Beyoncé and compassion

An article on how Beyoncé and Jay-Z have “abandon” their vegan diet cleanse caught my attention. I think the article greatly reflects a lot of things that are far from optimal in our vegan movement. Let me explain.

First of all, the author of the article assumes a lot of things. She assumes that she knows why Beyoncé and Jay-Z started the vegan cleanse, she assumes she knows why they are now ending it, why they visited a non vegan restaurant, etc. She assumes it’s for all the wrong reasons. I think there may indeed be indications that the famous couple might be interested in some self promotion, likes to draw attention, and whatever, but these indications are not sufficient reason to assume we know everything there is to know.

Secondly – and more importantly – the author judges Beyoncé and Jay-Z for not eating vegan for the right reasons (ethical ones) and not going beyond diet. It is something that has haunted the movement for the last few decades: if you go vegan, it has to be for the animals. Hence, also, veganism is more than diet: you avoid hurting animals not just in your diet, but also in your whole lifestyle, which should be based on compassion and nothing else (certainly not on fads, health concerns, or whatever).

Now, as a vegan myself, who turned and is still vegan mainly for the animals, I can understand the author’s concern. We love people to empathize with the animals’ suffering, we want them to be compassionate, we want them to forego animal products for the right reasons. But can we stop and think for a minute about how we want to achieve that?

People may start out on the road to veganism and compassion for other reasons than veganism or compassion. They may start eating vegan because of peer pressure, because of health concerns, because of no matter what. But the important thing is, once they are on that road, once they realize that eating vegan is tastier, easier, more doable than they thought it was, their defenses against the vegan philosophy start to crumble. Their hearts and minds open up to our ethical arguments, and they may, finally, become “one of us”.

Now our part in this process is to encourage every step, no matter how small, no matter the reason. It is our encouragement and not our judgement that will help them go further.

Not a single one of us arrives at the end point with one single step. Vegans too, still have a lot to learn. Patience, understanding and… compassion, both for others and for ourselves, will get us where we want the world to be.

PS: I guess I judged some people as being judgemental and thus made the same mistake. Perhaps that helps prove my point 🙂

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