I’m sitting here at my desk at the office after an exhausting day of seeing patients. It’s just after 5 pm and a friend shared an article that went up on Medium.com today and my blood is boiling. The author, a young vegan woman with stunningly beautiful tattoos was marginalized and stigmatized- along with countless thousands of other vegans and animal rights activists- by a “middle-aged, straight, white woman” who spewed hate and judgement from the stage at an animal rights conference in Luxembourg. This speaker suggested the archaic and out-of-touch notion that the way we present our bodies makes us more or less effective advocates for animals.

I’m sorry (Mom- cover your ears/eyes now…) but WHAT THE FUCK???

This is NOT okay. As a community that is rooted in compassion and committed to the belief that we all have the right to bodily integrity, this Nazi-like notion of what a “vegan” or “animal rights activist” looks like is nothing but offensive and antithetical to our movement. There is so much wrong with this it’s almost hard to unpack, but I’m going to do my best to break this down.

Let’s just go to the a fundamental question: To whom is this an off-putting look?  To me, it suggests that the speaker believes we ought to be targeting people without tattoos or piercings. It also suggests that folks without tattoos or piercings are somehow all put off by folks who have them, which is total nonsense. By promoting this belief, the speaker implies that the very people we seek to join this movement are those who are put off by people who have tattoos or piercings. Or folks who groom themselves in ways that are unlike the way that they choose to physically present themselves. This speaker, described by the author in that article as a, “wait, middle-aged, straight, white woman” is thinking small and from the narrow viewpoint that is her place of privilege as a white person. This speaker was probably thinking about how we could reach other white people and preferably the ones without visible tattoos, presumably like her. Not only is this approach ignorant and completely out of step with the reality of the incredible popularity of tattoos among millennials and youth today, it also ignores the popularity of tattoos in middle-aged and older folks who are increasingly deciding to get tattooed later in life.

The bigger issue is the idea that we should only be engaging certain people on the issues of animal rights . This has been the failing paradigm of the animal rights movement since it’s inception. As long as we keep targeting a curated, narrow cross-section of people in very specific communities, we will fail to reach all people. We need EVERYBODY. That’s right, ALL of us are needed. So I suggest that this speak should appeal to other street middle-aged white people who have aversions to tattoos. But we need lots of other people: those who are heavily tattooed, pierced, non-white, non-binary, non-straight, non-fill-in-the-fucking-blank to appeal to everybody else out there with whom their look resonates. It takes all of us. That’s what an inclusive movement means.

Bottom line: the animals are dying by millions and by the minute. They don’t have time for us to indulge this kind of bogus biased bullshit. We shouldn’t be wasting our time highlighting people who offer divisive perspectives and criticisms of our movement that add nothing. If we are to succeed as a movement and bring about animal liberation, the only way it’s going to work is by being radically inclusive of all people, from all backgrounds, from all faiths and no faith, from all gender and sexual orientations and expressions, everywhere, all of the time. Because no matter who you are, where you are from, what you believe, who you love, or any other arbitrary distinguishing factor, YOU are what are a vegan looks like.



UPDATE: Sept. 14, 2017

We decided to remove the stock photo of the woman that was published in this original blog post. It was added in on the fly when we could not reach the author of the original article in order to obtain her permission to use her image. Though we’ve asked her, we have yet to hear back if she’s comfortable with us celebrating her in that way. Regardless, it was unthinking and insensitive of us to put up that image as it may have given the impression that we are okay with cultural appropriation. To be clear: We are not okay with cultural appropriation and we deeply regret if our use of that image has upset or offended anyone.