I cut my teeth in animal activism the same way most privileged, self-righteous, PETA-influenced, young kids who discover an issue like they were the first do, by being loud, confrontational and mostly obnoxious. I wish I could find all those people I annoyed all to hell with my immature ranting and raving and apologize. Well, most of them. The fur store owners and assholes who taunted us before we taunted them get what they deserve. At some point though, I continued to evolve in my approach and strategy, refining my activism to be more effective and understanding. Then, I don’t know, the pre-established avenues for activism eroded in broken friendships, a seeming ineffectiveness and the struggles of daily life. My veganism, however, never wavered. That is simply second nature and I turn my nose up (there’s that self-righteousness again) at anyone who started contributing to animal suffering by way of their diet after moving away from activism. There is just no excuse.
With that move away from protests, direct action, liberations (my most proud and effective form of action…statutes of limitations are up, but that’s all the info you are getting on that) I also shed the label of “activist”. To be honest, it began to sound with an annoying association of peacey liberals staging privileged sit-ins, petition-signing and general calls for reform. I preferred the “radical” moniker or whatever.
Then I started running and although at first it had nothing to do with animal activism, I began seeing just how powerful it could be. I had been constantly subjected to the tired perspective that vegans were “frail and weak”, so having the results list as reference or confidence to challenge any naysayer to a foot race, suddenly I was thrown into a new form of activism. It was something of a results-based promotion, where I could “prove the possibility” that veganism is EASILY adopted and in NO WAY decreases athletic performance or makes one frail or weak. And in no way am I the only one taking this route. Just visit veganfitness.net for endless points of reference. I think, if Forks Over Knives hadn’t taken center stage with it’s “dietary vegan” approach, the vegan athletic community might have driven the next wave of veganism and animal liberation.
Personally, it is exciting that this new wave of vegan athleticism has also begun to open up the definitions of what it means to be an “activist”. I think we often attach a very rigid perception of what qualifies as an activist and in effect drive away those who might engage themselves in the struggle more if they could see how the little things they do have a greater effect towards animal liberation. Further, instead of showing people that they can attach activism to their personal interests, we have often established activism as an identity itself, something for others to conform to instead of adapting to themselves.
I no longer have an interest to engage in social circles of vegan activists, solidifying myself into a sub-cultural ghetto of groupthink, but rather expand my veganism to the many other cultures I run with, whether that be my running community, artistic community, anarchist community, etc. I want my activism to be a part of what I do on a daily basis, whether that is running, working, designing or play. We don’t have to sacrifice our passions for the romanticized notion of being an “activist”. Our lives are our activism. If we can’t show others that caring for animals and fighting against the machinations of animal abuse can simply be a part of our daily lives, then we’ll never win. No one wants to drop everything to be an “activist”. They want to live their passions and interests first and foremost. So do I.
Further, activism speaks to a very specific kind of action. It conjures up images of protests, sign holding, confrontations, petitions, reform, etc. Some of don’t buy this approach. We are either more radical or simply more expansive in our thinking about strategy. This doesn’t mean we are no longer activists though. What is important above all is to be ACTIVE, not just an activist.
Personally, I found a way to incorporate activism into my running, but my wife and I have also begun hosting vegan “share-IN’s” at our house once a month, inviting mostly strangers (to each other) over with food and a recipe that we compile into a cookbook for all attendees. This is our other way of being activists, reaching people in a spirit of sharing and inclusion that certainly doesn’t fit into the mold of being an activist with a capital A. We are simply being active in showing people the practicality of not contributing to animal suffering. It’s fun and easy.
The examples of just how we can be activists are ultimately endless. No matter the issue, we can take the importance of our issues and integrate them into our passions. The point is not to be an activist, it’s to be active. Sometimes this is cerebral, sometimes it’s about literally being active, putting one foot in front of the other.
So whatever moves you, use it to the greatest potential. The animals don’t care what identity you subscribe to. They only care that you are doing SOMETHING for liberation.