From Rocky Mountain Oysters to Nirvana. ~ Kim Amlong

Via elephant journal
on Jul 29, 2012
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I spent my childhood and teenage years in the wild west where all the men are men, the sheep are nervous and the women have to be macho to survive.

I lived in a world where Bach, Mozart and Beethoven didn’t exist. The only culture was rodeo, and the occasional circus. The sole entertainment in town was the local bar; cable TV was unavailable; the only movie theater was 10 miles away.

Thank God, I had my horse companions.

Although, I didn’t grow up on a farm, I  was surrounded by them and never had to worry about trespassing on a neighbor’s property. The people in Montana were (I left in 1985 at the age of 19, and have only been back once in 1996) always extremely friendly and opened their doors to complete strangers without hesitation.

In fact, no one I knew ever locked their doors.

However, this incredible openness towards other humans never extended to any other species.

I was taught to believe that animals were here for our use and that animals didn’t feel pain or have the capacity to feel any emotion like we can.

Cats and dogs—like every other animal—never entered the house, even during the most brutal winter days.

Everyone loved fishing or hunting with a bow and arrow or gun. Everyone ate steak and eggs for breakfast. Everyone ate meat three times a day, and everyone’s father, brother or sister brought home freshly killed deer or elk or even antelope.

I even went through the firearm safety class at school, but was never interested in using a gun for any purpose.

(Photo: Captain Subtle)

My girlfriends learned to hunt and would love to brag to you about their abilities to shoot a deer or an elk. The boys our age would shoot gophers and rabbits for fun.

And, even though I didn’t hunt, I did partake in the horrors of animal slaughter by occasionally stoning to death a rattlesnake and then cutting off the rattles to bring home as a souvenir. Talk about disconnection. I was the epitome of it.

I loved the countryside and the freedom of the open space.

I spent my carefree days competing in barrel racing, pole bending and endurance races with my horses. I even went to rodeo Bible camp one summer and learned how to torture a poor goat by tying all of its legs together—one of the “feminine” rodeo events. Meanwhile, the boys abused the rest of the animals: roping calves, riding bulls and broncs and wrestling steers.

Often, I would ride my horse to school. I could leave my horse in a friend’s nearby corral  or even staked out on a rope in the school’s football field. No one ever bothered my horses, as horses were not a novelty to them.

However, vegetarianism was a novelty. In fact, it didn’t exist where I grew up.

I cannot remember meeting one single vegetarian until I was in my twenties and far away from the Big Sky country.

I stopped eating meat when I was 18, while I was attending Montana State University. Oh, and guess what I was studying—animal agriculture.

Amazing. I wanted to live out my days on a bucolic farm herding up the sheep and cattle.

I didn’t stop eating meat because I knew any better. I stopped eating it because I didn’t like the taste and I wanted to be thin.

Do you know what Rocky Mountain Oysters are?

Well, they are a delicacy to every Montana cowboy.

I was so disconnected as a child and teenager, it didn’t phase me to see vulnerable calves, cruelly roped and hurled onto the rocky, unforgiving ground.

Are you ready for what comes next, guys?

With no anesthesia, the calf’s testicles are then cut off—but the pain and torture isn’t finished yet. A metal rod with the ranch’s insignia is heated in a fire and then jammed into the calf’s sensitive skin to brand him or her as a piece of the ranch’s property.

Well, now you know.

After the masochism is over, the cowboys celebrate by dining on their fresh Rocky Mountain oysters.

Are you repulsed at the thought of eating a calf’s testicles? Why? Did you ever think about how much the culture we live in influences our dietary choices?

This is why there are books to help us understand, like Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Dr. Melanie Joy.

My road to being an ethical vegan was neither short nor easy.

After I attended college for a year, I decided I wanted to ride horses for a living and moved to Florida to take part in the egregious thoroughbred horse racing industry.

I rode racehorses and traveled around to different tracks in the US , then in France and Italy for five years. Never once did the thought cross my mind that there was anything wrong with keeping animals locked up in a 10 by 10 foot box 23 hours a day and then letting them out for an hour to run around in a circle.

Writing this article forces me to confront the atrocities I have been a part of in my life and enables me to empathize with people who aren’t yet connected to the whole of life.

While riding the horses to me at that time was great fun and not work at all,  I knew I wanted to do something more with my life.

