The aim of this blog series is to create an open discussion and the potential for deep, non-judgemental thoughts on a topic that has become toxic. This is not another blog written by a vegan (I am not actually a vegan as you will see later) only to be read by vegans quoting crazy numbers and aiming to make every ‘non-vegan’ feel horribly guilty while they stare at some suffering animal or get confused about what they should eat. There is enough of that available online and some is well worth investigating (soon I will put up a list of books and documentaries I have enjoyed/found thought-provoking). Whether you are vegan, or you only eat beef burgers, please try to read this with an open mind, no guilt and the willingness to make positive changes in your life. This may well mean going vegan, or working towards eating more consciously, but it may also mean many already-vegans considering massive lifestyle changes, jumping off their pedestals and profoundly examining their reasons for a great number of daily lifestyle choices. I do not have all the answers and do not claim to know all the facts out there, but I have sat for many hours in deep thought and research to develop a rounded idea of a solid way to approach a life of genuine compassion and to work towards a healthy planet and a soul free of guilt. The way we eat plays a huge role in this and being vegan does not entitle you to a badge of ethical consumer.
Let’s start at the basics; What does veganism involve? This is where the major issue lays- we humans love neat titles that give us a tribe, categorise us with others who have exactly the same viewpoint. The fact that these are ideally short and sharp definitions leaves room not only for failure (if I have some honey in my tea, suddenly I lose my vegan title and tribe) but also no space for flexibility, even where it makes sense. Vegans do not use any animal products. That is, it. Unfortunately, this is impossible to the point of irresponsible and must be considered far more deeply if we are searching for the most ethical way to live, an undeniably praiseworthy task. In reality the lines of an ethical life are not so clear-cut. Hence, we enter some blurry terrain and join a new tribe- that of a conscious human, one striving for an ethical life with a foundation of solid morals that are more complicated than a single rule but are open to discussion with an honest willingness for change in mind, even if that change shatters your preconceptions of how principled your actions are.
It is interesting to discuss the varying reasons that one chooses a vegan lifestyle. In breaking down each motive we can investigate the details of the choices we make in order to live in an ethical way. My approach to veganism began with three main headings; my health, animal rights and care for the environment. However, on closer inspection of these lifestyle changes I have realised that these choices were only a surface level decision that started a journey to something far more complicated but vitally important, a step towards self-knowledge and true eco-living, a detailed questioning of sustainability and ultimately, being a happy person. Choosing to live this three-fold-path (forget the idea of vegan and take this as a concept in and of itself) is a lifelong journey and can be improved along the way by a multitude of decisions, some of which may mean abandoning the vegan tribe.
It is a difficult but fulfilling journey and it has no end, no finish line, but is a journey worth taking, often paved with tricky contradictions and complex choices but it is full of love and compassion and I believe it can only lead to a better planet for every being (humans as animals and plants). I find it hard to see there being an ultimate state where one does everything entirely right but this space for continual improvement is what makes it such a thought-provoking existence. I believe it is our moral obligation to do so and to live a virtuous life inevitably involves a heightened state of mindfulness in how we approach our lives.
So, let us eradicate the ridiculous dichotomy of vegan/non-vegan that has led to an ‘us and them’ mindset that we have seen ruin open discussion and respect for each other in so many areas of society. This polarisation is dangerous and unproductive and should be avoided in social and political life as it blinds us to the reality of what we want (need) to achieve. Let us instead assume we are all on one team working towards a mutual goal; as intelligent and conscious beings we want to be happy, healthy, ethical and sustainable (it helps to think of sustainable in terms of millennia, not a human lifetime). After reading this, please elect to close the door on prison-like designations that bind us blindly to rule-sets that do not consider the objective of the game, this approach is unproductive and polarising and often arrogantly forgets the three goals we set out to achieve; our health, animal welfare and the environment.
This is the first part in a short series of rants on our lifestyle choices. The aim is to eliminate the damaging labels we attach to and reveal the complex web of cause and effect that makes the attempt of ethical choices the hidden minefield that it is.