Vegans Essay, Research Paper
Vegetarianism has been around for centuries, but recently we have seen the eruption of a more militant vegetarianism that is inspired by the animal “rights” movement. Today, vegetarian activists are throwing pies at Ronald McDonald and the Pork Queen, scrawling “meat is murder” in prominent locations, committing terrorist acts of arson, and waging media campaigns equating meat consumption with cannibalism. These activists have coined the term Vegans to name their unity.
Although the group advocates a totally plant-based diet excluding flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, and animals’ milk, butter and cheese, vegans also encourage the manufacture and use of alternatives to animal commodities, including clothing, shoes and other apparel. In addition, the group acknowledges that the elimination of exploitation of any kind is necessary in order to bring about a more reasonable and humane society and to emancipate both humans and animals. The American Vegan Society promotes the philosophy of Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word interpreted as “dynamic harmlessness,” along with advocating service to humanity, nature and creation. In other words, in order to practice veganism, it is not sufficient to simply avoid specific foods and products; it is necessary to actively participate in beneficial selfless action as well. Omitting animal products from one’s life is a passive action; it does not necessitate asserting oneself, it merely involves avoidance. In order to actually implement and realize Ahimsa, we must engage the “dynamic” part of “dynamic harmlessness.” Therefore, to fully apply the vegan ethic, not only are vegans compelled to do the least harm, they are obliged to do the most good. (Marcus pars. 1-2)
Observing people who attempt to convert to a vegan lifestyle has brought a keen sense of how difficult it is to know and follow every rule within the culture. Becoming vegan is a process; rarely does someone convert to total veganism overnight. More typically, people transition to a vegan lifestyle, generally altering their diet first. It is a very complicated diet, one that must have successful supplementation of the nutrients the body usually acquires from the banned foods in the community. The vegan s next step deals with gradually replacing their clothing, cosmetics and incongruous habits with more serene, compassionate options. Some vegans eventually change jobs in order to align their vocation with their beliefs. Others become activists on behalf of animals, social justice, peace and/or the environment, do volunteer work, adopt children, take in homeless animals, reduce their material consumption, or any number of other positive, beneficent acts. (Marcus par. 5)
Being vegan is complex, challenging and rewarding because each element of a vegan’s life is chosen with conscious awareness; all options are weighed in terms of achieving the highest good possible. This is not to say that vegans are “perfect” or that “perfection” is even attainable or desirable. This is an imperfect world and we are an imperfect species. However, aspiring to do our best, to ceaselessly reach for compassionate solutions, to strive to attain justice for all Life (human and non-human), to live honestly and respectfully, and to lovingly care for our Earth, are far more realistic and reasonable pursuits than dwelling on impractical issues of perfection.
When people choose veganism, they make an ethical commitment to bettering themselves and the world around them. This is a pledge not to be taken lightly as it requires them to seriously examine all facets of their lives. Certainly, animal-free food, clothing and cosmetic choices are a paramount part of becoming vegan. However, when we delve more deeply into its essence, we see that a vegan outlook extends far beyond the material and tangible. Vegan perspectives permeate their relationships, spiritual beliefs, occupation and pastimes. Hence, there are few areas of life that the vegan ethic doesn’t touch or influence to one degree or other.
When will people realize how beneficial this lifestyle is to their health? This is a good question in the day of the use of magic pills claiming they are a remedy to poor health. This question is handled well by Erik Marcus, website author of www.vegan.com, in an interview by Martin Rowe:
I think that many people are most apt to consider the ethical side of vegetarianism once they know there is something in it for them as well. By showing people first that their health won’t suffer and, in fact, will improve, it makes the ethical case all the stronger. There is a minority of people who will do the right thing no matter what they stand to gain or lose. But most people want to first find out how much this will cost them or how much they will get back. Since the health question is such a slam-dunk in favor of vegetarianism, and since vegetarianism looks so much better after you look at the health issue, then we can move on to ethics. I think people will look at it with much more open eyes. (Rowe par. 6)
In truth, there is no end to a vegan s journey. They are perpetually challenged to do more, to strive higher, to see and understand more clearly, to be more loving and humble. This is the gift of veganism. It is a guide for compassionate living. It is the path of honoring our roots, our planet, all Life, and ourselves. Most importantly for the future, it is a trend in society that is spreading as our world is more informed to its benefits.