Being Vegan, Vegan Being – Melinda Hegedus – Digitally Artistic Activism

photo credit: Armain Schoonbroodt

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Hungary but had spent the last five years living in Norway and working as a design engineer. I always loved to draw and paint but haven´t had much time for it, up until a year ago, when I quit my job and decided to do some traveling. I was limited to a backpack so carrying around art supplies was not really an option. I purchased a tablet and started creating digital drawings. It was kind of weird in the beginning but I kept at it and now I got to a point where I actually prefer digital drawing over using traditional materials. I currently live in Amsterdam where I study psychology and I am actually looking for a job that I can do besides my studies. Preferably something creative and in line with my values.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

In Hungary eating meat is a huge part of the culture and growing up I never really questioned the morality of meat consumption. Something happened about five years ago when I was having dinner with my family. We were having a traditional Norwegian dish called Fårikål, which is basically lamb meat cooked up with kale in a casserole. I was sitting at the dinner table, holding on to a boney piece. I looked down on my lap and back to the piece of meat I was holding in my hands. And then there was this brief moment of epiphany. I saw my own legs and the skin covering my flesh. I looked closer and thought about what is under my skin; my bones, flesh, muscle tissue…and that was it. My brain had finally made the connection. I somehow realized what it actually means to eat meat. It seemed surreal to me. After this experience, I started reading about vegetarianism and eventually veganism and there was no stopping. Finally, I came to the only possible conclusion: being vegan is the only ethically defensible thing to do.

What does being vegan mean to you?

To me, being vegan means that I try to live my life without imposing unnecessary harm or suffering upon others. This includes humans and other non-human animals as well but within reason. I will still drive a car or take the bus when I need to get from A to B, inevitably killing hundreds of little insects on the way. However, even when I was a carnist, I would still go to great lengths to take the spiders from my bedroom and let them outside. I am only in the very beginning of my vegan journey and have a long way to go and I am sure there is a lot to learn on the way.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

Once your eyes had finally opened you feel that it is your duty to speak up for the voiceless. Some fellow vegans are very brave people who bare witness as part of the Save Movement while others record footage from slaughterhouses. We all differ in how much we can tolerate without breaking. I am very sensitive to animal cruelty and it takes only a short movie clip for me to break into tears but we are all able to do something for the animals and every little bit counts. I find myself helping most efficiently with my drawings and I want to encourage fellow vegans to try to find their own creative voice for the animals. Some of us draw or paint, others create music, while many are great at writing. We are all talented in one way or another. If you just dare to experiment with different ideas, different creative expressions, in the end, you will find your own voice with which you can help raise awareness and advocate equality for all species on this planet.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

I think it is very important to understand that in general nonvegans are not inherently bad people. They are just like us vegans before we had opened our eyes, they are just people who don´t know any better. In fact, I believe most of them would immediately start transitioning towards a plant-based lifestyle if they only learned about the horror and suffering their dietary choices are imposing upon non-human animals. That is why we should educate them carefully without turning on their self defense mechanisms. This can get tricky sometimes but I think this quote pretty much sums it up: “Always be the vegan that you would have wanted to meet before you were vegan.”

Any recommended Vegan books?

I am a big fan of Dr. Melanie Joy, the social psychologist who coined the term carnism, and I highly recommend reading her book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows“. It is very educational for everyone, vegans and non-vegans alike, as it sheds light on the psychological processes behind meat consumption and explains how meat eaters numb themselves and disconnect from their natural empathy for animals.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I enjoy reading the Vegan Strategist aka. Tobias Leenart who advocates for employing the right vegan strategy at the right time, let it be the unapologetic vegan or more pragmatic approach and also talks about forming slow opinions. His blog is well worth checking out and I am currently reading his book “How to Create a Vegan World”.

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

Ingredients:
2 dl sunflower seeds
2 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
500 gr tofu
5-6 tsp soya sauce
4 sp water
salt and pepper

Run the food processor with all the ingredients for a minute or two. You can either use this raw deliciousness right away just as a spread on a piece of bread or you can bake it a little bit. Be careful though not to dry it out completely. I usually bake it for 20 minutes (180-200C) until it gets a little color on the top. Nom-nom 🙂 You can find the original recipe here with pictures (in Norwegian though).

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

I have been very privileged to have my family’s support and even though they are not all vegans, I definitely consider them to be vegan allies because they share the vegan values but are not yet ready to commit to a fully vegan diet. I know however that the situation is not the same for everyone. I know it can get very very difficult to live by your values if these values are not shared amongst your closest family members or friends, perhaps some of the most important people in your life. Some of them might even try to ridicule you and your food choices but you just need to keep in mind that these comments are actually defensively stemming from their own hurt egos. Try to respond with as much love and compassion as you can find in your heart at the moment instead of reacting to it from a place of anger or hurt. You need to remember that you are on the right path and that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other vegans and ask for help if you are struggling. Even if there is not a single vegan person who lives near you, there are wonderful communities online where you can seek out support. It is important for the vegan movement that its members are strong and united so that we can be as efficient as possible in putting an end to this animal-eating world and bring about positive change and hope for our planet

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