I’m going to come straight out and say it – I could never see how it helped the animals in any way and I’d even go as far as to say, I thought it was a rather selfish move. This was how I felt about the Liberation Pledge, right up until a matter of weeks ago.
I recently attended the Animal Liberation Conference, hosted by Direct Action Everywhere in Berkeley, California. During this experience, I went to a talk held by activist Alex Bez, in which he talked about the Liberation Pledge and he single-handedly forced me to do a complete 180 on my previous perceptions. I truly didn’t understand it beforehand, which is why I had made such misguided assumptions about it. After hearing him explain exactly what could be achieved through the pledge, I was made to realize what it stands for and I will therefore be taking the pledge myself.
I used to believe I could be far more effective by sitting down at the dinner table alongside non-vegans and showcasing my vegan food; thought it would open up a dialogue with my loved ones about veganism and give me the opportunity to educate those around me; believed that by removing myself from that table, I would be sending a negative message regarding veganism and come across as exclusive or intolerant; I worried my friends and family would feel I was turning my back on them personally by refusing to eat with them and I didn’t want them to think badly of me or stop wanting to spend time with me.
I still think these are valid concerns and I completely understand why others would hold these view points but after hearing a proper explanation, something clicked. Before, I wasn’t focusing on the positive messages that can be sent through the pledge or the reasons why taking the pledge can be such an effective way to stand by my ethics. It isn’t just about me not having to witness the eating of an animal, it is so much more than that.
So first things first;
What is the Liberation Pledge?
By going vegan, you are already standing up against the systematic abuse that plagues billions of animals every year. It is a pointblank refusal to buy in to any animal based industries, to the best of your ability.
The Liberation Pledge takes your stance against animal cruelty one step further, by refusing to sit at a table with anyone who is consuming animals or animal products. Many who take the pledge symbolize their commitment with a fork bracelet. A fork is used as to reclaim the tool indirectly responsible for so much animal suffering and the bracelet has been embraced as a symbol of nonviolence.
What does it achieve?
Showing respect for the victims
The Liberation Pledge is a commitment to being noncompliant in the use of animals for food. The animals who are being served up as meals lived a life of fear and pain before being killed for something as trivial as a burger. By not sitting at a table where these animals are being served, it is a personal sign of respect for the lives lost and also outwardly shows to others, the respect you have for each of the victims who’s lives have been ended for those food products.
Actively showing your refusal to normalize animal products
When you sit around a table with others who are eating animals, you are giving the impression you believe it is ok for them to be doing so and of course, vegans don’t believe it is. It isn’t about pointing the finger at people or shaming them; We weren’t always vegan so we’re in no position to pass judgment but what we can do, is make a stand against the industries we are against. By not appearing complicit, by sitting idly by whilst others consume animals, we can send the message we are no longer prepared to pretend the consumption of animals is an acceptable part of every day life. By removing ourselves from it, we are no longer normalizing it and we’re making it implicitly clear we do not agree with animals being used as a food source.
Being able to truly enjoy time spent with friends & family
Spending time with our loved ones should be enjoyable for all parties. Coming face to face with the bodies of animals can be a pretty tough experience for vegans, so how can you be expected to fully enjoy your meal when you’re sitting next to a dead animal? Where non-vegans may see a bacon sandwich or a beef burger smothered in cheese, vegans see the billions of animals who have screamed for their lives before being slaughtered, just for those items. Some vegans may be able to put those images to the back of their minds for the duration of a meal but for others who don’t feel comfortable doing as such, why should they have to? If all you can see around you is the pain and suffering of animals, how can you truly enjoy yourself or be fully engaged with your loved ones?
Encouraging others to go for the vegan option
Telling your loved ones you will no longer be accompanying them when they choose to eat animals does not mean you’re telling them you cannot eat together anymore; there is always the preferable option of them eating vegan with you! If you’re eating out, help them find vegan options on the menu they’d enjoy. For meals at home, offer to cook them some delicious vegan food or if they’re doing the cooking, send them some recipes they could try out. If they choose to eat vegan with you, they are seeing how easy and scrumptious it can be and will hopefully be much more open to trying vegan options in the future, even when you’re not around.
When you think about it, it’s not that big an ask to have someone who loves you eat plant based food when they are with you and if you thoroughly explain why you no longer wish to be around animal products, they should understand and respect you for it.
What if the Liberation Pledge isn’t for you?
Obviously, there is no obligation to take the pledge. If you feel you can have productive conversations around the dinner table, maybe that is the place for you! It is worth bearing in mind, whilst people are consuming animal products, it can be a fairly tricky time to approach veganism. Some people may find it a lot harder to listen to and understand your point of view when they are directly going against it, at that particular time. Some vegans may also find they are more emotionally charged when confronted with the consumption of animals and let their emotions get the better of them. What may start as an attempt at polite conversation can quickly turn into a battleground and that helps no one; Emotionally charged vegans plus defensive non-vegans can easily end in a lose-lose situation for everyone. Having said that, as stated before, if you feel more effective and comfortable at the dinner table, do it!
