Let’s face it, getting together with family for the holidays is bittersweet for some. Merriment and giving and the warm fuzziness of chestnuts roasting on the open fire make for wondrous holiday card scenes reminiscent of Norman Rockwell paintings. Yet many of us also experience the proverbial Dark Side; that moment where family wounds get scratched open and simmering resentment rises to the surface like molten lava spewing from some long dormant volcano.
For this vegan celebrating my first Christmas, I experienced equal parts ‘Miracle On 34th Street’ and ‘Scrooged’. Eating, gift-giving, mirth and mayhem were plentiful; but the more disconcerting moments came when my meat-eating ghosts of Christmas past were brought up by family querying why I chose to become a vegan in the first place.
Particularly well-to-do cousins wanted to know what motivated me to become vegan in the first place. These are meat-eating we-order-our-meat from Australia and have the best toys and go on the best vacations yuppies that have ‘arrived’. They like to see and be seen, go to expensive restaurants and drink the best wines.
When I explained my vegan sojourn began on a lark—almost as a dare with myself as to whether or not I could do it—but that I had slowly backed into the animal rights portion of the lifestyle, that opened a Pandora’s Box of angst, leveled at PETA and Mercy For Animals.
That’s when my carnivorous cousins attacked.
Simply put, when I explained to them that the animal rights and anti-cruelty efforts of MFA and PETA had opened my veganism to an entire new world of consciousness and compassion—particularly the cattle slaughter videos and the chicken coop conditions uncovered at poultry farms—I was greeted with a litany of “Oh come on, why do you care about how animals are treated when we are going to EAT them?’ or ‘All PETA does is piss the rest of US off”.
Might I add that these are pet-owners who treat their dog as if it were a member of the family, short of letting it use silverware at meal time, and, their daughter is on a medically necessary gluten free diet.
Now, some vegans and animal activists might have considered this the opportune time to dig their heels in and stand their ground and try to educate and then convert the rabid carnivorous cousins. Like religion and political viewpoints, I’m always cognizant of foisting my opinions and lifestyle upon the unsuspecting, but if asked, Katie-bar-the-door.
Indeed, the attempt was made and rebuffed, in much the same way as the politicians in Washington, D.C. try to jam their agendas down the mouths of the opposition with nary a hint of compromise.
As if that weren’t enough, my efforts were met with the distracted pre-occupation with and diverted eyes to their Blackberries. If you’re not interested in hearing the answer, then why ask in the first place?
Indeed, the holidays were an eye-opening experience. The disrespect and indifference that met my vegan bona fides didn’t hurt me. Though it stung briefly, it only instilled in me a greater motivation to be a better vegan; to be more compassionate to living things; and to become even more educated and aware about the societal conditioning that goes into our food supply and consumption habits.
…and more prepared for the ignorance it fosters in the neat, tiny, tied-with-a-bow ignorance of a closed mind.
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