Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blogs Everywhere!

I just found out that I can continue to post the blogs I write for Happy Cow here .....after they have been on Happy Cow for a bit.  So they will start popping up here again.  Coming Next: The Sacred Heart of T. Colin Campbell or Campbell Saves....Repent.  Stay tuned for that one.....

Bending Toward Justice

(Photo: Public Domain-National Archives)

“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice”
Martin Luther King Jr.

The education process is never ending. We are continuously taking in new information that can change our view of the world. Everything we say, wear and do is letting those around us know what we believe in…and may challenge what they see as the “norm”.
My friend Carrie is exceptional when it comes to living her values.  She is a perfect example of walking your talk.  Her carbon footprint is a tiptoe compared to most humans.  Her compassion for all beings has no boundaries. Some years ago, Carrie rescued a blind hen.  She named her 2Blindy, 2B for short, because this bird is the second blind bird she has shared her life with.
A few weeks ago, it seemed that 2B was on deaths doorstep and Carrie’s world turned upside down.  She took time off work and drove 2B around on her lap in a blanket for hours trying to find a veterinarian who could help her.
The love between Carrie and 2B is obvious to anyone who has visited their home.  2B has run of the house, comes when called, eats organic food and most of the time only wants to be held, pet and loved.  She is a needy kid and Carrie doesn’t mind meeting her needs.  Carrie even fashioned a sling so she could keep 2B close and still get some work done.
I had the pleasure of chicken sitting for 2B for a few days and was woken up each day at about 6 am by a very demanding bird.  There was no discussion.  I had no choice.  If I were to translate Hen-speak to English, it would have gone like this, “Good morning Rae, please get up and hold me….UM, RAE, CAN YOU HEAR ME? I NEED YOU TO WAKE UP….PLEASE GET UP AND HOLD ME!….GET UP AND HOLD ME RIGHT NOW!” as her escalating demands forced me out of bed.  I picked her up and the shouts turned into contented purrs. Sweetness, total sweetness.
With 2B’s illness, they experienced many veterinary waiting rooms.  Now, the loving bond between them, usually only witnessed by those who visit their home, was seen by the staff and everyone at each vet’s offices.
It can take time for people to realize that the living beings whom they think are food, actually have desires, personalities and are deserving of our care and love.  Most people do not realize we can have a deep relationship with a chicken.  In fact, many people would laugh at the idea. We are used to seeing people caring for a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret in the vet’s office, but Carrie and 2B were living ambassadors for chickens and the love that can exist between a person and their bird companion.
As Carrie sat crying and holding 2B in one office, a man in the waiting room boomed, “I’m hungry!”.  He grabbed one of the bags of dog food on the shelf and then looked right at Carrie and said, “Hmmm, first ingredient, CHICKEN!”  Carrie ignored him and continued to focus on 2B. When she came out of the examination room, this man had obviously changed his tune.  He held the door for Carrie and 2B and helped them get arranged in the car.  These are the little seeds that get planted and change the world.
Human culture has a long way to go in its evolution toward understanding each other and all species.  One would hope that a veterinarian would be further along on the spectrum of understanding.  But, one vet that Carrie saw said to her, “We could give her antibiotics, but are you going to eat her?”  For those of us who have loved and cared for many species, and choose not to eat animals, this comment is the same as saying this to someone who is holding their dog or their human child.  It sounds so absurd to be asked if we would eat our closest companion.
We are slowly evolving as we live somewhere on that arc of the moral universe.  There will be a day when we will be shocked that we, as humans, could not look in the eyes of a chicken, sheep, cow or pig and see an individual deserving of a life of freedom and choice.
“200 years ago, Americans would have thought you were absurd if you advocated for the end of slavery. 150 years ago, they would have laughed at you for suggesting that women should have the right to vote. 75 years ago, they would have loudly objected to the idea of African Americans receiving equal rights under the law. They laugh at us now for suggesting that animal slavery be ended. Someday they won’t be laughing.”  - Gary Smith

