"What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame." Friedrich Nietzsche
Today a vegan friend of mine sent me info about how ex-vegans are being shamed publicly for deciding to once again eat meat, dairy, etc. (no longer be vegan). She wanted to know my take on this practice and I've thought about it and will share it here. (I am not posting the link to the public forum here because I do not want to promote it and possibly encourage more people to spread meanness.)
I think shaming ex-vegans is futile. I ask what good would come of it? Is it just to shame them for the mere sake of being mean? Or is it to get them to once again go vegan? The practice of shaming them is not likely to get them to go back to being vegan. And shaming someone just to make them feel bad can't be good for one's karma or for promoting compassion and world peace.
Shaming ex-vegans in a public forum only serves to:
- Make it look like a lot of people go vegan and then choose to dump the lifestyle. Perhaps people will begin to think that veganism must be really difficult if so many people end up leaving it.
- Make more people afraid to try it. Heaven forbid they slip up or end up leaving it. If they do they may end up becoming publicly chastised. That can't be good for anything.
- Make veganism look like you must be perfect.
- Demonstrate that not all vegans are compassionate beings that care about animals. After all, humans are animals. So what they are saying is that they want to protect other animals, but game on for hurting the human animal? Hmm...
When I think of a public forum shaming ex-vegans it also makes me wonder if the person who started it really wishes they could leave veganism, but they lack the courage to do it or fear being shamed. So they put their energy toward harassing others who have done it. Why would they want to spend their time and energy bashing ex-vegans, rather than educating and recruiting new ones?
You can save more animals if you stop being so concerned with perfection. There is not a vegan out there that doesn't in some way contribute to animal cruelty. It may not be their intention, but it happens. Pointing the finger, shaming, and making people feel bad merely puts them on defense. When they are on defense they are immediately turned off to the vegan message. They are also going to most likely become outspoken against veganism because you have shamed them. And let me tell you something, the other side (the meat eating side) is much louder and bigger in number.
Every time someone reaches for a veg meal over a meat-based one they are doing good for the animals and planet. That's a fact. So whether or not they ever go vegan, vegetarian, or they just cut back on the amount of meat they eat it should be celebrated. If every American ate 2-3 less meat-based meals per week just imagine the good that it would do. Stop seeking perfection and instead celebrate the victories. Perhaps the victory is getting your meat-eating friend to adopt Meatless Monday's, a local restaurant to offer more vegetarian options, or your sister to switch from cow's milk to almond milk. All should be celebrated - not shamed because it is not full on veganism.
Some people who try veganism and go back to eating meat may at some point go back to veganism. You just never know. Case in point - Gandhi, who is popularly quoted in the vegetarian world, had a bout of meat-eating in his early 20s. He was raised vegetarian (not vegan), and decided to leave it behind when he left home. He ate meat for a while, later returning to and strongly advocating for vegetarianism. Could you imagine if he had been shamed and publicly chastised during his bout of meat eating? Perhaps we would not have the Gandhi animal-friendly quotes we have today. In his biography he shares this story, as well as about his own conscious brought him back to his vegetarian roots.
As for me, I have written years ago that I don't consider myself a vegan. I also don't call myself a vegan. Some other people call me a vegan, but I'm not and I don't care for the label. You can read about my post here on choosing labels. When you call yourself a vegan people immediately start looking for perfection and wondering where it is that you are messing up. The scrutinize the way you look, what you are wearing, what kind of toothpaste you are using, and so much more. It's a label I don't want to try and live up to and be put under the microscope for. Especially when the truth is that even the captain of the vegan police is contributing to animal cruelty in some way (read this). I saw again that none of us is perfect. There is no way to be perfect in the world we live in.
You will never get people to opt for more vegan meals if you are shaming them. Put that energy toward educating people on animal cruelty and how meat damages the environment. Your time will be much better spent taking that route.