How to turn the whole planet Vegan.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jun 21, 2011
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You can be right, or

You can care about dialogue and education rather than being superior, condemning, or being offended by those who are wrong.

You can be the wind, or

You can be the sun.

For it is through aggression in defense of that which we love that we leave behind and lose what we love.

Aesop’s Fables:

The North Wind and the Sun

The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes.

The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do.

The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.

Moral: Persuasion is better than Force.

The above is all inspired by recent aggressive discussions we’ve had on our Animal Rights page:


Barb Wilson Love your page; keep on doing what you’re doing…..:)


Gary Smith [a leading vegan and voice for animal rights who writes on elephant, on occasion. ~ ed]

Change the name of the page. Both Lisa and I have asked this in the past. It’s offensive to social activists to call a page “animal rights” when people talk about how much they love eating animals. It’s like having a page called Abolition o…f Slavery and the postings mostly focus on how well they treat their slaves and what a great job they do for them. You are not discussing animal rights. You’re discussing which animals you like and which you like to eat.


Lisa Shapiro thanks, gary, perfectly stated….again.

# readers for Animal Rights. Gary, you want to talk about what’s offensive, it’s your and Lisa’s lack of interest in dialogue, or changing peoples’ minds—you’d rather talk to your own community, and agree with one another. I’d rather post articles that, as with the one below that angered you both, get Rev. Roger Wolsey to rethink his eating habits. Your righteous anger is blunt.

# readers for Animal Rights. Oh, and it’s fitting that you two liked one another’s comments.


Gary Smith What’s offensive is calling this page “animal rights” when you don’t understand the social justice issue. If you want to talk about eating animals, using animals, call it “animal talk” or something else. The fact that you don’t or cannot understand why calling a page animal rights while discussing killing them is pretty pathetic.

# readers for Animal Rights. But aren’t you about education? Why are you so offended that folks don’t understand things? Isn’t it your passion to educate us? Why judge and condemn us for not understanding what you understand? You have farrr more experience, and are welcome to use this page to educate, that’s what it’s for.

I don’t get the vitriol. ~ W.


Gary Smith

Call the page “what is vegan diet” then I wouldn’t care. Chat away about what a plant based diet is or isn’t. Animals rights is a social justice movement supporting that animals have their own lives and be free from oppression and exploitat…ion. It would be highly offensive to create a page called “gay rights” and chat about how great gays have it, what are they all pissed off about, I like to call gays slurs, but I still like them. It’s offensive.


Jonathan Eells

I haven’t unpacked all the arguments for and against eating animals but my initial reaction is to wonder why humans are excepted from the animal kingdom in the conversation, and are therefore exempt from the Law of the Jungle. I don’t feel… particularly superior to an animal in anyway, and I might be flattering myself to think that I could even be equal to an animal on my best day, but the fact remains that animals eat other animals and I am just an animal.


Gary Smith

The animals who eat other animals are carnivores. Human beings are not carnivores and can make a choice to abstain from eating animals and their secretions. Not only can they live without animal products, but they thrive. If you wish to lea…rn more about the health implications of eating animals, read “The China Study.” Since human animals do not need to eat non-human animals, we make choices that are kind or not kind when it comes to food. I place eating food from slave labor unkind, though it may be vegan. So, the reasons for human animals to eat non-human animals fall under taste, convenience and preference. All three of which are selfish, all three cause great suffering to animals, great suffering to the environment and great suffering to yourself. Why would one choose to do so?


Antoinette Armocida Who in hell are we to determine what another species’ rights are? And then expect all other members of our own species to agree? Its ridiculous to me. If you practice a way of life AND if I am interested in it, share. If you believe your point of view trumps anyone else’s, isn’t that carnivoristic thought?#

Gary Smith Who are we to determine that Blacks have rights? That women have rights? That workers have rights? We protect those that are vulnerable or being oppressed. That’s is what a moral and ethical society does. That is our responsibility. readers for Animal Rights. I agree, Gary, as always, when you care to educate. But abolition and Civil Rights weren’t won by shouting at those who were ignorant, or hating them. Change is best won through education. Conversation. Dialogue. The changing of minds. ~ W.


