This is a guest post by Tom Stringham.
At a conference for members of an animal rights group
Julie: Hey Ross! Good to see you here. It’s always good to come to these conferences.
Ross: Hi Julie! You too! I know, they’re fun.
Julie: So what have you been up to lately—hey wait, why are you drinking chocolate milk?
Julie: Well, you’re drinking chocolate milk. That’s dairy …
Ross: Oh, well yeah. I get that most members of the group don’t do chocolate milk, but personally I don’t see what’s wrong with it. I think a lot of members are a little judgmental of people who eat some kinds of eggs or dairy.
Julie: You think I’m judgmental of people who eat eggs and dairy?
Ross: Well maybe not you, but yeah, I definitely feel judged when I drink chocolate milk or even talk about it here.
Julie: Isn’t that because you’re hanging around with a bunch of vegans?
Ross: I think we could be more accepting as vegans.
Julie: Wait, so you’re still a vegan? But I just watched you drink milk. And not as an accident—it sounds like you don’t even think it’s wrong.
Ross: Just chocolate milk. But yes, of course I’m a vegan! I’m a little hurt you’d even question that. I’ve been one forever. I know everyone here.
Julie: I know you’ve been here forever, but the main reason everyone joined this animal rights group was that they believed in a vegan lifestyle. And veganism involves not eating dairy.
Ross: Julie, come on. Some animal rights leaders in the past never spoke against chocolate milk. The lines are blurrier than you’re admitting.
Julie: I’m aware of that, but you’ve read our group’s charter, right? You know that we’ve been against all kinds of dairy as a group since we were founded?
Ross: It’s really not so set in stone. I personally don’t feel it’s wrong when I drink chocolate milk. And the current president said there’s a place for everyone here.
Julie: Well of course there’s a place for everyone, in the sense that everyone can commit themselves to an ethical animal-friendly lifestyle. Anyway Ross, I can’t force you to change, even though I can’t condone what you’re doing. Are you still going to support the group’s initiatives?
Ross: Of course! I signed the petition to block the slaughterhouse being built out of town.
Julie: That’s great. What about our campaign to get dairy out of public school lunches?
Ross: Oh no, I can’t support that. I think that’s really offensive to people who enjoy dairy or eggs. Actually, I’m pushing for our group to change its stance on that.
Julie: You are? But I really care about that issue. What about all of us who don’t believe in eating dairy and eggs?
Ross: Julie, it seems like you’re just not willing to accept that I disagree with you.
Julie: But isn’t it a little more complicated than that? This group we’re a part of has certain essential beliefs. I care about you and accept you for everything you are, but how can I accept you as a vegan? You’re intentionally violating some of the core ethics of animal rights advocacy.
Ross: Wow. You can’t accept me as a vegan? I’m just as much of a vegan and a member of this group as you are. It’s just that I’m a liberal vegan and you’re a conservative one.
Julie: This is getting ridiculous. “Liberal” and “conservative” have nothing to do with it. If veganism doesn’t mean abstaining from animal products, then it doesn’t mean much at all. Veganism is veganism.
Ross: Spoken like a true conservative vegan.
Julie: All right Ross, but I really hope you don’t succeed in starting a movement for us to give up our stance on dairy and eggs. Like I said, a lot of us really care about veganism. There’s really nowhere else for us to go.
Ross: Maybe that’s for the best. There shouldn’t be a comfortable place for judgmentalism and close-mindedness.
Julie: Ross, I hope you come back.