After coming back from Europe in 1990, I decided to have an HIV test, not because I thought I might have it, but because a person I had been in a relationship with told me he always had tests for everything when he returned home to Sweden after his yearly travels.

Guess what? I was HIV positive. At that time, there was no medication available, and you had a life-expectancy of a few years—at best.

I love to blame this vicissitude of my life on my lack of education.

At school, I vividly recall how the forest ranger tucked himself into a tight ball to demonstrate how to protect your internal organs in case of a grizzly bear attack; however, no one ever demonstrated how to properly use a condom to protect ourselves from STD’s.  Afflicted by ignorance and cognitive dissonance, I eliminated the only fear traversing my mind with a simple birth control pill.

The devastating, surreal news of my HIV status catapulted me back to school.

I had planned on traveling around the world with some friends, but instead I moved back home with my parents. To make a long, boring, story shorter. I graduated in 1995 with a Master’s degree in physical therapy. I had to quit working as a physical therapist in 2000 due to the treatment for AIDS and the chronic fatigue which prevented me from functioning well enough to work.

Now, you understand why the road was neither short nor easy.

Over the years, I have battled with opportunistic infections and medications that I must take if I want to remain in this physical form.

It has only been through the sincere practice of yoga and its philosophy that I have been able to open my heart and to understand that we are all one.

I wrote a poem in 2000 that guides me to this day:


This disease is really a blessing in disguise.

A gift bestowed upon me to open my eyes to the true reality of life forever existing behind the

Veil of limited perceptions.

Fortunately, the seemingly, unwelcome, unsolicited visitor arrived to liberate me from

Endless cycles of redundant misery.

Steadily opening, finally, is my cold, wounded heart to all God’s creation and its innate divinity.

Finished are years of frantically rushing needlessly from place to place worrying whether

Culture and society accept  me and all that I embrace.

Skillfully was I awakened from my deep, tenebrous slumber to the epiphany of my numbered days.

I fear no more the limits of my time here, but instead I cherish each and every moment and

Opportunity to learn, and to grow and to evolve my soul.

I follow the path that releases one from corporeal death’s inevitable grasp and the

Quenchless desires that chain one to earth’s abysmal mire of poignant pain and sorrow and

Ephemeral happiness that speciously promises an ever better morrow.

Immortal are we, and “love” and “oneness” are the keys that will set us free into the

Ineffable, supernal bliss of Universal Consciousness.

I finally became an ethical vegan in 2001 due to the blessings of two things:

  1.  An open heart cultivated through a sincere yoga practice.
  2. Vegan friends who were not afraid to speak up to educate me about the inherent cruelty, suffering and destruction in every animal product available on the market.

Inspired by my vegan friends and their dedication to talking about such important issues, I have been running a campaign to help the Wanderlust Festival evolve to being cruelty-free or at least vegetarian.

I feel this is extremely important because Wanderlust is a hugely popular and growing festival that could positively influence countless people to help create a better world for all of us. (Please see my previous article: “Are Yoga Festivals Evolving  into Mindless Meat Fests?“)

I have had very little support from the yoga community in this campaign.

I believe most teachers are afraid of losing students by taking a stand on the issue.

I am not asking anyone to change their diet, although my greatest wish in life is for a vegan world.

I am asking everyone to be open to being informed about our dietary choices.

I am asking teachers to uphold the keystone of yoga philosophy—ahimsa—by not teaching at festivals that are not at least vegetarian.

I am asking everyone of you who takes the time to read this article, to deeply contemplate what you believe in, and why.

Don’t be just another automaton completely oblivious to your self-induced chains.

Determine who you are and stand up for who you are.

I feel at the core of my being that I must stand up for those innocent victims who are unable to stand up for themselves. Don’t wait for the world to change. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

I hope we will all reach the nirvana of our dreams.

Meanwhile, may we strive to be positive, loving and respectful of all life and the diversity of all creation.


