I'm not really an "activist" in the way the general population pictures vegan activists. I have gone to one demonstration, and I felt very uncomfortable (not with the reason for the demonstration or anything; I just did not want to be there), so I don't know if I will be doing that sort of thing again. However, I have learned that activism can be a lot of things. For example, sharing vegan food and tips and tricks is one way, letting people know that there are alternatives to dyeing eggs for Easter, or maybe encouraging people to reconsider visiting places like the zoo or a marine park or a circus. Those are things I've recently started calling "subtle activism," and it's what I am personally most comfortable with, and I believe it can be a really effective way to reach people. For some, this might not be enough, and, for others, this might be even more than they could ever do.
I don't share graphic videos or images on social media, though I truly appreciate those who do. I've just decided it's not something I want to do, and I feel like my reach on my pages has gone farther with the stuff I do post. I have many friends who excitedly share with me when they've purchased a new vegan product or item, and I have lots of people asking me questions about where they can find certain substitutes for themselves or maybe for their friends or family members who have allergies or are vegan. I've decided to keep it positive and educational, rather than horrifying, for the most part, and it works for me.
There have been a few times that I have responded to posts about saving marine life by discontinuing the use of disposable straws by pointing out that another way to save marine life is to not eat fish, though not using straws is a step, of course. I've also privately reached out to friends who have expressed interest in visiting the circus because they love to see majestic animals. I should note that I usually send private messages because my intent is not to attack people, and I feel like many people feel defensive when they are called out publicly. So it's what I do.
Another part of my activism is sharing yummy vegan food with people, whether it's my coworkers or my kids' teachers and classmates. As I used to do for my daughter when she was an infant and we started with baby-led weaning, I send food for my son to daycare so they can serve him throughout the day, and I usually send extra for his teachers. And they love it! They enjoy being fed with homecooked food, and I get to expose them to some vegan food and recipes and even some flavors they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. So it's a win-win!
Well, here's the latest bit of subtle activism I recently did: My kids' school sent out a notification to the parents that the classes would be reading a book called "Put Me in the Zoo," by Robert Lopshire, and my heart sank right away. In my opinion, zoos are bad enough and I obviously hate that kids are taught from a very young age that zoos (and circuses) are wonderful and educational and a great place for animals, but to teach them that animals WANT to be in the zoo kind of stressed me out. I didn't know what to do or how to react. I will say first, so it's clear, that I LOVE where I send my babies. I love it so much and I know how well loved and taken care of my kids are there. I also know that, by choosing not to homeschool my children, I'm substantially at the mercy of the school's teachers and administrators and curriculum. I recognize that, of course. However, I still felt like I had to do SOMETHING to ease my conscience and bring some attention to this subject. ESPECIALLY when I found out that, not only does the animal in the book ask to be put in the zoo (which is so ridiculous on its own), but he is also told that he belongs in a circus (!!!) and he's excited about that! I mean, seriously, people. That is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard and, yes, I realize it's just a kids' book, but this is how the indoctrination starts. I know plenty of nonvegans who also don't go to these places and fully recognize that these are not places animals WANT to be. It's one thing to teach kids that these are lovely places, but to teach them that the animals want to be there?? No.
So I mulled it over for a bit and I knew I had to do something to alleviate the knot in my stomach. It's something I feel very strongly and passionately about, and I thought they should at least hear a different opinion. What I ended up doing was very respectfully emailing the owner and expressing my sadness at the idea of this being taught to the kids. I wrote that it made me sad that these young kids are being taught that animals want to be kept in cages and abused, and I did say that I did not expect anything to change or for them to do anything about it but that I had to say something. That's basically it. I needed them to at least hear a different perspective that I don't know if anyone else would raise. The hardest part for me about my toddler being read this book is that she is kind of in that age where she's old enough to understand the words that are being read to her but not necessarily old enough to understand the implications of what she is being read/told. If she were a little older, I think I would have felt a little more able to discuss the contents and issues with her after the fact or even before. Anyhow, I consulted with one of the teachers with whom I'm fairly close, and asked her if I would be insane to reach out. And she said no. That's all I needed to hear! I know this was a very small act and I knew it would not change anything. I received a very nice response, and I was thanked for reaching out to express my concerns. The other issue for me was whether to keep the art my toddler made on that day. I tend to keep basically everything my kids make, and of course this particular piece of art was great (as opposed to some scribbles), so I'm keeping it for now.
My goal here was really to put out there that it is possible to feel very strongly about something and feel compelled to share your thoughts without feeling like you're crossing lines (unless you want to cross lines!). Have you ever run into anything that you felt compelled to at least say something about but didn't quite know how to do it? How did you handle it?