Gary Smith They weren’t won by confusing people that you are talking rights when you’re not. Change the title of the page.


Jonathan Eells

It’s tempting and even comforting to agree with you, Gary, about what we do as an ethical species (I don’t agree about the “ethical species” thing; I’m just rollin’ with it for the nonce). But as a species we do not uniformly protect the …vulnerable or aid the oppressed, in the sense that there are some vulnerabilities that we exploit and some people whom we would like to fully oppress. I, for example, wish to completely eradicate religious extremists of all flavors, and given the chance I won’t be at all nice about it. I protect children, and the weak, and other people about whom I have very tender feelings. But now my “responsibility” as a member of your proposed “ethical species” has devolved to the level of my personal decision rather than a species-level determinant of some sort. Animals, it must be said, protect their children, too – but you don’t want to be the old and sick animal at the back of the herd, now, do you… Humans are animals.

# readers for Animal Rights. Gary, until you choose to speak respectfully, you’re gonna get nowhere. Your ability to speak with those you disagree with in an open and changing-one’s-mind manner appears to need a little love. ~ W.


Ashley Mills

For those who believe in “humane” meat, please visit From that site – Labels such as “Cage Free,” “Free Range,” “Humane Certified,” “Grass Fed,” “Organic,” and “Local” make it seem like those who are willing …to pay a higher price can enjoy eggs, dairy, and meat from small-scale “humane” farms that treat animals with compassion and respect. But is the public being misled? The answer is YES. Please please wake up, the animals *NEED* us!

# readers for Animal Rights. There is such a thing as dialogue. Even your typing in all caps seems to say that you’re less interested in changing people’s minds than being right.

Partisan liberals & conservatives, feminists, gun lovers, religious types, and yes vegans would do well to reread this quote: ~ Waylon.

# readers for Animal Rights. Please sign your name, or first name…ls doesn’t make sense to anyone. We’re trying to own our words here for reader clarity. ~ Waylon.


Lisa Shapiro

waylon, i have no need to admin this page if you are going to continue to post happy meat posts and comments. it is disingenuous and you know that, but continue to disregard the “animal rights” part of the title of this page. but how long a…s this discussion between you and i been going on? too long i’d say. and the fact that your yoga conference that you were an ambassador for served all kinds of animal parts, bodies, excretions makes me think that you never even considered a food ethic for a conference you were such a visible part of. so disappointing and hypocritical on so many levels. but what is new.


Ashley Mills

Waylon, I believe you are sadly mistaken. And I’m not sure if your comment refers to my comment or the one who posted this post but I believe the answer is the same. The reason I used caps for two words was to stress those words. We aren…’t able to hear each other on here so one does that to note speech inflection. Nothing more, nothing less.

The fact is I feel very strongly there is no such thing as “humane” meat. How would one humanely kill an animal for the sole purpose of being someone’s food? How would you “humanely” kill your dog to be someone’s food. Would that be possible in your mind? The problem here is the end result. I’m thinking the most “humane” one can get is if the animal is treated as a pet then killed by their guardian (no need to go to a slaughterhouse). A cow, chicken, pig could live the best life, but at the end of the day, they are going to end up being killed for their flesh. Is that fair to them as sentient beings? To leave their families in such a horrible fashion just because humans like the taste of their flesh? Scientists have said that piggies are as smart as a three year old child. How would you feel if we started killing three year old children for their meat? There is no difference here. A dog is a pig is a whale is a human. We are all connected and we all deserve *equal* kindness and compassion.See More

6 hours ago · LikeUnlike

# readers for Animal Rights. I just posted an article on how pigs are smarter or as smart as dogs. I don’t eat animals. I agree killing is not humane.

That said, I want to see an end to factory farming torture, so I do post articles that offer meat-eaters a step forward toward compassion. One step at a time, for many. Education over judgment will get us there faster. ~ W.

