Liz Longacre is an activist, blogger, soon-to-be business owner, and someone I would consider a loving friend - her heart is huge and she spreads kindness and compassion wherever she goes. Although having only been vegan for less than a year, Liz writes to her blog readers like a seasoned veteran, which just goes to prove how beyond her years she is in terms of her rockin' activism and lifestyle. I am thrilled to be sharing this awesome guest post with you guys and gals! You can learn more about Liz and the work she does at the bottom of the post. For now, grab some coffee (or tea), sit back, and enjoy a beautiful, inspiring post by Liz Longacre.
What Newbies to the Vegan Movement Can Expect
Tips for How to Transition
I call it a vegan movement because that’s exactly what it is. Like people throughout history who’ve fought against racism or sexism, we vegans view the world’s exploitation of animals with great shame and we fight everyday with our choices and advocacy because we have a hope and a vision of a better world for animals - a world where animals are protected from needless suffering, where the intensive confinement of factory farming is abolished, and where animals are treated as the majestic, emotional, loving and sentient creatures that they are, instead of as commodities. As in any movement, there is an endless amount of resistance, backlash and conflicting ideals that we must face.
While I’ve had a passion for animals basically since birth, I’m relatively new to veganism. I was a vegetarian for 12 years but only became a vegan 9 months ago at the age of 31. When I became a vegetarian 12 years ago I didn’t know jack about factory farms. I stopped eating animals because I loved them and didn’t feel right eating them. And I don’t just mean I loved my own pets, I mean I felt love for every single species, from the squirrels to the raccoons to the pigs. As I remember Lindsay once writing on this blog, I too even had an affection for ground worms. My father’s favorite story, which he told on my wedding day, was how at around the age of seven I refused to let him use the worms he purchased to go fishing because I swore they were using their bodies to form numbers on my hand and therefore they were WAY too smart to be hooked on a fishing line! In a way, I’ve always felt this instinct to protect the most vulnerable.
I was an extremely shy child growing up and in many ways I could look into the eyes of an animal and feel a sense of peace, acceptance and understanding that I didn’t always feel as easily with people. I learned at a young age the many ways in which an animal can truly save a person, or even a family, and that the unconditional love of an animal is not something to take for granted. It’s one of the most precious gifts of love on our planet and it’s a gift we should learn from and emulate.
That all being said, I spent most of my life clueless as to how much animals suffer in our farming industry, which is exactly how factory farmers wanted me to be. It wasn’t until I exposed myself to all of the undercover factory farm investigations that I really understood what was going on and understood that eating dairy is just as harmful to animals as eating meat. After watching enough videos making the decision to become vegan was a no-brainer.
Because I entered this vegan world somewhat later in life, most of the people in my life are full on meat eaters. I often feel a bit isolated in my values when I’m with these people who I love so dearly and feel so close to in all other aspects of life. I also often feel judged and scrutinized by them. On top of that I worry about making them feel uncomfortable, even though I’m the one who’s usually the brunt of jokes! Becoming vegan in a non-vegan world can sometimes feel isolating and polarizing.
The more vegans I meet the less alone in my beliefs I feel. Now it almost feels like I have my feet planted in 2 different worlds – the vegan world and the non-vegan world. The more I connect with the vegan world the more I feel like part of an unstoppable veggin army that’s taking HUGE strides to protect animals! That feeling is legitimate, we are taking huge strides, more and more protections are surfacing for animals every day. But then I’ll hang out in my other world - with people who will eat meat no matter how aware they are of the suffering or people who still don’t know much about factory farming, don’t know what a gestation crate is, don’t know what the dairy industry has to do with the veal industry, don’t know how unhealthy factory farmed meat is for their own bodies, don’t know the extent to which factory farming is destroying our environment, and who frankly don’t really care - and I’m reminded of how very far we still have to go.
It can be challenging suddenly finding yourself split between 2 worlds. Here are some lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey to veganism that may help all you other newbie vegans out there to keep your feet grounded.
1. Don’t Turn Your Back on the Non-Veggies in Your World.
I’ve been participating in a lot of vegan activities lately and I’ve heard a couple of comments (the rare exception, not the norm) about not keeping people in your life who aren’t vegan. At a weekend animal rights conference I went to in July someone even questioned my decision to marry a non-vegan man and implied that I may want to reconsider that decision. That didn’t sit well with me. I understood the passion behind the statement but the people in my life, including my husband, are wonderful people. Not having them in my life would not only mean I lose their love but it would also mean I lose the opportunity to make changes in my non-vegan world.
My husband may not be vegan but he went from consuming meat at almost every meal, to constantly reducing his consumption, to just recently (three weeks ago!!) officially declaring himself vegetarian!! He’s also replaced cow’s milk with rice milk, something I never thought I’d see him do! On top of that, he recently asked me if I’d want to do a raw food month in January “to start the year off right”!!! Could I be more in love?! I didn’t force him to make these changes. He’s just learned a lot about factory farming and healthy eating that’s caused him to evolve his eating habits. It didn’t happen overnight, but it was worth the wait! Now when he’s out at a steak house with his friends he proudly texts me pictures of the veggie dishes he’s ordered instead of meat - suddenly my hubby ain’t too proud to publicly veg!! To me, there is nothing sexier.
