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It's Easy to be Vegan - speech by Butterflies Katz

I learned about veganism from the writing of Jay Dinshah; the man who brought the philosophy over from the U.K. and started the American Vegan society.

In 1944, in the U.K., a man named Donald Watson broke away from The Vegetarian Society, after he realized that the exploitation of animals went far beyond the eating of meat. Along with a handful of other individuals, he pioneered a new movement, with his organization called The Vegan Society. With the publication of their first newsletter, Donald Watson coined the term  ‘vegan’, which he described as a word made up of the beginning and the end of the word ‘vegetarian’, explaining that veganism takes the reasons behind vegetarianism to their full and logical conclusion. The Vegan Society released to the public the following definition:

“The word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

Today, more than 60 years later, the word is recognized around the world. Even celebrities such as Bill Clinton adopted a plant-based diet for health reasons, and many athletes are eliminating animal foods for a healthier body and better workout results. However, along with this kind of mainstream acceptance, the true significance of the word has been largely lost, and the meaning of veganism has become confused. Rather than looking to non-vegans for a definition of veganism, I’d like to offer the following definition from a Facebook survey of 850 vegan activists around the world:

“Veganism is recognizing the right of all sentient animals to be treated with respect and justice. Therefore vegans do not consume/wear or use animals or take part in activities of their exploitation.”

Since its inception, veganism has always been a stance of non-participation in animal exploitation; a protest against objectifying other fully conscious beings; against using other animals as if they were resources. Therefore vegans don’t buy into the “humanely raised” marketing tactics and reject the idea that farming animals can ever be considered “humane”.

It’s true that all species of animals are not equal in all ways, and that some are more intelligent than others. But we don’t base ‘not assaulting others’ on how  intelligent they are. Would we justify the assault of an intellectually disabled  human or a newborn baby? No. Rights should not be based on intelligence, but on sentience. A growing number of humans are waking up to the Truth that all animals are equal when it comes to the right not to be violently assaulted by humans – based on being aware, fully conscious, communicative beings that feel pain and can suffer much like we do.

Most people would agree that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering. Unlike some other animals, humans have NO physical need to consume animal products. Since we cannot justify our use of animals with reasons of necessity, it’s clear that we cause other animals to suffer for reasons of pleasure, habit, custom and convenience. Vegans believe that when one says “I like the taste of animal foods”, or “I like to wear leather, fur or wool” – it’s NOT justification for demanding the assault, oppression, enslavement, or death of any animal. One of the biggest misconceptions about veganism is that it’s only for those with “will-power” or a minority of the population. In fact, being vegan is for every human and it’s much easier than people think.

Becoming vegan is easy when one honestly examines the alternative; demanding and funding the atrocities that humans inflict on breathing, feeling, animals. We are working to legally remove the “property status” of animals. Although our current legal system treats them as things, their sentience gives them the right to be treated as legal persons; individuals with an interest in their own lives, rather than property that can be owned –or-- merchandise that is bought and sold. To quote professor of Law, Gary Francione: “…just as we recognize that every human, irrespective of her particular characteristics, has the fundamental right not to be treated as the property of another, we must recognize that every sentient (perceptually aware) nonhuman has that right as well.”

Regarding the dietary aspect of being vegan, long time vegans (including myself) are living proof that it’s easy to live healthfully without consuming animal products. In the past, this information was not out there, but now the facts are in. Even the world’s largest (mainstream) organization of food and nutrition professionals has this to say: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned total vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Being healthier makes life easier! And for vegans, it’s easy to go through life feeling healthy, rarely needing to take pharmaceuticals or go to doctors, because the food we eat is the most natural fuel for our bodies. Not only do vegans have a lesser risk of contracting the serious health conditions that plague our society, such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, but we tend to get fewer illnesses in general. Viruses, germs, bacteria, and cancer cells need two conditions to thrive; an environment low in oxygen and one that is acidic. Cheese, dairy, eggs, fish, chicken, all animal flesh, and honey are notably acid-forming. It's easy-street to "feel better" and get sick less.

