Today is my 7-year vegan anniversary. Every year I try to reflect on how being vegan has changed the way I think, feel, live and look at the world. Because it does change – there are times I’m more angry, times I’m more sensitive, times I feel empowered and times I feel helpless. It’s certainly an emotional roller coaster but there’s no other ride I’d rather be on.
The thoughts that keep banging around my brain lately are about selective compassion. It’s probably because I’m in a town that preaches “peace” and surrounded by people, both in real life and on social media, who like to toss around words like “Namaste,” “love,” and “healing” while their actions aren’t congruent with those terms. They love to talk about Buddhist tenets, yoga and spirituality while they engage in acts that cause suffering and violence, directly or indirectly.
Ahimsa, or non-violence, is supposed to be the core of all these ideals but how can one talk about ahimsa while contributing to the violence enacted upon animals? How can anyone talk about peace when their choices cause the exact opposite for animals? Or do those words only apply to humans and not to animals who are dependent on humans to include them in these ideas of peace, love and non-violence?
How can people sit around an Easter table talking about peace, spirituality and love while the dead body of a baby lamb who was taken from his mother and then murdered sits on that table? How do you give thanks for your life by feasting on the flesh of a life that was brutally stolen? How do you have a Passover seder, saying prayers of thanks for being released from bondage, when billions of animals are in captivity for the sole purpose of being killed?
People all over the world go up in arms over a dolphin killed for no reason other than human selfishness and ignorance and that’s good; it rightfully demands outrage. But many of those same people will sit down to a meal of animal flesh and not think twice about the billions of animals who are killed for no reason other than human selfishness and ignorance. Where is the outrage for them?
Everyone will agree it’s a “shame” that over 3 million dogs and cats will be euthanized (a cleaner term than “killed”) because they don’t have homes but how many of those people will go buy a dog or cat because they want a specific breed rather than saving a life? Is the life of one worth more than the other? Is it wrong to have a caste system for people but acceptable for animals?
Of course, I understand all too well about selective compassion. My own compassion was selective for decades until I opened my eyes to see what I was doing. I understand that we all have walls to protect us and let us continue to think we are “good, caring” people even while we are complicit in so many acts of violence. It’s easy to think we are innocent because the literal blood is not on our hands while the truth is that it is our actions, our choices that condone the hands that do literally shed the blood of innocents. With our money, we hire the “hit men” that end so many innocent lives for our selfish wants.
That used to be me. I can now acknowledge that I caused the death of so many animals because I wanted what I wanted and didn’t know any better, didn’t want to know any better. I was compassionate when it suited me. For that, I am deeply ashamed.
But shame is useless without action. Every day, for seven years now, I have changed my actions to coincide with the values I used to say I held. No more cognitive dissonance for me; once you know, you cannot un-know. You can only choose your next move.
Every day, many times a day, we all get to choose whether our action is one of peace or one of violence. With every meal, with every item of clothing we buy, with every toiletry or household product we use, we decide whether we will pay for animals to suffer and be killed. That’s just how it is. We can “pretty” it up all we want to soothe our own consciences but it doesn’t change what is true.
Animals have absolutely no power. They are completely dependent on us humans to show them the love, compassion, mercy, spirituality and ahimsa we all like to talk about. Talking about it doesn’t save their lives though; only action does – our actions, each and every day. It’s not an intellectualization or sound bites that let us think we have some higher level of actualization or enlightenment. We can say we are compassionate or we can actually be compassionate, not selectively but towards all life.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” What does that say about us? What does that say about you?
