One of the highlights of the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference this weekend was a standing ovation-worthy keynote address given by author and animal rights activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It. was. amazing.
The speech titled “Being a Joyful Vegan in a Non-Vegan World” was inspiration, tips and tactics for doing just that. Let’s face it: it can be easy to lose steam or feel down and out about the animal rights movement. On top of it, vegans sometimes get a reputation for being negative – but Patrick-Goudreau’s approach emphasizes the importance of being a positive representative for the movement. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the horrors of the pervasive cruelty against animals—just the opposite, in fact. We can talk about that, but we can and should also show non-vegans that it truly is a joy to be vegan.
There has been nothing more powerful for me than adopting a vegan diet and removing myself from the violence committed against “food” animals. Contributing to the suffering of animals became such a source of crippling guilt in my life that I needed to make a change. As an example, I remember the moment I gave up eggs. I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make cookies. My grocery list took me to the egg section—organic, cage-free, mind you, but eggs nonetheless—and there I stood. I stood there for several minutes just staring at the cartons of eggs. I put a half dozen in my basket, looked at them sitting there, and put them back. I did it again. And then again. I looked at them sitting back in the refrigerated case and asked myself if I could continue to support an industry that tortures so many hens (see right) and kills billions of “useless” male chicks each year. I just couldn’t do it—the guilt became too overwhelming. I gave up eggs in that moment and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. Then I went home and made some vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Not only were they delicious, but I felt so happy for having removed myself from the violence of that industry.
Anyway, Colleen had a lot of really great things to say, and I’ll blog about more of them later, but this message really stuck with me. Showing people that being vegan isn’t about deprivation or negativity is important for the movement. If the only thing omnivores see when they meet a vegan is crankiness, they’ll never understand the joy we have in not exploiting animals for food, and they’ll never want to join us. I plan to remember this next time I’m feeling not-so-joyful, and I encourage other vegans out there to do so as well!