Do You Judge People by a Label?

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“No one likes a reformed _____.”

This is one of my go-to statements for teaching Compassion.

It doesn’t matter what your soapbox is…fill in that blank with reformed “alcoholic, drug addict, sinner, omnivore.” In the spiritual world, it’s called Spiritual Egotism.

Anytime we embark on a new lifestyle, we want to share our successes and path with others. We want people to join us in our new lifestyle. We want to help our tribe find success as we did. We want to convert them from their old life to a better one.

Spewing how wonderful your new lifestyle is and how everyone should do the same is an immediate turn-off, even for those who already share your ideals. Whether it’s unconscious to you or your listeners or not, the implication is clear. You’re better than anyone who doesn’t follow your path. We even see this mentality in DIEts, where gluten, soy, carbs, coffee, and an endless list of foods are all evil. It’s one of the things I detest about MLM’s – the feeling that you represent the only reputable company out there and only what you say is true.

It leaves no room for error, growth, or learning. That’s a dangerous place to live, my friend.

I believe you should share your successes and help educate people on living healthier and happier. But there’s a way to present yourself so it doesn’t come across as “preaching.” Just changing the word “convert” to “awaken” in your mind gives the conversation an energy of lightness and tolerance. Your job is never to convert someone to living life as you do – you may awaken them to damaging habits if that’s your area of expertise and they are engaged in learning more.

Your job may just be to listen to them and sit in silence.

 

Complacence or Compassion?

 

I’ve recently had a few conversations with plant-based individuals who face the dilemma of their silence being misconstrued as complacency or acceptance. It seems that if they aren’t overly vocal about their animal rights stance, they are accepting animal abuse.

I disagree with that assumption on multiple levels.

There’s a time and a place for sharing your message. Not everyone is open to your message – there’s an art in learning to read people, which we’ve lost (partly) as a result of social media. Frankly, no one’s lifestyle is your business until they ask for your input. There’s a reason the cliché “actions speak louder than words” exists.

Live by example, not by preaching.

My heart breaks for my friends who feel they’re viewed as tolerating animal abuse. I offer words of encouragement that they are still doing good deeds even in their moments of silence. I even share my own journey of being a “reformed omnivore and unaware consumer.” In my early 20’s, I was on that soapbox where I was very politically charged and vocal about my opinions. No one listened. I finally lost interest in sharing and became silent about it until I was asked questions.

Stating my friends aren’t doing their part when they are silent is to live in the shadow of the Ego. We don’t need recognition to make a difference. We just need to take action in our own lives. Let human curiousity be the cue for you to vocalise your position.

 

Megalomania?

 

One of the individuals previously mentioned pointed out “their silence was misconstrued as acceptance by one of their other vegan friends.” After reading multiple answers their friend posts on a forum, I can imagine the scenario all too well. I’ve seen it time and time again from extremists on all fronts, not just the plant-based world.

Typically, their friend’s posts are educational and informative, so I read them frequently. Though I may not always agree, I enjoy reading how they present information and enjoy getting to know them through their writing. However, I soon came across the reformed omnivore that lives in judgement.

Here’s a clip of an UNCompassionate message they recently shared and my opinion about why this is an ineffective attitude. Hopefully, this will show you how to not share whatever your message is (sometimes what NOT TO DO is as valuable as what TO DO).

Veganism is “becoming a thing” because it actually means something significant.

Being vegan means embracing a lifestyle of consciousness and connectedness: vegans seem to have a much better understanding of animals, nutrition, agriculture, environment, and Earth. Of course, I’ve mostly interacted with only the “engaged” vegans who are sharing the message of joy, freedom, and health that are the natural consequences of being vegan, so maybe my “sample” is skewed. But, I’ve met hundreds of such individuals—we often set aside all political, social, economic, and other cultural differences in order to work harmoniously to spread the vegan love.

From 1993 until 2009, I was an ignorant (as in: uneducated about the cruelty required for dairy, eggs, and honey, as well as all the vegan “lifestyle” issues, even animal-testing) “vegetarian” and I honestly don’t remember ever meeting another vegetarian. Since becoming “vegan” in 2009, I’ve made friends I will cherish for the rest of my life—just by joining efforts to share the vegan message.

This entire clip enrages me to the core; it is the very mentality most people detest about those who are “reformed.” Even the clip shared from a book is slightly erroneous – a good amount of ancient cultures are vegetarian, not vegan. Vegetarians are motivated by compassion as well as health and purity, just as vegans are. A good number of highly spiritual practices aren’t even vegetarian at all (Muslim, Christian, Shamanism, for instance).

Let me break this down for you piece by piece:

Veganism is “becoming a thing” because it actually means something significant.

Not an accurate assumption. It’s a trend for many people…there are a whole mess of individuals becoming vegan who know little to nothing about what the lifestyle means. I’ve seen vegans post pictures of themselves at zoos and aquariums. I’ve also seen plenty of other movements that mean something significant that are NOT vegan. Eating less meat means something significant, even if you don’t fall into a category of vegetarianism.

