Something sad happened a couple of weeks ago. A group of vegans living in the same town decided to meet up for coffee and cake in a local coffee shop. Nothing too sad or unusual about that you might think but then our old friend “social media” joins the party.
One of the problems of living in a small town, even one as delightful as my beloved Seaford, is that the cafes tend not to offer much in the way of vegan cake so we were very happy to hear that one had offered to make one as long as enough people turned up to eat it. Sadly, a few days before, the owner called to cancel and one of the group posted about their frustration and disappointment on a local community Facebook group. Oh my! The anger and vitriol this received made my toes curl. Since then we have had two weeks of sarky comments, threats of violence and aggression aimed at Vegans. This has exposed a nasty side to our little town and left people feeling unwelcome in their own community.
As a young, white, male, middle class professional I don’t tend to experience much in the way of discrimination. Society is largely set up in my favour and I know many of you out there will have experienced far worse but even this slight feeling of antagonism gets wearing very quickly. Anyone who stands out, thinks differently, behaves differently is driven out or made to conform. Difference is suspicious.
Of course there have been more positive outcomes from all of this. The original venue back peddled furiously and a lovely time was had by those who met. Another local eatery realising the level of demand ordered in some of the most delicious vegan cakes I have ever tried and has put vegan lunches on the menu. Other places have been in touch to ask for recipes and offering to host our next get together.
It is tempting to spend more time in Brighton down the road with its vegan cafes, health food shops and like minded people but if we hide in our ghettoes we keep Veganism as a niche idea tucked away and hidden. We need a revolution in the small towns and backwaters if people are going to see that we are members of their communities. That we are their next door neighbours, teachers, nurses and council workers and not some strange “other” to be ridiculed and despised.