Saturday, April 29, 2017

Imagination Polishing The Mirror


For those with imagination (who are also attracted to ‘isms’) vegan-ism isn’t a bad ‘ism’ to have. But we have to face both what is tempting and what is daunting about it. It’s no good pretending that it’s a bed of roses. There’s a perception out there of veganism, that it’s a mixture of pleasure and non-pleasure.

Most of us don’t ‘do’ unpleasant, not readily anyway. We may be motivated by an ideal, but not that motivated. There are plenty of isms today and most of them involve some self-punishment as a way to being an all-purpose cleanser. But this ‘ism’ has some saving graces.

The main thing about veganism is that there’s a certain consistency and stability in it. It’s ultimately optimistic and it gives us some achievable hope. So, why would we walk away from it? We find this idea, we find it very alive, enough to let it be tested. And once found to work for us, it becomes a part of us. And then we can’t help showing it off, not to boast about it but to attempt to unlock people’s misperceptions of it.

In the ‘doing’ and the ‘showing’, what begins to shine from our simple, daily routines, starts to show. It’s noticed because it shines. It shines in the way we speak and how we start to live and think. Others may not appear to notice, because it contrasts with the way they think and live their lives, but it is noticed nevertheless.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Bottom Line

One might consider the idea of veganism easily entering the imagination, but if it seems impossible, too painful, too daunting, then it’s likely we’ll shake it off. We’ll ditch the whole idea.

Even if one had to contemplate a vegan lifestyle and had read a couple of books about it, it might still remain beyond the pale. Why, for example, would we voluntarily opt for living ‘vegan’ if the pleasure of it wasn’t obvious? You’d surely agree, that if you can’t come at ‘being vegan’ you can never be of much help to the animals, because if you’re not vegan it follows that you’re still eating them or their by-products, and therefore condoning what happens to them. How could you ever trust yourself? How could the animals ever trust you to be their spokesperson? You’d be quite the traitor if you were still helping to kill them whilst trying to save them.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Farm Animals For The Chop


The most abused animals are the food animals. What if they could speak? What would they say about caged hens and machine-controlled cows? What would they say about denuded forests and the latest frightening changes to the weather? They’d give us such an ear-bashing.

It’s just as well they’re voiceless. But it’s sad. Omnivores are responsible for so much of this sadness. And what’s worse they don’t admit to the part they play.

That act of attacking animal starts on the farms and most lethally at the slaughter house. And whether it happens in the clinical, mechanised surroundings of the modern abattoir or in the backyard at the hands of the farmer, it’s the same terror for the animal, in the type of death it suffers. It’s murder, slaughter, execution, or torture. Call it what you like, but it happens to every domesticated animal used for food and clothing, whether killed for its carcass or to end its life when its productivity has ended. It’s killed because and keeping it alive no longer makes economic sense.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Altruism and Optimism


Out of optimism comes stability, and if our optimism persists, stability increases, and it brings a sense of permanence. The sort of change that is made by people who ‘go-vegan’, as it stabilises and as habits form and as the practical difficulties are ironed out, that change brings about a sense of being ‘vegan-for-life’. There’s a sense that we’ve got past the temptation stage, where we may have slipped back into our old ways, to where we find that even those things we thought we’d definitely miss have already faded in importance.

To achieve this change, to get to the point where we can feel entirely at home with being vegan, it is rather strange when we’re living in such a carnivorous society. Most people have never even given ‘going-vegetarian’ any serious thought let alone given any consideration to veganism. Their meat and dairy foods, and their woollens and leather shoes, are all part of their everyday life. For them, it might seem impossible to contemplate a life without these foods and commodities.

For us though, other interesting bits of life open up. Vegans, once established in their food and clothing regimes, are free to look ahead into other interesting areas, all of which are quite out of the question for anyone still using abattoir products. Those who are still omnivores will find it impossible, for example, to explore the principle of harmlessness, which is central to a vegan’s day-to-day existence. Vegans understand that a lot of the negativity which omnivores feel against us, is coming out of the frustration of being so closely connected with violence. Being customers of the Animal Industries, there’s bound to be a pessimism about the world and its future in general. If too many people pessimism to dominate their reality, they will generate a self-fulfilling prophecy of an inevitable ‘Coming Catastrophe’.

Pessimism is responsible for clumsiness. And nothing clumsier than a belief that change is only possible by the use of force - “change has to be big and fast, otherwise it won’t work”. And even if there were a common fear of catastrophe and a genuine search for ways to avoid it, something like veganism would never seem potent enough to set off the sort of chain reaction needed for major social change.

But here is where slow and strong works wonders. Veganism is slow to catch on but when it does it feels strong enough to change the world. It establishes the basis for reform. Its presence might be hardly noticed by those who want to ignore it, but when it enters your life it establishes a deep sense of rightness. Veganism is so profound that most people refuse to recognise its potential. If it ever does suggest any sort of solution, it will have to be seen as unreachable or unrealistic. It represents the need for change in the way life is viewed, and because it is an unpopular philosophy, it is easily dismissed.


