On both Twitter and Instagram, I used to state "vegan" in the brief bios I have attached to my account. It felt like an integral part of my identity, so if I was including how I spent my working hours to make money (writer, editor), then if anything it made more sense to highlight how I lived every aspect of my life. Being vegan isn't just the meals/drinks/snack I drink throughout the day (and, trust me, there are a lot of them): it's a stance against the over-riding culture that prioritises animal as a food stuff rather than actual living beings. I've had some accidental slip-ups and made some decisions that I regretted, but overall I was a proud member of a community that is standing up against practices that are so deeply engrained (and marketed) to us that to reject them is met with outright hostility.
"Vegan" also makes it easier to identify each other. If I'm going to follow a food blogger, I want to make sure that there's going to be no carcasses cropping up on my feed (although there was one "plant-based" Instagrammer who shared a -- quite possibly sponsored -- appreciation for a honey brand). Accounts that share motivational quotes, funny memes, and inspirational photos promote a positive environment for those feeling daunted by the predominantly meat-eating space we occupy, and if we see a vegan branch launching into clothing, homeware, or any other business really then we want to support them.
I'd seen users, especially on Twitter, add Ⓥ to their display name so that their veganism is immediately apparent -- on their page, on every comment they leave, on every post they share. I get it. It's another step of cementing yourself within the community as well as placing a constant reminder on those you interact with that there is an alternative, that the vegan movement is growing. But the idea of adding the Ⓥ to my username felt uncomfortable, as if being vegan became the overriding aspect of my self. My own name represents a lot of things -- that I'm a writer, an editor, a graduate, a daughter, a sister, a freelancer, a dog-owner, a brunette, a horror film fan, someone that loves the colour purple, and any other of things that can't be included in a handle, and I felt that adding "vegan" on the end reduced me to that single demographic. I'm vegan, but not just "Laura Maria Grierson the vegan."
And so, partly because of that, one of my New Year's resolutions was to remove "vegan" from my social media "about". In fact, it's the only resolution I kept -- trying to drink more water, take up jogging (again), and wear a bra every day didn't last (or, in the case of jogging, start up at all). My Instagram food posts still carry the #vegan tag so that they're found by the right people, but it's not in my bio. But the idea grew from something I'd been mulling over for a while.
In the BBC film Carnage, there's an interview with one animal rights activist where he protests that "We are not vegans … they are carnists." It's not a documentary: you're never quite sure whether the film is in support of vegans or mocking them, but it charts a hypothetical future where veganism is not just mainstream but the norm, where to eat animal products is repellent.
I don't think the vegans of even twenty years ago could have predicted how veganism would explode in 2018 and continue to snowball. Veganism is growing: animal agriculture is afraid. Whether it's for the environment, health, or animal ethics, more and more people are choosing a plant-based diet. And I think it's time we begin the shift away from overtly identifying ourselves as vegan.
There is no word for someone who isn't a killer. There is no word for someone who isn't a paedophile. There is no word for someone who doesn't assault women. There is no word for people who aren't performing abhorrent actions -- they are simply the norm. We need to shift the attention from veganism as a growing yet fringe group, even though we are still in the minority. We need to politicise their language, to mark out their own behaviour as unnecessary. We "are not vegans." We are simply eating foods that don't contain dead bodies. There isn't a word for someone who isn't a cannibal. If we take away their shield of us=normal, vegan=other, then they're forced to consider their own actions and what those consequences are.
I'm not suggesting that we're not vocal. There are still animals being bred for exploitation and slaughter, and we shouldn't be silent to allow it to continue. If the Ⓥ on your username is your own particular brand of activism, the simple reminder that living without animal products is being done, then be proud of that contribution. Let's remove the word normal. To be homosexual is a minority, but it doesn't make heterosexuals normal. To be black in the UK is to be a minority, but it does not make whiteness the default and everything else a diversion from the norm. To be vegan, to be compassionate and thoughtful and conscious and proactive in changing what we know isn't right, should be the default, not worthy of a mention any more than we would write in our bios that we don't rob old ladies or kick children. To be carnist is to perform a destructive behaviour for personal pleasure, which is the true aberration.