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Firstly, please let me say, I understand.
I understand why you disagree with me.
I understand why you choose not to like me before you even know me.
I understand why you force your beliefs upon me, and I commend you on your research into a subject you are so passionate about.
And absolutely, I agree with you.
Because yes, although I am a farmer, I too believe there are many practices farmers can undertake that would show more compassion for animals, significantly improve the sustainability of our earth, reduce carbon emissions, and leave a brighter future for following generations.
I understand, like you say that you want to make this world a better place—and believe me, you have my solidarity on your vision.
But then you begin to throw other words at me. Words like cruel, savage, uneducated, unintelligent, closed-minded. You say that I need to wake up to your perspective, which you believe to be the one absolute truth, and anybody who is not following this truth is unenlightened.
And this, Dear Vegan, is where you lost me.
Because you preach compassion for all living creatures, yet refuse to treat a fellow human with respect and kindness when they exercise their freedom in a way that differs from yours.
Dear Vegan, you do not know me. You do not know my morals and ethics. You do not know of my tender heart and my love for animals. You do not know of my compassion. You do not know of the farming practices my husband and I undertake to give our animals the healthiest and happiest life. And I’m sorry, but you cannot make this world a better place when you spout condemnation, judgment and hate toward people who you do not know the heart of, and who do not share your point of view.
And the thing is, by showing such callous disrespect to a fellow human being, you have done your cause a major disservice. Because I was interested in your beliefs. I did want to know more about ways you feel we can work together to build a better future. I would have loved to have shared thoughts and ideas with you for a more enlightened society.
You insult me by saying I am ignorant, uneducated and lack intelligence and compassion. You lace your beliefs with insults without even taking the time to understand mine.
We have all been given a life to live as we see fit. We are faced with a tirade of moral, spiritual and ethical choices: breastfeed or bottle-feed, school or homeschool, faith or atheism, career mum or stay at home, vegan or non-vegan.
We make these choices based on our circumstances, our knowledge, our research, our education, our life experience. These choices are not an exposition of wrong or right. They just are. They represent our freedom of choice, our ability to think for ourselves and choose our own path in life.
And the moment we start judging people on these choices is the moment we trade our gift of humanity for something less. We taint the world with shades of our bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness. We lose the privilege and joy of seeing a community come together for a cause that will only bring benefit to all; and instead witness a community that becomes divided by anger and hostility.
We will never live in a world where every person believes one and the same. Yes, the idea of making the world a better place is something we should all strive toward. But even if the world were to consist of only vegans, this would still not necessarily make the world a better place.
The goodness of our hearts is not defined by the choices we make, but in the person we choose to be.
What will make this world a better place is the way we reflect love, kindness, respect and compassion to others. The way we accept the choices others make as their choices and live alongside them in peace, even if their choices don’t align with our beliefs.
We need to understand how we choose to live our lives is our own perspective of the world we live in; our own unique privilege. And to deny another person that same privilege only takes away from the paradigm of freedom that we so readily embrace for ourselves.
Dear Vegan, we have made different choices in life based on our individual beliefs. I love the fervor with which you stand up for what you believe in. I love your heart, and that you only desire to make the world see things the way you do.
And while I don’t always agree with your beliefs, I choose to respect them and to live alongside you in peace.
And all I ask, Dear Vegan, is you choose the same for me.
Author: Kathy Parker
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Sara Kärpänen