I wasn’t sure whether this post should be part of the ‘Dumb Comments Vegans Get‘ series, but seeing as how the above accusations are all in the same vein (associating vegans with religious zealotry), and all spewed forth with the same intention (to make vegans sound as off-putting as possible so no-one will be expected to have to become one), I thought I’d tackle them in a post on their own.
In any online comments thread on ethical veganism or plant-based diets, there will always be some ‘super genius’ that will claim that vegans act ‘holier than thou.’
I’m not even sure that the people who keep parroting this know what it means. It feels like they’ve heard someone ELSE say it, and thought ‘yeah!’ without really thinking about it, and can’t wait to regurgitate it at the next opportunity.
You can also replace ‘holier than thou’ with ‘superior,’ and add to this the WELL-worn old trope ‘vegans are preachy.’
These are such lazy, hacky, put-downs. The same people that use these will also often resort to ‘…well, Hitler was a vegetarian.’ (He most categorically wasn’t – but we’ll look at that in another post!).
Obviously nobody wants to be thought of as preachy or holier than thou, and certainly not as being like Hitler.
These words and associations are so loaded, that for omnis who are scared that a vegan might remove them from their state of comfortable stasis by making them think; they are a quick and easy way for them to end a discourse by de-legitimising the concept of veganism by making it sound as repellent as possible to their audience. If the audience is just you (a vegan) then these words serve to silence you, because by nature of the fact that you are telling a truth, you will be self-conscious that you ARE embodying them, even though you’re likely not.
If the omni orator were brave enough to be truthful – they’d say something like this… ‘Shut up. If you speak any more I’ll have to think. I don’t want to think because then I’ll have to change my lifestyle – which I don’t want to/am scared to do. I don’t want to be different, I want to coast along and be part of the status quo. Therefore I’m going to project these words onto you which will a) make everybody else not want to be like you either, thereby giving me the comfort of the crowd, and b) shut you up because you won’t want to be associated with them.’
It is soooo boring to read this particular type of comment, again and again and again. Some omnis are truly unimaginative and predictable. Please note that I said SOME. I’m perfectly aware that not all are. But it is apparent that SOME omnis think all vegans are the same. Are all meat-eaters the same in anything other than their food choices? Of course not. Well, breaking news: neither are vegans.
It would be fine if it was JUST boring. We’d move on. But it’s also pretty harmful and damaging. Who wants to be thought of as preachy? Holier than thou? Superior?
Is there any truth to these accusations?
Vegans think they are/act like they are ‘holier than thou’
Do vegans act (or think) they are holier than anyone else?
Maybe some do, I don’t know. I can’t speak for all vegans. If a vegan goes around acting this way, then chances are it’s because they’re an asshat, not because they’re vegan.
What I DO know is this:
The ONE thing AND ONE THING ONLY that vegans are (more than non-vegans), is more informed. That is all.
Vegans have applied critical thinking to their diet and lifestyle, not just blindly accepted societal norms. They have educated themselves on the most sustainable way (for all concerned) to nourish themselves.
Does this make them holier?
Of course not. Don’t be silly. Vegans are multi-dimensional and each is informed by a million different influences, just like everybody else. A vegan can be as disconnected from God/Source/The Universe (pick what suits!) as anyone else.
Does it mean they have a higher ethical stance?
If they are vegan for ethical reasons, and not just doing it to lose weight (though I have no problem with this – it still has the same result of fewer animals being killed), then yes. You can’t really get away from this one. In the same way that a person who doesn’t rape and murder human animals has a higher ethical stance than one who does; those who have widened their circle of empathy and compassion to non-human animals and have therefore chosen to NOT have them raped and murdered for their pleasure, have a higher ethical position than those that do.
This does NOT, however, translate to acting ‘holier than thou.’ If someone needs to label vegans as ‘holier than thou’ to make themselves feel better because they are not one, they may want to ask themselves why they feel so insecure in their current lifestyle choices.
Vegans think they are superior
Anyone who says this has completely missed the point, and has not grasped the concept of veganism. People who stop eating animals and their products for ethical reasons do so exactly because they know they are NOT superior to any sentient being.
By nature of killing and eating animals, you have to believe you are a superior being to those being eaten, so this silly comment may need to be redirected elsewhere.
Vegans are preachy
Yes, a vegan that really does go around advocating in inappropriate ways and situations could be a royal pain in the arse, but anyone speaking out on any subject who has the wrong intentions and attitude could be.
The reason the ‘p’ word gets hurled at vegans in particular, whether online or in person, is because people realise vegans are sharing a universal, undeniable truth – that going plant-based is best for animals, the planet and us. Truths are so often hidden from us, that we have learnt to be suspicious of them. And when they are exposed, it’s natural for someone to feel nervous and a little defensive at the moment they realise their life isn’t aligned with them. But, remember, vegans too had that moment of realisation. Not many people have been vegan since birth. There is no need to attack.
Assuming the vegan in question is talking (or writing) in an appropriate situation, and being compassionate and understanding to their listener(s), then to attack by using the word ‘preachy’ can only mean that, again (similar to those that use ‘holier than thou’), someone is very insecure with their lifestyle choices.
As a vegan, I feel I am often ‘preached’ to about the new deity that appears to be bacon. And If I turned on the TV, then commercial after commercial would ‘preach’ to me about the wonders of burger outlets, fried chicken joints, and sausages. But because non-human animal eating is currently the dominant paradigm, spouting the ‘p’ word would not carry the same weight as it does when used against vegans.
Whoever you are, vegan or not, not everyone will agree with your lifestyle choices. But it’s helpful to know what informs comments like these, so we don’t get held back by them. We can just deflect them and move on.