There’s a brilliant meme I found online, which says, ‘Vegans are like adults. First you hate them, then you become one and realise they were right all along.’ It’s hilarious, but it’s accurate.
Before I became I vegan I avoided thinking about the world’s ‘big issues’, because they honestly just overwhelmed me. I remember being on a date with a lovely guy, activist, vegetarian, concerned with environmental issues and the future of the planet, and I just wanted him to stop talking about the big issues, because I was getting depressed and anxious. The future of the planet seemed like a long, slow ride into death and destruction, and I did not want to think about it. I think for many of us, this turning a blind eye is a defence mechanism.
The real reason I hated thinking about things like global warming and the destruction of the environment and world hunger was because I couldn’t see any way that I could stop these disasters from unfolding. I believed that the world was going to turn to shit with or without me, and nothing I did was going to make a difference.
And then I watched Cowspiracy.
I sat down to watch the documentary with a plate full of nachos and by the end, I was vegan. I didn’t have a choice. By the time the credits rolled, I thought, that’s it. This film was telling me something I had never understood before: I had the power to make a difference. Want to do something about global warming? Go vegan. The rapidly diminishing fish population in the ocean? Go vegan. Global hunger? Go vegan. All the issues I’d thought we’re out of my control suddenly became something I could actively fight against. And so I did.
The funny thing about becoming aware of these issues is that once your eyes are opened, they keep opening. You can’t shut them again. If you start to fight one form of injustice and cruelty, you become more aware of the other forms around you. And then you want to fight them all. So after becoming vegan I became a minimalist, to try and fight the cruel commercialisation loop that we’re stuck in, that is creating astronomical amounts of debt, unhappiness, and of course waste, not to mention horrible working and living conditions for those people who are exploited so we in the West can buy cheap clothes and iPhones. Then I started to realise that if I want my food and clothes to be sustainable and ethical, my make up should be as well.
Recently, I’ve been realising how blind I have been to issues affecting people (specifically women) of colour, and how lack of awareness is not an excuse – it’s showing my privilege. I’ve started following great activists online like Ijeoma Oluo, Erika Hart and Amber Amour, and I’m trying to learn more so I can check my privilege and be a part of change.
So how did becoming a vegan make me an activist? It not only opened my eyes, it showed me the key to change is in our hands, if we’re willing to accept it. To all the vegans, minimalists, and other activists I dismissed before I become one: I’m so sorry. I was uneducated, naive, and scared of a future I thought I couldn’t prevent. But if we all keep our minds open to learning, we can shift this world. Radically.
Featured image: Markus Spiske