Back in the early days of my veganism (and most of my friends) – that’s the mid to late 90’s to be specific – we adopted the practice of the ethos because we knew it was the right thing to do. It helped that we were integrated into a culture that professed veganism almost to the point of demanding it, even when the rest of dominant culture had no idea what we were plotting beneath its floorboards. We knew veganism was the right choice to make for our objectives of animal liberation, earth liberation, and anti-authoritarianism, though I can’t say any of us actually believed we were having any measurable effect upon dominant culture. Sometimes you just do things against the odds, against hope, against reality, and against knowing that no one is listening, changing, or caring about others beings aside from their selfish circles. It’s also why you break laws and give animals their freedom back anyways.
So it’s pretty crazy to watch the rapid changes parts of our culture are undergoing towards veganism and the general cultural awareness and acceptance of the ethos. We were told it was a phase we’d grow out of and now those same people are coming at us asking for books, recipes, and telling us about positive life changes. Our fast food, factory farm upholding enemies are adding vegan items to their menus and advertising them outright. Almost every restaurant is expanding their vegan options or adding dedicated vegan menus. Cities are banning fur. Celebrities, athletes, and intellectuals are adopting the ethos and promoting it like it’s a brand sponsor. And even my skeptical self doesn’t see any slowing down of the vegan ethic in popular culture coming any time soon. Even the absurdities that have festered their way to the surface tend to dissipate over time and the value of veganism has still remained.
Who knew, man, I mean, who knew? We were just a bunch of part angry, part compassionate, part radical kids just doing what we thought was right, against the odds, but we continued at it. And then something tipped the scales, but it started with all of us taking action against any semblance of possibility. And we took action on the backs of those who pushed the ethos before us, with even more absurd odds. If someone at the time asked how we could measure the progress we were seeking to create, I’m not sure anyone could have even come up with a system. It seemed like there was no progress to even measure.
Admittedly, even now, I have no way to measure the effect of my actions or the actions of those around me trying to push the boundaries of our culture to consider the lives of animals. But that doesn’t mean an effect isn’t taking place. Looking back, it was obvious that certain animal liberation campaigns and actions were having an effect on culture and industry, because the FBI was trying to chase us down. Maybe subconsciously, that was part of our measuring stick. When they followed our cars, knocked on our doors, tapped our phones, arrested our friends…those were measures that we were having an effect. It was unclear whether our effect was good or bad though. Then again, “Every life saved is a victory”, so there is that.
Again, I never know what effect I have (individually or collectively) towards advancing veganism, but a change has taken place in that I now realize changes are happening even without a definitive measurement. I’ve become more hopeful, more positive, more excited about the resonance of our actions.
This past weekend I took part in another Ragnar relay with three other vegan teams, our 5th Adirondacks area relay since the first in 2013. In it’s own way, it has become an interesting measurement since our first relay involved 12 runners and 2 drivers and now we consistently bring 4 to 5 teams, drivers, and add new teammates every time. Moreso, our consistency and presence has become more than recognized at these races. We act as something of a force and although we can’t really measure how we affect the people around us, I now believe we resonate much further than we realize. This is the message I shared to the ultra team of which I was a part. Individually, we may have just been a team of 6 runners and 2 drivers doing our best to throw down and win the race (almost!), repping veganism with our apparel, but I can almost guarantee we continue to be talked about, respected, and even admired, with veganism as a foundational part of that conversation. This can only be good for our objectives of animal liberation.
Sometimes the darkness of futility can hang overhead when it seems that change isn’t coming fast enough. I recently read that we expect change to come at the pace of humans when really it comes at the pace of trees. As true as this may be, it’s hard to to absorb when the time for animals can’t wait another second. Despite that pace of change, it does come, is coming, when we continue to take action in whatever form suits your circumstance. And when they drag their feet going to unlock the cages, shutting down the factory farms, and releasing the animals from the labs…it’s ok to beat them to it. No measurement of the outcome is needed.
A lady after Ragnar spoke to our table as she walked by. “You all are amazing. Truly, you’re an inspiration for what you just did.” She may have been talking about our running, but I’m positive she’s considering the value of veganism now as well. I can’t measure the effect of our actions, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept they don’t exist. Surely, they resonate more than measure.
Don’t ever give up on your small actions. The liberation of us all depends upon them.
ADK RAGNAR RELAY
200ish mile relay
Team Ultra Militants
2nd Place (Ultra category) / 3rd Place (Overall)
23 hours, 26 minutes, 16 seconds (14 minutes behind first place)
My Leg Performances
6.3 miles – 36:42 (5:49 pace)
4.5 miles – 26:00 (5:46 pace)
5.8 miles – 33:17 (5:44 pace)
10.2 miles – 1:03:30 (6:13 pace)
5.6 miles – 36:24 (6:30 pace)
4.8 miles – 30:23 (6:19 pace)
37.2 miles total