Militant Vegans vs. Everyone Else
Veganism is a lifestyle defined by abstinence from consuming, and supporting the manufacturing of, animal products and by-products. There are a variety of reasons, based on personal morals and ethics, why an individual may decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle, but the three of the most common reasons include: to combat climate change, to benefit their health, and/or to stand against modern industrial animal agriculture. The latter is what has defined the ethical stance of veganism and is what typically motivates people. The process of manufacturing animal products is lengthy, and to combat this, the animal agriculture industry in the western world (which is motivated by capitalism) employs the most efficient ways to cut costs and time, which are often inhumane and come at the expense of animal welfare.
A ‘militant vegan’ is someone who is very passionate and vocal about veganism, and who is known to try to spread the vegan lifestyle by any means possible. There are generally two types of militant vegans, the first being the new vegan. Discovering how the animal agriculture industry operates can be overwhelming and shocking. It is described by many as discovering an extremely horrible and well-kept secret, and leaves many people brimming with passion to advocate against it and to share the news with as many people as possible. As a fresh vegan begins to settle into their new lifestyle, though still filled with vigor, they come to realize that non-vegans tend to respond better to a peaceful proclamation of the vegan message.
The second type of a militant vegan is the vegan with a strong personality, and unlike in the new vegan, militance in these people is seemingly permanent. Having a strong personality is by no means a negative quality, but it can cause vegan activism to be portrayed aggressively and ineffectively to the public. The perspective of this person is that veganism is a lifestyle attainable by anyone, and that therefore it must be shared with everyone, by any means necessary. These people often have a strong contempt for non-vegans, and approach the topic with more cynicism than optimism.
Militant veganism has negative effects on both vegans and non-vegans alike, as well as on the vegan movement in its entirety. Their imposing and abrasive approach causes people to become defensive and reject veganism completely, and tarnishes the reputation of veganism as a movement. As militant vegans are often the most engaged in social discourse, society has been conditioned to believe that militant vegans represent the movement in its entirety, which has created the negative stereotype that all vegans are offensive, loud, rude, and relentless. As a result, this causes peaceful vegans to feel small and helpless — that they cannot speak of veganism, be proud or visibly happy about their lifestyle, or let their dietary choices be an ‘inconvenience’ to non-vegans. Furthermore, animosity and toxicity within the vegan community can cause people to abandon the lifestyle altogether. For example, debate over whether riding horses, eating honey, or wearing old leather renders one non-vegan, and the shunning by militant vegans of those who do. In summary, the harmful outcomes of the offensive approach of militant vegans, which are meant to be unloaded onto non-vegans, are really only hurting peaceful vegans.
Veganism, with a bare minimum of not consuming animal products, is not about being perfect — it’s about trying your best. In reality, all vegans and non-vegans are equal, and what we really need is a supportive and understanding community. A peaceful approach, backed by encouragement and compassion, is the most effective and least destructive in spreading the vegan message.