When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings. — Dean Jackson
The one thing you can count on when you become an ethical vegan is that life is forever changed. That may sound scary at first, but it is ultimately the most liberating way to walk this earthly path we call our life.
A cataract is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision. Imagine living with a film over your eyes since birth, and then one day the film is removed, and you can see your surroundings with crystal sharpness — a sharpness that brings both astounding clarity and piercing sadness — as it is a vision of a world you thought you knew, but didn’t. That is what a vegan experiences.
The astounding clarity comes with learning about life from the inside of truth — not what we have been told and taught and have been expected to conform to. The indoctrination of being led to believe that it is normal and necessary to confine, mutilate, abuse and slaughter infant animals for our “food,” or for the clothes we wear, is an absurd contradiction of our natural desire to love animals and to feel compassion for them. We’re taught that the elephant doing unnatural “tricks” at the circus is happy to humiliate himself for our “entertainment” and that he wasn’t beaten and bull-hooked into submission by his trainers. We are never told that most of the shampoos and lotions we all use are tested on baby animals who have been ripped from their mothers, caged and pinned down against their will, while solutions are dropped into their eyes or injected into their fragile bodies. We buy without thinking. We use without knowing. Our lives are unexamined.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
And so I changed. I started the research. I watched the documentaries. I visited the farm animal sanctuaries, read the science and devoured the spiritual books. I finally understood the environmental studies and the actual threat to all life on earth. I used all the beauty and strength I had learned in my yoga practice and training — ahimsa. I reveled in the amazing life-giving foods I would now be cooking and eating. I changed my wardrobe and the contents of my cabinets. I vowed never to support zoos, animal circuses, marine parks, rodeos or horse races. I changed. I am still a very flawed human, but I became the most authentic version of myself. I discovered the deep compassion and sense of justice that had lived within me had been shrouded in culture, tradition and indoctrination — cloaked in ignorance, veiled like a cataract. I found respect for the sanctity of life, and I was suddenly free.
I cannot believe we live in a world where I have to ask my friends to stop imposing pain and death upon other beings when there is no need to. I cannot believe I have to ask, and I cannot believe the answer is ever ‘no.’
— Marlana Mazmanian McCliman
A discovery this remarkable deserves to be shared with the ones you love, so I set off to share it with my friends and family — but most would have none of it. I have been called “a fanatic,” “one note” and “extreme.” Some friends stopped calling — many in my family, too. They didn’t want me to “force your way of life on me.” I’m certain that it all comes down to perspective. It seemed that sharing information which could save their lives and countless others would be thought-provoking. I trusted that our natural instinct to be kind and compassionate to animals would be an impetus for change. I believed that understanding environmental sustainability while considering the very life of future generations would be undeniable and life altering. Yet, all of these irrefutable concepts I hoped would be embraced, were instead vehemently rejected. To offend the very people I love was never my intention. But, when “personal choices” create victims and affect the whole, they cease to be personal choices. Way too many of us affirm suffering only when it is our own.
The real struggle in being vegan doesn’t involve food. The hardest part about being vegan is coming face-to-face with the darker side of humanity and trying to remain hopeful. It’s trying to understand why otherwise good and caring people continue to participate in the needless violence against animals just for the sake of their own pleasure or convenience. — Jo Tyler
Sande Nosonowitz is a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator, and a certified yoga and meditation teacher. Contact her at her Sundara website: www.sundarajewel.com; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a co-producer of the upcoming Hudson Valley Vegfest 2017: www.hvvegfest.org.