Many people become vegan for multiple and varied reasons. Yet living a truly vegan lifestyle demands tremendous attention, a constantly curious nature, heaps of courage, plenty of grace and a mindfulness approach.
In my travels lately I have noticed something which has been disturbing me. For many people, being vegan, is no longer a lifestyle. It has become a trend. Why am I feeling disturbed by this? Because, as with all trends, people are attracted for reasons that have nothing to do with ethical reasons nor deeply personal commitment for growth and transformation, but for a myriad of reasons- whether it is the desire for attention (by being considered “hip” or “in the know”), wanting to “fit in”, peer pressure, etc ,etc.
Which means that some people are motivated by fear.
Different types of fear that motivate us to consider being vegan:
- Fear of the harm that we are causing to other sentient beings
- Fear of not being “green” enough
- Fear of not fitting into the “right mold”
- Fear of being criticized by vegan friends or family members
- Fear of being left behind:- i.e. missing out on the newest trend
- Fear of illnesses or particular diseases
- Fear of not being “good enough” etc.,etc.
When we operate from this common place of fear, we’re often driven to make fear inducing choices when it comes to eating and other lifestyle decisions. You might find yourself leaping from one dieting plan:
Only slow carbs!
Fruitarian (Only fruit)!
Or our fear might bind us into other self- destructive habits vis a vis exercise as we move from one exercise media -promoted trend to another eg: Crossfit, Bootcamps , pole dancing, snow boarding, etc.. All without feeling whole, satisfied and healthy.
What is most disturbing to me is that without a strong basis for choosing a plant based lifestyle, one simply focuses on the diet alone. That can lead to many unforseen and unexpected challenges.
Case in point is the present uproar around Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the co-founders of the wildly popular Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre and Be Love farm in Northern California.
The questions now are:
- Can one be the founder and proprietor of a vegan establishment and yet not adhere to a vegan diet?
- Is diet alone sufficient to call oneself vegan?
I shall be examining these 2 very critical questions in a series of blogs between now and the next 2 months.
To respond to the first, if you believe the response is NO then you will need to make the decision to go only to establishments that are held by vegan eating proprietors. So this means that you can go longer go to Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, the majority of supermarkets (unless you live in Europe that has some vegan supermarkets) , farmers’ markets, the movie theatre, dance parties, juice & smoothie establishments, gyms, fitness studios, work environments, clothing stores, furniture stores, your meat eating friends’ homes, maybe even your parents or grand parents’homes, etc, etc!!
If you reject going to Café Gratitude, Sage or Gracias Madre based simply on Mathew and Terces recently discovered meat eating diet, then you need to reject everyone else’s establishments.
As a long time plant based eater who also follows a vegan lifestyle, I have thought long and hard about this and have many challenges when in such establishments. I have, however, come to accept that what we eat is not important. It is how we relate to one another and most of all how we value ourselves!
Veganism to me is the height of being compassionate. One cannot be compassionate to four legged animals and at the same time issue death threats against Matthew and Terces and harass and bully them!
Yes- one can be very compassionate and not be vegan. Yet on the totem pole, veganism implies that one has climbed that pole and now extends compassion to all living beings- not just select ones.
Why are supposedly compassionate people using such highly emotionally charged words as “I feel betrayed by the Engelharts”!! The only ones that are being betrayed is ourselves!!
We need to stop the violence of derogatory words and insults and start looking at what we as vegans need to clean up in our own lives. Start working on ourselves for full transformation and healing and we will let go of all the fear based behaviour that creates such self righteous and verbal violence!
The path can be rocky at times but many have reached the pinnacle and value every rough patch along the way. I therefore invite you to turn away from self defeating and low energy behaviour and rise up within yourselves to embrace the Engelharts and all those who choose to eat meat and realize that we are all more valuable than what we eat on a daily basis!