There’s a trend in fiction these days wherein “monsters” such as vampires and werewolves can choose to reject their destructive natural instincts in favor of modern alternatives. Some examples:
The vampires on HBO’s True Blood (based on Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris) do not have to drink human blood. Instead, they can choose to drink a synthetic bottled drink that contains the same nutrients as human blood. It quenches their biological thirst for blood and sustains their lives. It comes in flavors that mimic blood types, for example AB+ or O-. This new invention of synthetic blood has allowed the vampires to choose to live in peace and harmony with humans instead of viewing humans as food sources.
A new show on NBC called Grimm has a character who is a “reformed” Big Bad Wolf. In the pilot episode, he is first assumed to be the villain who has kidnapped and killed women and girls who wear red hoodies. But later in the episode we find out that he is not bad anymore. Rather, like an alcoholic or someone with a drug addiction, he acknowledges the desire to do bad things but resists. Instead of eating people, he is a vegetarian.
The Showtime hit Dexter features a serial killer who struggles with his violent inner demons. Even though he can’t completely resist killing he does temper his obsession and only kills people who he can prove “deserved it.” He limits his destruction. Dexter is a bit like a flexitarian who isn’t ready to fully give up the consumption of animal products, but he knows he needn’t cause as much death as he may crave. Instead of ignoring the problem, the flexitarian chooses vegan options more often than not.
In the pilot of The Walking Dead on AMC there’s a powerful scene where the hero finds the bodies of two zombies. These particular zombies chose suicide rather than zombie-dom because they knew they would not be able to control their violent urges as zombies. Scratched on the wall in blood they wrote “Please forgive us.” On the other wall hangs a deer’s severed head, a hunting trophy from their former life.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that writers have created these fictional “monsters” who have free will and can choose compassion. These are not just scary fantasies of things that can kill humans in simplistic “us versus them” stories; instead these are tales of creatures who are so similar to humans that they too can choose violence or peace. They are powerful reminders that we are responsible for our actions, that our choices have consequences. In True Blood, Dexter and The Walking Dead, the analogy to veganism is implied. In Grimm there is no veil, the analogy is offered up to the viewer on a platter plain for all to see.
These are fictions not only designed to entertain, they also offer a powerful message to viewers: we can prevent cruelty, we can prevent unnecessary violence and death. In particular, when viewed through a compassionate lens, these shows tell viewers that we can prevent animal suffering, we can prevent environmental destruction and the deterioration or human health. We can choose to abstain from causing unnecessary suffering and death. We can choose modern alternatives. We can choose vegan.