their role as an oppressor. Because wherever there are oppressors, there are victims, and no reasonable person wants to admit that something they take pleasure in causes billions to suffer year after year.
But when we look back on history, we remember the oppressed people who spoke up in order to bring about positive change, as heroes. And we’re baffled by the vast majority of people that were complacent oppressors in situations that seem, to us, so obviously morally wrong.
This is why I will never be offended by people who call me preachy. If my activism is evoking emotional responses from people and leading them to interact with me, I know my voice is being heard. They may not be accepting it, but they’re hearing it, and that’s a pretty good start.
So to all the people who refer to vegans as ‘preachy,’ thank you! And to all the vegans out there who have been told to stop forcing your views on other people, keep going! As long as your message is of peace and compassion, you have no reason to feel bad about spreading it. One day, we will all be remembered as heroes for animals and the environment.