I wrote a few weeks back about a recent experience I had with Vipassana Meditation, and how it made me realize that I need to come from a more compassionate place when trying to share veganism with others. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve determined that yes, I’m on the right path with that. I’m learning to recognize the anger that I feel bubbling up inside, and in observing it, I’m trying to let it float away and be replaced by compassion. I have to say, it’s working – it’s helping me to become a happier person (and by extension those around me), but now I need next steps.
As a movement veganism faces the enormous challenge of becoming a mainstream lifestyle. It has progressed over the years – today there are apparently hundreds of thousands of vegans in the US, for example, and the percentages of vegans are said to be slightly higher in Canada (and a little lower, but not far behind in the UK). India has more vegetarians than anywhere else in the world, and significant veg populations have been recorded in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden (and I’m sure I’m missing some too). This is all great – BUT there are BILLIONS of people in these countries. Vegans – and even vegetarians – are still VERY MUCH in the minority. How do we change that? That’s the million dollar question, right?
Bear with me, I think I’m on to something here…I know I’m rambling a bit, but I will tie this all together eventually, I promise! I believe the anger (which I’m pretty positive I’m not alone in feeling) and the small numbers are directly connected, you see. The anger comes from the fact that relatively few people have adopted the vegan lifestyle, for a variety of reasons (and as vegans, we clearly see and feel all the reasons people SHOULD be vegan). The small numbers come, at least in part, from the fact that what a lot of people see when they look at vegans is anger. But there’s a way to get away from the anger (and a way to showcase the truly wonderful core of the vegan lifestyle), and this is where the compassion comes in. It’s in realizing that most people are not avoiding veganism because they don’t care about animal suffering, their own health, and the environment. For a variety of reasons, they really might not be aware of the facts (and there may be several barriers to them actually facing the facts). Not only might they not know, if they do know, they might not see an easy way to change. The reality is an easy thing to ignore, after all – there are many major industries, and lots of corporate dollars working against us.
But it’s not only those things working against us. A lot of us are working against us. When we judge each other, berate each other for doing something that one person considers “not vegan” and another person does not. When we partake in radical demonstrations that anger people against the movement instead of against the horrifying problems caused by the meat and animal product industries. When we let anger take over – in any way, shape or form, we do ourselves a disservice. When we spread anger and hatred we do veganism a disservice. Because veganism is truly about love and peace and compassion, and that’s what we should be sharing. When people see that – when they see that it makes you happier and healthier, that’s when they’ll think of trying it. The truth is that until we, as a movement, really start radiating peace, happiness and love to one another, as well as to non-vegans, we have no hope of taking Veganism mainstream.
There’s a reason why the cultivation of true and uncompromising compassion is so elusive – it’s not an easy thing to do. Some days are better than others, and that will probably be the case until each of us reaches enlightenment.
I’m looking for answers, and I know they are out there. There are all kinds of vegans who are wiser, kinder and more compassionate than I am, and I want to know, how do you move through your life and share veganism compassionately? What are the best ways to open conversations with non-vegans and really get the message across in a non-threatening way? Let’s learn from each other, and start this very important conversation. Let’s share examples of ways we promote veganism compassionately – because there are all kinds of gems out there, and if we can gather that information, and collectively learn from it, in 10 years there might be 10% of the population who are vegan, and in 20 years there might be 30%.
Vegan Uncensored is a weekly space on this blog where people can bring interesting topics of discussion to do with veganism to the fore. Read it, respond to it, pass it on to your friends – vegan and non-vegan – through Facebook, Twitter, or by sending them a link to this blog. Do you have a vegan issue you’d like to see in this space? Email [email protected]