# readers for Animal Rights.


Lisa Shapiro

you agree “killing is not humane” but still participate it it by continuing to consume eggs, dairy (after years upon years of education and dialogue). and the conference that you were ambassador of over the weekend had lambs, chickens,cows …and who knows who else on the menus. it’s hard to stay loving and open hearted all the time when so much brutality is happening every moment of the day and you endorse it with misleading and inappropriate articles on page called Animal Rights. You really don’t seem to understand and say you do.

# readers for Animal Rights. Lisa, if you and Gary see and treat me as an enemy, good luck with the rest of the world. I’ve become more and more vegan, as you well know, through being around you two and reading your articles. I’ve also become more and more convinced that aggression defeats activism, rather than furthers it. ~ W.

BTW, Lisa, you drive a car, right? I don’t. You eat palm oil? I’m sure you do 1,000 things that can be quite directly connected to the decimation of nature and wildlife. The point is not that you’re hypocritical—but that none of us are. We’re doing our best, and better all the time, thanks to education and respectful dialogue—not shouting matches. ~ W.


Roger Wolsey I do indeed love Smithfield ham. It’s a major part of my family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations (my mother is from Virginia). This is a major bummer. : (# readers for Animal Rights. Well, hopefully other local pigs will do the trick…more humanely. The above is truly fully madly awful. ~ W.


Roger Wolsey i’m sure the local pigs are fine, the problem is that few places know how to cure the meat in that tasty Smithfield way.


Amy Spiezio I will never understand this.

# readers for Animal Rights. Why would anyone subscribe to a FB page about animal rights and fucking eat animals? Why is this complicated? GS readers for Animal Rights. Well, GS, as you know factory farms are full of torture. But you’ve stopped reading the above, perhaps, just knee-jerk react to the title? My view is if we can reduce the support of factory farms, that would be a huge first step. My more important view is that dialogue is vital. Your and Lisa’s view is that there is right and wrong and no point to have a dialogue. ~ Waylon


Kezia Jauron

I would be so offended by that statement if I were Lisa or Gary. If you have such disdain for them and the work they’re doing, why invite them to contribute to a page?

It’s also offensive and hurtful that ” EJ readers for Animal Rights” adv…ocates eating pigs. If you still don’t understand why that’s offensive and hurtful, there’s no point in continuing the “dialogue.” And on that note, it appears to me it’s only considered “dialogue” when your view is featured. If our view is featured, it’s fanaticism. I have to call foul (fowl) on that. You do not hold the patent on how to advocate for animal rights.

P.S. Some time ago we asked you to change the name of this page to something more inclusive and general (like animal protection or animal lovers) so as not to confuse or mislead people. When you insist on calling it an animal rights page, but don’t understand or appreciate the basic foundation of the animal rights movement, it just misrepresents animal rights, and ultimately sets us back. So once again I will helpfully suggest: change the name to “readers who love animals” or “readers for animal protection” and avoid trying to represent a sociopolitical agenda.

# readers for Animal Rights. Kezia, you can’t change the name of a page if it has more than 25 fans or something, I don’t think. And I think all the fans of this page do support Animal Rights…so not sure of the problem. The problem is when we have one definition of that that supercedes dialogue. I don’t think I’m right on any of my opinions—I’ve learned an awful lot from Lisa and Gary, despite and not because of their righteous anger.

# readers for Animal Rights.

I do think I’m right about holding a space, a container, a community where dialogue is encouraged. That’s something I care about deeply. If that means that various fans of this page aren’t already all vegan, that’s good. As with climate cha…nge, we’ll save the world more quickly by getting SUV drivers in cars and car drivers on bikes or walking or public transport than all congratulating ourselves within a small cycling club. ~ W.


Irish Summerhill I eat meat and I subscribed to for the same reason I subscribe to Organic gardening…..I’m on a journey to eat better and be responsible for what I eat. Your page has given me much insight on being responsible for what I eat. I still eat meat and I don’t have a totally organic garden but I am working on both. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!!!!


