Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
Image by Ryan McGuire
When the switch flips, you don’t know how you could have been so blind. The suffering is overwhelming and all around you. And everyone is okay with it! Everyone is contributing to it. Everybody is a bad guy.
Black and white thinking is useful in helping us set the bar, draw a line in the sand. That line being; using animals is abusing animals (big or small). When vegans look at non-vegans, farmers, slaughterhouse workers, etc - we see someone stepping over this line. Which puts them on the other side…the enemy.
This line is created to help define ourselves, but by doing so what do we achieve? Being right? Does that matter while animals are still suffering? Were we wrong before we were vegan or just blind? Were we villains? I sure didn’t see myself as one.
Focusing our anger on individuals will not only slow us down, but steer us off course. Animal farmers don’t mutilate, inseminate, separate and send to slaughter animals because it makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s a job, there’s a demand. If I ran in to a dairy farm and effed stuff up, to the point the farm can’t operate, it will be replaced - because there’s money in dairy…for now. For now because there’s a growing trend for dairy based alternatives. As that grows the dairy farms will eff themselves up, without me strolling in with a sledge hammer.
So focus our anger on the consumer, right? Nope.
Consumers don’t pay for and consume an animal product because the idea of an animal being abused and killed for them gets them slavering all over their bibs, like Pavlov’s dog. Most non-vegans are brought into a world where eating and using animals is normal - that’s their default. Don’t get me wrong, the amount of times I want to shake people to their senses, see the truth right in front of them and make the changes the animals need, is a daily occurence. But that won’t work. Did it work for you? If someone did that to me before I was vegan, I would have devalued what they were saying to protect myself.
The anger lies towards this system we all live in. Psychologist Melanie Joy calls this ‘Carnism’. No one person is to blame. It’s an idea. The collective story the majority tell themselves to continue in default mode. The more we educate and motivate this majority to find their new normal, the sooner the system will change for the better. I find that liberating. Instead of viewing farmers and animal eaters as enemies, but as victims of an oppressive system - oppressing them as well as the animals - we find a common ground and a way out collectively.
Easy right? If only.
Carnism want’s to keep the status quo, and will fight to keep it. Big businesses and institutions, like mainstream media and political parties, have and will continue to make vegans enemies of 'normal people’ and animal farmers. If they put us in this box and keep us in there, our cause will be marginalised and devalued; nothing will be achieved. We must do our best to stay out of this box.
When I’m labelled as a farmer hater; wanting the farmer to be jobless and sad, I re-frame this with a game of 'Would you rather?’ Of course I don’t want any body to be jobless and sad.
It’s a question what I would rather: Animals to stop being manipulated, used and killed unnecessarily OR someone to change their job, which with some effort and support can be done. (this happens all the time in most businesses!)
'But what about all the animals? No fluffy sheep in the fields! You hate cute, fluffy sheep!’ Would I rather: Cute fluffy sheep raised and killed on a mass scale, so I can see them out of my car window every now and then OR beautiful natural, wild ecosystems with free native animals and varied plant-life?
It’s all about priorities. In my eyes, life always trumps lifestyle change.
Veganism is being presented as a step down from life now; a sacrifice, a lesser life. In reality it has better options; farmers won’t have to use animals anymore, our nature can rejuvenate and flourish, we will be healthier!
So when you feel that anger bubbling up at the sight or thought of the great injustices minorities and animals face, remember to aim before you fire. Aim it at institutions, like government and businesses. Push them to change their policy; support farmers to transition to plant-based agriculture and similar. Turn your anger into fuel, to inform and invigorate non-vegans to make the change.
Don’t hate the player, change the game!