I’ve recently changed how I “am” in public with my veganism. But by “in public” I mean “at work”, because (I think I’ve mentioned) I’m not really a social person. That is, I enjoy talking to people, and even need it on some level for emotional/mental stimulation, but I almost never make the effort to actually go and seek out people. So work and the sanctuary are the bulk of my in-person social interaction.
And no matter how much I made an effort to socialize outside of work, it would never match the sheer number of hours I spend at work. Unfortunately, that’s life for most of us.
The change is subtle. Mostly I’m more open about being vegan. I don’t avoid conversations about veganism, even though sometimes I get so freaking tired of “representing” that I fantasize about becoming a hermit. (And if anyone knows of a tropical island for sale on the cheap, let me know…) Lately I seek these conversations out, to a degree. Specifically, to the degree that the other person is open to them, and even more specifically to the degree that this can fly under the radar in my ultra-controlled ultra-conservative work place.
The change came about in part because of AR2009, though I can’t point you to any one thing that nudged me in this direction. It also came about through my conversations with my 9 year old neighbor, who would ask questions, and who I would answer with simple and direct truth. Around the time I was realizing that this was a good strategy to consciously choose, I read a post by Adam Kochanowicz called “Be a vegan activist: Microactivism“; I think it was mary_martin‘s tweet that brought it to my attention. Adam started his post by saying:
While the decision to respond to animal exploitation by objecting to any and all products requiring the use of animals is a personal one, no significant change for the status of animals will ever occur if nurturing vegans are not there to help their peers to make this choice.
One of the most important means of vegan education is dialogue. Without dialogue, questions are left unanswered, pictures lack explanation, and the experience of thinking differently lacks emotional and social engagement.
This article tied in strongly with my recent changes, and put into words the things swirling in my head, as well as giving me some additional ideas.
In the past month or so I’ve had a series of conversations with a coworker. A very good-hearted sweet woman, who was interested to know why I’m vegan. We’ve had many bits of conversations. The part about the dairy seems to have so far had the biggest impact, but she’s not yet even thinking of giving up dairy. I think she wants to, but she doesn’t understand how to. She mentioned calcium, I mentioned the data showing that milk is the worst way to get calcium, and has often been shown to be counter productive in terms of bone health. I mentioned leafy greens and almonds. Almond milk, specifically. “Does it taste the same,” she asked. And I haven’t a clue. I would assume not, but I can’t remember. I only remember milk tasting bad, with a nasty aftertaste. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to reproduce that. I like almond milk, but not everyone does. There’s no one answer when it comes to non-dairy milks, but I think I’ll find some of those 6 packs of serving sized almond milks so she can test them out.
What I found interesting about today’s conversation was that she seemed to be telling me that she could never give up chicken, because she just couldn’t imagine ever caring about the chickens. She can’t eat lamb, and she’s now feeling bad about dairy. She teasingly invited me to the place she and another coworker were going to lunch where chicken was pretty much the only thing on the menu, saying “maybe we can corrupt you.” This was bizarre to me. Corrupt me? I didn’t know how to respond to that other than to point to my calendar, which happens to feature two gorgeous roosters, Leopold and Cornelius, and the little Rhode Island Red hen they’re watching out for. “I like my animals alive,” I said with a smile.
She was a bit startled. That’s when she tried to explain why she couldn’t care for chickens, but could care for lambs. I mentioned that chickens are killed when they are babies. Just 6 weeks old, I told her.
She’s got 3 little kids, I figure the baby and the milk connection is worth pursuing, as that seems to be what she’s sensitive to.
The coworker she was going to lunch with, who was once a vegetarian, but (and I still don’t understand the connection) gave that up after 9/11, because “9/11 affected her a lot,” seemed startled that I was having these conversations with our coworker.
“She’s not giving up meat,” she told me kindly, as if to prevent me from wasting time.
“No,” said the coworker who seems a little open to the idea, “but I want to give up other things.”
Personally, I feel like I’m engaging in a social experiment of sorts. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to take Adam’s advice (and to be fair, it is far from the first time I’ve heard it, he’s just the most recent) and start having some literature on hand. Just in case.
And maybe I can get her to bring her kids to Poplar Spring. I think I actually underestimate how powerful the sanctuary is for other people. I know only the power it has for me. But nothoney commented on my post about the Farm Tour, referring to a young friend she brought with her to the sanctuary for the event, saying:
Erin and I went back to the pig barn after eating our veggie dogs and saw Wilbur moving around. He was looking at us so intently, and Erin was so impressed by his expressive eyes, and she called his name and I swear he tried to move toward her but sort of scooted and collapsed into a nap.
As we left, Erin told me that meeting all the animals had given her a lot to think about. She really enjoyed holding Harrison – thanks for picking him up for her. She has a tough situation at home so I can’t push, but I can gently guide. She wants to come back in October to volunteer for the Open House and we’re walking together in Baltimore’s Farm Sanctuary walk.