by Suzanne Hanson, Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Merriam-Webster defines the word ‘soul’ as the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life. The actuating cause of an individual life—what is veganism if not that which moves us to the core of our being? Today, we can be a vegan anything—doctor, lawyer, therapist, dishwasher, professor, artist, and so on. We do what we need to do in order to make rent. In that, we are no different than our neighbors, co-workers, and loved-ones. We have car payments, insurance plans, credit scores, and all of the nagging and mundane burdens of modern life. We have lawns to mow, snow to shovel, children to get to school, and errands to run on the weekend. What, then, separates us from the rest of the world?
The obvious answer is that we don’t eat meat or other animal products. We don’t wear fur, leather, etc. We don’t participate in activities that center around animal exploitation, such as rodeos and circuses. To many in the world at large, veganism is an extensive list of restrictions—a wet blanket on family cook-outs, a reason to exclude people from activities that may offend picky vegan eaters. But to us, being vegan isn’t a burden or a self-imposed restraint. It’s the ultimate freedom.
Nothing is more freeing than living in accordance with your core values. Vegans know that there is something wrong with the way we treat our fellow beings. Making a conscious decision to opt out of the system of animal exploitation is liberation—for both human and non-human animals. Vegans aren’t concerned with the immediacy of convenience or with fitting in at the expense of a life. What speaks to a vegan is that immaterial essence, a feeling of being at peace with the choices we make, because ultimately we are the choices we make. What we choose as individuals, however small it may feel, helps to move the scales of justice in the right direction—the direction of non-violence, respect, and compassion.
Franz Kafka is reported to have said, while observing fish in an aquarium, “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.” Just like Kafka, there are plenty of vegan souls out there who either have, or still do, consume and use animal products. Deep down, there is a discord in what they know, believe, and feel, versus what they do. The only path that will solve this disharmony is to go vegan; embrace being vegan as a way to look at the whole world in peace. A person can be many things vocationally, but they can only be one thing if they believe in living in accordance with their beliefs—vegan.
Special thanks to Butterflies Katz for publishing this as one of the entries in her short essay contest and eBook: I’M A VEGAN: One Movement, Many Voices.
Image courtesy of Patrick Baum at UnSplash