During the famous San-Fermín festivities back in July 2017, the crowd was not stunned by another man tossed in the air by a taunted bull. This time around it were the actions of a man better known as the ‘Vegan Streaker’. After a group of activists already tried to storm the arena, the streaker took his moment and ran towards the bull with an anti-animal cruelty message written on his naked body. Tho the activist claims to be peaceful in his approach, it seems that his actions speak way louder than his words.
Before the accident that gave the Vegan Streaker his second tv-debut, he was already responsible for several other incidents including interrupting a few dolphin shows and 27 other arenas. In 2009 he made his first debut. During a live television program in The Netherlands, the streaker managed to find its way through security. He then interrupted the host of the show by appearing fully naked with “Meat is Murder” written on his body. According to his lawyer, the streaker cannot be held fully responsible as he has a form of autism known as Asperger which makes it difficult for him to understand someone else’s perspective. While this might be an excuse for him, it certainly does not explain similar actions by people who are fully accountable.
I am no stranger to vegans. In fact, I know many people who choose to be vegan and that is totally fine. Let it be known before you read any further; I have nothing against vegans. What you choose to eat (or in this case don’t) is totally up to you. However, during the last few years, I’ve been noticing an increase in the number of vegans I personally like to call: ‘Sustainable Extremists’. These people will literally attack you for not agreeing with their way of life. If you are a meat eater you might as well be locked up according to them because you’re nothing less than a cold-blooded murderer.
A perfect example of ‘Sustainable Extremism’ is the video PETA posted back in 2016. They shocked unaware and innocent customers who walked into a leather store by hiding extremely realistic and gross-looking organs inside their products. With a beautiful name in ‘Behind the Leather’, a very educational promotion ended up as a disgusting way to force an opinion onto people.
In life, I am all for stating your opinion if you truly believe in its cause. Even on controversial topics, people should be able to speak their minds in order for change to happen. However, when it comes to changing a mindset of an entire society I can guarantee you that it will take a long time. You see, change is not something that happens over a few weeks. Especially the social and cultural trends I analyse often take many years to fully manifest. There is in fact, an existing theory on how we adapt to change. It all starts with a small group of people called ‘The Influencers’. If they start something new it is often noticed by another small group called the ‘early Adapters’ who slowly take over and this process continues to the point where it will hit the mainstream.
This process takes time, however. And when ‘The Influencers’ start something that does not mean that the end product is an exact copy of what was once founded. In the case of sustainable extremism, the movement started out as a responsibility. With a fast-growing population, the need for new food sources grew as well. With current systems, we would not be able to feed everyone that is living on future earth. So with that in mind, a small group of people started to change their lifestyles. Where some people chose to become a vegetarian, others decided to reduce their eco-footprint. Both ways were responses to a slowly developing problem caused by society itself.
Once veganism and zero-waste lifestyles hit the mainstream tho, all hell broke loose. Where it was once a positive movement of educated people who chose to make significant changes to their daily routines, is now a nagging and aggressive bunch of self-proclaimed lifestyle-gurus willing to force their opinion on everyone they meet. And this seems to have the opposite effect. British research shows that 37% of meat-eaters are not willing to go vegan because of the image some of them have created (I say ‘some’ because I know very well that many vegans are not like this at all).
Ecorexia as a Result of a Supposedly Positive Movement
Besides the fact that the aggressive approach doesn’t seem to work very well, there are more serious problems caused by sustainable extremism. Earlier this week I read about an unofficial health illness called ‘Ecorexia’. People with this illness are so caught up in living a zero-waste lifestyle that it eventually hinders their happiness. If they are not able to live by their sometimes exaggerated standards, they feel guilty. It’s insane to me that a movement with such a positive goal has such negative impacts.
And the sad part is, this movement is necessary. Even though I personally enjoy a juicy piece of meat every once in a while, I am aware of the fact that my old habits can no longer be defended. The massive amount of meat we consume is absolutely ridiculous and we must change this. A few years back I couldn’t even imagine a well-rounded dish without meat whereas today I am perfectly fine eating meat once or twice a week. It’s something you need to get used to because it is (again) hard to change a lifestyle. Especially when eating meat has been part of our culture for so long.
In a perfect world where people choose to go vegetarian or reduce their meat consumption habits to once or twice per week, our options would also be much more exciting. With the industrial agriculture, we are depended on right now, we are able to reach our needs. However, once our needs shift, we are able to make the move to a biological agriculture which is impossible as for now since it will take up 20% more space. Space we all know we don’t have.
The Green Light at the End of the Tunnel
The goal of this article is not to bash the vegan movement as I strongly believe in its cause and necessity. I do think it’s important, however, to start a conversation on how to handle this situation correctly. Because right now a small group of future-friendly people is taking a less friendly and less effective approach causing the entire movement to end up with a nagging, uneducated and aggressive image.
So, rounding up today’s article I do want to end on a positive note. Because I know very well that there are many initiatives with the same cause that are far from nagging and aggressive. Take Piñatex for instance, a socially responsible company making new and innovative textiles from pineapple leaves or the more recent project Twenty by Mirjam de Bruijn who explicitly stated that she stayed away from the ‘typical’ bio-design. Her project takes away all the water that’s in products we use daily and sells the remaining twenty percent.
Many more initiatives like this should guide the way towards a healthier future. I hope that in the coming years we will lose the aggressiveness in order to work together. Extremism is never the right way to go as it scares people away instead of giving them a taste of what it is you are offering.
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