Anyone with a supermarket or grocery store should have no problem sourcing whole foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, which are beautifully adequate to sustain us, and more nourishing than the processed plant-based convenience foods. However, if plant-derived dairy, egg, or meat replacement items help people to eat vegan, they’re a blessing for the animals and for us. There is an increasing awareness of the importance of whole foods, raw foods, plenty of dark leafy greens and green drinks, chia, flax and hemp seeds for omega 3 fats; and these vegan healthier options can easily be found in health food stores. With products like we’re showing you today, the only things making it difficult to become vegan are: excuses, rationalizations, and fears of breaking free from propaganda, or peer pressure.

Perhaps the hardest thing to relinquish when becoming vegan is dairy products like cheese. "I'm addicted", I used to say in jest. I later learned that humans really are addicted to cheese. Cheese contains a concentrated protein called casein. Researchers found that the casein in cow's milk contains opiates, called casomorphins; which are chemically similar to morphine. All mammalian mothers’ milk contains casomorphines so that their young will return to the breast for milk. (Keep in mind that, by nature, milk is meant for babies.) It appears that the opiates from mother's milk produce a calming effect on the infant and may be largely responsible for the mother-infant bond. Overcoming addictions can be challenging, but what makes it easy to give up cheese is awakening to disgust for the dairy industry. Instead, vegans discover new plant-based cheeses that are increasingly available in many stores (we have some for you to sample today), as well as home-made cheeses (you can find recipes in Incredibly Delicious; the recipe book I co-authored which you can purchase today). Vegan food is incredibly delicious and nourishing to our physical bodies and our spirits. It’s all about that change in perception and with that changed perception – living vegan is easy.

It gets easier with time to live vegan. There is an adjustment period in the beginning; a period of relearning food staples, but this time is made easier by educating oneself as to what is really going on to turn a living animal into a commodity. People seem to think that reading ingredient labels is daunting. In reality, it’s a fairly easy practice to ensure that you are not supporting any animal-harming industries. Even one ingredient, such as ‘casein’, is big business. Reading labels and not supporting products that contain any animal-derived ingredient is a great way, perhaps THE way, to put an end to animal exploitation. We, the purchasers have the power to stop demanding the products of cruelty that are being supplied.

“The Evolution of Moral Consciousness” clip by Evolve Campaigns:

The diet vegans eat; a plant-powered diet, comes with many health benefits – both to humans and also the planet. Opposing animal agriculture is the most significant thing one can do to combat global warming and environmental devastation – which affects all of us. Our so called personal choices affect all inhabitants of Earth. WorldWatch Institute reports that 51% of Global CO2 emissions are directly attributed to “livestock” and their products. Animal farming is the main cause of the deforestation of the Amazonian rainforest; the lungs of our planet. Animal farming is the largest global consumer of our limited fresh water supply. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that “The livestock sector emerges as one of the 2 or 3 most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from  local to global.” (The breeding and farming of animals for food is the biggest contributor to global warming according to the United Nation’s report entitled Livestock’s long shadow.)

It’s easier to go through life following what your higher self knows is right, even when you are surrounded by opposition. Supporting the needless suffering of those with pain receptors, a nervous system and brain; those who are capable of feeling pain - is not in alignment with our better, more respectful and empathetic selves. Being vegan is just basic decency towards others – the Golden Rule - nothing extreme about it. Nothing fringe about it anymore like when I started out 3 decades ago pre-internet - millions of people are becoming vegan and together we are becoming a social justice movement that is taking root all over the world.

The Vegan Society clip here  ~ "Do you want to make History?"

Eating vegan is as easy as going down a different aisle in the grocery store for your protein source. Plant protein is more than adequate to nourish us. Instead of heading for the meat, dairy, and egg departments, one can choose to head over to the refrigerated section where the highest sources of plant proteins are sold, such as tofu, tempeh, soy sausages, and hummus, or to the aisle with beans, lentils, split peas, peanuts and other legumes. Incidentally, soy has more protein than animal products. (Please purchase non-GMO and organic soy, though.) Even fruit and vegetables contain protein, not to mention nuts and seeds and whole grains. It boils down to a choice of one aisle where the protein is sourced from imposing cruelty and death on conscious animals, or the protein from plants; which are not conscious. It’s about making less cruel choices.

