Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking at ourselves

This past week sure has been eye opening for me. To read more on that go back one post and read "no homo". Through that post and conversation and comments that were a result of that post, I have realized things that are hard for me to stomach.

Forgive me while I just share some random thoughts.

I have been part of the vegan community for along time. I know we have our faults. A community filled with so much passion and compassion in trying everyday to decrease animal suffering is also a community as diverse as any other. We all come from from different parts of the country (and world!) and we all have our life experiences outside of being vegan.

Also, we all have different reasons for becoming vegan and participate in different levels of activism.

This isn't only in the vegan/animal rights communities. I find it in local politics, the LGBTQ communities I am part of as well as the homeless activist community I am proud to be a part of.

Regardless of what community we are a part of and are passionate for, we are a representative of that community. Like it or not, our actions and our life steps have an affect on what others may think of our community.

For me as a vegan and animal rights activist, I am very aware that I represent the billions of animals that suffer for food, fashion and entertainment. I am asked about that all of the time. If I am acting like an ass, and folks know I am vegan, it doesn't look good for the voiceless animals whom I am trying to help.

Racism, heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, hate, etc. have no place in the vegan/animal rights communities.

The more I wrote about "no homo" the more I learned how many people use the comment. People in the vegan/animal rights communities. It was totally disheartening.

Many times in my life I have to look in the mirror and take a good look at who I am and what I am doing. My language, my behavior. How does someone feel about veganism after an encounter with me? Do my posts, tweets and comments reflect well for the voiceless?

I don't like when I hear homophobic comments at vegan events. I don't like realizing that there is acceptability by vegan athletes around the term "no homo".

So I speak out against it. I let folks know that what they are saying is offensive.

And then I go back to that mirror and take a good look at myself.

Thanks for reading and thanks for being a voice for the voiceless.


  1. Dan, I think that you approach your activism (for gay rights, animal rights, and homeless youth) with such joy, compassion, and enthusiasm. I love that you are so positive and lead by example. I appreciate that you use your privilege (as a white cisgender male professional) to advocate for those with more marginalized voices, and that you raise their voices whenever you can (for example by having the homeless youth write on posterboard why they became homeless).

    Unfortunately, I don't think the vegan/AR community is one "as diverse as any other." The AR community is disproportionately white women of class privilege. I think there is a lot of work to be done: in challenging people to go beyond single issue animal rights campaigns, in degendering certain foods (e.g. red meat as a symbol of masculinity and virility – see the Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams), in ensuring that vegan campaigns to not alienate POC/immigrants with racist messaging or use misogynist tactics, in making the point that vegan ≠ cruelty-free if we do not consider awful working conditions of the humans producing our food and clothing, in making sure that low-income people actually have access to fresh vegetables that would allow them to make healthy and animal-free decisions. And there are more issues than I've listed here. I think it's essential to challenge our community when we hear racist/homophobic/(cis)sexist/ableist/classist etc. remarks, and to critically examine ourselves to answer why there are not more POC/immigrants/low income/etc. folks doing this work with us.

    1. Thanks Hana. I really appreciate that you are so kind and such a supporter of our blog.

      I wrote that line while thinking about all of the other communities I feel I am a part. The more we include the other and stop excluding them with thought, word or deed the better all living beings will be.

  2. i am a 59 yr old gay man who has been animal free- food, clothing, etc.- for the past 46 years.
    my partner and i went to a local vegetarian group meeting a few years back because the speaker was a gay woman and the topic was 'animal rights, gay rights, what's the connection'.
    she spoke eloquently for about an hour and no mention of the connection. when it came time for audience responses i spoke about how i have found when dealing with people about my veganism or my sexuality, both issues are used to deny me of my masculinity. the speaker said, "that's it! that is the point of my being here.
    i remember the man sitting in front of me squirming in his seat and putting his arm around his girlfriend/ wife.
    i mentioned that to the woman who asked me why don't i join their group.
    so yeah, even amongst compassionate animal rights folk, homophobia rears it's ugly head.

  3. First of all, I thank you for your voice, humor and dedication to non-human animals (and to a better world in general!).

    "Racism, heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, hate, etc. have no place in the vegan/animal rights communities."

    Yes! This.

    Reading this post has helped me solidify the concept that a community of vegans should not be romanticized or make broad generalizations about a group of people. Saying that all vegans are progressive is akin to saying all men are misogynists. Labeling, and stereotyping never serves us well....however I admit it disappoints me that animal rights activists, vegans etc do not all share a common ideal of equality among all groups. I recently became rather misanthropic after an unfortunate twitter encounter. I had posted a picture of myself and a friend protesting at the Japanese embassy regarding Taiji. A man tweeted something about the Japanese sucking. I tweeted back (in a very polite fashion) that the Japanese did not "suck" but what was happening in Taiji did indeed suck. I was met with a barrage of insults. He called me a fake activist, a Jap slut, a cunt, a whore - you name it.
    I was stunned that a person who seemed so passionate about animal rights would be so abusive to my gender - and racist to boot! I was also stunned that no one stuck up for me.
    I was speechless - or tweetless. ;)
    In the end I decided that his words hurt him more than they hurt me and that I should find compassion for him. But at the end of the day - the question still lingers - how is it that someone (some people) can choose to show so much care for the well being of animals through veganism, activism, etc but choose to be so cruel through actions like sexism, racism, homophobia? Was it really too idealistic of me to think that those who fight against speciesism would also fight for equality in other realms?