“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”
- Jack Kerouac
"If enough people are determined to stand up to an issue, you know what? It's gonna get solved. "
- Chris DeRose
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
"'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,' said Piglet at last, 'what's the first thing you say to yourself?'
'What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?'
'I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?' said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
'It's the same thing,' he said."
- Winnie the Pooh
During breaks at acting class, I’m often asked questions about living vegan. It usually stems from an actor friend spotting the meal I’m eating or a vegan-friendly pin on my bag. Sometimes I get a little verbal poke about living this way - usually from those most curious about my lifestyle, but most afraid to ask about it genuinely. I play along to a degree, but in the end, I tell them honestly about my choice, because I know that more significant than my pride or my feelings is speaking up for the animals most in need of our defending and protection.
And sometimes I get that look - that uncomfortable look from someone whose heart isn’t completely open to compassionate living yet. I get the person who says, “Oh, your story’s nice, but I could never eat vegan.” To them I say, “Never say never!” with a big smile on my face, risking that they may feel even more uncomfortable by my gentle nudging. Why do I do this? Because I’ve seen too many people in my life go vegan a year or two after they declared the same thing.
And then there was that time when I was doing a film shoot a few years ago, and, upon learning that I live vegan, my scene partner said to me, “Man, vegans scare me - it’s like you’re trying to take over the world or something!” To which I playfully said, “Oh yeah - deep down, we all have this evil notion of trying to brainwash the world into living with compassion and - wait for it - caring about people and animals! We’re awful, I know...” And saying this held the huge risk of turning this guy off to vegan living forever. But I said all of it with a smile on my face, with love in my heart, and with a sense of humor. And it made him laugh, instead of shut down.
By the way, I added the Winnie the Pooh quote into the mix up there for two reasons. One - I couldn’t agree more with Pooh about breakfast, and two - I believe if we start living our lives with more purpose, compassion, and respect to every living being, even if it means we'll be unpopular, we can eat and live lovingly and with great excitement.
|Photo © Connie Pugh.|
Remember grade school? Remember having that moment when one of your friends was being made fun of, and you had the choice - stand up for your friend and possibly get made fun of too, or just stay quiet? Today, I’m asking you, my lovely readers, to choose to be the kind of friend who doesn’t care about being made fun of. I’m asking you to not stay quiet. When the opportunity to be honest about living vegan presents itself, I’m asking you to jump in with both feet, throwing away that pesky fear of being disliked. Be bold, share your story, and risk being looked at funny. Rinse and repeat.
Of course, all of this should be done with as much positivity, kindness, and openness as possible. If Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has taught me anything (and boy, has she!), it's that we need to care as much about the person we’re talking to as the animals we’re talking about. But I think to be effective activists, vegans, and vegans-to-be, we need to stop caring so much about what others think of us. I think we need to keep the conversation about animal cruelty going, even if it means we may be looked at as weird, extreme, or crazy. I think the combination of living this way out loud and doing so with love and empathy for every being affected by our lifestyle (from the billions of animals being slaughtered for food each year to that friend/family member/domestic partner who doesn’t like you eating vegan, because it scares them) can lead to real change in this world.
|Protesting Foie Gras cruelty in LA with APRL.|
At the end of the day, you live with your own personal choices - the choices you make each day can either embrace compassion, or reject it. Why not end your day knowing that you did everything you could to live with more purpose, compassion, and respect to every living being? I’m asking you to take a leap and be bold for the animals, and in the long run, for yourself as well. Stop playing it safe. Playfully challenge that friend who keeps mocking your vegan lifestyle. Joyfully risk having one more conversation with your mom about why you gave up meat. Respectfully stand up for animals whenever possible. And know that, as difficult as it may seem to be that awesome friend who speaks up, you are paving the way for a better world. You are becoming the change you wish to see. You are the answer.
And what could be more kiss-worthy than that?
|With Winnie the Goose at Animal Acres.|
"Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible."
- Cadet Maxim