However, popular or not, it is precisely in tune with the character of the 21st century. It’s thoroughness and optimism promotes a root-and-branch change, despite the fact that it might not show any signs of ‘flowering’ during our own lifetime.


For many this long-term prospect is off-putting. The two reactions Society makes to anything too long-term - “It’s already too late, so why bother?” and “I don’t give a stuff about the future anyway”. These are merely expressions of pessimism and selfishness, neither of which will impress future generations when they come to analyse the history of the early part of the century.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Greater Good Revisited


I suppose I’m arguing that to ignore animal issues is dangerous. In bodily terms, it’s like being passive about an illness when a deadly virus is over-taking us. We think we can ignore it and carry on as usual, doing what everyone else is doing, getting away with it, and thinking we can continue all the comforts of a consumer-istic atmosphere, without any ill effects.

If we want our society to be a strong force for good on the planet, then we have to set personal standards. We have to let our enthusiasm for the greater good move freely with the other great forces we recognise in life - altruism and optimism.

Altruism is probably not very much different to optimism, since both foresee satisfying outcomes initiated by good intentions; when you set out for good results and it works for you, you tend to feel optimistic, and as results appear so too does the meaning of altruism. Perhaps optimism is the result of setting standards for self-pleasure that are directed by an altruistic urge to be unselfishly-useful. When it works it recharges our energy. We experience the pleasure of discharging energy for others’ benefit. By being involved with each other, in that way, it often results in reciprocation and a beneficial mutual exchange.

Optimism shows up like a light. Others can’t help but see it, especially when it isn’t a show-off but simply a daily habit. And that needn’t be anything special if only because we all enjoy habits which involve some self-discipline. Just as lifeguards love to be on the beach to save lives when people get into difficulties, we all like being useful. We like to be needed. Whole relationships can surely be based on this same pleasure-service principle.

As we develop new and sometimes not-so-easy-to-install habits, for example in setting up a vegan lifestyle, the main driver is usually optimism. We look forward to a better, more pleasure-giving habit, a more useful way of living based on give and take. When we act optimistically, habits fall into place. Maybe, like kids settling in on their first day at school, new habits are a bit shaky at first. It’s optimism that gets us over the hump, in our habit-building. We are, if we did but know it, preparing for the repair-journey ahead. Perhaps we instinctively know that new habits are preparing us for change, for what we will have to get used to soon enough.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Consistent Ethics


Most people think that we can only be effective if we have specialist knowledge, but what expertise is needed to know that the animal business is wrong and to keep well clear of it? When something isn’t right we know it in our gut. It comes from intuition and inborn values. A familiar comment from new vegans is, “Why didn’t I see it before?”

From my own experience, as soon as I tap into instinct, things become clearer, and then I’m more likely to gravitate towards ‘the greater good’, if only because it seems so obvious. What counts, I think, is optimism and faith, and you can’t sustain much of that if you are hanging around the gates of the abattoir, figuratively speaking. Following convention without questioning it, eating food which we haven’t examined ethically, eating rubbish foods, none of this bodes well for the future.

When any of us choose to NOT buy something we want, stopping ourselves for ethical reasons, we make an important statement. We say, for instance with animal food, that we can’t eat what shouldn’t even exist - namely foods associated with animals.

This is one way we can exercise self-control, by setting an example. But if we do that in one field and not in another equally important field, we lose credibility. Concern for animals requires that we are also concerned for the land. It’s the same problem we have in any area of advancement, whether it’s our career, lifestyle, relationships or spiritual progress. By neglecting any one vital issue, simply because it doesn’t suit our convenience, we introduce an incompleteness or inconsistency into our life, and that surely leads to double standards.


In the end, if we can’t muster sufficient personal power, to change any faulty parts of our own daily existence, then our personal authority will drop off. And without that feeling, we can’t fight corruption or change the system we live in.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An End To Pessimism


For over sixty years vegan activists have been forming teams of animal advocates, each working to stop the animal slave trade. We are doing it by persuading others and setting an example by boycotting the animal-abuse industry.

What we do is done in the spirit of optimism, helping each other drop our ingrained pessimism It is based on the classic negative idea that whatever we do won’t even scratch the surface, so we might as well just carry on doing what we’ve always done, and save us the bother of all that effort needed to change whole habits.

The optimist aims only to do what we can do - we change to eco-friendly light globes, recycle newspapers, support organic farming (if we can afford to) and, most importantly, eat plant-based foods. Everything we do in this way is valuable, but if we think that what we do “won’t make a scrap of difference to the world”, then we’re doomed before we’ve even started. If we can drop our pessimism, we’re more likely to avert Earth’s downfall.

If optimism is to become something more than just a nice idea, it must be substantial enough to carry us over the tough spots. It must be measured not by personal success but on its contributive value to the greater good, with our own interests put second. Then nothing can possibly go wrong.