Am I a Yogi If I’m not a Vegetarian​? ~ Alanna Kaivalya

Via on Sep 17, 2012

 

atlyogascene.com

I cast the judgement and threw the stones—until they hit me square in the face.

For many in our modern yoga culture, ahimsa has exactly one translation: vegetarianism, or potentially more focalized: veganism. I understand this and for most of my life, I have adhered to this practice. However, there’s something wrong with this translation of ahimsa. It’s not completely accurate.

Ahimsa, if we break down the word, simply means the absence of violence. It’s a much broader stroke than this one focused idea. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutra where the directive of ahimsa is cited for yogis, goes on to add four other suggestions for how we can become compassionate contributors to society: truthfulness, non-stealing, conscious intimacy and non-hoarding. He’s pretty specific with these suggestions, but nowhere does he give us the exact, one practice that is going to cover all this moral high ground.

He leaves it to us.

In my years as a yoga practitioner, I’ve heard all the arguments for why veganism is a good idea. I’ve also made those same arguments. I used to be the one in the room telling students and fellow teachers that without a vegetarian diet, they were simply not practicing ahimsa.

I cast the judgement and threw the stones-until they hit me square in the face.

I realized at some point that my judgements of others were actually the most scathing antithesis to this sacred practice. By setting myself and my own actions apart from others, I was creating a hierarchy. I was missing the point of the practice itself, which is meant to create connection and dissolve boundaries.

We connect when we hurl judgement out the window, move beyond what is right and what is wrong and favor instead what will make us free and keep our hearts open. If any position in life, be it choosing a diet or a political party, separates us from another and puts them on the other side of the fence, how do we ever hope to create our much-longed-for unity?

Now, I understand this isn’t easy and as tempting as the debate over whether being vegetarian (or placing any kind of label on oneself, for that matter) is, it’s ultimately not the point here. Our work as yogis is not to determine who’s actions are better than others’ or what actions are “correct” given the yogic guidelines. Our work is to find it in our hearts to forgive all actions and accept all beings as they are, even if they make different lifestyle choices than we do.

Look, I think being vegetarian is a great service to the world. Being a vegetarian is a great way to practice ahimsa but not the only way to practice ahimsa. I think being an aid worker in a third-world country is a great service, teaching children the value of non-violence in their actions is a great service to the world and so on. There are a million great ways we can serve others in the scope of ahimsa because the most important moral compass is the one that sits in our own hearts.

We have to clean up our own mess first.

We can eat a diet of air and sunlight and if we’re looking at other people for doing it wrong because they’re doing it differently, we’ve steered off course. The meat-eater could be saving lives as an ER doctor by working extra shifts. The carnivore could be working on weekends to build houses for the poor. The great thing is that there are so many opportunities for us to be actively kind in our world.

Thank goodness Patanjali didn’t specify.

T.S. Eliot is quoted as saying, “For every life and every act, consequences of good and evil can be shown and as in time results of many deeds are blended so good and evil in the end become confounded.” Joseph Campbell responded to a similar quote by Voltrim by stating, “The best we can do is lean towards the light.”

I lived for years thinking that all who eat meat will be condemned to repay that karma with their death in future lifetimes. It’s a pretty grim guilt-trip to be on while practicing yoga. Luckily, I heard a philosophy teacher recently re-illuminate this misunderstanding with this simple teaching:

“If you choose to take a life, then you must save one.”

I understand that each life is precious and this could be misconstrued as an over-simplification of the process. This is neither a justification or absolution. What it does is re-frame the process so that without guilt, we can make the best choices for our own lives. These choices will be different for all of us and all the choices we make are valid, provided that they are done with an open heart.

You see, the scholar Joseph Campbell did much of his research based on the premise that “life lives on life.” It just does. We can all make arguments around this and I’ll never disagree with those who say factory farming is cruel. But judgement is also cruel because it poisons our own hearts, cramps our ability to connect with others and find ways in which we can uplift and forgive those we interact with. It separates “us” from “them” and gets us farther from the interconnectivity that is the crux of yoga practice.

When we possess an expanded understanding of ahimsa beyond only vegetarianism and accept every person as they are, we then have the best capacity to support transformation and positive change of anykind. If we begin with resistance to a particular behavior (like eating meat), then we’re already creating alienation and separation, which are both antithetical to yoga.

To practice ahimsa means to be firm in our authentic practice of active kindness and accept everyone as they appear to us, no matter how they choose to live their lives, no matter how we choose to live ours because there are eight billion different ways to live. If we can manage to live with an open heart and a genuine ability to connect to another, then we’ve dissolved any need for violence to arise.

