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Veganism: Our Journey, Not Our Destination

by Dr. Will Tuttle

As written in The World Peace Diet, veganism provides the foundation both individually and collectively for a world where peace, freedom, justice, sustainability, and widespread health are possible. Animal agriculture in all its forms erodes and destroys our harmony and health on every level. As we understand this deeply enough to bring our individual lives into alignment with our values and transition to a way of eating and living that minimizes abuse of animals, we become part of the solution, and this is a significant contribution to the level of happiness, freedom, and justice in the world.

Compassionate Harvest by visionary artist Madeleine TuttleHowever, going vegan isn’t the end but in many ways the beginning of a new chapter in our ongoing journey of healing and awakening. We have all been wounded by being born and raised in a culture oriented at its core around mercilessly and relentlessly exploiting, killing, and eating other animals. The wounding is not just in our physical health, but in our cultural, psychological, and ethical health as well. For this reason it’s essential that we make an effort to understand veganism as a path of healing and as an ongoing practice in the art of living with kindness and respect for all life.

For example, as we continue our vegan journey, we learn the importance of a diet that is comprised primarily of whole, organic (preferably veganic and local) plant-based foods, and to avoid vegan foods that are processed with toxic preservatives, additives, or other chemicals, or are genetically engineered or sprayed with pesticides. We do this not only for our health, but for the health of birds, fishes, insects, ecosystems, disadvantaged people, and future generations, because financially subsidizing the devastating spread of destructive chemicals and harming our health are both contrary to the spirit of respect and caring that is the essence of vegan living.

Similarly, we are also mindful of all the products we buy, such as personal care products and household products, to ensure that they are free not only of animal testing but also of dyes and chemicals that are harmful to our body and to the ecosystems to which they ultimately return. Mindfully taking care of our bodily health is essential because our being sick not only reduces our effectiveness and capacities, but may also contribute to the use of toxic drugs that end up eventually in ecosystems, harming other animals.

Additionally, being raised in a herding culture organized around entitlement, reductionism, and exploitation, we also discover that we have within us, even as vegans, decidedly non-vegan attitudes such racist, sexist, and classist tendencies in our thinking and behavior toward other people. These are unavoidable, and just because we have been able to awaken from the cultural trance sufficiently to transition to a vegan way of living does not mean that we are also automatically free of the many types of harmful attitudes that are rampant in our culture, and into which we are all routinely indoctrinated from infancy.

For this reason, it shouldn’t surprise us to find within the vegan community manifestations of abusive behavior and attitudes, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, harsh criticism, intolerance, shaming, and so forth. Understanding this, we can make an effort to deepen our understanding and devote our lives to continuing the inner process of healing that veganism is always urging us to fulfill.

Veganism is not a category to divide people, but rather an expression of our true nature, which yearns for greater awareness, creativity, joy, and healing. In daily life, I’ve found that veganism is a practice, and like any practice, is concerned with details. It has its roots in the ancient teaching of ahimsa, that harming others ultimately harms our wisdom, awareness, and inner peace, and damages the cultural fabric on which we all depend. The most obvious dimension of vegan living is in our consuming, but there are far more vast and challenging dimensions that have to do with every detail of our lives and our daily relationships with each other and with our society as a whole.

Abstaining from animal-sourced foods, products, and entertainment is the first step through a doorway that leads us to question every dimension of the cultural narrative by which we have been conditioned. To see others as similar us, wounded and doing the best they can, helps open our heart to respect and wisdom that can bring healing into our relations with others, and this can facilitate us creating a liberation movement that is congruent on every level, and thus both integrative and effective, as well as transformational.

We are called by a more expansive and dynamic conception of vegan living. Besides being an effort to practice non-cooperation with the forces of exploitation in our culture’s outer world and marketplace, veganism is also a practice of doing our best to mindfully practice non-cooperation with the cultural forces of intolerance, exclusivism, objectification, and predation that we have internalized in our underlying attitudes and actions toward others. Outer veganism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for liberating and fulfilling our true potential. We are summoned to the continuing adventure of deepening our understanding and practice of vegan living and this is the inspiring pathway that beckons, both individually and together.

As we question both the perpetrator and the victim mentalities planted into all of us from childhood, and do our best to embody vegan ideals of responsibility and respect, we create a field of liberation and healing around us that naturally encourages others to do the same. It’s a daily practice of vigorous and honest self-reflection, and can be seen as an extension of what brought us to outer veganism. We learn from association with others, and this association can harm or bless us. In our association with others, we are always harming or blessing, also, as well as teaching by our example. We can give thanks for the many opportunities to learn, teach, and contribute that we are given every day during the fleeting and precious lifetime we each have on this beautiful Earth.

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