A few days ago, I was asked to share a Facebook post for a charity I’m working with, one that provides groceries and food for Crawley’s most vulnerable families. In the message, people were asked to donate Easter eggs to families who can’t afford them; it was accompanied by a stock photo of a load of eggs. I shared the post without a second’s thought. So far, so Romesh looks like a great guy.
A couple of hours later, I checked to see if any donations had been made. I was surprised to see some people asking me if I was still vegan, because they were concerned that I had shared a picture of dairy products. I was worried that these comments would detract from the charity’s cause, so I removed them, keeping my original post intact and on message. So far, so Romesh looks like a great guy who has effectively dealt with his naysayers.
I went to look at the post a little later and, in short, found that it was on fire. Some vegans had been notified that I had blocked the negative comments and had gone online to tell me, in my unwanted role as a moderator of plant-based dissenters, how disappointed they were that I had betrayed my vegan roots. Somehow they had decided that I was therefore also responsible for Nestlé’s activities in Africa (I think there was a KitKat egg in the picture).
Silencing the critics hadn’t worked, so I decided to respond. I said that, although I didn’t support Nestlé, or in fact dairy products in general, I was overlooking that to help children in the local area and to support a charity that needed as much support as it could get. I asked anyone who found my behaviour contradictory or hypocritical to unfollow. So far, so Romesh has put together some compelling arguments we could all learn from – and isn’t he still a really great guy?
It turns out I may as well have poured petrol all over my Facebook page. There was an onslaught of angry vegans saying I was encouraging the exploitation of animals, and an onslaught of angry other people saying vegans should get over themselves and that this was exactly why people hated them so much.
I am amazed by how passionate these principled vegans are, as well as confused by why they think this tactic might be effective. As far as I can see, it only seems to antagonise everyone else and confirm the opinion that we vegans are a humourless bunch of sanctimonious twats.
Still, I respect their passion. I also think they are awful, but I respect their awfulness. In fact, I understand how they became so hardcore. You become vegan for various reasons, but it often comes back to the idea that harming a sentient being seems abhorrent. So it can become increasingly frustrating when everyone else seems to be very relaxed about something you find horrendous.
However, had I been a vegan who found myself disagreeing with someone’s charity post, I might have tried using a little soft persuasion to encourage them to my way of thinking. Or maybe I might have donated some vegan Easter eggs to the cause, so I could really feel the warm hug of moral superiority, rather than attacking the post quite publicly and alienating a huge number of people.
Having said that, I didn’t privately message them back. I publicly posted what I thought of them and even blocked some because I was so annoyed. Now I’m writing about it. So far, so hypocritical. And this all coming from the guy who left Twitter because it was toxic. At this rate, the only place left for me will be Friends Reunited.