Two weeks ago I wrote about the times I don’t speak up loudly enough for veganism and how I feel lame afterwards. Some readers commented that they don’t understand why I feel this way and that they think vegans should stop being preachy: „To each his own.“ I hear this objection often, from vegans and non-vegans. And I disagree completely.
I don’t care about people’s fashions, whom they share their bed with, or how ambitious they are. These are personal choices. None of my business. But not all decisions are truly personal choices. Eating animals isn’t. And that is why speaking up for veganism is not being preachy. It is not infringing on somebody’s privacy. On the contrary, speaking up against the consumption of animals is the attempt to stop omnivores from encroaching on much more than just someone’s privacy: someone’s life and liberty.
Harming animals is not a personal choice. It may—in our current economic and legal system—be treated as a personal choice, but morally it isn’t. There’ve been many times throughout history when harming others was juridically backed and economically encouraged, but this didn't make it right. For the most part, we’ve collectively decided so in hindsight and condemn those who participated, even though at that time they weren’t legally doing anything wrong and even had incentives to act as they did. As a German, the Third Reich comes to mind, but I’m sure most countries have their own examples.
As vegans we’re even more obligated to speak up, because unlike almost any other liberation movement in history, those we’re trying to liberate quite literally do not have a voice. We cannot rely on them to help themselves or convince others that they’re worthy of living.
If veganism were about eating healthfully or living according to some religious notion of purity, then, yes, it would be a personal choice, and we should spare others the annoyance of how we made ours. But to me, veganism is not about myself and my body. It’s about exposing that legality and economic incentive do not make something right. Because it’s not a personal choice to harm others, our duty as compassionate people is to not only not harm others but to also tell others not to. Minding your own business towards people who don’t respect others’ right to life is not a virtue. It’s a failing.