A common point of view is looking at veganism as 'extreme'. Cutting out so many things that most of us grew up eating is considered a huge step. 'What do you eat?' is a question many vegans face as their omnivore friends and family envision, somewhat horrified, a life without lasagnas, ice cream and burgers. Newsflash: we eat all those things. But what really makes it easy to relate to veganism is understanding where it comes from. Watching the videos, reading the information, understanding the empathy and compassion behind it. The bottom line of veganism is that we don't want to hurt living beings. That's as normal, natural and non-extreme as it can get.
Extreme vs Empathetic:
Cutting out food groups is extreme.
Except we don't, really. We eat burgers. We have milk - made from oat, almond, soy, hemp or coconut. Everything we cut out, we replace (well, if we want to be healthy. I can't speak for all vegans, but those of us who do some research before committing to a new lifestyle do make sure we replace both foods and nutrients).
Caring more about animals than humans is extreme.
Vegans do not care about animals than humans. Going vegan could contribute to counteracting world hunger, so if you care about humans...well, go vegan!
But in my opinion, it makes sense to care about animals. They do not wage wars. They do not kill each other and other species for greed. They do not destroy the planet. Think about it.
Acting superior to others is extreme.
But being vegan is all about not feeling superior to anyone - not a pig, not a chicken, not a cow. We don't think we're better than anyone at all. We think all species are equal. That's why we are vegan.
Vegetarian is okay, but vegan is extreme.
There are many reasons to be vegetarian, and I applaud anyone who's taken this compassionate step. But if the main focus of your vegetarianism is animals, it really makes sense to go vegan: you don't eat veal, but by drinking milk you pay for calves to be torn away from their mums (so we can steal their milk) and be turned into...veal!
Living without cheese is extreme.
I hear ya. That's why we don't! There's an array of amazing vegan cheeses on the market to cater to every taste. And before you go 'bleeeah' and make vomit-imitating gestures, may I add that just the thought of Gorgonzola makes me feel queasy, but I'd never make stupid noises at your food while you eat it.
Pushing your views on others is extreme.
In my three-and-a-half years as a vegan and twenty years as pescatarian and vegetarian before that, I have never met a preachy vegan. I'm not saying they don't exist, but I've met lots of pushy omnivores forcing their views on me and others by questioning our every step and prompting a debate every time we eat something. Harping on about protein and desert islands at every given occasion is extreme, eating carrots isn't.
Posting photos/videos of animal abuse on social media is extreme.
Really? Isn't it more extreme - and alarming - that this stuff is actually allowed to happen? Surely you're more upset by the footage in itself than me posting it? If that's the case, then...you know what to do :)
Not wearing leather is extreme.
Oh, what decade are you living in? Sure, if the term 'vegan fabrics' makes you think of 'pleather' then sure, dressing cruelty-free might not seem that appealing. Check out Vilda for amazing animal-free fashion.
So...what is extreme?
Throwing male chicks into a meat grinder because they cannot produce eggs is extreme.
Separating newborns from their mothers to steal their milk is extreme.
The way meat and dairy is destroying our planet is extreme (watch Cowspiracy immediately)
The toxicity of the leather industry, and the way workers die prematurely is extreme.
I approach omnivores with respect - I have served nonvegan food at parties at my house, my wedding wasn't 100% vegan, and I'd never say anything judging or condescending to anyone, unless they attack me for my beliefs and lifestyle first. I never try to 'push' veganism on anyone - because I know it won't last unless they want to do it themselves. But next time you think a vegan is 'extreme', try talking to them. Without jumping down their throats with allegations, and without idiotic comments about plants having feeling or being stranded on a desert island. Just try and find the motivations behind their lifestyle choice. It won't seem as extreme if you are genuinely curious.
Header photo by Jarren Simmons via Unsplash. Second photo from Vegan Sidekick