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Laugh at veganism, if you want

June 30, 2017

I’ve been vegan for a good while now, and I still get annoyed when people laugh at it – just as we all get annoyed when people laugh at our beliefs, especially when they are strong.

And I do let a lot slide, knowing that meat eaters would confuse any lack of good humour over animal death for a symptom of me starting to take myself too seriously. I could spend half my life explaining, to no avail, how veganism isn’t about me, or any human at all, but about animals. Not to mention rights and justice – not things to be taken lightly at all.

I suppose the experience would be different if the world was on my side. It’s harmless to laugh at things which everybody does, because there’s no victim to that joke, nor is there any sense that people on mass live in denial of one of the worst, and largest, atrocities of our age.

It’s meat eating that we should be laughing at, this entirely senseless thing that the majority of us do when we don’t have to. If we were honest with ourselves, we would have to admit it’s a bizarre, gross habit.

Yet, the only people who tend to make these comments are vegans and vegetarians. The result is always satire, as it’s impossible to talk the truth of the matter without creating satire – it’s just too easily to satirise. Inevitably, that makes even the lightest comment look heavily politicised.

Whenever the brilliant artist Vegan Sidekick makes a comic strip, the carnists are quick to say how oversensitive we are. What they don’t seem to have considered is that their offence to that satire is indicative of their own discomfort; there’s a truth in there that says bad things about them, and no one feels comfortable when they are the one under scrutiny.

But there’s a good reason why jokes about the hypocrisy of meat eating never quite hit the mark for meat eaters, and instead make them angry. It’s the same reason why many, if not most, of us balk at jokes about domestic violence, hate crime and genocide.

The intense evil of these behaviours, and their visceral nature, makes these jokes too close to the bone for anyone who has ever properly engaged with the reality of those acts, and the serious consequences they have on the victims. Joking about it feels grotesqueness when you know it is not some distant fiction, but a troublingly prevalent part of your everyday life.

Meat eating is too close for comfort to be satirised lightly. It is an act of intense violence, a fact that is too difficult to ignore whenever we joke about it. Jokes about meat eating remind people that they do a great wrong on a daily basis, and the guilty audience does not appreciate this.

Veganism, on the other hand, can be freely joked about because it is utterly harmless. That is probably a good measure of how much freedom we should assign to a way of life; how much it can be mocked without a majority of people feeling uncomfortable. Harmless religious thought and meaningless cultural or gender difference are the stuff of stand up comedy for a reason; they don’t matter.

Veganism doesn’t really matter to meat eaters, much as a handful of them might try to raise objections to its “propaganda” and “indoctrination”. The truth is, meat eaters are not indoctrinated at all, because the vast majority of them still keep right on doing what they are doing.

Disappointing as it is that meat eaters find vegans too easy to ignore, and therefore laugh at, there is a positive message to take from it: veganism can be amusing to people because it is conceived as a bunch of trivial stereotypes, from sandal-wearing to sprirulina drinking and cabbage farts.

What is meat eating, by comparison? Suffering, murder and dismemberment,. Hardly the stuff of every day office water cooler humour. Unless you have a very weird office.

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