Kezia Jauron

Gary, Lisa, and I didn’t get together as a “club” to define animal rights. You speak as if we have and we’re “righteous” about *our definition.* It is not ours.

As Gary said, the movement to abolish slavery wasn’t about kindness to slaves…. Had you been alive then, would you have wanted a “dialogue” about whether people who own slaves could still be called abolitionists? What if they give their slaves weekends off? What if we don’t sell their children until they’re 18 years old? Abolition was about ending slavery. People who didn’t support ending slavery were not abolitionists. I hope this comparison makes it clearer.

Similarly you cannot say you support animal rights and eat animals. Again, we are not making this up. The animal rights movement predates us and will antedate us, probably. Yet I feel we three get the brunt of your disgruntlement, maybe because we’re the only animal rights advocates you know. But please try to set aside your certainty for a moment and consider that you don’t know as much about the animal rights movement as you assume you do, and be open to the possibility that you are not clear on the issue.


Roger Wolsey you’d think folks would encourage and support animal eater’s shifts toward moderation and against torture. sheesh.

# readers for Animal Rights. Kezia, thanks for your thoughtful response. I am vegetarian, as you know, just to be clear. That said, I do think folks who eat (kill) animals do love animals, generally—and just need help, ie education, connecting the two. They’re so disconnected, emotionally and physically, in today’s corporate society. ~ W.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & 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. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


12 Responses to “How to turn the whole planet Vegan.”

  1. Chelsea Podowski says:

    Waylon, I just wanted to say that your articles are the reason I became a member of elephant. Keep rockin’ it.

  2. How dare you be reasonable, Waylon Lewis! Don't you know you must always take an extreme position on just one issue, ignoring others and holding fast to your ideology in order to get things changed in this world! For shame.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Thing is, Duff, I really do generally agree with my vegan friends, and hope to be vegan myself, I think. I just don't get why it's best not to include those who eat meat etc in the conversation…why we all have to agree all the time. Respectful dialogue will get all of us where we want to get—not being meanies.

  4. aleangelico says:

    btw, im atheist, and think everyone who believes in God is obviously a plain idiot. Its not their fault, its their lack of education and insight. They cannot think by themselves and so, the put their hopes in a greater "person", call it God, or Karma for all it helps.

    Im sure if we could discuss the issue, they will agree with me, because I'm the enlighted one, no them, the "believers". But they usually dont understand reasoning, they always takes these extreme postures that I (a reasonably person) cannot deal with.

    And if you didnt get the sarcasam, let me explain myself better.
    We are HUMNAS, aka omnivore animals. We eat meat, and vegetables, and grain. Its what we are, just plain animals. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH KILLING ANOTHER ANIMAL FOR EATING!!!. NOTHING WRONG WITH TAKING MILK FROM A COW, OR EGGS FROM A CHICKEN.

    If you for been a vegan are not letting your kids to eat diary or meat (as many people I know do) you are not defending the animals right of your kids, what should be the most important thing you should do.

    I eat meat, but I dont feel the urge to convice everybody else they have to eat meat. Why the vegans need this?

  5. Joe Illingworth says:

    as an unabashed omnivore I personally find it interesting that those advocating for the rights of animals frequently use the “ending slavery” argument as a counterpoint to the idea of human beings eating “sentient” pigs, cows, etc. its a combination misappropriation/fallacy in my book.

    first animals are not human beings in that they do not have the mental capacity to actively consider and plan for the future. we see squirrels gathering nuts for the winter and assume that they are doing it actively. wrong. it’s instinctive because generations of squirrels before them survived the winter by properly preparing for it. they are not sentient in the true sense of the word. to take it in a more general sense, i.e. they have feelings, notice the world around them, sense pain, etc. you need to include all life-forms on this planet and stop eating anything but rocks and dirt. peppers are “killed” when you cut them from the stem and start to decay. from a moralistic perspective you are no better than me, except that I eat peppers and chicken together.

