On February 22nd, Gentle World’s Co-founders Light and Sun celebrated their 47th veganniversary, providing living proof that vegan human beings can not only lead an exemplary, love-filled, respectful, responsible, caring, healthy, active and vibrant life, but also inspire countless others to do the same.
Becoming a vegan 47 years ago was not only forward-thinking, but also forward-feeling, as there was no Animal Rights movement, no online education, no other vegans that they knew, and no word they were aware of for what they were doing at that time.
Not only were there no vegan labels or convenience products, but their dietary staples were canned corn and peas, and peanuts with raisins, because they barely knew of anything else to eat. The delicious vegan cuisine that we take for granted today didn’t even exist yet, as it was still far from being envisioned, let alone invented.
Everyone around them insisted they would die or become ill, and misguided relatives, concerned for their health, tried to sneak animal products into their food. As they tried, without success, to explain their newfound understanding to those around them, people they loved thought they had lost their minds, and both family and friends drifted away.
Their vegan epiphany had come unexpectedly, when they saw a movie in which was shown the murder of a bull with a sledgehammer. The animal’s cries and the horrific violence inflicted on him led them to the understanding that their shared values of honesty and integrity were now being called into question. The moment they stepped out of the theater, they realized that their test of faithfulness to the vow they had made to hold one another to those ideals was now staring them in the face. Little did they know at the time, they were about to embark on a lifelong journey toward a vegan world that they would have to build for themselves, one step at a time.
As their knowledge grew of the different aspects of the animal trade, they abandoned, one by one, the foods and fabrics they had previously taken for granted, as did everyone of the time. Their realization about animal flesh was followed by a similar one about animal milk, and another about eggs. Upon actually becoming vegan, they buried their leather, wool and fur with a funeral ceremony, honoring the bodies that were killed for them.
Not only did these two “evolutionary” individuals begin living the vegan life before they even knew that this philosophy was shared by others (very few others, at the time), but they created what is perhaps the world’s only successful, thriving vegan intentional community. Their life’s work, Gentle World, has not only survived for over four and a half decades, but continues to evolve and prosper. Its member-volunteers have educated the public about veganism since its inception, and continue to do so, meeting each new generation with new and inspiring methods of education. Since the very beginning of Gentle World’s existence, veganism has been an obligatory standard of living for everyone, including the dogs, who have also been plant-based pioneers for their species since the 1970s.
Light and Sun learned early the importance of making vegan food enticing, and it has always been Gentle World’s aim to prove that veganism can be incredibly delicious. Toward that end, Gentle World published a groundbreaking publication in 1981 entitled The Cookbook for People Who Love Animals, which sold nearly 100,000 copies before most people knew what the word vegan meant.
In 1987 and 1988, they created two successful celebrity vegan banquets, serving an exceptional and diverse display of incredibly delicious international vegan cuisine, not for fundraising purposes (attendance was free of charge), but for the purpose of “inspiring those who are an inspiration to others.” Their passion and determination led to inspiring celebrities River Phoenix and Casey Kasem to co-sponsor and host the events, which inspired other stars of the time to attend, including Sidney Poitier, Drew Barrymore, Danny Glover, Joaquin Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Sheena Easton, Alan Thicke, Gretchen Wyler, Stephen Bishop, and many others.
In 1989, The Gentle World team created and ran the highly successful Vegan Restaurant on Maui, Hawaii (an international hotspot and therefore a megaphone to the world). Their food was delicious enough to attract both vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers, who were served, along with the mouthwatering dishes that are Gentle World’s claim to fame, the vegan message in the form of information and quotes on every table.
In 2000 and 2003, they published their second recipe book, Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm, which includes 500 vegan recipes and inspirational quotes from some of the greatest minds of all time.
Over the years, those fortunate enough to live alongside Light and Sun have experienced incredible bonds with other species that have been highlights of all our lives, including relationships with wild forest animals. All the nonhumans who have lived with us in Gentle World were either rescued from being killed, found on the road neglected or abused, abandoned in the wild or on our doorstep, or else they just wandered up to our doors, bringing each one of us an opportunity to give and receive love from someone who needed our care, and filled our lives with joy in return.
Beautiful, Magic, Baba, Big Buck, Ahimsa, Miracles, Kisses, Valiant, Cozy and Mighty are all dogs we have rescued and loved… and then there was Clover the Shetland Pony, Promise the Pig, Capricorn the Goat, Thanksgiving the Turkey, Glory Glory the Rooster, Free and Easy the Fantail Doves, Poof the Magic Rabbit and many more.
Light, a lifelong animal lover, once took the hook out of an eel’s mouth, resuscitated a fish who had been dying outside of the water, saved a dying fawn and freed her when he knew she would be able to survive. Once, he even came nose to nose with a “wild” forest deer whom we befriended. Those who visit might see him caring for the neighbor’s neglected goats, or bringing organic carrot peels to the horses who live nearby.
On this, their 47th veganniversary, those of us who have been inspired by their veganism offer these forerunners our heartfelt thanks, and our sincere wishes for many, many more years of being shining examples of health and vitality at any age, as well as the fulfillment that comes with their ongoing commitment to the vegan evolution and the knowledge that many thousands of lives have been changed thanks to their courage, their generosity of spirit, and their commitment to bringing to life this truly inspired vision of a vegan world.