Vegans seem to have a much better understanding of animals, nutrition, agriculture, environment, and Earth.

Absolutely untrue, narrow-minded and unkind. Just because an individual eats animal products does not mean they don’t understand animals, nutrition, etc. I work with people who hunt seasonally and while my stomach turns at the topic, these people understand animals better than I ever imagined. They’ve taught me about migration patterns, mating patterns, animal habits and behaviours. Being vegan doesn’t mean you know a lick about agriculture.

I can promise you in all the workshops I’ve taught, EVERYONE is confused about nutrition, regardless of their dietary choices. If you understand the Earth as a whole, you also understand it’s not possible nor ethical to assume the entire planet needs to be or should be vegan/vegetarian. The world is a diverse place and not everyone has access to a Whole Foods or Trader Joes. There are a lot of factors involved in helping the planet and avoiding animal agriculture is only one aspect of the movement.

But, I’ve met hundreds of such individuals—we often set aside all political, social, economic, and other cultural differences in order to work harmoniously to spread the vegan love.

I declare this post in and of itself do NOT harmoniously spread the message of vegan love. It implies that being vegan is the only way to unify humans. Ironically, it is the antithesis of harmony and further sets out to divide us. As long as you’re vegan, your political and social views don’t matter to this individual. Hitler was a vegetarian – are his political and social views set aside?

From 1993 until 2009, I was an ignorant (as in: uneducated about the cruelty required for dairy, eggs, and honey, as well as all the vegan “lifestyle” issues, even animal-testing) “vegetarian” and I honestly don’t remember ever meeting another vegetarian. Since becoming “vegan” in 2009, I’ve made friends I will cherish for the rest of my life—just by joining efforts to share the vegan message.

Let me assure you of something you may not know. Being a vegetarian does not make you “ignorant.” Just because this individual was a self-proclaimed ignorant vegetarian doesn’t mean all vegetarians are ignorant. Vegetarians may very well be aware of the cruelty of egg-farms and dairy farms; there are a million reasons why people still consume flesh, eggs, and milk products. Upbringing, taste preferences, lack of cooking ability, funds, location, and the addictive components in cow’s milk can keep people hooked in a world of animal abuse.

Implying you never met another vegetarian for 16 years but met a lot of vegans once you went vegan is just a poor analysis of the situation. Too many factors are involved; being vegan isn’t some magical bond that vegetarians can never experience. Go to India (for starters) and see how many vegetarians you meet.

Here’s another shocking thing to consider: perhaps the vegetarian eats only eggs and honey from a farmer they know personally. Here in rural Maine, chickens are seen roaming the yards of 1 in 10 houses and are regularly held and loved by their humans right on the front lawn. Eggs are sold at their houses and are how these families add extra income in an area lacking in an excess of disposable income. Honeybee hives are hidden in trees, tucked away from human disturbances, harvested once a year.

Even living on Long Island, I found a few farmers who properly cared for their bees.

Whether you think it’s wrong to “steal eggs and honey” from animals or not, can we not agree this is a much better option for a vegetarian than an egg-laying factory farm or Sue Bee honey? Should we condemn these choices simply over a label?

When I became a vegetarian in 1994, I swore off any product or food that directly resulted in the death of an animal. That means I bought cruelty-free products and boycotted companies who tested on animals. I never wore leather or silk again and never consumed animal flesh. Many vegetarians do the same… I think that makes them pretty aware of animal rights issues. I think it also means they’re doing something very significant to help the planet.

I’ve also known vegans who wore leather – human beings are creatures of hypocrisy, not ignorance. I’ve also seen multiple vegans go back to eggs and dairy… do we condemn them for this, or show gratitude for the difference they are still making?

EVERY meatless meal/day/week makes a difference, even if you don’t abstain from meat, dairy & eggs on a regular basis. The concept that it’s all or nothing and you don’t make a difference unless you sacrifice it all is downright evil, in my opinion.

For those of you who may sit in silence while you live a plant-based life, I applaud you. For those of you who just give up animal products for one meal, a day, or nearly all meals but a few, I applaud you. You’re making a BIG difference. The world will never be the Utopia we claim to want. Humans and our environments are extremely diverse and are ever-changing.

Speak with Compassion when prompted. Choose your words wisely.

P.S. If you want to know more about the Meatless Monday campaign and the difference you make by omitting animal products from your plate for just one day, you can learn about it here.

Further research links:

https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/projects/meatless_monday/MM-EAT-food-forum.html

https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-future/projects/meatless_monday/MM-EAT-food-forum.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s64Xaz1xgM

http://www.foodspanlearning.org/_pdf/lesson-plan/Foodspan-Full-with-handouts.pdf

 

What are your thoughts?