More and more friends and acquaintances have been reaching out to me to tell me how the information I’ve shared with them has influenced their eating habits. People I NEVER would have expected to care about these issues have reduced or eliminated their consumption of animal products or are now purchasing animal products from local family farms where the animals are raised more humanely. Hearing these updates is so rewarding and exciting. So keep your feet in both worlds, you never know how much influence you may unleash.
2. Work on Your Advocacy Skills, Don’t Make People Hate You.
This is something I’ve struggled with - a lot. I tend to get so passionate about protecting animals that I get worked up, pushy and emotional when people don’t see things my way - because my way is right, duh!! ;) But seriously, I’ve learned that this is NOT an effective approach in making changes and often has the opposite effect because people become offended, defensive and, worst of all, stubborn. If you are at all emotional like I am, work on refining your arguments so that they are based on facts, statistics, stories and compassionate awareness. Instead of making people feel bad about themselves, make them feel engaged and inspired. Educate people, don’t lecture them, make them feel like a participant not an outcast.
Winning Argument Tip: I stole this tip from Bruce Friedrich, VP of Policy and Government Affairs for PETA, during a speech he gave recently at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Please now steal it from me because it works! Explain to people that when they buy meat, eggs or dairy, they are not just buying a finished product, they are paying someone to both raise the animals and slaughter them. So they should ask themselves if they are okay with paying someone to do things that they would not be comfortable doing themselves. If they wouldn’t be able to shove an animal into a crate so small it can hardly move for its entire life, then why would they pay someone to do it for them? If they wouldn’t be able to take an alive, fully conscious animal and cut its throat, or throw it into boiling water or a grinder, or skin it as it struggles, then why would they pay someone to do it for them? If they wouldn’t be able to separate a baby animal from its mother and watch their agony or if they wouldn’t be able to stand by and watch workers brutally abuse animals just for fun, then why would they pay someone to do it for them? If it would break your heart to see or participate in the suffering of animals like this, then why would you pay someone to do the things that are done on factory farms every single day? Check out Bruce Friedrich’s book, The Animal Activist’s Handbook, for more tips.
3. Be Patient with People.
Just because you’ve had a veggie enlightenment doesn’t mean those around you will jump on the veggie wagon. If people in your life do start to make changes, be supportive, even if those changes are slow, like my husband’s. What’s great about gradual changes is that the more people reduce their consumption of animal products and replace them with healthy plant based products, the more their tastes buds begin to change and the more their brains begin to undo their previous programming. Meat becomes less and less desirable and healthy plant, fruit, grain and bean foods start to taste more and more vegalicious! It has a veggieball effect!! So support people with positivity as they start to make changes. You can’t change everyone overnight so remember, slow and steady wins the bean sprout race!
4. Make Buds with Other Vegans!
If you are new to the vegan world, you may be feeling really alone and isolated with respect to your values. It’s hard always being the only lonely vegan out at dinner with a bunch of close friends. Start connecting with other vegans, you’ll realize that you are not alone, there are tons of compassionate people out there who share your same values for animal welfare and get just as excited about chowing down some good humane grub! Join meet-ups, participate in animal welfare events and connect with people and organizations on facebook, twitter and in online forums. Volunteer with an organization or at an event and you’ll be bound to make friends with some interesting veg-heads. I’m just starting to do this myself. For those of us on the shy awkward side, it can certainly be intimidating, but it’s also fun and exciting! I met the lovely Lindsay and her friend Molly of The Vegan Everything out at an event! So go on, put yourself out there! Hey, I’ll be your friend ;)
5. Be Proud to be Veggin.
Becoming vegan ain’t easy. It often goes against cultural norms, family traditions (Thanksgiving is definitely an upcoming reminder…), and social circle eating habits. Don’t let any ridicule or insensitivity sway you. With every movement comes resistance and backlash by the masses who like things just as they are and don’t want to be inconvenienced by “idealist do-gooders”. These masses have often stereotyped vegans as crazy, , pansy-ass tree huggersVegans of today are finally being recognized as the warriors we are, fighting for the most oppressed with our every day choices. As with every movement, one day the world will look back with great shame and wonder how we ever allowed factory farmers to get away with what they did for so long. By taking a stand against factory farming industry you automatically become a leader with the power to bring awareness and influence others. What you are doing is amazingly compassionate, brave and admirable. If you’ve ever had an animal in your life, you know very well that all animals are emotional, loving and sentient beings. Being selfless enough to honor the animals of the world by not participating in their suffering shows what a human(e) being you truly are.
You are the hope in the world for all our furry friends.
Liz Longacre is the founder of Your Time Travels, a travel company for animal lovers. Liz has been a lover of all creatures large and small for as long as she can remember. Her company will provide animal friendly travel adventures that give back to animals and celebrate them. Whether you want to volunteer abroad with animal welfare projects (while mixing in some exciting sightseeing/adventure activities and fabulous hotel stays!), observe animals in their natural habitats through safari adventures, enjoy amazing vegetarian/vegan resorts, visit a farm sanctuary or travel with your own adorable pets, her company can get you there! Liz’s company is launching soon. You can keep up with her and all her furry crusades at her blog: www.yourtimetravels.com/blog.
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