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Do So Unapologetically

By Jasmin Singer — September 27, 2012

Let’s get real. There are too many horrors going on behind closed doors for animals — not to mention countless other marginalized groups — not to. I, for one, will no longer tolerate bullshit, my own or others. I, for one, am sick to death of sugar-coating. There is simply no time for playing it safe.

Most of all, forget the apologies. We do not need to apologize to our co-workers, our peers, our family, or our so-called “friends” about our views on animals, our convictions about justice, and our commitments not only to living a life in harmony with our ethical beliefs, but our commitments to advocating far and wide for veganism (which is, yes, a moral imperative). We need to advocate for animals every single day in a way that resonates with us, in a manner that we deem effective. If that means sharing vegan cupcakes at your office party, and handing out the recipe along with a “Why Vegan?” brochure, then do so unapologetically. If that means participating in confrontation, then do so unapologetically. If that means that you are a humane educator, a vegan business owner, a lawyer with a penchant for taking on pro-bono AR clients, an actor working on a one-person play about your activist journey, a student writing your thesis on factory farms, a parent campaigning for dairy-free milk in your kids’ classroom, a shelter worker moving across the country to work hands-on with animals at a sanctuary, a barista who spends your lunch breaks leafleting or protesting, or a child who is refusing to dissect animals and making very clear to your classmates why that is, then do so unapologetically.

The other day, after speaking at the Portland VegFest, someone asked us a question about how to avoid apologizing for her newfound commitment to animal rights and veganism. She mentioned that, recently, she had caught herself repeatedly saying she was sorry to people who looked at her (and her meal) somewhat askance in the lunch room. The same reaction held true when she would wear a message T. She caught herself smiling politely and saying that this was her choice, “but you go ahead and do your thing!” Yet in her heart, she knew there was a problem with her need to let people who felt criticized just by witnessing her her ethical choices off the hook. As this woman asked her question, she answered it, too. It was clear that she realized the issue with her behavior, and she was pissed off! She was pissed off at her  coworkers for putting her in the position where she felt uncomfortable just because she was doing the right thing, but she was also pissed off at herself for giving in. She decided then and there not to give in anymore. Her veganism is, after all, the best thing about her. But beyond that, the animals don’t have time for her — or any of us — to sidestep these conversations, even if they are potentially confrontational. This inspiring woman made a commitment to speak up for them, and from here on out, to do so unapologetically.

Do so unapologetically. In saying that, I’m not suggesting that you become hostile. Nor am I suggesting that you always need to be the spokesperson (you don’t). But I am suggesting — encouraging, vehemently — that you find the strength to let go of your shame, your propensity toward people-pleasing, and your fear of making the other person uncomfortable. Sometimes, they should feel uncomfortable. And  let’s face it, these fears of yours, though understandable, are somewhat ego-driven. This is not, after all, about us. It’s about the 286 chickens who die every second in the U.S., round the clock. They need us to speak up for them, to act on their behalf, and they need us to do so unapologetically.

None of this, by the way, means that we don’t need to hone our communication style and skills. We must, if we are going to advocate for animals effectively. We must also learn our stuff, so that we can be prepared to answer questions that will inevitably come up. We must also take care of ourselves and each other, finding and fostering safe spaces in our lives, spaces where we can just be — no questions asked.

But in those times when questions are asked, when eyebrows are raised, eyes are rolled, and heads are shaken, when we are written about and talked about and lied about, when animals’ lives are put on the line, then we need to find it in ourselves to do something to change perceptions, change behaviors, and, ultimately, change the world. And we need to do so unapologetically.






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(25) Readers Comments

  1. September 27, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thank you for this very unapologetic post! I think that people with my must-always-please-others type of personality need this type of pep talk every now and again. I will save this one for times when I'm feeling wimpy!

  2. Jennifer
    September 27, 2012 at 11:20 am

    OMG I needed this. Thank you.

  3. September 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

    LOVE IT! The truth hurts - but not as bad as the cruelty and abuse that animals endure.

  4. September 27, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Yes. I find it interesting that no one ( that I know) wants friends that are racist or sexist but somehow we have to allow for speciesism in our friends. I guess it's because nearly everybody is speciesist and because it's 'normal' it seems kind of ok..even to AR activists.

