Am I vegan? Well, it depends on who you ask… Many people do consider me a vegan because my diet includes nothing that comes from an animal. The original intention of the Vegan Society, founded by Donald Watson in 1944, was in fact to coordinate non-dairy vegetarians who do not eat eggs. So, in the classic definition of the word, I am a vegan.
Veganism, however, is a lifestyle that goes beyond just what one puts in her belly. And this is where it gets confusing for me. Vegans will go to great lengths to avoid anything that has been tinged by the commodification of animals. So, vegans avoid leather, silk, wool and other products that may contain lanolin, beeswax or any other animal-derived ingredients. Naturally, vegans are opposed to animal testing or activities that considered exploitive like the circus, horse-racing and horse-drawn carriages, etc. (Most vegans also avoid honey but there is a small but vocal minority who believe that honey can be derived without injury to the bees.)
Honestly, I agree with the vegans on just about all ethical grounds. While, I haven’t completely eliminated leather and wool from my life, I have made strides in that direction. I also try to purchase personal care products that are free of animal-derived ingredients. I don’t believe in animal-testing; animals being used for entertainment or burden.
I mentioned in a previous blog post that yoga was part of what inspired my renewed interest in vegetarianism. The yoga sutras, believed to have been authored by Pantajali, include the eight limbs of yoga. The first limb, also known as the yamas, consists of five ethical guidelines. The first guideline is called ahimsa and means “non-violence” toward other. This practice resonated with me right away. It is difficult for me personally to be at peace while participating in something that I know has brought harm to another.
And this brings to me to where I do not feel coordinated some other vegans. There is an approach by some vegans that I do not agree with at all whereby they want to make an impression on people through shame, illegal activities and sex. Violence and aggression only begets a violent and aggressive reaction from people. It’s not okay to put people down who have different beliefs than you. It’s not okay for example to throw paint on people who wear fur. I honestly believe that there will come a time where we all will understand that more can be accomplished by practicing love and compassion than force.
So, where does that leave me? Well, usually when asked, I will describe myself as a strict vegetarian. However, I am inclined to agree with Soren Kierkegaard’s quote: “Once you label me, you negate me.” The truth is I am a work in progress. Like everyone else, I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have at the moment. I strive to be the healthiest, most compassionate person that I can be. When I fail, I am most grateful for forgiveness and the compassion that is shown to me.
Love and Blessings to All,
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