The image of veganism is undergoing the most radical change in its history, with people now closely associating it with health, fitness and wellbeing. It’s no longer portrayed as an extreme lifestyle, it’s easy and accessible - you can walk into any supermarket and pick up a vegan alternative to anything you can think of.
Sometimes it feels like all this hard work is being undone. It was disheartening to hear yesterday that a small number of vegans have allegedly made death threats to a farmer. It’s important to note that veganism rejects violence and encourages compassion towards all living beings, and this incident is not representative of the vegan movement as a whole.
Death threats are sadly not uncommon. They can never be justified and never result in anything positive. A quick look on social media will confirm that vast majority of vegans are appalled that someone would target a farmer in this way. Many vegans actually empathise with farmers, who often inherit family farms, are in a financially difficult position or don’t see a way out of those cruel industries.
Unfortunately, vegans are often on the receiving end of threats and insults themselves. Whether it's verbal insults or physical abuse, there have been plenty of instances when activists are attacked as a result of emotions running high. However, when we look at the facts and put emotions aside, everyone should see just how wrong it is to exploit animals.
It makes no sense to attack farmers for providing the public with a product they want to buy, just like it makes no sense to attack supermarkets for selling animal products that people want to buy; the only way to create positive change is to educate people about veganism and inspire them to adopt the lifestyle.
One fewer farmer does not bring us closer to a vegan world; one fewer non-vegan does.
Only by working at the roots of the problem and challenging the notion that animals are food or commodities can we achieve real change in society. Targeting the supply won’t achieve much because suppliers can always change; changing the hearts of those who create the demand will bring us closer to the compassionate world we all dream of.
The good news is that most vegans choose to spread the word by engaging in peaceful activism, helping those interested in veganism to make the transition, or simply living by example. Whether we like it or not, it is those of us who buy and consume meat, dairy and eggs that cause animals to die – not farmers.
It’s easy to forget among all this that vegans, just like everyone else, rely on farmers to provide food and don't want to see thousands of families losing their livelihoods. All we want is for people to eat healthy, sustainable and ethical diets.
As powerful as the vegan movement is, it’s unlikely that social change will happen overnight, giving farmers an opportunity to retrain and for the industry to evolve to meet the needs of the changing times.
The Vegan Society is currently helping former beef farmer Jay Wilde to turn his farm into a profitable vegan organic farm. Our campaign Grow Green aims to help farmers to transition from farming animals to growing crops for human consumption. Some farmers who moved away from animal agriculture became passionate vegan advocates and tell the world what really happens in the meat, dairy and egg industries.
If I had to guess how a dairy or beef farmer feels, I’d say many hate what they do as much as vegans hate what happens to farmed animals. After all, who would enjoy bringing beautiful animals into the world, just to kill them when they’re still babies? As with everything, however, everyone has reasons behind what they do and we must make an effort to understand and help them eliminate those reasons.
Cooperation is the way forward; vegans working together with willing farmers makes much more sense than us targeting those who have no say in the matter. Farming animals is inherently cruel and can never be justified but a real change can only be achieved by challenging societal norms.
If we continue to move in this direction, one day our farming system can be ethical and sustainable.
By Dominika Piasecka
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.