Outspoken Vegans – Help or Hindrance?

This is a subject I’ve been debating for a very long time, and I think it a subject most vegans deal with on a daily basis.

When should you stay quiet and when should you stand up?

I’m not talking about if you see animal abuse for example, you should always report or speak out against this. I’m talking about on the daily conversation you might have with people when explaining why you don’t want cheese on your pizza, or why you need to know the ingredients that go into the unlabelled bagel.

I for one shy away from confrontation with meat eaters.

 I was once very vocal about my beliefs in my younger years, but found that people didn’t like being preached at, or told why they shouldn’t eat at KFC, and so I learned to shut up.

Infact I now go red if the conversation arises, not out of embarrassment of what I belive in, but of the ultimate argument that is about to take place….

“So why are you vegan?’

*Insert non preachy, straight forward answer*

“Yeah but we’re carnivors, these are canine meat teeth/ there’s a natural order to things and we’re top of the food chain/ you’ll actually kill more animals if you don’t eat them due to overpopulation etc etc etc.”

No matter what you say, no matter how valid your argument, you will not win.  And what makes matters worse is that, due to the stereotypes portrayed in the media, it’s ok for people to literally shout their opinions at us, but when we shout back?… Hippies, brainwashed, tree huggers, extremist, weirdo… the list goes on.

Where did these stereotypes come from? Where did this preconceived notion of a hemp wearing ‘vegan’ happen? And how can we change this weak – complaining – overly sensitive caricature that the group has become, into something that demands the respect of the press?

I know one blog will not and cannot answer this, however I thought I we could start by looking at the current vegan celebrities, or to be more precise, the outspoken vegan celebrities.  

I’ve decided to look at four celebrities – Joaquin Phoenix, Ellen Degeneres, Morrissey and Pamela Anderson.

 

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Instantly I can see that this list comprises of two types of outspoken vegans, and most of us will fall into one of these camps, you’re either a – enlightener or engager.

Enlighteners – such as Morrissey or Joaquin are loud, unapologetic and unnerving on their stance of animal consumption.

From their carefully chosen vocabulary – Morrissey for example branding the White House’s annual turkey pardon as “Thankskilling” – to their actions – Joaquin’s disturbing ‘drowning’ video for PETAs – Go Vegan advert springs to mind!  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij3W0BetI60)

As the title suggests their aim is to enlighten people to their view. It might not be the most polite way, but it is direct.

Although these actions are brave in today’s PR focused world, and grab headlines, they sometimes draw negative press to the cause too, and I cant work out if the negative fallout is worth the exposure.

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 On the other hand – the engaging vegans have a completely different approach.

As their title suggests they engage the audience, and try to get people on their side through friendly and warm messaging.

Both Pamela and Ellen have published blogs, or books on their vegan lifestyle and both have posed on billboards as the poster children for the vegan lifestyle.

 This method is more friendly, more welcoming and more ‘female’ (or at least in my opinion).

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Its interesting that the men are shouty and violent with imagery, whilst the women pose naked with lettuce leaves or pose with pictures of animals. But gender stereotypes are a whole other issue we won’t get stared on!

I feel that engaging vegans are more likely to get people talking, and talking in a positive way. As unfortunately if you alienate your audience, they will not listen to you, so instead of showing a five minute movie on the death of a baby pig, talk about how a non-dairy diet like ‘oh my god’ improved your skin and made you lose 12 pounds! Wow!

It sounds like I’m arguing that this method is wrong, but it’s not. In fact I feel the oposite, by taking veganism to its core of what it can and will do for people, this will be more effective than guilt.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, although engaging vegans are more likely to open a discussion with meat eaters. I truly feel its the enlighteners who – well – enlighten.

Nothing will make you want and more importantly STICK to a vegan lifestyle like hardcore messaging. Those images with blood and guts and pain. Thats what you’ll remember when you tuck into your bacon sandwhich, not the valid but vague reasoning of why Ellen decided to go vegan.

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But who’s right?…None of them are. The important thing is that people in the public eye are talking and publicising what is happening.

And just in case you think I’m being overly critical of the ‘engaging’ side, I want to point out an article that made me cringe with the backlash that this comment will have on us all….

Morrissey recently said:

  • “I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia [sic],” he replied. “They are both rape, violence, murder.”
  • “If I’m introduced to anyone who eats beings, I walk away. Imagine, for example, if you were in a nightclub and someone said to you ‘Hello, I enjoy bloodshed, throat-slitting and the destruction of life,’ well, I doubt if you’d want to exchange phone numbers.”
  • “If you believe in the abattoir then you would support Auschwitz. There’s no difference. People who would disagree with this statement have probably never been inside an abattoir.”

Enough said really.

As you can imagine the press went mad and so did the comments on the websites, social media and news. His views echo how many of us feel, and equally are the polar opposite of others, but by putting it out there, in the press, its now going to be found by every anti- vegan troll on the internet. And unfortunately, although I applaud and respect Morrissey and this shocking allegiance to animals, I cant help but think to non vegans this is all a little bit lost in translation

The same applies for Joaquin’s heartfelt voice over for the docu-movie ‘Earthings’. Which, not only makes you want rip out your own heart then vomit on it at the heartlessness of the human race, but also makes you want to punch Joaquin, after the seventeenth image of a cows throat being slit in two minutes.

 

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 However you want to look at them, these celebrities are creating a dialogue between meat eaters and non meat eaters, and are exposing the industry for what is truly is – barbaric. So whether it’s with a suggestive smile, a warm embrace or an all out attack on your senses it’s all good.

What do you think?

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