Start there. You might find that the life you’re saving is your own.

~

Editor: Sarah Winner

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About Alanna Kaivalya

Alanna Kaivalya is an artistic and inspiring teacher of yoga. Born with a hearing impairment, Alanna learned through the power of vibration at a young age, and was then naturally drawn to the harmonic practice of yoga. Listed as Yoga Journal’s top 21 Yoga Teachers Under 40 (March, 2008), and now with more than a decade of teaching experience, she has developed a teaching style that is a unique combination of her spirit, her knowledge, and of course the teachers who have influenced her along the path. She has a mission: to convey a sense of joy and freedom through harmony and synchronicity, which she does beautifully through her classes, workshops, writing and music. Alanna is known for her ability to translate the ancient practice of yoga into a modern day context. For more information visit Alanna's website or connect with Alanna on Facebook and Twitter.

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42 Responses to “Am I a Yogi If I’m not a Vegetarian​? ~ Alanna Kaivalya”

  1. @yoga4joy says:

    Ahimsa is not about healing or helping (i.e. ER doctors or volunteers in third world countries); it is about abstaining from personal actions that cause harm to others. The two are mutually exclusive. Suggesting that the practice of ahimsa in its purest form must necessarily include veganism, is not judgment. If we believe in our hearts that the absolute expression of non-violence includes animals, then it also becomes a duty to spread this personal consciousness as part of our spiritual practice. It is not about rejecting others or their choices; it is about broadcasting a message and exemplifying a life that in no way brings harm to another living being. To believe that a purified soul is wholly non-violent, then to attempt to live such a life and to spread that message to others is simply an act of love – for all living beings.

    • arsenia says:

      thank you

    • Śāśwata says:

      You are absolutely right @yoga4joy …, and the author of the article is cruelly wrong, and I wish she would have an absolute non-tolerance for murder, rape, enslavement, and torture of non-human animals as well as human animals. Animal is Soul-being, from anima = soul. Liberating animals is to liberate souls, which we are. Ahiṁsā, non-harm, needs no specification because doing harm to other animals, human or non-human, is hiṁsā (harm). Patañjali was precise.

  2. Edward Staskus says:

    Although I found your article well worth reading, I cannot agree with your assumptions about going beyond good and evil. Post-modernism has its place, but what states like North Korea and tyrants like Josef Stalin do are not relative actions that yoga or any other spiritual practice can explain away or even come to terms with. When someone eats a hamburger it might not be the greatest thing in the world, but when someone sends millions to the Gulag it is very definitely evil and that person and nation state should be judged and held accountable. Although I subscribe to non-violence, sometimes how people choose to lead their lives, as you say, does matter since it is so remarkably horrible, so that finally judgment and action are inevitably the only solutions.

  3. theYogaDr says:

    Great article, and I appreciate the comment by kconnorsd very much too.

    Ahimsa was never about veganism. That is a total fabrication by modern teachers with their own agendas veiled as yoga-isms. Traditional Yoga is vegetarian but allows dairy in the diet and does not consider that to be against ahimsa at all. Just read the classic texts of hundreds of years ago. They were written by real gurus.

    • gphase says:

      In India cows are sacred therefore using dairy did not imply their death as it does in today's dairy industry.

    • ann says:

      only to add to gphase's comment – to compare modern-day factory dairy farming to the relationship traditional yogis in india had with cows is preposterous.

      • theYogaDr says:

        There are modern farms that treat their animals with love and consideration. I grew up on a farm with cows and chickens, so I can say this from personal experience. It was before the "organic" and "free-range" buzz words were hip, but we practiced these concepts just the same.

        I'm all for discouraging factory dairy farming and violence against animals, but that's a different thing from advocating veganism as if all milking of cows and collecting of eggs is cruel. It's not, and suggesting that everyone who participants in it is somehow inferior or mean goes completely against the message of this post – and against the classic teachings of the real yoga gurus.

        • ann says:

          you are severely misguided if you think that the world at its current population can continue to consume animals and their byproducts without factory farming. i like the idea of farmer john – but if it ever existed in the way we were led to believe it did as kids, it doesn't anymore. but it's really beside the point – we are well past that as a reality. unless your income is such that you can afford to buy organic – which, for the vast majority of folks is a pipe dream – you'll be eating the bad stuff. it's not just the rate that americans consume, either. there's nothing being said about inferiority here, and (with all the respect in my heart) i'll thank you not to put words in my mouth – i don't think omnivores are in any way inferior to vegans. i don't believe we've found a way to reach people who eat meat meaningfully, but i do believe we must keep trying. and i don't know who the "real yoga gurus" are…i've been an ethical vegan for 15 years and i've only been practicing yoga regularly for 2. i like that the two sometimes overlap, but they are not one and the same for me.

