It started 46 years ago, when I was 12 years of age. My older brother pointed out to me that the ‘tongue’ on my plate was the tongue of a cow, and that meat, in general, was actually a dead animal. I took my first step into rebelling against society and rejected the practice of eating animals. There was no one else around who agreed, encouraged or supported me. But I was a rebel with a cause.
When I was 16, my parents made my brother break his prom date with ‘Mary Ellen Stoklas’ because she wasn’t Jewish. To make a statement, I brought home a new friend to meet them; the only African American kid I could find in my all white, predominantly Jewish school. I wanted to make a stand; to show my parents that they could never make me prejudiced like they were.
37 years ago, when I was 21, I read about dairy production in a vegan magazine. This was before the internet, but the article described the torture that mother cows routinely endure in order for people to steal the milk that is meant not for humans, but for their own calves. I realized that if society saw this as acceptable and normal behavior, I wanted to be anything but normal. So I did what I thought was right. I proclaimed myself a vegan.
My mind can’t even conceive that humans can be so cruel… vicious. How can anyone drag a newborn lamb from his or her mother, brutally killing the baby, often in full sight of a distraught mother sheep? What kind of a species takes pleasure in terrorizing animals, as in rodeos, pig wrestling, running of the bulls, bull fighting, spinning dog festivals, dog fighting, and sadly the list goes on and on… keeping animals in captivity to entertain humans, as in circuses, zoos, aquariums, and horse-racing tracks? The list continues to animals in laboratories, to animals used for food, clothing, and other products and practices that exploit one for the perceived gain of another.
I’m a rebel with a cause, and that cause is “Peace on Earth.” Veganism is our best hope for literally bringing about peace, because every step of the way, with every choice or purchase, a vegan votes against cruelty, violence and slavery.
Because I was born Jewish, it hit home for me when I learned of the unjust massacre of the Holocaust of the 1940s. I realized that if I had been born just 20 years earlier in Europe, I could have been imprisoned and murdered, just like my relatives. The other animals are innocent victims too, and so many wage war on them. They cry, scream, bellow, plead with their eyes, run away, and try to turn around in the chutes leading them to slaughter. But people are deaf to their cries and blind to their obvious desire to simply live their lives. It’s our ethical duty to right this atrocious wrong, and help to end the oppression of anyone, anywhere.
In 1981, when I had just learned about the horrors of the animal industry, I didn’t know any other vegans. I was completely alone… until I met up with Gentle World. In 1982, I bought a copy of The Cookbook for People Who Love Animals (published in 1981, all vegan). The book’s authors were some of the only other vegans I had ever heard of, and were also in Florida. Later that year, I visited their Brooksville property, and I decided to join forces with these other rebels with a cause. Over the years, we continue to work together to create a haven for those who seek a just world.
Gentle World is an experiment based on our rebellion against a society where it is legal to use animals as if they were things, not beings; a society where people don’t have respect for our shared environment, but rather pollute, consume, and waste; where greed drives people to kill animals, people, trees, forests and rivers; and where human beings continue to overpopulate a violence-plagued planet with threatened sustainability, and where “integrity” is a hardly-ever-heard word, and where reason is not ruler.
We are rebels and certainly with a cause. Our little microcosm – our Gentle World – has its flaws (after all, its members are human beings too), but it is a better world than the one we are rebelling against. Everyone who lives in Gentle World is a vegan.
You cannot live a life of Truth and side-step “the vegan thing.” Vegans – all vegans – are rebels with an important cause. In a nonviolent way, they are rebelling against the accepted but uncivilized violence that permeates our planet.
Being vegan is something we can actually do to stop all violations of basic rights, to stop the slavery that society has been built upon, and the violence people feed on. To become vegan means to join a rapidly growing worldwide movement that is trying to bring about a new and improved way of living. Like a suffragette protesting sexism, or an abolitionist protesting slavery, be a vegan demanding animal rights, and on the right side of history. Be a rebel with a cause.