How often do we need to use the word “vegan” ?

Lately, I’ve heard so many people talk about the word “vegan” and how it is overused. I talk about this with Jonathan Brant in episode 3 of Sanctuary Tour Podcast. The term “go vegan” is said so often by so many people in so many places. What does “go vegan” mean?? In my mind “go vegan” means to live as compassionately as I possibly can, not exploiting animals in any way. This means not eating them, not drinking their fluids, not using them for clothing, not using their feathers in pillows or blankets, not using their fur or feathers to stay warm, not wearing or using products that use animal testing or that have animal products in them. WHY?? because we don’t have to and because there are so many products available on the market without cruelty and harm to animals. Do we really need to say “go vegan” so often though? There are so many ways to promote compassionate living. So many ways to plant seeds…

How did I get here? That’s a long story, but I’ll try to put it in a nutshell. I read a book years ago called “Skinny Bitch.” I read this book to see what all the fuss was about, and how to lose weight (even thought looking back, I didn’t need to lose weight).   After reading this book, which promotes not eating animals, I looked in the back at the resources, and saw links to videos. Of course, I had to watch and was forever changed. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t consume meat anymore. The videos I saw, I could never un-see and they were horrific. What happens to animals before they get to our plate is horrible and I didn’t want to be a part of that torture ever again. HOWEVER, I continued to eat fish, and cheese, and eggs. At the time, I didn’t see fish as animals. I didn’t have a clue about the egg and dairy industry and to be honest didn’t give it much thought because chickens naturally lay eggs, and cows naturally produce milk. Right??? WRONG! It wasn’t until a few years later, when I started doing more research after my friend and acupuncturist Tricia Miller said to me that not eating dairy could help me with some symptoms I was having. I also hugely credit my friend and yoga mentor Kristin Cooper-Goulak for her support and knowledge while I had so many questions. As I began to learn more about the dairy industry and animal agriculture, and what happens to the cows, I was completely shocked at what they go through in the dairy industry. I learned that dairy is directly linked to veal, that all male calves are slaughtered for veal because they are not milk producers, and that ALL babies are taken from the moms so humans can drink their milk. (the babies get a “milk replacer”) I learned that the female cows are slaughtered after they are “spent” and don’t produce milk anymore. I am heartbroken to know that every single day billions of cows are suffering and being killed just so humans can drink milk and eat cheese. :(. I wish I could say I stopped consuming/ using animal products over night. That wasn’t the case though and I have tremendous respect for anyone working toward the goal of making more compassionate choices. I believe that everyone is “pre-vegan” and that by learning about the cruelty that happens in these industries using animals for food, so many people will make the decision to end this torture. You will never hear me bashing someone for “just being vegetarian.” I will however ask questions and hopefully provide them with food for thought that will eventually lead them to completely eliminating any animals from their diet. This is what humane education is all about. But I strongly believe is has to be done in a compassionate and understanding way. Planting seeds is essential.

Anyone who isn’t “vegan” might think to themselves, “I could never do that, there are so many rules” …. or “I don’t know where too start” …. or many other things. At this point, there are unfortunately different groups of vegans who have different guidelines for being in their ‘group’- their ‘vegan club’ – or whatever you want to call it. I’m astounded that people who say they are vegan can be so cruel to people who are not yet vegan. Levels of Veganism, different rules, infighting, judgement of other vegans, negative comments on posts from people who are “just” vegetarian…..and more, are turning people away EVERY day from the idea of Veganism. I am VEGAN! I am not saying don’t use this word, but I do want to question when and how we use it. Is it a club? Do people who aren’t “vegan” feel that way? As a vegan, my sole purpose is to live with compassion, in a way that doesn’t exploit animals, to live in alignment with my moral compass and ethics, in a way that doesn’t cause suffering to animals as much as humanly possible. My answer when people ask me “what DO you eat”…. I say “I don’t eat anyone who has a mom, who has eyes, or who has endured suffering in any way.” This pretty much says it all. I eat SO many amazing foods. It’s truly a myth that vegans don’t have much to choose from. There are so many labels we could put on this way of life. “Compassionate” “ethical” “moral” “plant based” “whole food diet” “healthy living” “health conscious” “for the planet”….etc. Do we really need a label though? This is a big question with a lot of answers. The word Ahimsa best describes my way of life. Ahimsa is respect for all living things and causing no suffering to anyone. (in a nutshell) “Be Love” is my motto.

I recently listened to a podcast episode with Colleen Patrick Goudreau who speaks about this very subject. I agree with so much of what she said. We do not have to label EVERY thing “vegan.” (I’ve done this, by the way). One of my favorite sweatshirts has the words “go vegan” on the back. I have used these words so much, but have definitely become more aware of when and how I use them! My daughters have both said to me, “mom, we know it’s ‘vegan’ cheese, you don’t have to say it’s vegan”….

I’m not in any way saying not to use the word vegan, I am just pondering the idea that we don’t need to say it so much. I want everyone in the entire world to “go vegan” but I also want them to feel included and comfortable and to feel like they can be honest as they are on the journey to veganism. I am here for anyone who has questions or needs support. If you are curious or on the path to compassion/ plant based living/ veganism/ LOVE/ and would like a mentor to talk to, New Leaf Vegan Mentor program is amazing! I am a mentor with this program and there are so many mentors to choose from who will meet your needs. Check it out HERE!

My mantra every single day is “LOKAH SOMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU” which translates to “may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts words and actions in my own life contribute to that happiness and freedom for all.” I say this 108 times each day.

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