        • Jai says:

          Ahimsa is about abstaining from personal actions that cause harm to others. "Ethical" animal farming raises the essential question… whether or not stopping a person's free-will (that goes for any cognitive sentient being of any species) is considered harmful. Is it harmful for a human "person" to be forced into captivity and controlled?

    • susan says:

      I encourage you to read the traditional commentaries on the yoga sutras. They are very clear that eating animals is essential to ahimsa.

      • theYogaDr says:

        I have read Patanjali's work many time – as well as all the classic yoga works thus far translated into English that I can get my hands on. I am a vegetarian. My response has nothing to do with eating animals. This falls under ahimsa as you so rightly suggest. The issue at hand is veganism. We don't know exactly what Patanjali meant by ahimsa. We only know what the initial and revered commentator, Vyasa, suggested it meant a few hundred years later (although at least one scholar claims that Patanjali and Vyasa were the same man and others claim that Patanjali himself was actually a composite of several men). There is no indication whatsoever that early yogis abstained from dairy products, including Patanjali. In the Hatha Yoga Prakipika, the Siva Samhita, and the Gheranda Samhita (the classic trilogy of Hatha Yoga works), dairy consumption is encouraged. http://theyogadr.com/vegetarian-good-health/

        • gphase says:

          In today's world, obtaining dairy means death of animals – it was not so in ancient India. Therefore today's veganism is a logical extension of their vegetarianism; animals didn't use to be killed in the process of obtaining dairy, but these days they are and so to practice ahimsa one should refuse dairy (unless milked cows and their calves are never killed, which I don't think is possible nowadays in any form of commercial activity).

          I am not a vegan by the way but the above argument makes perfect sense to me.

        • susan says:

          I'm sorry I read your comment incorrectly, and I apologize for this. Worse, I should have written "NOT eating animals is essential to ahimsa," and thanks you for understanding my intent.

          The diet in the trilogy you mention is not vegetarian, but sattvic. As I am sure you know there is a huge difference. Setting aside the treatment of the cows, what is called milk today is very different from the milk mentioned in that trilogy, or in ayurvedic texts. I have not seen a case made as to what is called milk today is sattvic.

          Patanjali does not mention diet, but he does say that even slight approval of violence is based on ignorance, and is to be avoided. If you are to eat milk and milk products, and wish to keep to a sattvic-ahimsa diet, the treatment of the animals must also be known to you.

  4. thirtydaysofyoga says:

    As a meat eating, wine drinking yogi, I enjoyed reading your article. I'm on a journey and maybe, eventually, my journey will lead me on what many believe is the right path. The evangelical approach to this or even that works for many and not so much for others. I understand it and am willing to listen to it but my own mind is the only mind that I can ever change and I'm in no hurry. Yoga is a personal, internal process and has much ahead for me I'm sure so I'll enjoy/puzzle over each step of the way and if one day, it means no more meat, cheese and wine, then that will be accepted.

  5. Alanna Kaivalya AlannaK says:

    Hey Everyone – Thank you so much for your awesome comments. I appreciate all your views and believe they're very helpful in further illuminating this important subject for yogis!

  6. Chris says:

    Wonderful insights! As that Jeebus fellow said, "It is more important what comes out of your mouth than what goes in it." Keep on being your authentic self Alanna! Much respect!

  7. pixiemom says:

    Hundreds of years ago, animals were not treated in the same fashion that they are in the modern, industrial, factory farming environment. The truth is, animals must necessarily be harmed for us to enjoy their milk, meat and eggs – and in far too many cases, in the most egregious ways imaginable.

    As for prosyletizing, no one I know goes up to people in the streets or restaurants, or knocks on doors with the message of veganism. I wish I understood why some people are so offended by others who make a choice that they believe is aligned with the expression of non-harming to include all living beings and then somehow find it neccesary to be condescending and insulting to them.

    No one has stated that being vegan makes them a better person than anyone else. But how it can be argued that ahimsa in its purest form does not mean absolute non-violence and that would include abstention from killing any animal for any reason?

    • gphase says:

      Re: proselytizing, I find that many people label it so when they are faced with how exactly their meat is obtained and produced.

