The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
The above is a quote from The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft and perhaps best sums up the central idea of what became known as his “Cthulhu Mythos”. This is the idea running through his stories that there was a great hideous secret lying at the heart of the human experience. That if we were able to put together the signs, the things we had seen, overheard conversations, odd events, chance encounters, the way the stars lined up… If we could put together all this information then we would see this dark secret and go quite, quite crazy. All hail Cthulhu.
This is all well and good I hear you think (me crazy? Never!) but what does this tell us about Veganism? Well I’ll tell you, crazed voices in my head.
As vegans we have put together the evidence of a dark hideous secret. We have correlated these facts and it has driven us quite mad in the eyes of most of the world. We have woken up to the incredible cruelty that humans inflict on fellow sentient beings. We have realised that enslaving other sentient beings for our own use is morally wrong. We have seen the suffering of a cow who has had her calf ripped from her and of the male chicks left to starve as waste materials. We have woken up to the fact that not only is this incredibly cruel but also, and most incredibly, unnecessary! Once you have made these leaps walking around in a world full of people eating meat, wearing leather and drinking milk is like a cultist of The Great Old Ones seeing things slithering in the shadows between time. It is going to drive you just a little insane.
So the only option would seem to be to try and wake everyone else up. To show them that it is they and not you who is truly insane. The trouble is… Well… That is going to make you sound a little bonkers isn’t it. Waking people up to the truth is a slow and painstaking process and I would suggest goes something like this…
Veganism is possible The first barrier that needs to come down is the idea the animals have to be exploited and that sadly there is no choice. This one is perhaps the easiest to do – just be the best role model you can be. Show how happy and healthy you are. Run marathons, lift weights, do yoga, be fit and well. Give them no opportunity to claim they “need meat and dairy for protein and calcium” by being well educated on nutrition.
Veganism is exciting The next barrier is that Veganism might be possible but that it is a boring and terrible way to live. That the food is dull, the clothes ugly and the decisions complex. Again though this is a nice simple barrier to break down. Cook and share delicious food, dress with your own particular style, be positive. Talking about how hard it is to be a vegan and what sacrifices you have to make is going to do nothing to show people that going vegan is as easy as easily available vegan-pie.
Animals are different from humans This is a tricky little one. Some people have the idea that to be vegan is to anthropomorphize animals into furry little people. Nothing though is further from the truth. Of course animals are different but that doesn’t mean they are somehow less. In the past people argued in favour of slavery by saying that non-Christians were somehow worth less than Christians. For years people against universal sufferage argued that first the poor and then women were somehow worth less than the wealthy and the male. Just because something is different doesn’t mean that they lack value. We can show that vegans care about people as well as animals and are aware of a range of social justice issues. We can show that we actually have a perfectly rational and non-sentimental relationship with animals.
Exploiting animals is natural This barrier to the truth is one that comes up almost as a last resort. The mind’s final attempt to protect itself from the horrible realisation that is to come. The best way to help deal with this barrier is with a shrug. ‘Natural’ doesn’t mean anything much. What we did 10000 years ago has little baring on what we have to do today and many ‘natural’ activities like rape and other violent acts are rightly seen as abhorrent. Why should this be any different.
Animals don’t suffer Only now may they be ready for the final barrier to come down and be exposed to the reality of the horrendous suffering that animals go through to meet our selfish desires. This is when the videos, pictures and testimonies are useful. Many people seem to hold on to the idea that livestock live lives of blissful unawareness. That they live out their time in green pastures only to be painlessly dispatched towards the end of their natural lives. Vegetarians perhaps have the hardest time with this one. Of realising just what a dairy cow or ‘free range’ egg layer goes through. The final barrier is seeing that there is no such thing as ‘humane’ exploitation.
If we accept what Lovecraft suggests and apply it to veganism we see that people already know all this on some level. They have seen the reports that a plant based diet is healthy. They know that a falafel and hummus wrap is delicious. They know that humans have no divine right to treat animals the way they do and they know that life as a thing to be exploited is brutal. What they have not done is put all this information together and reached the only sane conclusion in this insane world. To go vegan.