Why elephant isn’t Vegan (but is all about Veganism).

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 29, 2010
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The point of the legend of the blind men and the elephant is that we all think our way is best—when, really, if we could open our eyes, we’d all see that what we’re holding is just one aspect of the elephant—truth.

Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, black, latino, white, Asian…we all fundamentally want just about the same thing. To live a good life that’s also good for others, and our planet.

And that is our mission—not any one aspect of the elephant in particular. ~ WL.


Why elephant isn’t any one thing.

“I’m confused with EJ. Stick to your mission statement please. You seem to losing focus…”

We are about veganism. We are about ahimsa.

We are about mindfulness. We’re also about mountain biking, Buddhist meditation, yoga, working with anger, active citizenship, the arts, enlightened education, feminism, natural products, greenwashing, social media…we’re about a lot of things. If you’d like to contribute an article, you’re welcome to—on any subject that inspires (or irritates) you.

Fundamentally, as I said below to a few of our passionate, committed vegan readers who had a problem (understandably) with a recent post re “classic” camping recipes that we posted for Memorial Day, we’re about taking responsibility for our actions, and having a good time doing so!

PS: The one thing I should have added is a personal invitation to Patrick, a concerned, active, passionate reader—to contribute an article about said passion or concern. We don’t have to agree. We do have to stay open, and contribute to one another.

That’s generosity, which as they say in the Buddhist tradition, is the quality that “produces peace.” You know, ahimsa.



We just did an article on our mission recently, and it being about inclusion, not exclusion. A community based on dialogue, disagreement, not one voice. In today’s fractured media environment, I understand that we are consumers of media are quickly getting used to media as a club—MSNBC vs. Fox, etc.

As President Obama said in his recent Commencement speech, that’s sad and even unhealthy. I personally can’t stand to watch Fox. But if I did, more, I might hear some new things, whether true or not, and have to expand my horizons and deepen my study of why I believe something different.

Pamela, Patrick, while I personally (Waylon speaking) am vegetarian, and with Gary Smith‘s encouragement may be heading toward veganism (have more or less given up milk), there is nothing in our mission statement about veganism. We are all about mindfulness–responsibility—so, naturally, we focus on organics and vegetarian diet and sustainably and more humanely-raised fish and meat.

I understand and agree that killing animals for pleasure amounts to a daily holocaust in the US, particularly in factory farms.

A robust conversation, via our Facebook Page.

Clint, Nathan and eight others like this.

I’m not sure why I’m following this page anymore. It clams to be about conscious living, sustainability, promoting well being etc etc…yet I see posts like this promoting cow’s flesh, dead fish, chicken’s eggs, pig’s flesh, cow’s milk etc. Can you explain WHY any of these things are sustainable, conscientious and enlightened? And please don’t talk to me about humanely raised/treated animals. Humane would be not killing/using/exploiting period.

I also see things like promoting corporations like NIKE on this page as well. Are you kidding me? NIKE? Sweatshops? People making those products can’t even afford to BUY THEM THEMSELVES. Have you ever heard about the working conditions? NIKE is far from a corporation promoting human rights issues. Plus, shoes made out of animal skin….again, not ethical or sustainable or a great situation for the animals they are ripped from.

I’m not trying to be rude, I just don’t understand this website.

Because not every one of this page’s 16,000 readers fall into every single category of green, conscious, spiritual, sustainable, enlightened, mindful, AND vegan. Some are only interested in one or two aspects of the website. No need to stop reading many great articles when one or two oppose your personal views.

I agree with Patrick. I’m confused with EJ. Stick to your mission statement please.You seem to losing focus, camping recipes made from dead animals is hardly enlightening.

Disagreeing with EJ from time to time is exactly why it’s a good site. What is enlightening is realizing that people have a broad spectrum of beliefs and backgrounds–even among its core audience of eco/yoga/meditation types. EJ’s slogan (mission?) is “living the mindful life.” you may totally disagree that eating meat, no matter how it’s raised is mindful. not everyone shares that opinion.