      I respect a person who is willing and able to kill face to face to feed themselves (after a nuclear war I would be squatting over rabbit holes with a sharpened stone myself if that's the only way). But it's a tiny percentage; most people would not be able to consume meat if they witnessed the animal's death and taking it apart, it's much too violent and gross. In today's world, these processes are so sanitised and removed from public awareness (for profit, of course) that people get a nasty shock when they get a glimpse of the real world through a photo or YouTube video. It's happening everywhere all the time, but if someone shows it to you sans makeup it's called proselytizing.

      • ann says:

        couldn't have said it better, gphase. as to not bringing harm to others – how about the faceless millions of human beings working in these horrible torture factories, with little or no other choice because of job shortages/lack of education/lack of a work permit…the abuse isn't just upon the animals. the people forced to carry out these attrocities suffer as well. as do the people who continue to eat the hormone- and antibiotic-infested meat that dominates supermarket shelves.

  8. ria says:

    When I was a young child in India, my grandmother had a cow and her calf. The cow (I forget her name) was prayed to each morning before she was milked. If she was in a bad mood / grumpy then the milk man would just need to come back or no milk that day, but luckily that seldom happened.
    The milk was boiled immediately and then consumed by the whole family for the rest of the day. The milk was used in Chai, in sweets, kheer and also given away to those who did not have their own cows in particular to the Sadhu's that go door to door in the afternoon. Oh we also made yogurt and lassi out of it and cow dung was used to make floors and walls.
    This was a pure way to consume animal products without any chemicals or harming the animal. Everyone won!
    If this is how you are consuming animal products then I can't see the problem. We worship the cow in India. That is not the case in the western world. Perhaps double check where your animal products are coming from.
    Calling one self a Yogi because you bought a yoga mat and are on it from time to time is just laughable. Its almost a status now in the west to call oneself a yogi. So firstly lets change that to 'I'm a student of Yoga' instead of I'm a Yogi.
    Secondly I know there are yoga students out there who drink and eat meat but I'd love to know how many Yoga practitioners are out there drinking wine and eating meat who are and have been serious students of yoga. eg: someone who has been doing Mysore Ashtanga for 10 years. I doubt very much if they are drinking and eating meat. Actually I'd love to hear from anyone who knows an 10+ year ashtangi who drinks and eats meat.

    • ann says:

      what beautiful imagery…cows are such beautiful animals…i would have loved to have such a relationship to such a majestic, humble animal. thank you for sharing…

    • Śāśwata says:

      No yogi eats other animals, human animals or non-human animals. If they call themselves yogis while eating other persons, they are not yogis regardless of what they say. Saying that one is a yogi does not make one a yogi, and that goes for all ancient and modern teachers, gurus, students, disciples. Breeding cows to produce more milk than for their own children or raping cows to make them pregnant so they start producing milk or so that they continue to do so, cutting testicles of bulls, putting calves away from their mother so that they die from thirst and starvation, heat and cold, in fields for instance, or deny them mother's milk at any moment, is always wrong. Religion and tradition, scriptures and gurus are subordinate to ethics, to justice (dharma) and non-harm (ahiṁsā). Here is a documentary video called "The Plastic Cow" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SifRIYqHfcY&no… , about how calves, bulls, and cows are really treated in India.

  9. susan says:

    Those who are actively engaging in eating animals are not yogins by Patanjali's standard, and there is no need to call yourself or others a yogin just because some aspect of yogic practice is being engaged in. You are most likely not a yogi if you eat animals. Most people do not need to eat animals, and do well without the sacrificial cult of "life is life eating life" that yogins, jains and buddhists contrast themselves against.

    If you are a yogi, your life is tempered in all aspects, especially diet. People can meditate and practice the many aspects of yoga regardless of their behavior, and there is no reason to call oneself or others a yogi for the sole reason they show up to a class or would like to be accepted by a group.

    Patanjali does not advise proselytizing at all, in fact he does not advise actively engaging in "worldly" matters at all, for instance while other lists of niyamas include giving (dana), his do not. He does say that even slightly encouraging another's violence is based on ignorance and to be avoided, so actively participating in the violence inherent in eating animals is definitely something to be avoided for anyone who would embrace ahimsa.