  5. September 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I completely agree with the title of this post! I also love the numerous examples that you give as to how to make change. Regardless of where we are in life, there are many opportunities to help animals. I try to be a people-pleaser, and I think this can help animals. If people find that I seek truth, that I act with integrity, and that I am a fun, positive person, I think they are more likely to hear my message. And as a nice side effect, I get to live a better life. :)

  6. September 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Amen, Jasmin. The animals can't wait, horrors are occurring every second. There is no shame in taking a stand against violence and oppression.

  7. September 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Well said. I will be sharing this blog post. Thank you!

  8. michelle
    September 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    bravo cheers woo hoo you said it!!!! this is awesome. thank you. xo

  9. September 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I think all of us know how that person at Portland VegFest feels; thank you so much for writing this post - vegans (especially those of us that live in less veg-friendly communities) need to be reminded that we have nothing to apologize for! Thank you, Jasmin! Love Our Hen House!

  10. Barbara McClure
    September 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Jasmin, Well done! Perfectly said! I believe we are culturally conditioned to just "go with the flow," to not cause a disturbance and to stay with the collective. For some it may be quite difficult to go against this conditioning. Support from other vegans, encouraging outspoken behaviour is essential, in my opinion. Thank you for providing it. :) Your Friend, Barbara

  11. September 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Well said... I have been told that I hate the homeless and starving children because I speak out for animals. I have had people call me every kind of name because I am a vegan... I am tired of apologizing...

  12. Courtney
    September 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    You summed it up perfectly, Jasmin. Animals first always. Where i really struggle is with the "advocating effectively" and being prepared for the conversation. I have good diplomacy skills and know how to have a respectful conversation, but what i really need is almost a "bootcamp style" level of training on memorizing the relevant facts, practicing those conversations, and speaking persuasively and confidently. It's so easy to get diverted, and then discouraged, and then silenced. Would you know of a good bootcamp (for lack of a better word) resource for practicing thoughtful articulation and advocacy? Again, thanks for the spot on article.

  13. Alison Ozgur
    September 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    What an awesome article! As a vegan registered dietitian, I make no excuses for promoting and encouraging everyone to eliminate ALL animal based foods from their diet. We are making an impact! I was at the Portland Veg Fest over the weekend...6000 people attended!

  14. September 27, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I just wanted to weigh in to say that I am extremely moved by the outpouring of enthusiasm around my blog entry today. I am so happy that it resonates with so many of you. Your comments here, and your emails today, truly inspire me, and remind me that there is a strong, passionate, dedicated, and relentless group of people fighting for animals -- human and non. And that fills me with hope. Thanks for keeping it real.

  15. Roni Omohundro
    September 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Wow! You really ARE inspirational and you are so right. Though I don't feel apologetic for my beliefs, you renewed a courage to assert kindly and diplomaticly whenever appropriate. However, I do realize that I need to be better informed of the facts. I have the heart but I need the knowledge. Thank you!

  16. September 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Right on.

  17. September 28, 2012 at 9:50 am

    I really needed to read this, too! Yep, I'm a people-pleaser. And I feel stronger now because you've put it in a bigger context. Just the other day a coworker, who knows that I'm vegan, offered me some butter for my roll. I wanted to let him have it with both barrels about the hell of diary cows but instead I said, "No, thank you." Next time, I'll think about your words and he'll get an earful about cow's milk.

  18. Cat Robson
    September 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks so much, I needed to hear it. Last night I had to tell my co-workers that I can't continue to work at our shop if they plan on continuing to sell new animal products. I was called intolerant and ridiculous to my face and I'm sure much more behind my back. So back to the job market and another search for a cruelty-free job.

  19. September 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I needed this so badly today! I went to the Topsfield Fair (probably for the last time) because it is a tradition with my family. The animal exploitation was too much to handle. I got a headache from holding in all the rage and frustration. ::sigh:: But I at least I didn't apologize! I'm working on it!

  20. September 30, 2012 at 6:56 am

    This was an amazing post, and so true. I spent so many of my early vegan days apologising and trying to 'not be difficult', and now that I have found my voice I am a much happier person for it. This is a post every vegan should read.

  21. October 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I loved this post. I found it so inspiring. This is actually the second time I've read it now. Really great !!

  22. December 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this; I'm going through this exact thing in most areas right now, and have begun to find my voice in the face of ridicule, skepticism, and the defensiveness/resistance that I am met with at every turn. Being the lone vegan (so far) in my world, I am being the (compassionate, forgiving, empowered) change I wish to see - but the road is definitely hard to walk with no support. It is nice to have "permission" to do so unapologetically - outside of my own.



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