Why Being Labeled “Extreme” is to be Expected
Although it’s been difficult to face, I’ve had to come to the conclusion that being vegan means expecting to be called “extreme”.
And if not called extreme directly, many will silently think it.
Defending animals against cruelty and death seems (and is) reasonable among human beings with sympathy for other creatures, so it has always rubbed me the wrong way that standing up for all animals–not just dogs and cats—is still considered by the culture to be extreme.
But it has to be faced that going against the prevailing social order–protesting what has become institutionalized, proclaiming that what we’ve been doing as a species is cruel, unnecessary and not in line with the values we hold dear (mercy, kindness, compassion) is literally to walk into a backlash of defensiveness and anger.
It was that way with those who stood up against human slavery, who marched for women’s rights, and who fought for civil rights.
Why should it be any different when fighting for animals?
Standing up for pets is considered acceptable and understandable.
Standing up for the animals we mercilessly exploit for palate pleasure is “going too far”.
This is because it hasn’t been truly questioned by most people–habit and tradition and the fact that just about everyone else is going along with having animals slaughtered by others behind closed doors holds people in a firm grip of denial.
Every movement that shakes up the status quo is going to face hard resistance, because, like it or not, human beings are very stubborn creatures and very slow to change.
And yet, humans also have the ability to be open-minded and to question what they have been accustomed to accepting as just “the way things are” or “perfectly acceptable”.
Man is a bundle of contradictions–we all are.
But slowly minds–and most importantly, hearts– are changing.
I would love to use a quote (“first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”) that has been attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but there is no evidence he actually said it.
It appeared to be in part a paraphrase from the book Freedom’s Battle, a collection of essays and speeches written and compiled by Gandhi:
“In a civilized country when ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect.”
Ridicule will not kill this movement, so respect is therefore the expected eventual response.
And by respect, I don’t mean: “I respect your view even though I am not going to investigate what you’re saying”, I mean true respect–the kind that compels others to actually contemplate the message, striving to question their long held societal conditioning and their own denial.
The respect that compels someone to search their hearts and souls.
The respect that will finally cause a surge of positive change (and there’s evidence that this is finally happening).
This is the hope I hold onto every day.