This was my submission for Letters to a New Vegan, a collection that is being compiled by longterm vegans to welcome and support those who are just starting out. The book is due for publication in 2014.
Dear new vegan,
Welcome. Speaking not only for myself but, boldly, for the billions of sentient beings who currently suffer at human hands, and for the straining, groaning planet, and for the people who go hungry and thirsty because we don’t know how to share: thank you for opening your eyes and acting on what you see.
I hope you will find your vegan journey to be endlessly inspiring, fulfilling and rewarding as do I and so many others I know who have chosen this path too. My motto is ‘the best things in life are cruelty-free’ and I believe this is self-evident the moment we embark on living in tune with our deepest values. There are no barriers once we have made up our minds and our hearts. Being vegan opens up possibilities while denying us nothing.
Any time you feel disconnected from people around you who still buy in to the relentless tide of mainstream thinking, remember your deep connection to those whom you have spared. Let yourself feel the lightness with which you tread and be lifted up by it. No injustice can end while we as individuals take part in it. You, for your part, are free of that now.
Of course, it is not a vegan world, and while this remains the case there is much to be done. There are countless ways to help spread the vegan consciousness, and we can fit what we do to our talents, our passions, and the time available to us. A great way to start is simply by speaking your truth. I was quiet about my veganism for the first few years, having been schooled in the art of keeping a low profile as a vegetarian growing up. I was the only one in my family and the only one of my friends bar one. I learnt to say “it’s a personal choice thing” and “I couldn’t hurt a fly”, which let people off the hook: they could attribute my choice to my sentimentality or unusual sensitivity, without looking at themselves. But about a year in to being vegan, a feeling of courage and confidence began to blossom inside me as I realised that my previous ‘live and let live’ philosophy was leaving the victims out of the equation… It wasn’t hard once this realisation dawned. I began to feel that being vegan wasn’t even about me any more. So I began to speak up, looking for bridges to build and sparks of consciousness to ignite, entirely bypassing my natural reticence and finding my true voice – for the voiceless. I hope it will be the same for you, and you find your voice at your own pace and in your own way too.
Becoming vegan sadly involves becoming aware of some heart-breaking truths, and this can be very painful to carry with us. But amidst it all – all the despair, the disbelief, the anger – we have every reason to be joyful, because we are making a difference every day. We are taking a stand for freedom and that means something for every being who is not forcibly brought into this world to be exploited and violently destroyed as a product for us to use. The world we dream of is a paradise indeed. Space for all species to coexist, free from anthropocentric domination, suffused by a compassionate human consciousness, free from the pathological ideology of ‘carnism’ which entails an arbitrary disregard for the most basic interests of certain species even while preaching values such as kindness and non-violence in other walks of life.
You are part of this future, which need not be a far-off fantasy: all it needs is enough people to make the connection as you have. The world is vegan if we want it!