As an ethical vegan, your philosophy and way of life are so at odds with the world around you that you must constantly choose between confrontation and hiding. To reveal that you’re vegan is to hazard discussions and accusations. To keep it to yourself is to hide an essential part of your identity.
The times I’m disappointed in myself as a vegan are the times I hide. I’m naturally reserved, but sometimes I’m also tired or elsewhere with my thoughts or simply not in the mood for discussion. Those are the times I’d rather say nothing than elicit debates.
Three recent examples:
A colleague offered me cookies. I simply said „No, thanks,“ without explaining why. I wanted to say „No thanks, I’m actually vegan,“ but was particularly sleepy that morning and preoccupied. I was just not in the mood to explain or defend myself.
Another time, I was having breakfast with a friend. The breakfast buffet had plenty of vegan options, and my plates were filled with them. His carried piles of bacon and eggs over-easy, sausage links, rolls, and slices of cheese. Choosing meat and dairy was completely unnecessary given that the buffet was chock-full of vegan items. And perhaps it was also impolite, given that he was sitting across from his ethical vegan friend. I should have said something. But I was—apart from the sight of his breakfast—having a good time and did not want to jeopardize the mood.
And a final example: Almost every time I visit my grandma, she says, talking about me: „Rike is vegan, but I like that she’s not trying to indoctrinate anyone. She just wants everyone to make their own choice.“ This is completely wrong, of course. Killing is not a personal choice. And my grandma knows how I really feel; her „praise“ is passive aggression. Sometimes I set the record straight. Sometimes I just keep quiet.
Whenever I’ve kept my veganism to myself, not called out friends on their offensive eating habits, or not corrected false assertions about my veganism, I’ve felt a twinge of guilt afterwards. Isn’t it my obligation to not only be vegan, but openly vegan? To tout veganism and correct false assumptions about it? Given that we are so few and opportunities to talk to non-vegans about veganism are rare, isn’t it my obligation to see past my mood and always be ready to be an ambassador, even when it’s 8am, even when it would spoil the mood?
Once you’ve freed yourself from the cozy impartiality of an all-encompassing paradigm like speciesism, your only choices are confrontation and retreat. There is no middle-ground. When you’re honest, you risk conflict, even when you’re not feeling up for it. And when you avoid conflict, you feel dishonest and timid. The philosophical distance between you and the world dictates the distance between your alternatives of handling it.