To “V” or Not to “V”

There has been a lot of discussion, buzz, arguing about whether or not we should use the word “vegan” or the word “vegetarian” in our outreach and discussions.  Some folks say that using the “V” word (vegan) turns people off and we should just say “vegetarian” because it is seen as less “extreme”.  While cooking at the meditation center I go to, I was told I could not label things vegan, even if they were vegan, because that word is too “political”.
Last night we had two “couch surfers” stay at our house.  Neither one was vegan or vegetarian, but they shared their perspectives.  One of our guests said that the only vegans she ever met, before us, ate junk all the time and were very unhealthy.  I told her that they certainly did not represent all vegans and in fact were the worst “poster children” for veganism.  It only reinforced for me how important it is to be a healthy representative of our community.  While I was having the discussion with her, our other guest said she thought it was better to say “plant-based” than vegan.  The problem with saying plant-based is that this term only addresses what we eat.  Choosing to practice veganism is about so much more than what we eat.  As a vegan we use our compassionate yard stick to decide which clothing, cosmetics, household products, entertainment and food we will support as consumers.  It goes so far beyond our food choices.

The discussions around using the V word or not, reminded me of a childhood experience.  I grew up in a Jewish family in a very non-Jewish community.  In our little community, our family was the poster family for Jews everywhere.  The preconceived ideas about Jews that existed in the community before we even arrived there made this a very tough job.  Without even meeting us, there were homes, yards and some business who banned us from stepping on their property.  I spent many years trying to hide the fact that my family was Jewish.  I wanted to enjoy the ease of just being places without the judgments.   When people did know that I was from a Jewish family, I felt it was my job to personally dispel all the myths about Jews.  This is a big job for a kid.  At some point, I decided that my unwillingness to readily admit that I came from a Jewish family only reflected that I had the same judgments as those around me.  I was giving in to the myths and prejudices.  Everyone wants to be seen as an individual and not be judged based on prejudices and cultural stories.  I do not want people to assume they know all about me because I am a woman, over 50, Caucasian, etc.  If it is true that most myths are based on the truth of a particular group, then surely there are exceptions to these myths.  There are individuals who blow these stereotypes out of the water.  Every group is made up of unique individuals.

If we feel good about our compassionate vegan path, then it is very important to be honest with people about who we are.  We vegans come in all shapes, ages, colors, and education and economic levels.  Some of us are very healthy and some of us are not.  Some of us exercise and eat pure foods and some of us sit on our butts and eat junk.  None of that changes the fact that we are all choosing a practice that is alleviating some suffering in the world.  Honestly, there are times when I have met people who are vegan, but are, in my opinion, not the best representatives of our community.  They might be physically unhealthy or mean-spirited or self-righteous.  Because we are such a small percentage of the population, you may be the first vegan or the only vegan that someone meets personally.
You can think of this as a two-step process.  First, think of yourself as the poster child for veganism.  If not for yourself, than for the animals who will be saved when people meet you and say “Whatever you are doing, I want to do it!”  They meet an energetic, healthy, loving person and want to be part of their community.  You can be that invitation.  Do all that you can to care for yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually and you will be like a flower to the bees.
Photo credit: Zoltán Futó via BigStock
Second, be willing to use the “V” word when you feel like you are a positive representative of the community.  It may be you who dispels the myths that this person is carrying around.  It may be you who opens them up to the possibility that someone practicing veganism can be healthy and loving.  Your choice to walk the vegan path is about compassion for all beings, including yourself and all those you connect with in life.  Take this job seriously.  It is an honor to be chosen for this role.  You are the ambassador who is speaking up for all life.  So, care for yourself and go out into the world unapologetically, letting your vegan light shine.  The animals and the earth and all people will be better off for your efforts and honesty.
Photo credit: meepoohfoto‘s

Need some encouragement in your practice?  Watch these short, inspiring films: