Saturday, January 7, 2012

Vegan, what's your job?

I have so much to catch up on from the California trip but this has been on my mind lately and perhaps a bit more important than restaurant reviews.  (I know, I know, ya gotta eat.)

I was at a Vegan Drinks in NY the other week and was having a conversation with someone who basically said that, as far as talking to other people about veganism, he didn't do it.  His being vegan was, "enough."  I told him that I had to somewhat disagree with him.

From my pics and writings you know that if I'm not working and in a uniform I ALWAYS wear something with a vegan-ish message.  My tee shirts or buttons are the easiest way to strike up a conversation with someone who either will say, "Harrumph," give me a thumbs up, or just make some comment or other.  It doesn't matter what the comment is, they've just opened up the door for me to talk about veganism with a complete stranger.  It's rare that someone says, "Hey, I'm a vegan too," but even that will give me the opportunity to talk about what they do and how they participate in the vegan community.  Most of the time I hear all of those standard comments that, if you're vegan, you're all too familiar with.

If they tell me about how much steak they hardly eat anymore I'll start talking about how much I eat and asking questions about why they cut down.

If they tell me how they couldn't ever be a vegan I'll tell them about how my grandfather was a butcher and as a kid I worked on the fishing boats in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and thought the same thing at one point in time.

If they tell me about how they have a rescue dog, (I do wear a spay/neuter button on one of my knapsacks ... one of my few single issue buttons), I'll ask them if they ever rescued a pig.

I will start to talk about diet and health, environmental issues and compassion and wherever I get a glimmer or a "Hmmm," I know that that is the direction the conversation will take.  I figure I only have a minute or two in random encounters whilst out and about.  What's my goal?  What's my job?

Well, I figure that the most important thing I can do is the equivalent of moving that first grain of sand under a ship that's run aground.  I want to plant, minimally, the smallest of doubt, the first formation of questioning the status quo of food and how we treat animals.  I know that the odds of the lightbulb going off in the short time I interact with this stranger are slim to none.  (Although recently someone pointed to my "My Food Didn't Scream" button and said in that moment they "got it" ... so it can happen ... like love at first sight).  The odds are much greater that I can implant a thought to change the mindlessness of food consumption in that persons life.  If I do that and you do that and the next vegan does that who knows if, (not when), the news of the next animal flesh recall or mad cow outbreak headline  will finally push this person over the vegan line.  I don't know.  Perhaps you'll have been the person to move that grain and I'll be the one to add the final push.

I just heard a lecture by Dr. Steven Best.  He raises some interesting points that shifted my thought process, (and caused me to get off my butt and write this), about our vegan movement.  How much time do we have left if scientists say that by 2050 there will be no fish left in the sea?  And there will be 8.9 billion people* to feed.  And the polar ice caps will have melted?

His statement that we're not in the 6th century, acting like we have all the time in the world, but the 21st and time is literally working against us, really struck home.  China's middle class is about the same size as the entire U.S. population ... and they all want meat.  300 million new meat eaters.  If we don't work at making people come over to the vegan side we are definitely going to be losing this war, and this world!

It's in English, subtitled in German.

I think it's a good use of a half hour of your time.  I think I'm better able to serve this movement working my job and making a salary and blogging and being an activist than I am sitting in jail for some direct action at this point in my life but you'll have to make your own decisions about what he suggests we ought to be doing.

Our job is to make more vegans.  Make a lot more vegans.  And do it soon.

Start conversations with anyone the least bit interested in hearing what you have to say.  Talk about their health, talk about the environment, talk about compassion and speciesism.  One of those will strike a chord.  Do it every day.  Do it twice a day.  We need a groundswell and we need it now.


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