On Veganism and How Our Choices Affect More than Ourselves

It's Veganuary, the time of the year when many people "give veganism a try". Although I never participated myself, coincidentally, this month marks nine years since I went vegan. This word is tricky. Many think it's simply a dietary choice. Others describe it as a lifestyle. But that doesn't really define what it means.

What is veganism, then? It's an ethical position, no more, no less. When I say I went vegan nine years ago what I mean is I made the decision to oppose all animal use and exploitation. In all its forms, not just when it comes to what (or rather who) I eat. Often people equate the word vegan with eating a plant-based diet but eating a plant-based diet doesn't necessarily mean the person supports animal rights. And that's the key here:

Veganism = Animal Rights

What veganism (or animal rights) proposes is that all species deserve moral consideration. This means if we can avoid harming animals, we must. If we have a choice to not exploit and kill, it is a moral imperative that we don't exploit and kill. This is pretty straightforward when it comes to animal companions, at least in most countries. For instance, when someone abuses a dog, we consider it a crime, because there is no justification for that action. 

Here in Spain, there's an endless debate about whether bullfighting is right or wrong. Often I hear people from other countries calling us barbaric because of this tradition. But every single country engages in systematic abuse and exploitation: from food to entertainment, from fashion to transportation... Trillions of animals are exploited and/or killed every year inside laboratories, farms, slaughterhouses, ships, zoos, bullrings, race tracks... But we never think of them. In fact, I think the very reason why people believe veganism is a personal choice is that they fail to recognise these animals as living entities. They are tools, items, numbers... or even worse, an abstract concept.

I still remember what my life was like before I questioned my "personal choices". I ate animal products. I loved cheese more than anything. (Yes, I'm one of those who said, "I could never give up cheese!") I visited zoos and wore leather. I thought of myself as an animal lover because I loved my dogs, rescued birds and openly opposed bullfighting and hunting... until those damn vegans made me think about my choices.

Every day we are presented with dozens of choices, and those choices have consequences not only for us but other humans, other species and the planet itself. The clothes we buy. The plastic waste we produce. The food we eat. The transportation we use. The way we treat and speak to others. The content we consume... We are connected to the web of life in such a way that everything we do has repercussions. But more and more we think we are alone. We think about our existence from an individual viewpoint instead of realising we are part of a whole. 

We might have removed ourselves from nature but this principle is still valid. We can build all the walls we want around us. The fact remains that whatever we do behind our walls will impact everything on the other side. Even the seemingly small choices.

If you're reading this, all I ask from you is that you ask questions. Why are vegans angry? I wondered this myself nine years ago. Perhaps there are plenty of reasons to be angry, but we will only understand once we commit to finding the answers. And let me assure you when I sat down to listen, I understood. 

Our anger doesn't come from hate but from love. Our anger is grief. Our anger is empathy. Our anger is the result of feeling others' pain. Our anger is a call for every single one of us to think of those we never think about. 

It is far from a personal choice.

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