Hello. This isn’t a post about Veganuary, but I’m going to start by giving you some context.
Just before the new year I tweeted about my irritation with the concept of Veganuary – the idea that people who aren’t vegan try it for a month and see how they like it.
Veganuary? Bloody hell, just don’t do it. Makes me want to actively dissuade people from turning vegan.
— Charlie Phillips (@charliechar) December 30, 2013
I got into a dialogue with a nice man called James who’s working on the campaign and put his view across
@charliechar The *plant based diet* is a growing fad / trend. Is that a bad thing? If people drop out of consuming animals it’s a + step.
— James Proctor (@Esceulus) December 30, 2013
My friend Joseph also contributed
@charliechar I have to say I think it’s a good idea. Easier/less embarassing to try out veganism if doing it as part of a programme
— Joseph Finlay (@joseph_finlay)
And we all went on our merry way. It wasn’t a scandal on the Morrissey and Auschwitz level (which I’ll write about another time because the hysteria about his public advocacy of animal rights is really weird to me even if I disagree with his language) but clearly it was surprising to some that I wouldn’t support a campaign for more vegans.
So I’d like to explain a bit more about my dislike for these monthly fad campaigns. I feel the same about Dryathlon and Stoptober, and I definitely feel the same about Movember. I’m suspicious of the idea that you make a temporary change to your lifestyle because other humans happen to be doing it as part of an organised campaign, especially when that change relates to buying or not buying something, or a (literal) cosmetic change to your appearance. There’s something meaningless about it, an empty change motivated by following the crowd rather than any real shift in consciousness.
Change is good. Radical change to your way of life is really good, as long as you believe in it and it’s a wholehearted shift motivated only by your own need for change. Change that you do as a result of your own decision to resolve something that feels wrong in your lifestyle – I approve of that wholeheartedly. But it should be your own choice and it should be intended as permanent, or I think it’s indulgent and meaningless.
Harsh? My problem is the arbitrariness of it, the faddy decision to do something different for a month, making a wild intervention in your lifestyle for the sake of it, with no future impact. You could be going vegan, you could be eating more meat, you could be growing a moustache, you could be removing a moustache, you could be giving up booze or you could bingeing for a month. It’s all arbitrary, because after a month you reset the clock and go back to where you were before. What you did in that month is completely irrelevant.
This is classic comfortable liberal behaviour – minor tweaks in your life masquerading as radical change. The illusion of choice in a world of limited consumer options. Following the herd to a big marketing campaign for the sake of feeling like you’re still in control of your life. Notice these campaigns are never for big social changes either – “DontBeSexistuary”, “Socialistember”, “DontGoOnTheMailOnlinegust”would be improvements at least.
Why I am so annoyed about this? I think it’s because I want people to feel happy making big long-term changes in their lives, and temporary campaigns like these fill that need but create no real satisfaction.
If you’re concerned about the ethics of exploiting animals and want to go vegan, do it now, do it as an individual, and do it forever. You’ll feel a lot better.
If you think you’re drinking too much, acknowledge that as a problem that you as an individual have, and give up or drink less now and forever.
And if you think you want a moustache, go ahead, grow a moustache. Do it for you. Make it a nice one though, OK?
If you’re feeling an urge that something is wrong in your life, then I don’t think you need permission from an organised campaign to make a big change in your life, and I don’t think the changes you make should be small.
But if you don’t feel like your life needs change but you just want something new to do in the dark hours of January, then I don’t see why you need these fads. Do something bigger.