I disagree with some of the “green” articles on the site, because they don’t seem to stand up to science (the Robert Kennedy Jr. post about vaccines causing autism, in particular, raised my hackles). Obviously it’s a controversial subject, and I know that people feel very strongly in the other direction. So–the issue seems to be: how can you be mindful of your own beliefs, and be mindful of your own prejudices, and be respectful of others when they don’t agree with you? and are you mindful of how fixed/attached you are to your point of view, and is that always a good thing? when seen from that perspective, Elephant Journal does a decent job.

Clap clap clap to Rick. I am just a recent follower of Elephant Journal but so far, all the articles has been inspirational to me about ‘living the mindful life’ in such a way that it celebrates life by promoting diversity with acceptance and love! I too would like to say thanks to Elephant Journal for sharing its positive vibe!!!

Camping is an activity that will increase the connection to our planet, living things, oneness, etc…So IMHO Elephant is wise to see it as a “gateway activity” toward sustainability for “common” and or non-Buddhist folk. Teach them to feed themselves and they will come. Right on Waylon.



We just an article on our mission recently, and it being about inclusion, not exclusion. A community based on dialogue, disagreement, not one voice. In today’s fractured media environment, I understand that we are consumers of media are quickly getting used to media as a club—MSNBC vs. Fox, etc.

As President Obama said in his recent Commencement speech, that’s sad and even unhealthy. I personally can’t stand to watch Fox. But if I did, more, I might hear some new things, whether true or not, and have to expand my horizons and deepen my study of why I believe something different.

Pamela, Patrick, while I personally (Waylon speaking) am vegetarian, and with Gary Smith’s encouragement may be heading toward veganism (have more or less given up milk), there is nothing in our mission statement about veganism. We are all about mindfulness–responsibility–so, naturally, we focus on organics and vegetarian diet and sustainably and more humanely-raised fish and meat.

I understand and agree that killing animals for pleasure amounts to a daily holocaust in the US, particularly in factory farms.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


36 Responses to “Why elephant isn’t Vegan (but is all about Veganism).”

  1. Gary Smith says:

    Waylon – I appreciate that you are including vegan and animal rights voices to the discussion at Elephant. Vegans get marginalized in the media, including on Elephant. If Elephant is going to take a stand for justice, sustainability, et al, I think it's important to try to be consistent. I know that this is impossible 100% of the time.

    The reason that you are getting push back from vegans and AR people is because being vegan is so much more than a dietary choice. The choice to consume animal products affects the animals, the environment, our personal health, workers and laborers, massive food shortages all over the world, etc. So, when you post articles on "sustainable" or "humane" meat as an example, you are saying that it's okay for all the other exploitation to occur. This is then seen as being inconsistent with your mission.

    I would like Elephant to start to look at these issues as being interconnected. What I mean is that if you are moving your readers towards positive environmental stewardship, you can't be posting pro-meat articles. If you are trying to move your readers towards social justice, you can't be promoting happy meat. If you are pushing your readers towards a spiritual life, how does posting articles on wearing, eating and entertaining with animals fit in? Do your readers know how much oil is used in the production of animal products? British Petroleum. I can go on.

    If the mission of Elephant is to be mindful, then we have to start with our treatment of animals. Ignoring this issue or poking fun at it will just keep us moving towards extinction.

  2. pauloone says:

    I believe in the necessity to read multiple opinions, to be challenged, to be made to laugh, to be made angry. If I only read things that agreed with me 100% of the time, I would quickly become a bore and a dullard. A still pond, while lovely and easily reflecting our own image on its surface, tends to produce the most algae and bacteria. Cross currents keep ponds alive.

  3. Via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Lisa C
    Very respectful and peaceful communication here. My hope would be that there are more people like each of you continually striving to make this world a brighter place, even when opinions and perspectives differ. Thanks to all. ♥

  4. Tobye says:

    Well don't we all get caught up in our egos!
    Expecting something to be a certain way because our ego wishes to control it that way.
    The whole meat versus ahimsa debate always finds its way in somewhere… but its all complete mindstuff! Ahimsa is about mindstuff… thoughts of violence lead to violence, so ahimsa fundamentally is about the thought itself, not the action.
    To get angry with elephant because it doesn't live up to your personal expectations is himsa. Not eating meat or using meat products doesn't tick off a box on some questionaire that the universe is filling out about you, but wanting to kill the black widow that could be hiding in your suitcase in the garage certainly does!
    The holier than thou attitude that a few vegans and vegetarians carry with them is delusional…. more of the subtle play of MAYA.
    People can still be spiritual and have a purpose in the evolution of mankind AND eat meat, and the idea that they can't is again himsa.
    It actually reminds me of "Animal farm" ….. " All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others!" In the minds of some vegans/vegetarians, meat eaters just aren't as equal.

  5. buddyholly4 says:

    I am going to refuse to read EJ until they only post articles that agree 100% with my belief system. That's because the world is about right and wrong and there's no room for debate on anything. and of course I am right.

  6. Patrick says:

    I'm not a perfect person by any means, but I am interested in actual change and consistency and working towards that. "Being mindful" yet continuing to support various forms of human and non-human exploitation is completely absurd and frankly, appears totally superficial and egotistical/self-centered. I don't eat/wear animal products because I respect other life, not because it'll make me lose weight, look better, make me appear more this or that. Thinking nice thoughts is all very well, but actions matter as well. If you continue to directly support exploitation, whether animal, human or the environment yet "think good thoughts"…well, it seems just like a lot of useless feel good lip service.

  7. elaine says:

    I love this site and this blog in particular. If it becomes just another orthodox vegan blog, it would probably lose me. There's a real need to stay in conversation with people who are omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, curious, skeptical, etc. and to celebrate change that is "better" even if it is not "perfect".

    I've found, during my whopping year of blogging about being an "almost vegan" that few vegans are happy with anything short of exactly their worldview.

    But that should not stop the elephant from remaining as it is. Significant movement away from conventional choices, even if it falls short of veganism, DOES make a difference — for health, animals, people and the environment.

    Thanks for this post.

  8. Alex says:

    Just a short aside to Patrick – some folks eat meat b/c they physically do better eating meat. I was a vegetarian/almost vegan for years, but found that i feel better when i do eat some meat. And I almost exclusively eat local, humanely raised meat, and some seafood. Which i started doing years ago mostly because it just tastes better:) Living in northern NM it is thankfully possible to know where your food comes from – as it is if you're willing to do the work in alot of places around the country, alot more so than it used to be. In most cultures around the world, meat is a luxury, but we've probably been eating it for thousands of years, b/c sometimes our bodies need it. I'm not going to consider myself an animal exploiter b/c i buy lamb from a guy who has farmed and ranched the same land since before this area was the US. Everyone does their own bit – no need to blanketly condemn people for unknown exploitation. (If you own a factory farm, that may be another story). Cheers~

  9. Via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal
    Brooks Hall
    It's awesome to share different viewpoints!! And it's great to hear another person's perspective. Difference rocks. We can share, respectfully listen, and hear a different thought on the matter. Yes!

  10. Truly Scrumptious says:

    “Different viewpoints,” others’ perspectives, and conversations are great when no one is getting hurt. But as it happens, animals are losing their lives – which they have every right to – while we all sit around talking about what ahimsa really means. If we apply the “celebrate differences!” mentality to cultural abuse of other humans, or to humankind’s raping the earth, does it hold up? I’d hazard that we’d all agree that no, it doesn’t. So why is it acceptable to apply it to the use of non-human animals?

    The thing is, you (elephant) don’t have to specifically say “hey we’re vegan guyz!” and you don’t have to promote veganism. All you have to do is make the choice to not include meat in posts (i.e., the camping recipes would simply have been vegan without bringing any attention to it), and to talk about animals in ways that takes the position of compassion and respect for their lives. Be on the side of compassion, period.

    By the way, as mentioned above, there is no humane meat, and being slaughtered causes suffering. For those more interested in “education than orthodoxy,” may I point out the irony that you are closing yourself to being educated about animals’ lives and self-interest by continuing to defend your eating habits?

    Alex, I would say that you were never “almost vegan,” and it appears to me from your self-serving post that you merely justified your desire to eat meat again. Had you a true interest in being healthy, you could easily have done so as a vegan. Had you a true belief that animals should be alive for their own sake, you would have managed to be a healthy vegan. (Of course, if you actually believed animals shouldn’t be hurt, you wouldn’t have stopped at “vegetarian/almost vegan” in the first place. So your post only highlights that your intention always was to be a bit selfish without appearing to be selfish.)

    Anyway, all I see in this thread is evidence of callously shallow thinking/discussing going on, and people actually *defending* that low level of thinking/discussing, and that fact that some people don’t see it only points to their own limitations and unwillingness to consider the topic further. And for this blog, that’s just disappointing.

  11. Faith says:

    Waylon, one day you promote that Nike commercial and less than two weeks later you tell people not to buy Chuck Taylors because they’re owned by Nike http://www.elephantjournal.com/2008/06/elereview-… That’s a perfect example of why Elephant Journal is ethically confused and inconsistent.

    If you believe that “killing animals for pleasure amounts to a daily holocaust,” then why would you post “Eight Classic Camping Recipes Every Cook Should Know?” “Bacon,” “steak,” and the fish were all animals with social lives and families who had an interest in continuing to live. Promoting their exploitation and deaths is contradictory to your stated belief.

    You say “open minded,” I say “lack of conviction.”

  12. Patrick says:

    The title of this Elephant Journal post is "Why Elephant Isn't Vegan (But Is All About Veganism)". This statement is the absurdity of which I'm addressing here…the complete contradiction in wanting to have things both ways, to "have an open mind" yet take no stance on anything. It's pointless and self-serving. I hear the world "mindful" and "ahimsa" thrown around a lot, yet I don't see a lot of taking responsibility many times from people using these words. Inner non-violence should directly influence the outer actions you take and directly supporting needless killing/abuse/exploitation for food, clothing and entertainment runs counter to non-violence. Being mindful while you eat steak and eggs while sitting around the campfire just seems to be a way of avoiding guilt. How about being "mindful" while participating/supporting other forms of violence? Like I mentioned in my original comment, this isn't just about non-human animals…I spoke about human exploitation as well regarding posts about Nike on Elephant Journal. Is criticizing human slavery self-righteous and holier than thou as well?

    I see a lot of people cheering "different viewpoints" and that's great, but my original comment was not about veganism in the sense of a "diet" necessarily, it was about ethical consistency, which seems to be easily misunderstood here and about with which Gary Smith eloquently addressed above. I am led to believe that this website is supposedly about being "green" and "sustainable living" etc., but animals products are just not. I see many people will go to extreme lengths to justify their use with words like "organic" and "local" and "humane". These word matter little when animals are still killed regardless on farms…both factory and small.

    If there is an actual interest in a diversity of voices on this site, then why be defensive when ONE person speaks their mind? Instead of rushing to defend oneself, why not actually consider what is being said? I find that many people are far more interested in their image and feeling good than actually making the effort to walk the walk. None of us are perfect, we can't do everything, but we should do everything we can.

  13. Padma Kadag says:

    Wow…You Vegans sure can get excited. Arguments for everything. This term of "living mindful" comes from where? The Buddha never said it. If the Buddha did say it to reflect his message it certainly was not an enlightenment which was attainable by diet. Or the lack of eating meat. If you are all about the wanton unnecessary suffering of animals in factory farms then I am with you. If you are all about not eating meat even if the animal is blissful at death then I am with you.