  10. bobcat says:

    Thanks for a well written and thoughtful article. I find it funny that we adults, highly connected and sensitive to our own body's needs, quarel like little children about what Patanjali told us to do or not to do and missing the point of this article entirely. Let's grow up and think for ourselves. Stop regurgitate what the gurus have regurgitated and actually get on with the practice of yoking. Only those who see parts of the thing and not the whole of it do quarrel. By the way, if you are open and curious check out Charles Eisenstein, The Yoga of Eating.

  11. Clare says:

    Only two beings are concerned with your decision to eat meat. You and the animal(s) that you kill. It is further vanity to wonder if this makes you a "Yogi" or not. It just makes you someone that kills animals. That's what you are. A.Human. Who. Chooses. To. Kill. Animals.

  12. Sabrina says:

    There are lot of arguments for being vegan or at least a vegetarian. But there is no understandable reason for eating meat – except selfishness, ignorance and the impossibility to create inner peace including ALL beings in the world. Knowing about the effects of meat-industry to the environment, accepting that a cow only gives milk (like every other mother) if she is pregnant (and her baby in this case is taken away from her), understanding that eggs and, well, every animal-protein is not really healthy – you should make a decision. If you think, that all these facts do not matter to you, you should at least not argue about the excuse why you still eat meat ('though the energy which is wasted for only 1 steak would feed about 40 hungry children) and try to find other meat-eating-supporters or to excuse their inconsequent style of living, too. You should at least keep quiet, if not feel ashamed for your life-style which includes the systematic killing or exploiting of co-creatures. Learn more about this: http://www.provegan.info/eng/vegan/introduction, http://www.goveg.com, http://www.whyvegan.org

    • Trang Le says:

      If you say that the reasons for eating meat are selfishness and ignorance, then you must be well-loaded. Do you recognise that the mere fact you are able to make such a noble choice, to be vegetrarian, is an extremely privileged position to be in? One not shared by the majority of people on the planet? YIf you have ever lived in a third-world country, you'll realize that a veg diet is less realistic for the poorer people "in cities".

  13. Thanks so much for this. I've been working on my own article about whether being vegan is sustainable for everyone, and what to do if you find your body doesn't want to cooperate with your ethics. I went vegan back in January: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/12/the-weekly

    And it was great at first, but I've run into some health issues, and am wrestling with the idea that it may not be sustainable to me as a lifelong choice. This was really encouraging to read. xo

    • Jai says:

      It's such a common story to hear: "Going vegan didn't work for me – all body types are different." This is because life doesn't respond to what you "don't" do… it responds to what you "do" do.

      Veganism is a great philosophy or ideology… yet the body is concerned with the nutrition it "is" getting. People that often go vegan are more focused to what they are abstaining from, than what they are taking in. For physiological success, we must focus on what we are taking in. The most common mistake vegans make is to cut animal products from their diets and not replace those foods with foods that give them the same essential nutrients they were getting from the animal products. These primarily are all ten Essential Amino Acids and the Essential (omega) Fatty Acids.

      The body, every body, can get everything it needs for high vitality and long life from the plant kingdom… this is physics. The body does not care where the nutrients come from… just that it's getting ALL the nutrients it needs for success. And these again are all available from the plant kingdom. If the body doesn't get these nutrients, in time it will have deficiency issues that can show in a number of forms.

      So focusing on eating foods that cover the nutrient needs of the body is the trick. Hemp, rice and pea protein are the optimal high-alkaline sources for protein for the human body. Between the 3 you have a complete protein with all ten essential amino acids. Your body is covered;) Other optimal proteins are dark greens and legumes. Dark greens are 45-50% high alkaline protein. Getting essential fatty acids multiple times a day is essential for proper body function and is all too commonly missed by people who focus on avoiding animal products. Seed and DHA algae oils are optimal alkaline forming sources… hemp seed, pumkin seed, sunflower seed, sesame seed, and flax seed cover the bodies EFA requirements without the taxing acidifying effects that animal sources have. These all lower dietary stress raising the life force in our bodies and our life.

      I would also return to animal products if my body was hurting and craving nutrients that I only knew I could find there. But not if I had this information of how to live more optimally by eating a plant based diet that covers the bodies nutrient requirements. Minimizing dietary stress allows us to live nearly disease free, have greater mental clarity and consistent energy levels, reduce biological age, raise immune function, sleep deeper (the list goes on) … that is if we are minimizing the dietary stress of malnutrition as well. Make sure you research how to get all the nutrients you need when eating a plant based diet. You're life and quality of life, depend on it. Ironman Triathlete Brendan Brazier wrote the book "Thrive" to cover this topic oh so eloquently. Cheers to vitality.

