From its origins as an enlightened way to embrace a meat-free diet that (allegedly) promotes peace, love and understanding, the vegan movement is beginning to resemble a full-on cult.
There have always been extremists among the animal activist community, radicals willing to burn down meat plants, vandalize research labs and personally attack people they deem to be villains because of their connection to a business or profession that involves the use of animals.
Talking about groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, which for years has operated as domestic terrorists, including such incidents as firebombing a federal corral holding wild horses, trashing primate research centers and breaking into fur farms to release thousands of mink, most of whom end up dead within a day or two of gaining their “freedom.”
We could use his entire column to list the atrocities perpetrated by animal activists; suffice to say that the violence and vandalism has been going on for decades.
Of course, the conventional wisdom among self-proclaimed “serious” advocates of vegetarian diets and animal welfare paints such radicals as merely a fringe group, nothing more than a small subset of the otherwise passionate but professional activists who only want a peaceful world where animals never get killed and people evolve into enlightened vegans who subsist on soybeans and salad as they live a healthy, peaceful co-existence with all of humanity.
“We’re not like them” is the knee-jerk response animal rights apologists always go to when confronted with the damage done by extremists willing to blow up buildings and burn down laboratories in service to their “cause.”
Now, however, it’s starting to look like “them” is a much bigger segment of the vegan community than any of its leadership were previously willing to admit.
The Wrath of Veggies
In addition to the escalating violence in France, in which butcher shops and charcuteries have been splashed with red paint and had their windows smashed, even activities that are much lower profile than butchering meat are now targets for vegan anger and retaliation.
For example: Post an innocent photo of a newborn calf on social media as a fun naming contest for the customers of a family-run dairy, as happened in England recently, and you’ll be subjected to hate mail, death threats and fond wishes that you and yours succumb to some potentially fatal foodborne disease.
Or upload a photo of yourself posing with an animal you’ve hunted, as Rebecca Francis, a bow-hunting expert from Wyoming, recently did, and not only online trolls but celebrities — in her case, British TV star Ricky Gervais — will send out tweets accusing you of being a heartless criminal, and tens of thousands of veganistas will pile on with likes and retweets.
There was even a bizarre case earlier this year in which Anna Del Rey, a Michigan teen-ager, innocently posted a recipe for tofurkey online. When vegans chimed in to ask about her about her diet, she admitted she eats meat … and the you-know-what hit the Facebook post.
“Tofu is strictly for vegans,” one reply stated. “You are basically admitting to appropriating us and stealing what we need for your own selfish use. I’m going to request to the [administrator] that you are removed from our group.”
Which apparently happened, although the removal was later rescinded.
“So you’re like pretending to be a vegan cause it’s cool and in?” another commenter replied. “I’ve been vegan for 3 years now. It’s not hip or cool. It’s important.”
Ms. Del Rey, obviously upset at the reaction from “true” vegans, finally posted an equally in-your-face reply: “With all due respect, I’m not appropriating anything. I’m eating food I like, you absolute f**k!”
Dishing it out in spades to those with whom you disagree is probably not the best counter-strategy, PR-wise, but one can appreciate Ms. Del Rey’s frustration.
In fact, I dare say that from its humble beginnings as a dietary pathway to what its adherents believed was a healthier, more sustainable way to eat, the vegetarian movement, in large measure, has devolved into what amounts to a cult.
Instead of an individual decision about food choices that we’re all free to make — or not — a disturbingly large percentage of veganistas have apparently adopted the belief that everyone must embrace the full-on vegan lifestyle; there’s no choice anymore; there’s only right and wrong.
And they’re right, and anyone who disagrees is wrong.
Like all cults, that belief structure is hard to understand when you’re on the outside looking in.
And that’s where I intend to stay: on the outside, far away from the intolerance of those who have taken up residence in Veganistan. □
The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator