Last Wednesday night marked the inaugural meeting of a new group I’ve joined, a Minneapolis Vegan Women’s Club. For right now it’s a relatively small group of women who have been active in Compassionate Action for Animals in some way or another. There are about 10 of us, and our first meeting consisted of drinking wine and eating amazing food at Ecopolitan in uptown, an all vegan, all raw foods restaurant. The purpose of the group is essentially just a social outlet for women who don’t have many vegan girlfriends and are looking for other vegan women to hang out with. Dinner was great, “meeting” number 2 has already been scheduled, and I am optimistic that it’ll be a fun and supportive group.
There is something almost therapeutic about hanging out with a group of people who understand and share your values. Throughout our conversation that night, one of the common themes was feeling misunderstood. It got me thinking about what has been the most difficult thing about becoming vegan. Most people think it’s the actual food options/choices, but it’s not–that’s the easiest part, in fact. The most difficult thing is how other people react to you when you tell them you’re vegan, and how it affects your relationships. Each person at the table that night had at least one person (usually more) to whom they were close who didn’t understand or wasn’t supportive of her choice to be vegan. Some people lost friendships or relationships, while others just had short term clashes with parents, siblings, or friends. But each of us admitted that in some way, our personal relationships had been affected by our choice to be ethical vegans.
I have to say that, in general, I have been pretty lucky in this realm. Originally when I went vegetarian my family wasn’t thrilled, but by the time I decided to go vegan, it didn’t really even faze them, and they’ve been supportive overall. I will say that I have had some clashes with friends and acquaintances, and dating has been interesting, though. Making the choice to be an ethical vegan does sort of turn your life upside down – at least temporarily – and I think that should signal to the people in our lives how incredibly important it is to us. You don’t just wake up one day and say “Hm, I think I’ll be a vegan – what the heck!” In my experience, and from listening to other people’s experiences, it’s usually something that’s very well thought out, and isn’t taken lightly. Sure, some people DO decide in a split second, but it’s not random. I remember one guy telling me that he went vegan when he was stuck in traffic behind a truck full of pigs headed off to slaughter. He was eating a ham sandwich at the time, and when faced with the animal from which that ham came, he decided he couldn’t do it anymore. While his decision was made very quickly, it certainly wasn’t done on a whim or without thought behind it.
If you are friends with, related to, or in a relationship with a vegan, I guess I would just ask that you try to understand where that person is coming from. Understand that it’s not a decision s/he made lightly, and that it’s rooted in a value that s/he holds deeply. Think of one of your core values and imagine how hurtful it would be if your loved ones didn’t respect or accept that about you, and then try to treat the vegan in your life the way you would want him/her to treat you.
Anyway, I am excited about spending time with these women – for the support, the conversation, and just the feeling I get (however temporary) that I’m not some freak just because I don’t want to support the exploitation of non-human animals!