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Today's What Vegan Means post comes from our friend LJ. Lindsay loves talking yoga with LJ on Twitter, and I like to tease her about boys, heh :) She's a teacher from Miami and she blogs at It's Veganlicious.
I have to start this post with some gratitude. Thank you to Happy Herbivore for asking me to write about “what vegan means” when I can answer that in just one word: compassion. And thank you to life for bringing me that question just when I needed to ponder that one word the most. Isn’t that the way life works? I hope my friend doesn’t mind me soul-searching all over her blog. ;)
So, compassion. It’s the #1 reason why I am vegan. Compassion for myself, compassion for Mother Earth, and of course, compassion for the Animals.
Compassion for myself? That’s easy. I want to do what’s right for my body, mind, and spirit. In my opinion, the vegan diet is the healthiest diet for a human. My health and nutrition are why I became vegan in the first place. But to remain vegan, I had to find a little more awareness, a little more selflessness, a little more compassion. There had to be something beyond my own self-preservation.
Compassion for Mother Earth? Again, easy. I’ve always been the hippie environmental activist type. I remember my first Earth Day celebration back when I was in high school, and the bumper stickers that I barely understood covering my car afterward. I remember telling my mom I was going to become vegetarian and having her (pretty accurately, at the time) laugh at me. But that was more than 20 years ago. And this is now.
Compassion for Animals. One more time, easy. Knowing what I know now about factory farming, factory fishing, zoos, circuses, and so much more institutionalized cruelty, how can I not live a life of compassion? I recently visited Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Ocala, FL, met a lot of animals, heard their stories of abuse and neglect, and fell in love with how genuinely happy they now are, how they know that they’re safe there, and how they were truly able to communicate that to me. To meet these animals was just another reminder that all animals are sentient beings with thoughts and feelings…just like us. I can no longer even imagine living a non-vegan life; in fact, it seems as though I’ve almost forgotten my pre-vegan days.
And that might be a problem. This is the part that is not easy. There was a time before I was vegan, a time before I know what I know, and it wasn’t that long ago. And there are people, many people, who do not yet know what I know. And I judge them. I do. I admit it. I label them Defensive Omnivores, but I, I’ve come to realize, should be labeled the Preachy Vegan. I’m judging them, and then I’m judging myself for being judgmental. It’s a vicious cycle, a vicious cycle that has to stop now.
Because there are ways for me (and others) to break through this cloud of judgment, to educate with compassion, to teach and not preach, and to still make a difference for the animals. One simple way is through food. Provide our omnivore friends with yummy vegan treats (Happy Herbivore’s Black Bean Brownies come to mind), and they’ll be more vegan friendly, they’ll want to know more. And when we share information, we need to share it with compassion, not judgment, we need to think back to when we learned the truth and how it affected us, and share it in a way to ease our new friends in.
That’s it. Compassion. That’s what vegan means to me. Compassion for all beings: for animals, for humans, for defensive omnivores, even for preachy vegans. We are all significant, we all deserve compassion, no matter where on our paths we are.
Again, huge thank you, Happy Herbivore, for the opportunity to publicly soul-search, and find out just how compassionate I really can be.