An open letter to new vegans

activist, author, former political prisoner

Camille Marino
December 11, 2018

Dear New Vegan –

Congratulations on taking this first step in your journey of conscience and responsibility. I’m sharing with you what I wish someone had shared with me 11 years ago. Too many of us had to learn the hard way and the animals simply don’t have time to wait for us all to make the same mistakes.

The idea of removing ourselves from the nonhuman holocaust, of gaining a new respect for our fellow beings, is so fundamental and basic, yet changes our lives profoundly. Our friends and family may respect our choice, yet we are beginning to understand that there really is no choice; and the people we love either don’t care or don’t understand. So we need the support of our own vegan allies. You will find many dedicated and committed activists who’ll embrace and support you during your transition. We only want focused, empowered, and compassionate individuals to join our ranks. We understand that you’re in the middle of breaking a lifelong addiction and our only job is to guide you. Nothing is a success-only journey, veganism included. It’s okay to make mistakes.

But there are also way too many who pollute our community with nothing but sanctimony and hypocrisy. And there is an absolute correlation between these two things: those who pontificate the most always contribute little or nothing to the struggle. These individuals are rabid and it seems that their entire identity revolves around vegan purity. Rather than encourage you as you adapt, you might be scolded for using white sugar or for not veganizing your companion animals’ diets. Please, I beg you – ignore nitwits! They are angry at abusers, they are angry at the animals’ suffering, and they are angry at themselves for doing nothing to stop it. Imperfect vegans seem to be the only people they can attack. And here’s a newsflash that no one likes to admit: There’s no such thing as a perfect vegan. This is your journey. And it should be meaningful. You can surround yourself with the most intelligent, unconventional, and deeply-compassionate actors if you simply don’t allow posers to contaminate your ideas and transition.

You’ll likely be told that your new plant-based diet is saving 300 animals a year from death. Wow, that makes every one of us feel like we’ve done something extraordinary. Veteran vegans are not lying to you; they really believe this. They believe all the lies, fallacies, and feel-good distractions that permeate our community. No vegan diet has ever saved a single animal; they’re all still dying in greater numbers everyday. We’ve simply abstained from participating in their deaths. And this is a fundamental truth we all need to own and embrace. Then we can more easily see debating vegan purity for the utter waste of time it is and learn to ignore the pests who entertain such nonsense.

While you’re rearranging your ideas and perceptions of everything you once thought was true, you may experience the same disbelief and horror that plague many of us. How could an animal holocaust permeate society, how could it be woven into the fabric of our entire lives, and we never saw it? It was all indoctrination. It was all normalized from birth and very few of us could see past our grooming. But now we do. And we should be consumed with needing to compensate for our ignorant transgressions, to end the suffering, to do something to really make a difference for Animal Liberation. Indeed, now that we’ve made it to this side of the fence, it is our duty to do everything in our power to stop the suffering in which we once took part.

You’ll likely begin to look around to see what others are doing. STOP! When you look around on social media, you’ll see tons of people signing petitions and frenzied posting of one animal-abuse atrocity after another. It feels like a baseball bat they’re trying to wield at their audience to say “Look, Look, Look.” I don’t look. No one who needs to see it looks. Then there’s mass commiseration about how sad and horrible the situation is. Please understand that what you’re seeing is a bunch of people tripping over each other, not a single one knowing how to make it stop; only talking to one another in a vacuum. What you don’t see are those of us who watch in utter frustration, understanding that our finite human resources are being depleted in service to some perverted toxic social network that validates inaction and pays homage to words. Words don’t stop skullcaps from being sawed off in labs or limbs from being sawed off and packaged in our local supermarket. They only make us feel good about doing nothing… until we start recognizing nothingness for what it is and moving past it.

We can force change for the animals, but only if we don’t lose another new vegan to the impotence and ineffectiveness that is mainstream activism. If someone is asking you to sign a petition, make a donation, or join some random tweet storm, understand that these are exercises that make us feel good and do nothing to help a single animal suffering at the hands of a sadist. If you have money to donate, give it to a local shelter — not any of our demagogues. Christianity’s Benny Hinn has nothing on some of our Animal Liberation messiahs. There is no progress without getting our hands dirty. And that’s another simple, inconvenient truth. The quicker we all come to grips with that, the better.

It takes focus. It takes dedication. It takes a degree of selflessness. And it takes following no one except our own conscience. Deep down in every single one of us, we know what needs to be done. If human babies were being caged, raped, mutilated, tortured, and murdered, what would each of us be willing to do? Sign a petition? Light a candle and chant? Or make the guilty fear for their own pathetic lives? Would we pick up arms? Would we revolt in the street? Would we break down the cages and rescue the innocent? It’s no different when the innocent baby in question was unlucky enough to be born into a nonhuman body.

One of the people I trust most in the world just summed up what everyone of us has to negotiate eventually:

“Now I am feeling extremely depressed and angry and helpless. What do you do when you realize that the world in which you are living is insane? When you know that you belong to a species that is the worst thing to ever happen to this planet and its inhabitants. When you are ashamed to be a member of the human race, the most vile, parasitic, selfish, greedy, cruel and murderous species to ever walk the Earth? I want to do something, but I feel powerless.”

At some point, we’ll all have reached our limit and must decide to take personal responsibility and take action. And I hope that there’ll be a chain reaction of revolutionaries in the street one day. Until then, it is the job of every new vegan to not fall prey to contagions of pacifism and ineffectiveness that infect our community. Some of us have made minor strides on our own and would love nothing more than to pass on our tools and tactics to new activists. But we’re not in the playground. Before we’re impressed by someone’s words, let’s all learn to look past the shiny objects and ask what exactly they’ve accomplished. I can tell you what worked for me. Find your local abuser and become their worst nightmare. Be at their homes, churches, synagogues, neighbors’ homes, their kids’ schools, and everywhere in between when they least expect it. I believe the best chance we have of paying our debt to the animals is to stop every one of their abusers we possibly can. But that’s just me.


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