I thought I would take a minute to bring into clear focus the reasons behind why making jokes about veganism, vegetarianism, and animal activism isn’t funny. Now, I recognize that I may come off as a bit of a wet blanket here, but the facts of the matter will remain, and I hope that at least some of you will come away with a better understanding of my — and others’ — position on this and the often misunderstood reaction to such “humor.”
Things start simply enough: Most people seeking to eat a diet which does not involve causing the suffering of another living creature are already predisposed to feeling great empathy, and are very sensitive to begin with. These people have made a conscious choice – not necessarily a judgement of others – to reduce, or eliminate, the suffering their actions cause animals (contrary to the stereotype, they generally care for human and non-human animals alike).
Then, an awareness begins to form as part of the compassionate path, as to all of the incredible suffering that is occurring. The circles in which we as compassionate eaters travel are teeming with information and petitions and videos and pamphlets and literature exposing the day-to-day realities endured by animals in agriculture — information which sadly, is not propaganda; it is the reality in which animals exist and suffer on an every-single-day basis, so that people can continue to eat meat and dairy products, and do so at a reduced cost. Think about this for a second.
Now, we have an empathic, highly informed individual, trying to live a life which does not further contribute to this suffering, living in a society in which this sort of a life-choice causes, at the very least, friction. Some people with whom this person comes into contact just get it and can even be curious. Others, either insensitive or lacking the information which could potentially be the genesis for their own spark of compassion, often find it funny to render digs or jokes. Often, this really is just ignorance, though all-too-often, it is actually intolerance. No matter what the motivation, there is nothing funny about being indifferent, cruel, or mocking the suffering of another living being — in fact, it makes you look rather like an imbecile.
Andrew Kirschner recently stated in his poignant “Open Letter to the Vegan Community,” “A vegan has likely seen a chicken inhumanely confined, diseased, debeaked, scalded, skinned, and shredded alive so when the animal eater’s response and the imagery collide, it may cause a visceral reaction in the vegan that causes anger to trump reason.” When you take into account what underlying motivations cause an animal-ethicist to make the choice to adopt such a lifestyle in the first place, it should come as no shock to you that no humor is found, and only a “visceral”, psychological and physiological reaction takes place.
Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, by the choice you make each day to consume products which are produced at the extreme expense of animals — be they food products you eat, or products tested on them you that slather on your skin or with which you clean your toilet — you are actively choosing to continue the cycle. Perhaps most importantly, it is a choice.
I know this first hand, because I chose differently. My life has not been diminished by this decision, nor have I regretted making this choice at any moment. I don’t judge others for not making the same choice, but when people feel inclined to essentially exhibit such graceless disregard for the suffering they are causing it is impossible not to immediately feel compelled toward changing the behavior, changing the mindset, and wanting to try to find and connect them with that piece of information which will be the catalyst, the catalyst to reduce the suffering of just one more animal.