1944 sounds so long ago, right?
However, I think we can still say that these are early days as far as veganism is concerned and, therefore, we are also vegan pioneers. I have meet several people who have effectively said that they would be 100% plant-based if it was easier to do that rather than be consumers of dairy and flesh. Veganism is a lot more than a diet, of course, but a lot of people have difficulty seeing food choices as something to do with ethics and, for many, the whole issue is one of convenience.
Essentially these people are reliant on others leading the way – and this is where being a vegan pioneer comes into play. A vegan pioneer actively “puts themselves out” for the cause, even if it is only a willingness to “read the labels.”
But, of course, we do more than that – for example, in explaining to people that veganism is a movement that stands for justice for all sentient beings, in being fairly content and accepting that there are huge sections of supermarkets and stores where we need not bother going to, in using health and whole food stores, in making that extra journey to the specialist Asian or Polish stores, in walking further to find the plant-based restaurant (or the vegan-friendly ones if one is unlucky enough to live where there are no fully-vegan cafes and restaurants), and so on.
Of course, this feeds into the discussion going on in the animal advocacy movement about how easy or how hard it is to live vegan. Personally, I am a little torn on the issue because veganism, in terms of diet and the availability of vegan-friendly goods, is very easy compared to 1979 when I first decided to live in accordance with the philosophy of veganism. However, the sociologist in me also knows that the ease of being vegan depends on many factors, like geographical location, social class, social circumstances, relationships with significant others, and access to amenities, etc.
I want to propose a toast to all the vegan pioneers “out there.”
May you continue to live vegan and adhere to the justice-for-all philosophy of veganism in what can be a very vegan-unfriendly world, and continue to pave the way for others who will therefore find it easier and easier to gain access to plant-based foods and goods.
There can be little doubt that access to vegan-friendly goods and services assists in a person's decision to live vegan. For example, the dietary requirements of veganism are driven by the thrust of its overriding philosophical stance: justice-for-all. Essentially veganism is about getting the concept of justice over the species barrier, just as philosopher and author of The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan, succeeded in getting the concept of rights over the species barrier.
 I attended an anti-GMO event in Dublin recently, along with other members of the Dublin vegan community. During a session led by Dr. Brian John, it was noted that getting consumers to read labels was a major problem. People seem to believe that reading labels is some sort of terrible imposition on their busy day! Reminds me of a radio interview I heard when a Dubliner was complaining in all seriousness that the economic recession had meant that he now had to read the price tag on clothes before buying them.