Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
20 August 2000 Issue

By Michele A. Rivera, [email protected]

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 too late!

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 doubt.

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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