Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Evolution of the Vegan Police

The vegan world I was 'born' into was quite a different one to today's.  Thirty years ago the reasons for being vegan were still the same but my world was more immersed in anarchic hunt sabbing punky chaos where animal welfare predominated over any of the other reasons; particularly so health.  Picture the scene; 4am and cubbing season had just started.  I jump into a smokey, beer breath infused van pumping out the dulcet tones of Culture Shock.  Everyone is wide eyed, stomachs churning in anticipation of the scenes of death and arrest that may face each and every one of us today.  I remember that feeling well.  It never wore off even after 20 years.  It was all or nothing for the ginger dogs.

Dig out standoff.  Scooby 1991

Back in those days my first few 'sabs' were embarked on as a vegetarian.  It didn't last long though and I was soon fully vegan but not through any form of forceful coercion from my fellow sabs (or my sister who was already vegan).  These people were my 'family' right from the outset.  Exactly as my flesh and blood family were; outside they were a force to be reckoned with; I trusted them with my life.  Inside however, they were gentle, supportive souls who never pre-judged or forced the issue within.  I learnt a lot from that and was left to come to my own conclusions.  I was vegan.  

Roll forward 30 years.  My flesh and blood family are the same; ever supportive.  Even my dear recently departed dad, in his manifestation as a robin, appears every morning to kick my ass into shape if I start questioning myself about this or that.  My mum, tired from her ongoing battle with cancer, still manages to become 'mama bear' when my mood dips, and my sister, oh so many miles away in Alaska does her job as big sis at opportune moments.  Phil, well he is my rock that neither tide nor time can shift. 

What of my old vegan family though?  Well, yes, I still have many old and new vegan compardres but something has definitely changed.  It only occurred to me a few months ago and even then it has taken me this long to reflect on it and get it into words.  So much has been achieved in the world of vegan over more recent years.  It's wonderful, it really is.  I wouldn't want to turn back the years for that very reason.  However, something has shifted.  Go back 30 years ago and sure there was infighting, and the 'vegan police' popped up here and there to check on 'is that vegan?' but everyone was fighting on the same side.  I've noticed a definite division in more recent years.  

Perhaps it is nostalgia, in the same way that summers always seemed longer and hotter back then.  Perhaps it is that I no longer operate in circles where life, both yours and that of the wild creature you fought to protect, were in danger right in front of your face.  Perhaps it is that determination and companionship that is born out of nights spent in police cells fighting for what you damn well know was right.  All I know is that I cringe when I see fellow vegans being attacked ... by fellow vegans. What the hell?

We've all been there.  I know when I was a spingly sparkly 17 year old vegan the world was totally and utterly incomprehensibly mad and wrong.  You know what, it still is; possibly more so.  You know what though, I have converted (for want of a better word) more people to veganism by just 'being'.  No attacking, no prejudgement, just by being me.  Just like the good old days; like my vegan family.  I've had my moments of total bloody wanting to scream out loud but it invariably does not work.  Anyone reading this that is not vegan needs to know that every bloody day I wake up and think 'what the fuck?'.  Gently, gently though.  The revolution has to be gentle/shared/diversified and more importantly accepted.

Vegans attacking vegans takes the revolution backwards; big time.  I have seen totally devoted vegans who work their arses off for the cause be totally attacked just because they weren't 'radical enough' or think in exactly the same way as another vegan.  Nobody, upon nobody, should be criticised for trying.  I know I myself have had moments of expressing disappointment and despair.  However, I have never expressly attacked anyone for trying.  Vegans work on many different levels and in many different areas.  Some vegans want to go out and demonstrate and some vegans just want to be vegan.  Any, upon any, level of change towards ending animal suffering has to be encouraged, not criticised.  When I went out sabbing, got arrested or attacked in the line of 'ginger dog' duty, that was my choice.  Others like League Against Cruel Sports supporters were more comfortable demonstrating with placards or contributing financially.  Different levels, different commitments, different choices, different impacts.  All contributory.  Everyone who is drawn to the vegan world may be attracted to different aspects of it, and what right does someone have to try and tell a fellow vegan exactly what level or area of action they should be engaging with?  Educating someone into an aspect of veganism that they were not previously aware of is one thing, but trying to force a fellow human animal to do something against their will is not very vegan in my book.

What this is leading up to is that recently I have wanted at times to add comments to social media, but have held back for fear of judgemental comments.  I really don't know why as what I have had to say is, in my eyes, totally justified.  Perhaps in today's totally expanded social media audience, it hasn't allowed the confidential benefit of 'family discussion' within the 'sab' van first.   Either way, how weird is it that a vegan of 30 years has not felt the confidence to express something for fear of being slammed down by fellow vegans? 

Put yourself in the shoes of someone, like me 30 years ago, that is just embarking on that vegan journey.   My 'family' were totally supportive and therefore effective.  How about yours?  

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