Instead of buying purses, wallets, belts, shoes, and clothes made of leather, wool, down, fur, or silk; the skins of animals that were literally (and brutally) stolen off their backs (and leather tanning facilities are an environmental disaster, as well) - instead we can choose to purchase cloth, canvas, hemp, rubber, pleather, synthetics, (secondhand whenever possible). This last quarter of a century brought with it shoes marked “all man-made-materials”; conveniently found in discount department stores or Payless. There are also hemp shoes, Crocs and their imitations, and many online vegan shoe lines and shops; specializing in vegan alternatives that are also ecologically-friendly. When we use our purchasing power to protest animal consumption (by purchasing vegan products), we’re helping to create a world where it will be easy for everybody to be vegan.

Why Vegan video from Evolve Campaigns in the U.K.

As we veganize, we start seeing what a Great Truth we stumbled upon. How do we know this? Because, from any angle you examine the vegan ideal, it is as a solution…from environmental sustainability, to human health issues, to having enough food to feed starving children instead of funneling much of the grain and soy crops inefficiently through purposely-bred animals, to standing in opposition of violence, to a hope for ending wars (vegans don’t kill animals, and humans are animals), to awakening people to their more humane selves; with a more expanded concern for other species as well as their own and the planet we all share.

We are rewarded for deciding to live vegan, with a healthier physical body and mind, interspecies friendships that come when other animals sense that we mean them no harm, and a clearer conscience knowing that we walk this earth without being complicit in the crimes against nonhumanity. It brings a certain magic to life that is well worth whatever perceived hardships one imagines. It becomes more automatic and staying vegan gets easier as we understand it deeper, with time. We don’t see veganism as some great feat or a sacrifice - but a joy, a moral imperative, the first step, and just basic respect towards other   animals.

After three decades of living vegan, there is one thing I can say with conviction - it’s easy to be vegan! I would find it very hard, in fact impossible, not to be vegan – I could not be a part of the violent assault of other feeling animals. I believe in nonviolence. If you need to learn more about why animal products are so inextricably linked with extreme violence, and to see the gruesome process for yourself, watch the movie ‘Earthlings’ – seen for free on-line, narrated by the actor Joaquin Phoenix; who has been vegan since age 3. We will now see the first 9 minutes of the film which does not show gory scenes - together with another non-graphic clip depicting the psychological torment experienced by a sentient being who is scared and does not want to die.

Thank you for coming and making it through these films; you’ve certainly earned your free lunch today! There are volunteers here who are vegan and are wearing a name tag if you have questions. If you need a mentor, there are some volunteers. Ask one of us later. (The sponsor of this event has a phenomenal web-site, visit: http://gentleworld.org and sign up for the free monthly newsletter. The founders of Gentle World have been vegan for 43 years.

Before we start our food sampling and visit the educational vegan product tables, I would like to end with a poem that was written over a hundred years ago; a poem that greatly inspired me.

This poem was written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

The World’s Need
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
is all this sad world needs.
I am the voice of the voiceless:
Through me, their hearts shall speak;
Till the deaf world’s ear be made to hear
the cry of the wordless weak.
From lab, from cage and from forests,
From slaughterhouse stalls, comes the wail
of my tortured kin. They proclaim the sin
of the mighty against the frail.
For love is the true religion,
And love is the law sublime;
And all that is wrought, where love is not
Will die at the touch of time.
Oh, shame on the mothers of mortals
who have not stopped to teach
of the sorrow that lies in an animal’s eyes,
The sorrow that has no speech.
The same Power formed the sparrow
that fashioned man – the King;
The God of the whole gave a living soul
to furred and to feathered thing.
And I am my brother’s keeper,
And I will fight his fight;
And speak the word for beast and bird
Till the world shall set things right.

This article originally appeared on the Veganism: A Truth Whose Time has Come website

M Butterflies Katz

M Butterflies Katz is based in the USA and New Zealand and has been a vegan for over 3 decades. She runs the blog Veganism: A Truth Whose Time has Come, previously wrote for the now-retired Australian Vegan Voice magazine and is the Co-author of Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm by Gentle World

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