In choosing to be vegan, we have an inherent desire to make a difference, whether that difference concerns the environment, animals, people or anything else.
Even though my romantic, idealistic self has always dreamed of changing the world, there was one monster I never dared to wake: vegan activism.
I don’t like being judged because I’m vegan, and I have no right to judge others for their eating choices. I believe in tolerance and acceptance; live and let live. (Besides, I did not want to be pegged as that “vegan girl.”)
I recently joined my university’s Veg Society, eager to find a community as excited about vegan chocolate cake as I am, but I was not so eager to help out with their Meatless Monday pledge project. When I was handed a pledge sheet, I smiled and promised that I would. When I got back to my dorm, I tossed it aside.
A few weeks later, a representative from The Humane League, Rachel Atcheson, came to speak to the Veg Society. Her explanation of the atrocities of the American agriculture industry was no shock to me, but her statistics on the effects of college leafleting were. According to Farm Sanctuary, college leafleting has led 1 in 50 students to turn to vegetarianism or pescatarianism, 3 in 50 to eat “a lot less” fish, 6 in 50 to eat “a lot less” red meat and 1 in 14 to eat “a lot less” chicken, eggs and dairy. The impact goes even further when you consider that 1 in 5 shared the leaflet with someone else who began to consume less meat!
I’m finding myself torn between wanting to promote tolerance (accepting others as they are without judgment) and defending my beliefs (the incredible impacts of not eating meat). I now knew statistics I hadn’t before, so I decided to try asking people if they’d pledge, beginning with my family and friends. What I found surprised me even more than these statistics.
People were generally open to the idea of Meatless Monday, or at least willing to consider it. No one laughed in my face, no one ridiculed me for forcing my values on them, and no one criticized vegetarianism. In fact, more people than I expected told me that they were already vegetarian.
I’m still not completely comfortable with asking for these pledges and taking part in such activism, but maybe I don’t need to be completely comfortable. If I don’t do anything, then there is no chance for change; at least if I try, there begins to be a chance. I’m starting to see that the positive impact outweighs any discomfort, possible backlash, and being known as that “vegan girl.”
Juliet Freudman is a freshman at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism who can be found eating chocolate when she’s not dreaming of Paris.