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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is Vegan Awesome?

Obviously, one would assume that vegan awesome is simply a person projecting a favorable opinion of veganism. This is a justifiable assumption when the phrase "vegan awesome" is all in lower case letters, but what of the concept itself? The concept "Vegan Awesome" in it's title form and full of wonder can be summed up by further advancing the vegan lifestyle choice, into a free-thinking version of simple awesomeness. What do I mean? I mean that merely being vegan does not make you Vegan Awesome, but rather there must be further lifestyle choices that propel you to that status.

Take for instance activism. Activism certainly has it's place in the animal rights sector, as well as for other noteworthy causes (environment, politics, etc.) However, not everyone is swayed by activism. While one person may be fully convinced that the fur industry is wrong after an encounter with flour or paint, another may decide to wear more fur, purely out of spite. Additionally, seeing a video on the horrors of factory farming might convince a large percentage of the population to go vegan, while others may be more influenced by learning the health hazards of what can be referred to as "a westernized diet." The point of this is purely marketing. From a realist perspective, many angles should be taken on the issues involving animal rights and dietary preferences. Keep PETA, PCRM, and all the other organizations which address different angles of animal rights. Keep the protests and activism that has brought so many people to the cause and raised awareness of these key issues. Continue discussing the big three reasons for going vegan: ethics, environment, health. All of these things are valuable marketing devises and important cogs in the machine of progression. Like these other concepts, Vegan Awesome is just one small part of it all; one small way to help people make kinder, healthier choices.

All vegans and vegetarians are displaying an alternate lifestyle to that of the average person, especially Americans. Whether we like it or not, we are flagships for our cause and we are viewed as such by our peers. For some reason, people spend a great deal of time noticing, discussing, and inquiring about food and the eating habits of others. We experience this at lunchtime with our coworkers, hearing voices of "what's that?" and "eeewww." We experience this in the grocery store when the checkout person has never heard of rice milk, scoffs at tofu, and gives you a puzzling look when you ask if something is made from organic sugar. We get to be the "difficult one" on trips and the black sheep of the family during holidays. No matter what we do, our simple dietary preferences and our kind lifestyle choices define the way we are seen by those around us. Much like a famous figure, we represent something larger than ourselves... at least to those around us.

When someone who doesn't know anything about the National Football League (NFL) hears the phrase football, oftentimes the first thing that comes to their head is Michael Vick and his horrible treatment of animals. Other people think of Pacman Jones and his famous strip club fight. Obviously, those who follow the sport don't isolate these two people, so they have a better opinion of the sport and probably of athletes as a whole. The same concept can be applied to vegans and vegetarians. For many of us, we are one of very few vegans that our peers know, and in some cases we are the only vegan in their life. Therefore, their impression of vegans and vegetarians tends to derive strictly from us and perhaps whenever PETA makes the news. This has led to an unfortunate brand of stereotyping and we all face an uphill battle meeting new omnivores because of it. Often we're seen as elitist, preachy, and just plain weird before we even get to know the people. This is the nature of humanity and we know this going into it.

So how can we get back to square one with the omnivores of the world? How can we let them know that not every vegan is extremely serious, preachy and angry all the time? How can we let them know that we are not as difficult or strange as they seem to think? The concept of Vegan Awesome is that if they change their opinions of the vegans and vegetarians that they know, then they'll gradually change their opinions of vegans and vegetarians as a whole.

Being Vegan Awesome is cognitively deciding that you are going to be a vegan, and you are going to show people how awesome being vegan is, purely by being awesome yourself. If you become "that awesome vegan" they know, then they'll have a better opinion of veganism in general. Once they form a better opinion of veganism as a whole, they'll be more open to incorporating vegan choices in their life. Maybe it's a big difference and someone will go veg. Maybe it's something more subtle like switching to rice milk or simply reducing their meat intake. I do believe though that by being Vegan Awesome, you'll have some impact (big or small) on those around you. And remember, good and healthy habits are "in" this year.

1 comment:

  1. I love the concept of Vegan Awesome. It's a good one to strive for, IMO!

    Thanks for your blog Brandon - there are some important perspectives you've shared above.