Kim Amlong has a Master’s degree in physical therapy and practiced physical therapy for five years.  A  devoted practitioner of yoga since 1997, she  completed the Iyengar yoga teacher training program with Patricia Walden (her primary teacher) and assisted Patricia Walden with her classes for two and a half years. Kim has been an avid student and practitioner of qigong since 1999 and has completed courses in Kripalu and Para yoga. Kim served as the Director of Teachers for five years at Karma Yoga Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During that time, she studied with Jesse Winder (owner of Karma Yoga Studio), and acted as a consultant, as he developed his own style of yoga, PhysioYoga.  Kim has a keen interest in energy awareness and its health benefits and teaches an eclectic style that emphasizes anatomical alignment, relaxation, breath, body and energy awareness in a joyful, inspiring atmosphere. Kim encourages students to question everything and to feel confident in exploring postures best-suited to their individual needs and goals. She loves sharing the transformative benefits of yoga and  qigong with everyone who is interested, and follows a vegan diet for her health, the animals and the planet.


Editor:  April Dawn Ricchuito

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25 Responses to “From Rocky Mountain Oysters to Nirvana. ~ Kim Amlong”

  1. Amy says:

    Such a powerful message in Kim's amazing journey to a beautiful place of compassion and consciousness!!!

  2. kim amlong says:

    Sean Hoess, Co-founder of Wanderlust said: “If we can get to a place where even a majority of our consumers are educated enough to forego all meat, then I will happily convert Wanderlust to a vegetarian event.” Be a Force of Positive Change For the World. Help Create the World’s Greenest, Most Consciousness-Awakening Festival. Ask Wanderlust to Go Vegetarian Today or Sign the Petition To Say No To Meat at Yoga Festivals. Countless Sentient Beings Will Thank You.

  3. kim amlong says:

    Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death. Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published just over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Michael Greger, M.D., offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers.
    Watch This and Ask Wanderlust to Take Meat off the Menu Today!

  4. kim amlong says:

    Please read this: The Ethics of Yoga and Veganism. Please ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu!!

  5. kim amlong says:

    Please take the time to be informed and help Wanderlust become the world's Greenest, most Conscious Festival. Watch Gary Yourofsky’s speech and Ask Wanderlust take meat off the menu Today!

  6. kim amlong says:

    Please Read this and ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!!

  7. kim amlong says:

    Animal Agriculture is the number one Cause of Global warming. Watch this 5 minute video to learn the facts and Please Ask Wanderlust to take meat off the menu today!…!

  8. kim amlong says:

    I grew up in Montana a couple of miles from Howard Lyman's ranch. He is a great speaker and said "…I came from Montana. I would rather be caught riding a stolen horse than admitting to somebody that I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian." Please watch this and ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu today!

  9. kim amlong says:


    Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics.

    This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

    What if you could make one immediate change in your life that would significantly decrease global warming and other damage to the environment? Great news: you can. Stop eating meat.

    Perhaps the best thing you can do to save the environment is eat a plant-based diet, according to the United Nations, Sierra Club, Worldwatch Institute, Al Gore’s Live Earth, and many others. Even replacing just some of the meat you eat with grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, and other plant-based foods can make a big difference.

    Just changing the source of your meat won’t do much. As a recent New York Times op-ed by James E. McWilliams explained, there is no such thing as ecologically sustainable meat. Local, organic, free-range — all of it takes or will lead to a surprisingly large toll on the environment.

    Meat production may be the most important reason for global warming, which results almost entirely from a combination of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Raising animals for food is a major source of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of the other two gases: 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions, as Kathy Freston reports in The Huffington Post. The United Nations has concluded that eating a vegan diet “is vital to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change,” according to The Guardian.

    The livestock industry is largely responsible for deforestation, which obliterates ecosystems that would otherwise absorb carbon dioxide. According to Freston, “Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder.” Clearing all this land for pasture and feed crops also shrinks or eliminates the habitats for countless species of wildlife.

    Just cutting back on your meat consumption has an impact. Al Gore’s Live Earth organization reports that “If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save: 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months and 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare.” Joining the “Meatless Monday” movement, which encourages people to eat no meat for one day every week, could go a long way.

    Driving a Prius doesn’t even approach the impact of eating less meat. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” A University of Chicago study confirms that in terms of fossil fuel consumption, there is “an order of magnitude” difference “between dietary and personal transportation choices.” What is on your plate matters much more than what is in your garage.

    Climate change isn’t the only ill that the meat industry generates. Freston notes that “raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution [including the ammonia that causes acid rain, and] loss of biodiversity.” The livestock industry alone is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global,” according to the U.N.’s report.

    We don’t need to eat all this meat. We’d actually be healthier without it, as meat consumption plays a role in causing our three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer and stroke. To help protect the environment and your health, visit the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for a free Vegetarian Starter Kit. The earth will thank you.


