Every once in a while, we hear it. We never know from
where the blow will come, but it always triggers the same reaction. The
words "Are you saved?" or sometimes, the variation: "Have you given your
life over to Jesus?"
The words themselves have become a punchline for
comedians, and a collective groan ripples through society when the words
are uttered anywhere on the planet. There is no "correct" answer for
this question. If you answer "yes, I am (or have)," you know that what
follows will inevitably be a long, drawn-out, excited recantation of the
inquisitors own journey from a certain hell-fire damnation. You know you
will be made to follow suit and tell of your own re-birth. After the two
of you share your stories, what inevitably follows (like the cigarette
after the act), is a shared knowledge that you are the true saved and
chosen ones and you will shake your heads in unison and superiority that
those others are still not hearing the truth.
If you answer "no", you may as well sit back and take a
deep breath, because you are in for a guilt-dispensing lecture complete
with statistics and graphic words meant to make you REPENT! Before it's
Well, I confess. As some of my fellow activists have
learned, I have come to liken the words "Are you vegan?" with the
dreaded "Are you saved," or even worse, "Have you heard about Amway?"
Its not that I am not vegan. I state here and for the
record that I am a vegan and have been since 1993. Its just that I am as
uncomfortable discussing this information with brand-new best friends as
I am discussing the state of my eternal soul. I am saved, for the
record, but that's another story, another cause, another time.
I know that the words "Are you vegan?" are nothing more
than our way of sniffing around each other much like dogs who have just
met another of their species for the first time! Hello! A dog! How fun!
What is it about you that is the same as me? What do we share? C'mere,
let me see what you are about! In this world of humans and felines, we
canines have found one another, what joy!
I don't argue that this is a joyful thing to share. In a
world of hunters and carnivores, we have found a compassionate being
just like ourselves! What a cause to celebrate! But the words "Are You
Vegan" are at once prying, criticizing, taunting and loaded with the
promise of much, much more to come. Some of this warm fuzzy sharing may
not be so good. What if the answer is no? What then of your newfound
friendship? Where do we go from here? All this responsibility when all I
wanted to do was engage in some light conversation!
What of those who are vegetarians but have not yet made
the leap to veganism? Are we to sit in judgment of them; shall we tar
and faux-feather them and throw them in the cosmic compost heap? We are,
all of us, on a journey and some of us are ahead, and some of us are
behind, but we will all get there in our own time. Of this I have no
One thing I have noticed in this movement is that
seasoned activists never ask this question of one another. Maybe these
veterans take it for granted that we just are. Maybe they just take it
for granted that if we aren't, we certainly will be. Maybe it is because
veterans know that it's not that important just yet. We must all come to
veganism on our own terms and in our own time.
If a person is getting arrested for protesting fur, or
going undercover to slaughterhouses and getting precious footage, or
filming abuses in a circus tent at great peril to their own safety, but
they sweeten their tea with honey, does that cancel out everything they
have done for the animals?
I can't answer that, nobody can answer that. The point
is, it doesn't matter, because anyone who is that dedicated will come to
it on their own and in their own time.
At the Animal-Rights Convention in D.C., our
conversations were very much about what new campaigns were on the
horizon, what progresses we have made, what steps we are taking. We
didn't spend a lot of time asking one another "Are you vegan?"
The answer inevitably comes back. I am here.
Go on to Petco Low Cost Spay/Neuter Campaign
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