Your article is beautifully written. I totally agree with you. I’ve been vegan for 5 years and have learned so much through research and reading. I feel so much sadness now when I see ads for meat or even see it on menus. I wish I had gotten to where I am now, many years sooner. I do my best to set examples of yummy vegan cooking and eating with friends and have to remind myself not to be judgemental of my meat eating friends and remember where I came from as well. Thank you for sharing such yummy recipes. Xo
Thank you so much Robin xoxox
I became a vegan in early Feb, this year. I mess up occasionally (like not realizing at first that honey was not vegan), but I’m trying. For me, it’s easy, for my kids it’s not. Any advice for kids? I have found a few vegan kid websites, but nothing that helps me feel 100% confident that my kids will grow properly without an occasional piece of chicken. And it’s really hard to get my husband to allow me to change their diets, although he hasn’t complained too much about them no longer drinking milk. Thank you so much for your article, and happy 7 years.
Thank you Mauri. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to try and live by your values when you don’t have support. The veganRD (Ginny Messina) just wrote an article about feeding kids on a vegan diet in response to some trash article trying to say it wasn’t healthy (because parents like you really need that, right?) You should look it up and read it. I’m in admiration of your strength and determination. xxoxox
I’m so completely heartened by your article and also want to celebrate your 7th anniversary of vegan life. You exude love and compassion in your words, actions and thought. It is so polite that each of the comments are followed up with a thank you from you. It’s a genuine gesture of kindness and also a reminder that we have forgotten to be kind to each other. To say hello and smile when you pass, or approach another costs nothing but lifts our humanity. I pray that its not to become a faded memory.
Thank you so much Denise. Your kind words mean so much! xoxox
Wonderful words Rhea
Thank you Andrew xoxo
This is beautifully written. I totally relate. Thank you.
Thank you Linda xoxo
thank you Rhea, this was the first thing I read this morning, you have given me the words i need to explain that animal cruelty is everyones business,becoming vegan is the only choice.and hey, it’s great!I miss nothing,especially the guilt when i see a load of beautiful animals driven to a slaughterhouse and seeing in their eyes. they know.was it Linda McCartney who said
‘if slaughter houses had glass walls everyone would be Vegan
Thank you Janet. That means a lot to me. xoxo
Oh, happy anniversary.
You have made so much with your new way of being. I am just one of the people that have really been thankful and enjoyed your fine offerings.
Thank you Airyfairycelt. I am glad that anything I do has touched others. I only wish I could do more. xoxo
Beautifully worded post I relate to so very well. Thank you for speaking out.
Thank you so much Melissa 🙂
Thank you for writing this…raw and thought-provoking…”No more cognitive dissonance for me; once you know, you cannot un-know. You can only choose your next move.” so true….so very true!
Thank you Libby. I wish it were true for all people. I can understand people who are not vegan but I will never understand ex-vegans. Because you can’t unknow but I guess some can build their walls back up. xoxo
Rhea, this was written so beautifully… it’s EXACTLY how I was; how I feel and how I am now. I hear you when you say that you become more angry…. I now live between three dairy farms in Ireland and it breaks my heart each and every day to see these beautiful faces looking at me; so alert; so loving and then I become so sad when I think of where their fate lies… God, how it breaks my heart that I, too, caused them harm in the past.
A real spiritual friend of mine (whom+++++++++++++ I shall call my Angel) says that instead of sending negative vibrations out into the Universe, we should be sending the animals AND the abusers love and light… in other words, send them a beautiful golden white bubble… that these loving vibrations WILL change how our animals are treated. In my heart, I believe that to be true, but I have to admit, that every time I see someone eating an animal or when I go in to the “death aisle” in the supermarkets, it’s very hard to not scream at them and tell them all to go to a slaughterhouse.
I am SO ANGRY with Oprah when, in my opinion, she truly let the ball drop for all of these beautiful animals…
I will share your words…. and pray that non-vegans will “see the light” as you and I did. Thank you, Rhea, for this extremely sensitive and loving message.
Nancy Brady, RN
An American in Ireland
For the Love of Animals
Thank you Nancy. It is hard not to feel anger at people. I try to remember that I was that person once. Though honestly, if I had to listen to someone say the stupid things I used to say to justify my actions, I would be angry. If I could go back in time and slap myself, I would. 🙂