Whatever works for you is the way to go. Activist James Aspey speaks with Wayne Hsuing (who has taken the pledge) in this video, about his decision not to take the Liberation Pledge. Aspey makes the valid point that getting people talking is such an important part of activism and for some, the dinner table is the perfect place to do so. For others, the Liberation Pledge can be a way to get the conversation going and it is what resonates with you that is the right thing to do.
Concerns about taking the Liberation Pledge
It separates vegans and non-vegans
This goes back to the previously mentioned issue of exclusion and intolerance. On hearing of the Liberation Pledge, it is understandable to come to this conclusion but actually, it doesn’t have to be this way. When declaring your commitment, if you focus the emphasis on the fact you’ll no longer be eating with people consuming animal products, it may seem like you are merely distancing yourself from those around you who aren’t vegan. However, if you present it a slightly different way and focus on encouraging others to eat vegan food with you, it comes across as including others in your vegan life, rather than excluding them.
My friends and family will stop eating with me
This may be particularly hard for those who live with non-vegan friends or family but this leads back to the above point. By inviting friends and family to sit with you at your table and enjoy vegan food, you are showing how open and willing to eat with them you are and making it clear you do want to enjoy their company but aren’t willing to compromise your ethics to do so.
If you have loved ones who refuse time and time again to eat with you, you need to ask yourself how you can be the most effective activist you can be, as well as what you are comfortable with. If you feel you can have an impact by eating alongside them, go for it but it’s also important to consider whether you feel comfortable sitting at a table where animals are being served. Are you able to hold an informative, civil conversation about veganism, when sat in front of people eating animals? Will your loved ones be receptive to veganism whilst they’re eating animal products? – These are all things that need to be considered thoroughly before coming to a decision. Remember, removing yourself from the normalized activity of eating animals can send a huge message, regardless of whether loved ones are immediately willing to understand your motives or not. It may not always be easy but that is where your passion and dedication come into play.
I will isolate myself; veganism already feels lonely
Once you go vegan it can feel really lonely, especially if you don’t know any other vegans. Now the Liberation Pledge has come along and said you can’t even eat with your friends and family any more!? Well, the hope is that friends and family will happily share a vegan meal with you but if not, don’t worry – There are plenty of other things you can do! Go for a drink, go for a walk, watch a movie… You don’t have to never see your friends again and by doing other activities with them, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to remind them why you don’t attend events serving animal products. What they may have been vehemently against at first will become easier to understand as time goes on so stay strong to your morals and be sure not to make it seem your aim is to distance yourself from them.
Another thing you can do is search for other vegans in your area. Facebook is a great resource for finding local vegan and activist groups. It may seem daunting at first but join those groups and when you feel ready, maybe attend an event! Many vegan groups will have meet ups, whether it’s going out for dinner; volunteering at sanctuaries; potlucks or movies… If you can’t find any vegan groups, set one up! There may be vegans close to you who are feeling the same way. Spending time with likeminded people does wonders when it comes to feeling isolated or alone. There are also many international groups on Facebook for vegans, so join some and connect with vegans all over the world.
I don’t live close to my family, I have to eat with them when I visit!
If you think about how much time in the day is actually spent eating, it’s a pretty small percentage. Mealtime is, of course, an integral part of family life but it is possible to spend plenty of time with them during times you’re not eating. The main goal is to encourage them to eat vegan with you so if they do want to have a meal together, don’t be afraid to ask them to eat vegan for that meal. If they refuse, stay polite and compassionate (they’re your family after all) and suggest just going for a drink later or for a coffee in the morning. Then over a drink you can explain away any negative feelings they have about you not wanting to eat with them and suggest a great vegan restaurant you could all go to. You could also offer to cook one evening (bonus points for veganizing one of their favourites) or make some vegan pancakes for breakfast in the morning!
Try to never view the pledge as refusing to spend time with your family. Always be open, be supportive and make suggestions of vegan things you can all do together. It is an empowering commitment which opens many doors for others to try vegan dining. When it comes to someone you love having so much passion and conviction for a cause, it is hard to hold on to any negative feelings about it for long.
How do I take the Pledge?
You can make a public declaration on the Liberation Pledge website and many who take the Pledge also symbolize their commitment with a fork bracelet. You can buy a bracelet online or easily make your own.
There is support available from fellow pledgers on the Facebook group The Liberation Pledge Support Group. You can join the group before you have taken the pledge, to ask questions and hear other’s experiences.