For a while, I really was the only vegan in the village. Well, my corner of the city. For three years I was quite happy, if a little lonely, without knowing any other vegans.
But when that all changed. And when I met lots of others, I noticed many of them shared some similarities.
Obviously we are all individuals, with our own opinions, feelings and personality traits, but there are some qualities I think lots of vegans have in common.
I have made a list based on my own experiences.
1. Empathy and compassion
Empathy is the obvious one – but it’s obvious because it’s true.
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s position is pretty important when it comes to forming a lifestyle built on causing as little harm as practicable and possible.
Most of the vegans I have met have been the most compassionate people ever.
And not just about animals, but about a whole range of injustices they see raging around the world.
It can be difficult to express yourself calmly when it’s a topic you care so deeply about, but the most effective advocates I have met have always been able to communicate in a powerful, yet diplomatic manner.
As the sharing of information becomes more democratic, we are all exposed to new realities and ideas.
For example, I never knew that calves were routinely killed at a young age so we could drink their milk – that is something I found out online. Or look at the amount of environmental damage animal agriculture does.
That was surprising.
A rational and logical person would assimilate that information and look at what personal steps they could take to help these issues – like, for example, go vegan.
4. Independent thinking
For many, embracing veganism means choosing a path lots of their friends and family won’t understand. For others, they will face either open confrontation or passive aggressive comments.
Six years after being vegan people still want to refer to my meals as ‘weirdo food’? Go for it – I don’t care!
I have never experienced the camaraderie or friendliness the vegan community shares in any other group. While, just like any other large group of people there are disagreements or squabbles, overall, my experience has been amazing.
I always feel welcomed into new vegan groups – we are united by our common goal of stopping animal exploitation.
I have met a whole bunch of vegans – from those who are housebound, to those who spend their time ‘in the field’ – marching for animals, getting undercover footage on farms and more.
The one thing that ties all these people together, whatever their definition of activism, is the passion they feel for animal rights and living a vegan lifestyle.
There are some vegans who do incredible things – work undercover in labs or slaughterhouses, for instance. This requires incredible levels of courage, determination and fortitude.
But there is also a quiet bravery in making that decision to go vegan in the first place; going against the grain, and living a life many others don’t understand.
From making cheese out of cashew nuts, to working to expose bad practices in farming, to bringing people together for different forms of direct action – the vegan community is full of innovators with ingenious ideas.
After all, who, but a vegan, could have realised the bizarre perfection of nutritional yeast?
Again, I have witnessed conflict and arguments within the vegan community.
But what I’ve seen more of is kindness. I’ve seen people rally round others in trouble, temporarily housing people and their companion animals, giving food, clothes and money to those in need – as well as providing emotional support to others they may never have met, but share the common bond of veganism with.
10. Strength of character
It’s not always easy to stand up for what you believe in – something many vegans will be familiar with.
But when you truly believe you’re on the right side of history, you find the strength to do so.