By Will Tuttle
April 29, 2014.
When I went vegan 34 years ago, it was because it seemed to be the right thing to do. I was rarely shy about discussing it with people, and challenging their nonvegan eating and behavior because I felt so strongly about it. I had gone vegetarian five years earlier, as my understanding of things grew and I learned of the connections between eating meat and human hunger, deforestation, pollution, species extinction, physical disease, mental obtuseness, spiritual deadening, and most of all, the hideous violence routinely perpetrated on animals used for food.
As I learned more about the cruelty involved in dairy and egg production, as well as in wool, leather, silk, honey, and in zoos, product testing, and the myriad other culturally-approved products and activities, I went vegan and endured the excruciating awakening that this can bring. The painful realization that my home culture is actually insanely cruel and disconnected, and that I am in many ways a product of that culture in my attitudes and behavior propelled me not just to go outwardly vegan with enthusiasm and commitment. I also yearned to understand how I might be able to go vegan at the deeper levels of my being, and embody veganism in a way that would increase my effectiveness as an advocate of vegan living to others.
Going vegan is like a second birth. Like birth, it is painful and disorienting to be ejected from the warm security of the known and comfortable, and like birth, it’s also liberating to begin a whole new life adventure of greater awareness. Freeing ourselves and emerging from the cultural trance injected into us by the societal food rituals that desensitize us and reduce our capacities, the vegan birth clears the way so that we can explore the deeper dimensions of consciousness. As we open to the hidden pain and trauma we inflict on animals and each other, we also open to more fully realizing the essential beauty, benevolence, freedom, and compassion that sing and shine as the heart of being and that are reflected in our world around us in all living beings.