      • Oh I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I'm working with a vegan-friendly nutritionist. I will go into more detail in my article, but I have a few obstacles here: 1. I have celiac disease, which has (to understate) done a number on my digestive system. 2. Recovered from an eating disorder. Also tough on the body.

        I have been vegetarian for most of my life, so it wasn't an enormous change, but it's been a change is proving to be problematic. I was reluctant at first to write about it because, on the whole, I believe vegan is a healthy and ethical choice and I wouldn't want to discourage anyone. But, ultimately I feel like it's worth sharing, and I haven't come to a decision one way or the other yet.

        • Evita says:

          Kate, I second what Jai said, and would add that given your educated approach the missing link is within the "mind" not the body (food, or nutrition). Sure those can support us, but the overriding principle is always within our mind. Look there for the root of any issues and for the solutions. Our mind as I am sure you know with your yoga background, is powerful enough to make us sick and make us well, regardless what we are eating. Not sure if you read Louise Hay's "You Can Heal Your Life", or Lise Bourbeau's "Your Body's Telling You: Love Yourself!" but self-love and self-acceptance are the key areas that are challenges for most of us on this planet. Once we solve those and make peace with ourselves, everything else falls into place :)

  14. Alanna Kaivalya AlannaK says:

    Kate – so glad this was an encouragement. Let me know if you ever want to chat about it further. :)

  15. [...] Am I a Yogi If I’m not a Vegetarian? ~ Alanna Kaivalya [...]

  16. [...] I am definitely ready to further lighten my diet, softening the load on my digestive tract and on my body in general. There have been times in the past where I have made a decision to remove meat from my diet, but always with the underlying feeling of “this is what a good yogi would do/this is what a person that values health would do.” [...]

  17. [...] Our bad habits often diminish. It can be brutally uncomfortable to go out for a late night meal, drink alcohol then get up early for an early morning practice. This lifestyle we find ourselves adapting is called dinacharya in ayurveda. Dinacharya means right lifestyle; living with the rhythms of the day. [...]

  18. [...] My journey towards vegetarianism is not the one that you would normally hear of in a yoga class. [...]

  19. ann says:

    of course, the major difference in the example you provide is that if we all start believing in jesus christ as our personal lord and savior tomorrow, no animals will forego the horror of factory farming. no animals will be allowed to live out their existence in the absence of our completely unnecessary abuse and exploitation of them. these are apples and oranges, my friend. having said that, i also know that people get their backs up rather quickly when this conversation starts – not unlike the way my own back goes up when folks start spoon feeding me christianity. so while i see your point, the bottom line is that vegans have a very valid and tangible point – animals are dying and suffering unnecessarily, the planet is collapsing under our need for meat, and our bodies are sicker and sicker year on year – while christians (and people of all other faiths, frankly) have mysticsm. not the same at all. not at all.

  20. kconnorsd says:

    …. I can't understand computers to save my life. I somehow deleted my original comment…… whoopsies! Sorry about that!

    Ann, yes, I totally agree with you – the foundations of and reasons behind Christianity and veganism are apples and oranges. No argument there, my personal life has been adjusted accordingly to that fact.

    What I had pointed out in my original comment was that whether or not souls are dying or you're just being threatened with eternal damnation, people's reactions to being "preached to" are the same – you said it yourself. I spent many years as a meat eater feeling guilty about it UNTIL someone would approach me telling me all the reasons I should stop. Even though I fundamentally agreed with them, my natural reaction was to get defensive. Now imagine trying to spread that message to someone who feels no remorse whatsoever about chowing down on a bacon cheeseburger…… I don't think they'll be receptive.

    Presenting people with facts and figures in a non-accusatory way has it's strengths, but let's be honest – if someone doesn't want to stop eating meat because they like it, they'll come up with every excuse in the book to keep doing so. Going beyond that to point out morality in an attempt to guilt people into changing just lights those defensive fires even quicker, because no one likes being told they're essentially doing something bad and wrong.

    I agree with you completely, I just think that methods in which people try to spread the message doesn't necessarily get the desired results, especially from the extremely stubborn and meat-loving.

  21. ann says:

    i think, in fact, we're on exactly the same page. i have big issues with PETA for their approach, for example, and it's precisely because of this sort of stuff. there most definitely has to be another way…we can lead by example, but that does leave one feeling a little bit powerless. but i don't need to suggest somebody change their diet to get them angry – i need only tell them i'm vegan sometimes (usually in response to an inquiry they've just made) and they're in my face like the decision was a personal attack against them! it's a conundrum.

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