    secondly, to compare a human being, especially of African origins, to a pig or a dog, no matter the reason for doing so, is suspect in my book and my suggestion is that you take a deep look into your soul and reexamine your priorities before continuing any line of argument based on that comparison. I may eat meat, but I don’t think abolitionists would approve of your using them as an example of why we should be treating animals better.

    overall, I won’t jump into the animal rights issue, because I love to eat bacon. I only eat it rarely because it’s not good for my heart. however, the so-called “animal rights” activists, based on the above comments, seem to be picking a fight with the wrong person. Waylon may not be a purist, but he does a lot of good in the world and seems to be making more of an impact than you are. he may be flawed, but we all are and I think you would be better served trying to figure out and fix your own flaws rather than pointing out his. that, and complaining about the name of a Facebook group is like being a grammar nazi. you might be right, but you’re not making any friends by being an asshole about it.

  6. vegancupcake says:

    im not sure jews (including myself) would appreciate your use of the word nazi. :you may want to look deep into your soul and reexamine your priorities before using the word nazi to refer to grammar again. 😉

    also, lisa has done so much for animals. she has shown so many people the positive aspects of a vegan diet, has gotten so many restaurants to start serving more vegan food, including special vegan dinners every week or month depending on the restaurant. she has gotten stores to offer more cruelty-free food, has been involved in a lot of vegan outreach and campaigns and has generally been a blessing to animal, social, and environmental causes for 25 years.

  7. vegancupcake says:

    …continued from below… yes, waylon does wonderful things too, elephantjournal being one of them. elephant journal is all about growing and learning and changing and there is nothing wrong with encouraging someone else (even waylon) on their path to enlightenment and compassion. yes, he is vegetarian but there is still much cruelty in vegetarianism.. any peer-reviewed animal agriculture journal will tell you this. if one day waylon is able to come to terms with this cruelty and make positive changes toward an even more compassionate lifestyle, he will not only be helping the animals and the environment, but will be able to reach out to even more people through the elephantjournal and help them on their journey. there are certainly things that we can all learn from waylon, too, and i am all for that! but it doesnt mean he should be immune from a nudge in a positive direction.

  8. vegancupcake says:

    i do agree that people like to make their own decisions about things and are less likely to listen to any information – even if it makes complete sense – if they feel like they are being brow-beaten. that is certainly not how i would want anyone to feel with regard to any discussion on veganism/animal rights. however, i hope that we don't confuse passion or opinion with being an asshole. Animal advocates do have opinions and do need to speak up and try to influence the world in a positive way and help people see that there is a more compassionate way to live (because when you know better, you do better). if we ever want to give animals a voice so they dont suffer senseless deaths every single day by the millions (including egg laying hens, dairy cows, etc), then we have to seek change, we can't always let things go. even issues that may seem small at the time (like changing the name of a facebook page), could signal the start of something bigger. so as i am civil to you, i hope you will also know that saying something related to animal rights doesnt automatically make you an asshole OR a fanatic. 🙂

  9. vegancupcake says:

    oops, i totally screwed this up. so my comment that i had to split up into three parts due to space constraints got kind of posted in the wrong order. it was supposed to go like this:

    1. im not sure jews including myself would appreciate….
    2. yes, waylon does wonderful things, too….
    3. i do agree that people like to make their own….

  10. AnnetteVictoria says:

    Joe's right. What does human enslavement have to do with eating? It's a false analogy.

  11. Jered Morgan says:

    When you say "turn the whole planet vegan" are you referring to carnivorous animals too? If not, why not? Would you if you could? Do you think they should be if they could be? If you think they humans should be if they could be, then wouldn't you think animals should be if they could be, and if you think animals should be if they could be, and if they can't… then ??? I'm trying to point out the failings of moralism. Of navigating one's life from a set of rules and concepts.

  12. […] I’m struggling increasingly to keep quiet about is how vegans too often eat […]