For me the journey of compassion started when I was 11 (18 years ago) I gave up eating meat, then at 21 (8 ½ years ago) without knowing any information I turned vegan because it felt like the right thing to do. As well as being vegan and an animal rights activist, I am also a feminist and a human rights activist. For me all issues of compassion are interlinked.
One of the biggest assumptions and judgments about me is my health/weight. The truth is I succumbed to a chronic illness which affects my weight many years after consuming a vegan diet. Most vegans don’t ask why, they just assume I eat too much. Most non-vegans assume I cheat and sneak off to eat animal products. Sometimes I try to explain my situation to people if only for them to be less judgmental and understand but that usually leads to more problems. The most common reply I receive from other vegans is telling me to go raw, which will “cure” my illness and help me lose weight. I think it’s awesome people are doing what’s best for their body, but that doesn’t mean it will work for my body. I respect raw vegans for the dedication it must take but for me here lies the problem. Veganism (as in eating whatever you like as long as it doesn’t come from an animal) is the moral baseline, anything after that like gluten free, sugar free or raw is your personal choice.
For me I prefer to promote the diet side through varied foods. I want to show people you don’t have to give up any of your favourite food but simply swap them for cruelty free options. Veganism is not some club for people who only want to lose weight and eat bananas, it’s for everyone. Of all sizes, shapes, colours, religions and walks of life. The animals don’t care what you look like they only care that you are not eating them.
I wrote this status last night, because I wanted to make aware these things do happen. To make it clear, the issues I wanted to point out amongst my ramblings were
- Bullying and sizeism is a real issue, especially within the vegan community.
- Patriarchal society is very much alive. Women are oppressed everyday for how they look, what they wear and their weight. No man should ever dictate to a woman how she should express her outer appearance.
“I used to hate putting pictures of myself on Facebook. Either it would be a meat eater getting defensive over the truth and attacking my appearance or a plant based/health freak telling me I’m too overweight to be a good representation of veganism. There was an incident a few weeks ago where a bunch of guys in the street starting shouting abuse at me and making noises of disgust over my appearance and even told me to “cover up” because I’m too fat to be wearing a short skirt. I have to admit it was humiliating to have that done in front of a street full of people. However, I’m not going to change for society or for any man who thinks he can dictate what I should be wearing. Yeah, I am an overweight Gothic chick with tattoos and piercings and I love who I am. This picture is of me this evening, I’m not wearing much make up and there is no bra restricting my body today. I choose when I want to wear make up for myself, I choose what clothes make me feel comfortable. I might be overweight but hiding behind baggy clothes is just not my style. I choose when and when not I want to wear a bra because my breasts are not going to be forcibly made perky for the pleasure of random strangers in the street to gawp at. Fuck that. My body is not for society’s sexual pleasure. I will not be forced to lose weight so society can feel like I fit in with the sexualisation of women. Think I’m ugly? I give zero fucks. Regardless of how we look, we are all going to get older and die. I have more important stuff to be doing than worrying about mother nature sagging parts of my body. I will not be a slave to society.”
When I wrote this status I never expected to receive as much support and positive feedback as I did. To be honest, there was no negativity on my original post. I had to go on one of the shares and read the comments to find a negative statement. Seen as this was the only one I could find I want to hold it up as an example.
“It seems to me she is hiding behind punk and fat and in your face language/attitude to escape pain. A joyful person who loves their life would not abuse their heart and other organs with that extra weight. It’s her choice and rock on if she’s really happy, but I just see pain.”
All I see from this statement is someone who is not practicing kindness but only judgement without knowing my medical history. Quite frankly my medical history, weight or anything else related to my body is purely my business. My weight or appearance doesn’t affect a strangers life in anyway. There is too much fat shaming within the vegan community which is being disguised as having a concern for health. Unless you have x-ray vision there is no way to tell the workings of the inner body from mere appearance. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person and I already know the risks of carrying extra weight.
Although there are undeniable health benefits to a plant based diet on our bodies, I am not vegan for my health but for the rights of animals to be respected and not exploited or murdered. When people start promoting veganism as a diet or some kind of health fad that’s when we start being judgmental, rude and hard on each other. It’s important to respect the boundaries of another person’s body especially if they are not consuming the parts of other living beings bodies.
I believe in compassion for all which includes all kinds of humans too. Animals already are at a disadvantage by society seeing them as nothing more than a commodity, so when humans are supposed to be equal with each other and they do nothing more than try to destroy each other there seems no hope for the animals.
For me this is why it’s so important to practice love and kindness to everyone. One act of kindness can change the world. One act of kindness to a fellow human may one day transpire into the act of kindness of veganism.
Remember words have power, they can either uplift someone or destroy them. Humans have no right to destroy each other any more than the right to destroy the animals.
By Emma Louise Brown