As we quickly approach the 20 year mark in what has been perhaps one of the most tumultuous beginnings to any century in recent human history, we find ourselves as a species divided by a multitude of issues. Wars that rage for decades and transcend a generation, famine and disease that continue to inflict the poorest and most forgotten souls on our planet, and an ever growing consolidation of wealth and resources into the pockets of a very select few at the top, as the rest of the so called "working class" adjusts to longer work hours for more years and less pay compared to previous generations. But as the list of divisive issues seemingly grows endless, there is one gigantic hurdle staring down Humanity that may very well determine the legacy and longevity of our species and planet if we don't take action in a meaningful way. That issue is climate change and the conservation of the environment.
The ever growing realization that climate change is, and will continue to be, the most crucial issue of the 21st Century is not completely lost on many World leaders. In fact, many former and current heads of States and Religions have rung the alarm bells in recent years including former President of the United States Barack Obama who, in no uncertain terms, made his position on this topic very clear when he stated: "There's one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate." That is the former leader of the free world unequivocally declaring that the biggest issue of this entire century isn't the "War on Terrorism" or immigration, but rather a rapidly changing climate that has such far reaching potential for destruction that it can negatively effect every living organism on Earth.
As more people around the world slowly come to grips with the magnitude of this situation and begin to seek education on how to alter their lifestyle in a positive way to help reverse this crisis, a major roadblock continues to be the reliance on animal agriculture as a means of feeding ourselves. If you have a chat with most vegans out there about the environment, you might learn very quickly about how closely connected the effects of climate change are with the animal agriculture industry (sorry about that, we're very passionate about this stuff lol). So how do we reach the "but bacon" brigade about how crucial all of our choices are in regards to safeguarding the environment for future generations? Education and the "Teach don't Preach" method of communication!
We think that most carnists who continue on with this unsustainable lifestyle are still good-natured, caring individuals who have a genuine concern for the future for both themselves and generations to come, but merely lack the necessary education or haven't been exposed to the ever-expanding cache of facts and data that continue to flood wonderful resources like the internet. As Veganism continues to explode in popularity and breaks through the glass ceiling into the mainstream from the "niche" status it still gets designated as in many cultures worldwide, a lot of the education portion will start to sort itself out. And when facts and education rule the day, unfounded preconceptions and stereotypes fade into irrelevance. While that all sounds inspiring heading into the future, we still have a lot to overcome in bringing some enlightenment to those who have no clear understanding of the impact that moving towards a more vegan world can make. So I propose the following, as obvious as some of it may seem:
A lot of the time the feedback I get when casually discussing veganism with others, whether it be co-workers or friends, is the common "What do you eat? How do you survive? YOU MUST BE STARVING? WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?" It took me awhile, but it eventually occurred to me: Why try to explain how you go about your diet when you can show them! Invite some of your friends and acquaintances over for a cookout and knock their socks off with a total assault on their taste buds. Hit them with your lentil loaf, stagger them with a stupendous vegan caesar salad. Oh it's "burgers" you crave is it? Level their pre-conceived notions with a Beyond Meat veggie burger deluxe! After all, it's the seasoning not the sentient that they crave. You get the idea. The truth is, vegans often eat a wider array of tantalizing treats than the average carnist. Once this door has been opened, so many will be more than willing to walk through it!
Appeal to their compassion. As I previously mentioned, a beacon of light in the darkness of the current system of animal agriculture is the realization that the overwhelming majority of folks who still participate in this way of life do so basically out of tradition and habit. I did. Until I realized that I have been lied to, all the way from grade school to adulthood, about the "humane" methods by which our food makes it to our plates. There is truly no humane way to kill another being. I also discovered that many major governments have been complicit to, or even worse, partnered with the meat and dairy industries through shameful lobbying to provide misinformation to the masses, in order to both conceal their heinous abuse of animals, while also forcing upon society food that not only makes us sick and puts a horrible strain on the healthcare system, but is in no way necessary in order to achieve a healthy diet. I was also content to live with blinders on. After all, I didn't see the abuse first hand, and I was always told how crucial the consumption of animal products were to a healthy and balanced diet. But now we live in an age of unlimited access to information. It's no longer possible for the meat and dairy industries to hide their horrendous practices with the ease and privacy they are used to. Armed with the access to these resources, share the information and footage taken by the brave souls who have infiltrated slaughter houses all over the world and brought to the light the evil that takes place. If they fancy themselves animal lovers, it'll be impossible for them to go back to supporting this industry after they've been exposed to their crimes.
Education is the key! As vegans, the likelihood that each of us has been exposed to one of the incredibly powerful documentaries or books on the various subjects of Veganism is grand, but lets not lose sight of who the truly intended target is: Those who are still eating meat, eggs, and dairy. Otherwise the research and reporting done so painstakingly by film makers and authors such as Lee Faulkerson ("Forks Over Knives"-2011), Kip Andersen ("Cowspiracy"-2014, "What the Health"-2017) and Dr. Michael Greger ("How Not To Die") would be nothing but preaching to the choir, even if they advanced the cause and understanding of the issues within the vegan community itself. So have a movie night! Pop some popcorn or bake some pita with your best homemade vegan dip and immerse in an evening of education and understanding. Remember, nobody likes being told how awful their way of living is, and often if you approach the issues with an overly preachy tone it can fall on the deaf ears of even the most compassionate among us. It's just human nature, so let the facts and footage of one of these powerful documentaries do the talking while you and your pals do some eating!
Try to limit your expectations somewhat. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's not realistic to assume a person doing a wholesale, 180 degree lifestyle change will happen over night. But if each of us can get just one person to think twice and choose the vegan option even just once a week, or buy cruelty free beauty products or apparel on their next bout of retail therapy, we are moving inch by inch in the right direction. And that direction is towards a world with less cruelty and more compassion for the animals, the planet and future generations. Let's heal together by remembering that Less Harm equals More Harmony!