Identifying as a Vegan
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FROM Philip Wollen
Facebook post, July 22, 2021

Being vegan is simply who I am. So I never actually “became” vegan. One day, I just realized that is who I was.

Philip Wollen

Vegan is a noble appellation. There is no need to be diffident about it, or search for euphemisms in order not to “offend” the sensibilities of non-vegans.
Alighting from my car in the airport carpark, I met an old acquaintance from my twenties when we both worked for the same company. We hadn't met for decades.
Seeing my “VEGAN” Car Registration plates, he asked in an unnecessarily sneering, almost hostile tone. “Are you really a vegan?”

In the past when confronted by this question, I would simply say “yes” and hope that any follow up response was polite.

Raising my eyebrows, I asked quizzically. “Of course. Aren’t you?”

This took him aback. He said, somewhat defensively, “No”.

I replied “Well, that surprises me”.

But I immediately added “Well, it was nice seeing you” and slowly walked away.

He was clearly taken aback. “Hang on. Why does that surprise you?”

I replied “Well, of all the people back then, you are one guy I would have imagined would be vegan by now”.

“Why?” he demanded.

“Well, you were always well informed. Everyone in the company expected big things of you. You were a leader, a voluntary at the Red Cross and the YMCA. Most of the younger guys, including me, looked up to you. So naturally I imagined you’d be leading some important movement nowadays.’

Instead of the conversation heading into an argument it went in a completely different direction. I got the feeling he was quite chuffed to know that I held him in such a positive light.

And I wasn’t bullshitting him. I genuinely saw him as a first-class fellow and in a sense, he was a role model, not just to me, but to many junior people like me.

The conversation continued. He asked the usual questions activists answer incessantly, basically around health and the environment.

He didn’t mention animal cruelty. But I was able to tell him a little about my ghastly visit to a client’s slaughterhouse.

This open, non-argumentative conversation wouldn’t have happened if I had skirted the issue and said, “I’m on a plant-based diet”. It would have led nowhere.
We were able to happily reminisce about old times and his parting comment was that he did not “like red meat much anyway”.

And, by the way, did I know his daughter was a vegan? “She might be a bit surprised when I tell her I’m thinking of giving this vegan thing a go”.
So I choose not to say "I am plant-based”.

I am an unapologetic vegan.

And I don’t need to say I am “proud” of being vegan.

Frankly, it would be such an odd thing to be “proud” about.

Tantamount to saying I am “proud” of being right handed, over six feet tall, or having black hair and green eyes. Or ashamed of having a left-side part in my hair. Or proud of disliking the sound of car tyres screeching at night and proud of liking the sound of rain on a tin roof when the drought breaks.

I don’t need to be “proud” of being vegan. But I enjoy the quiet satisfaction of withstanding with equanimity, the barbs from cruel, ignorant, or deliberately obtuse people.

Decades ago, I noticed that I didn’t eat any animal products. My clothes, belt, shoes, and watchband; my car-seats, furniture and sporting goods contained no animal products. And I never attended the circus, the zoo or horse races.

Being vegan is simply who I am.

So I never actually “became” vegan.

One day, I just realized that is who I was.

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