  10. kim amlong says:

    “Today One Billion people are Hungry, 20 Million People will Die from Malnutrition. Cutting meat by only 10% could feed 100 million people and Eliminating Meat will End Starvation Forever.” Philip Wollen: Animals Should Be Off The Menu. Please Watch This and Ask Wanderlust to Take Meat off the Menu Today!!

  11. kim amlong says:

    Please watch this beautiful video to better understand how the sentient, beautiful animals we share the plant with need and deserve our love and protection. Please Ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!

  12. kim amlong says:

    Is Yoga Meat the New Happy Meat?

    The inhumanity of our society embraces meat as a necessity; even occluding meat from yoga festivals has become an impossibility.

    Disconnected from all pain and suffering and insensitivity, we perpetuate the atrocities afflicting billions of lonely, terrorized, unseen beings living in constant agony.

    Ignoring the facts of the scientific community, we continue to hopelessly destroy our health and our environment to the utmost degree. 

    We want to believe: heart disease, cancer, animal suffering, starving children and global warming are only myths propagated by crazy extremists.

    Speciously Green and Conscious mission statements abound, but animal welfare ethics are nowhere to be found.

    Hypocrites escape discovery when the masses are not awake, or are too afraid or too lazy to speak up for another’s sake.

    The power of money squelches compassion, leaving only cruelty to reign, in a kingdom where everyone feigns awareness and no one is to blame.

    Westernized yoga is becoming more a part of the American dream of Capitalism and greed than a sincere intention to help others evolve spiritually.

    Do I have to bend and weaken my ideals till they crumble into irreparable pieces of another elusive dream? How can I transform this chimera into reality?

    Yoga practice expands our abilities to empathize and connect with all sentient beings, and to profoundly care for and respect the fragile, earth and universe we share.

    Yoga provides us with the one and only guiding principle we need in life:  Ahimsa or non-harming.

    We create the world of heavens or hells in which we live. Every dollar we spend molds our lives and the lives of countless other precious beings. 

    I beseech you to responsibly tune into the cries and not turn away and shun the possibility of a world where Meat and all the horrendous death and destruction it inflicts no longer exists. 

    Finally, we will live in a free world where an all-inclusive community of peace and love and mindfulness releases us from our separateness.

  13. kim amlong says:

    Please have the courage to face the cruelty and suffering we perpetuate everyday with every dollar we spend by watching this informative video. Ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!!

  14. kim amlong says:

    Please watch: "THE WORLD PEACE DIET," AN INTERVIEW WITH DR. WILL TUTTLE and Ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!

  15. kim amlong says:

    "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism" Slideshow by Dr. Melanie Joy. Please watch this and ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!!

  16. kim amlong says:

    The strongest men in the world don’t eat meat. Watch these incredible Shaolin Monks and ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the menu Today!!

  17. kim amlong says:

    Watch The Peaceable Kingdom and then Ask Wanderlust to Go Cruelty-Free or at least Vegetarian.

  18. kim amlong says:

    Watch Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls”. Then ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the menu today! !

  19. kim amlong says:

    I am sorry the link above to Watch Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls” was wrong:

  20. kim amlong says:

    Watch: Animal Protein–Meat and Dairy–Cause Cancer. Then ask Wanderlust to Go Cruelty-Free or at least Vegetarian Today!

  21. kim amlong says:

    Watch this great fact-filled speech: Conscious Eating Conference: Crocodile Tears and then Ask Wanderlust to Go Cruelty-Free or at Least Vegetarian Today !

  22. kim amlong says:

    Watch this video to learn the diet that doesn’t involve counting calories. If you don’t care about your health, the animals or the planet, but you want to lose weight: Go Vegan!! And, please Ask Wanderlust to do the Same.

  23. kim amlong says:

    As an ethical vegan, I feel at the core of my being that I must speak up for the countless, innocent, voiceless victims of animal agriculture. As a person living with HIV, I must also speak up to help prevent the suffering of countless human victims. Please share this article to help end the AIDS epidemic Today!
    Sincerely in Light and Love for All Sentient Beings, Kim

  24. […] I have only shared the information of how I have kept my virus successfully under control on structured treatment interruption because I believe it is due to the incredible stress-reducing, immune-boosting and mood-enhancing benefits of an assiduous yoga and qigong practice that I am extremely grateful for every moment of my life. […]

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