compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

“No one likes a reformed _____” (one of my favorite quotes to pose to people in workshops); in this instance, insert omnivore.  Every cause has militant supporters who border on the side of unhealthy levels of attachments to their belief system (if you haven’t attended previous workshops of mine that mention this topic, please consider reading Don Miguel Ruiz Jr’s The Five Levels of Attachment).

On Saturday, June 18, Paul McCartney will turn a healthy age of 74.  On May 1, 1993 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA, he changed my life in a way I’ve only recently been able to vocalize.  For his birthday, I’d like to extend the gift of Compassion to the animal rights cause he so firmly supports.

Before the beginning of his concert in ‘93, he showed a brief and powerful clip of the abuse that animals encounter in the name of the omnivore lifestyle.  For what seemed like hours, my eyes were glued to a large screen like I was watching a car accident, unable to turn from the graphic images of mayhem I’d never before known.  Whatever meat I had consumed that day prior to my arrival to that stadium, was the last I’d ever consume.  He later narrated a short clip with PETA called "Glass Walls," which has been viewed thousands of times, by people all over the world.

As an avid Beatles fan in high school, I tried vegetarianism, because I knew a couple of the Beatles dabbled in it; it seemed trendy in the art school I attended, and I loved animals (I wanted to be a vet when I was younger).  However, I slowly went back to meat—first fish, then chicken, then beef—over the course of the next 2 years.  I was raised as an omnivore, and thoroughly enjoyed the taste and texture of animals.  In 1993, vegetarian options weren’t as prevalent as they are now…many of you have heard me talk about tofu crumbles, which I’m surprised to find still on the market!  Being a vegetarian wasn’t as easy as it is now, so there was a bit more of a challenge than nowadays.


In 1993, these were best served on toast with Arby's sauce slathered all over them!

But on that fateful night, I was suddenly aware of the amount of pain and torture endured for the sake of my lifestyle – it no longer mattered how “easy” it was to be vegetarian.  There was simply no other choice.  There were thousands of people in attendance at this same concert, let alone the millions who saw this tour, over the next few months.  Surely, I wasn’t the only person to have this reaction…even if some only stayed with it for a few weeks or months.

Until that day, I simply was not fully aware of what the meat and dairy industry did, all in the name of making a few dollars.  For those who say, “everyone nowadays knows what happens to animals,” YOU’RE WRONG.  People do *not* know.  For those who say “we need to show everyone violent clips of animals being slaughtered to make people aware,” YOU’RE WRONG.  For those who say “we don’t need to show anyone violent clips,” YOU’RE WRONG.  Every human is different, and we are all wired differently.  Some people can make the switch without these films and some like me must have the shock to their system – sometimes you expose people to the truth in a graphic way, and sometimes you don’t.  You have to know your audience and give them options. In my experience of teaching about Compassion, I’ve used both methods, depending on my audience.

What does this have to do with Compassion and the definition I shared at the beginning?

Simply put, I have run into a great deal of “reformed omnivores” in my path, who spew hateful comments at every turn.  Unfortunately, a few bad apples always ruin the bunch.  I’ve read some of the most hateful comments towards Sir McCartney, because he’s not a vegan.  For those of you who believe him to be a horrible person because he’s ovo-lacto, let me personally say to you that YOU’RE WRONG.  It’s also none of your business what he’s choosing to eat.  He’s saving thousands more lives than you ever will, and has much more of an impact on our planet.  I’d like to also urge you to read the Five Attachments I mentioned earlier, as you’re living in the 4th to 5th level of attachment to your vegan belief system.

In the last 23 of being a plant-based (“vegetarian or vegan” at varying times, though I don’t like either of the titles), I’ve saved thousands of animals.  While there’s no exact science to say how many, there is an approximate theory that “A vegan saves more than 100 animals a year—by not eating them (130 shellfish,   40 fish, 26 chickens, 1 turkey, ½ pig, and 1/10 cow).”  Let’s add to that fact, that I was inspired to become a plant-based chef about 9 years ago, and most of my clients are omnivores (you don’t have to be “vegan,” to enjoy vegan food).  If you figure I feed them 4-5 meals per week, you can add thousands more animals to the list of saved lives (i.e. not being born for slaughter).  My husband and I catered our own wedding of 100 people, which was 100% vegetarian and at least half vegan—saving even more lives.  This all ties back to Sir McCartney’s concert in 1993…his ripple affect on one single person, has saved thousands and thousands of animals from being slaughtered.

When I became a vegetarian in 1993, I also gave up any product that was created as a direct result of an animal being killed, such as silk, leather, etc.) – I also began researching cruelty-free cosmetics.  In 2011, I started my own cruelty-free company, which is certified by Leaping Bunny and the The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) and The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE).  Add more lives being saved, as a result of that short clip at a concert.

“According to national polls, the number of vegans in the United States has grown from about 500,000 in 1994 to 2 million in 2012; while 9 million Americans never eat meat, poultry, or fish.”  Surely I'm not the only person he's affected with his moral views. Is that not enough, or are we so attached to our beliefs, that we can’t see the good done by every person who makes a small switch in their lifestyle, even if it’s just temporary?  I urge everyone to extend Compassion to our fellow humans who are in fact, animals.  Sentient animals with feelings.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, Sir McCartney.  Whatever your lifestyle choices are, I thank you for being the change you wanted to see in the world.

“Number of Animals Slaughtered in the U.S.: Per minute—38,627 • Per hour—2,317,596 • Per day—55,622,293 • Per year—Tens of billions”