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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"It's a Personal Choice" - Rethinking an Old Standby

I admit it. In conversations about my veganism, I sometimes take the easy road - the simpler explanation, the easier-to-swallow discussion, the quick dismissal of the conversation when it reaches a level of discomfort.

In a conversation with someone about my veganism, I’ve been known to say something very peaceful and non-confrontational, along the lines of “It’s really a personal choice. I don’t care what other people do.” Usually, this puts me in a safe place where I don’t appear to be pushy and the other person can walk away without thinking too much about what I’ve said.

It’s a crutch I fall back on all the time, because I’m a non-confrontational person. I don’t really like having an argument or discussion about animal rights all the time, so I cop out sometimes.

I used to think that there wasn’t anything wrong with this statement. And maybe there isn’t, but for me lately, I’ve been rethinking my position on this common statement of mine.

When a person supports factory farms (or small farms), they are making a choice. That much is true. The statement itself is not incorrect. It technically is a choice that people in society make. But when I say “it’s a personal choice,” I give an impression. I’m indicating eating animals is something that can be done casually.

In reality, the way animals are treated on factory farms is horrific. By saying “it’s a personal choice,” I downgrade what is truly at stake here - the life of living, breathing beings – to a casual choice. I present the body of an animal as something a human can carelessly choose to destroy or not to destroy. It is not a casual thing. It is desperate, painful, and charged with feeling. By reducing it to a simple “choice,” I rob the situation of the truth, while reinforcing the status-quo.

By not taking a moment to feel uncomfortable and really talk about what I truly believe, I let a chance slip by where I can really make people rethink their stance.

I don’t have to be crazy, confrontational, or angry. I could just be up front and honest. Instead of lying and saying, “I don’t care what other people do,” (I do care) I can say simply, “I refuse to support or participate in the suffering and death of animals.” That statement is simple, powerful, and true.

As much as I hate someone thinking of me as “that angry vegan,” I think I’d rather speak my truth, be a little uncomfortable, and take a stance for those ever-suffering farm animals.

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