January 6, 2012

5 Reasons Not To Be A Vegan—Confessions Of A Carnivore

I recently wrote an article sharing my decision to return to eating meat this year, the reactions and comments surprised me.

Why? Because I forgot how much anger, judgment and resentment exists in the world of yoga, animals and food. I ate my first tiny bite of meat (local pulled pork with BBQ sauce that I bought for my carnivore son from the farmers market). The good news is I did not get vaporized, nor did I roll around on the floor with massive stomach pains. Instead, I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders.

You are not any less of a yogi if you do eat meat, you are not any more of a yogi if you don’t eat meat.

This is my new quote I have revised from A Tribe Called Quest and their brilliant album Midnight Marauders. “You’re not any less of a man if you don’t pull the trigger, you’re not any more of a man if you do.”

I have been “struck” by the idea that vegans are the extreme members of our yoga community, a vocal minority that wields a big stick. While I appreciate and respect the source of that vegan anger is a desire to reduce the harm to animals, it is some what like thinking that throwing paint on someone wearing a fur coat will make them stop wearing fur. Finding positive ways to create change is critical to the success of our yoga movement.

Below is a picture of my friend Jennifer Harte, she is a vegan and found a way to laugh with me as I start eating meat again.

Jennifer Harte - Yoga Teacher (Vegan) at Cleveland Yoga - Photo by Cleveland Groove

5 Reasons Not To Be a Vegan

  1. Most of the animals we eat today, have been raised for food. Besides the hunters out there, most of the meat we eat exists purely because we will consume it. There is no actual increase in violence to wild and free animals because you eat meat. Actually a lot more vegetables are killed to feed vegans than cows are killed for the omnivores, really do the math (if you actually do the math, include everybody who eats vegetables – not just vegans).
  2. Anger destroys a lot of the benefits of yoga and minimizes the positive effects of doing less harm by not eating meat. Seriously, is it yogic to tell someone they are not yogic or when we say Namaste do we mean “the light in me recognizes the light in you that believes the exact same stuff I do.” I have been hurt by more vegans in a week than carnivores over the last 9 years. Do you really want to be an angry vegan?
  3. Human Trafficking. Tomatoes and Slaves in Florida? Crazy but true, tell me you don’t think abuse is limited to the tomato industry? If we have slavery providing the tomatoes coming out of Florida are we assuming the fruits and vegetables from foreign countries is harvested under better conditions? Or do we simply ignore the human labor required to produce all of the vegetables, hiding behind the rationalization that animals die so it must be worse? Worse than contributing to the abuse of humans? Enjoy those berries from Chile, I hope when you close your eyes at night you are enjoying sleeping on that 100% organic vegan bed, the guys that picked your berries are freezing in a hut without a toilet or running water.
  4. Honey is delicious and effective in battling allergies, especially when you use local honey. When you find yourself explaining that you don’t eat honey because of the abuse to bees, remember that the pure organic cane sugar was probably harvested in a third world country by people like you.
  5. You will have to give up your cats and dogs. Real yogic vegans will not stand for the abuse of animals caused by domestication. Are you ready to stop keeping your cat caged up in your house? Unleash the dog and let it be free? Rationalizing your ownership of another being in that you feed and house it and that it loves you does not excuse stealing the freedom of that animal.
Being a vegan does not make you more yogic, nor does it make you a better person. If modifying your lifestyle to be a vegan makes you angry at people who eat meat and inspires you to insult them, maybe it is not the best choice for you. Maybe you would be a kinder person if you ate a little local bacon roasted until it was crisp? Rather than eating 85% cacao bars that are bitter, try on the sweet side of life – Add a little whip cream and milk chocolate into your life. Maybe if you sweeten your tea with a little honey you will appreciate the bees that produced that deliciousness and share more joy with people.
I have heard many words used to describe yoga. I love the word Unity, it is part of the word commUNITY. I recognize the diversity in our yoga community and welcome the ripples becoming waves of change we are causing in the world. If you really want to “Be The Change You Wish To See In The World,” as Ghandi said, you have to start by getting on your mat and doing the hard work. In this strange way, we all become equals when we follow a sequence of poses together. If you see me at the coffee shop getting a light mocha with lots of whip cream, smile and enjoy the moment with me.
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