  14. Padma Kadag says:

    But let us not forget those "lesser" animals which number in the millions dying on a daily basis due to the farming of rice, wheat,barley, all grains and vegeies due to flooding,reaping, sowing, fertilizing and ploughing. The lives of insects are no less valuable than larger animals. If your arguments are economics of resources then I am not with you. I will not raise meat to eat it. I will not kill any animal intentionally. But this notion that meat eaters are somehow less mindful is not proven. How many great masters both male and female have attained enlightenment while living a life consuming meat. More than can be counted. Were they "Pro Meat"? No. Meat was given to them for nourishment . Did they encourage the slaughter of animals for their consumption? No. Did they eat meat which was not intentionally slaughtered for their consumption? No. Did they eat meat? yes. This is not to encourage meat eating but I think your emphasis is misguided to some degree.

  15. Medea says:

    A lot of comments here favouring veganism present a variety of 'undeniable truths' like 'consuming animal products is always exploitation/ahimsa/not green/not sustainable/not moral. Let me tell you something; things are never this black and white. Let's take pets as an example. All of my vegan friends own one or more (could be a coincidence, but I guess it is quite common). One could argue that this is a form of exploitation as well. These animals didn't choose to live with these people. They were chosen by the people to be a companion. Now, my friends don't think this is exploitation, because these animals are loved and well taken care for and treated with "respect".

    I own 3 chickens, who live in my garden (and sometimes in my home:) I consider them my pets. We cuddle. They like to snooze on my lap. I enjoy their company (and like to think they enjoy mine too). I love them, and make sure they are comfortable and well taken care of. O, and they lay eggs which I eat. I sincerely believe that I do not exploit these chicken any more than pet owners do their pets. But according to the comments above, I do. Maybe you think I'm the exception that confirms the rule. But even so, the fact that there are exception means that things are not as black and white as presented above. Please try to have an open mind for other arguments and realities.

  16. Athonwy says:

    Medea, you do not "own" 3 chickens, you control them. One cannot own another being. Vegans do not own pets, we caretake them, and provide for them, which is the responsible and compassionate thing to do in a world with a huge overpopulation of domestic animals due to humankind's carelessness and selfishness. Your very language reveals your speciesist mindset.

    Padma, eating animals consumes between 4 and 16 times the amount of grown plant food compared to eating the food directly. If you are truly concerned with causing less suffering you would be Vegan, as this would mean far less agriculture, and thus less suffering. Also, please show me where these alleged "blissful" animals are being killed.

    Animals are not ours to use, they exist for their own reasons, which we ought to respect. Animals are not resources, or chattel, they are sovereign and sentient beings. Widening your circle of compassion to encompass all life means not exploiting anyone if you have another option.

  17. Medea says:

    Athonwy, please don't fuzz over single words. English is not my native language. If you've read my post, you can see that I talk about taking care and providing lovingly for these animals, which is the same as, according to you, vegans do. The chickens that live at my place came from a shelter. I took them into my home not because of their eggs, but because they needed a home and chickens are not very popular pets in my country.

    I can't stop these animals from producing their eggs, and I think it's a waste to throw them away. That you don't agree with thit is fine, but your jumping to conclusions and judgmental comments in my humble opinion is not. I respect your viewpoints, but your way of communicating them is extremely off putting.

  18. pauloone says:

    Well if there is one thing these posts have taught me is that I will never be a Vegan. I may cease eating meat but I will not become a Vegan and for the same reasons I may be a Christian and choose not to be a Fundamentalist. My overall experience has been that Vegans aren't very nice and I would hate to get stuck in a stalled elevator with one.

  19. Suasoria says:

    Vegan-bashing: so mindful, so sattvic. Why it's ahimsa to act violently by eating meat but it's violence to suggest people stop. Check.

    "Angry," "delusional," "holier than thou." Check.

    Concern for insects – check.

    "I only eat…" insert euphemism (organic, humane, local, free-range, cage-free, etc.). Check.

    Yep, this pretty much ticks all the boxes of "defensive omnivore bingo."

  20. […] reasoned that I would do my best to avoid it, but told my advisor that, if need be, I would eat eggs and dairy again. But after discussing it with my mom, who also recently adopted a […]

  21. […] reasoned that I would do my best to avoid it, but told my advisor that, if need be, I would eat eggs and dairy again. But after discussing it with my mom, who also recently adopted a […]

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