Thoughts about living in a nonvegan world

cow-1832984_960_720There’s an Elephant in the Room was recently contacted with an enquiry from someone who is not vegan, about whether a vegan would continue to participate in activities that used nonvegan equipment.  Sharing my response.

Question: ‘I do have a question as to your opinion though about the extent that veganism goes…. could a vegan play football or cricket or support a team that does when the ball and some equipment is made from leather?’

Response: ‘Thanks for getting in touch. Yours is a good question that I’ve not been asked before and I intend to share my response in a blog because I’m sure others may have wondered the same. I can’t and won’t give you a one-line answer but I doubt if you’d have asked me of all people if that was what you wanted.

Sometimes, there is a perception of veganism as a restrictive list of do’s and don’ts and often those who wish to trivialise or ridicule the idea, present it as such in the media.

In fact, veganism has only one central guiding principle, and that is the refusal to deliberately harm other individuals. That’s it. All of it. The rest is a matter of being knowledgeable about the harm that our choices cause when we are not vegan, and about taking the decision not to be part of it.

Our vegan life thus becomes, not some process where we have to check the rule book to see if something is on the ‘permitted’ list, but rather a process where we live true to the values that we have always had, only this time with the background knowledge that allows us to be informed about whether our choices have harmed another individual or not. Armed with that knowledge we choose to take the path that has caused the least possible harm.

I can only recount my own experience for this next bit. There is no escaping the fact that we live in a world where every species is regarded as a potential resource for our convenience, irrespective of the triviality of our requirement or the devastating result of that indulgence. I too was once oblivious to this but once our eyes open to this fact, it is staggering, shocking, sickening to realise ‘just how deep the rabbit hole goes’ – to quote Morpheus. And the knowledge doesn’t just stop – every day we discover further ways in which our careless species wreaks havoc.

When I first became vegan, I looked around – not just my fridge – but my home and my life and I was crushed to realise the extent of the use of nonhuman animal-derived substances and practices that surrounded me, and about which I had been blissfully ignorant. And this is where we are all faced with a dilemma. Adopting a plant diet is actually the easy bit, but what do we do with the relics from the days before we were vegan?

Much has been written on this but once again, there is no rule book; there is only our self and our conscience. I’ve written before on the concept of ‘waste’ as we apply it to nonhuman animal-derived substances in the time when we may be struggling to reach the conviction that other beings do not belong to us. Eventually we must face it that they never did and what we took in the past was not ours to take.

What do we do about the activities that we once were happy to participate in but required us to overlook the most fundamental rights of helpless members of other species? Indeed, what do we do about the friends, family and loved ones around us who are cheerfully continuing to leave a bloodbath in their wake, just as we once did ourselves?

I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I know that for me my view is constantly shifting as my knowledge of the atrocities of our species increases. For me, the key to everything is education and awareness. For ourselves and for others; that, and a determination to cling to the hope that at heart everyone holds the same belief in fairness and justice and does not want to hurt anyone.

So, to return to your question. As vegans, we all continue to live in the same world with the same people and it is utterly impossible to shut ourselves off from the fact that our entire culture is underpinned by the deaths of countless billions of sentient individuals each year and the torment and agony of countess others whose every moment is determined by our use of them as commodities.

We each find our own way to come to terms. I consider that sharing information about the horrors we support as nonvegans is the key to helping others to see for themselves that being vegan makes sense from every angle.

Specifically, footballs, as far as I know, are no longer made of leather, but recently a famous cricketer hit the headlines by challenging the use of leather to make cricket balls. And thus by drawing attention to the hidden horrors that we have all disregarded at one time, the information spreads. Those whose conscience is troubled may look past the media hype and inform themselves. They may even become vegan!’

Be vegan. It’s the right thing to do.

Links for further reading / listening:
http://gentleworld.org/whats-wrong-with-leather/ and http://www.howtogovegan.org/leather/

http://gentleworld.org/burying-the-past/

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10 Responses to Thoughts about living in a nonvegan world

  1. Graeme M says:

    It’s such a tricky question and so often non-vegans try to catch you out, as though one small indiscretion invalidates the whole idea of making kinder choices in the world. Are they just looking for excuses to prove to themselves that they are right and I am wrong?

    That said though, I guess my approach has been different from others commenting here. I tend not to call myself “vegan” though I try to adopt the vegan philosophy in my day to day life. My reasoning is that it shouldn’t require “being a vegan” to make those kinds of choices that avoid contributing to harm and exploitation of other animals, rather it should just be everyday behaviour. It’s rather disappointing that it isn’t. I also follow the line that we do what we can as far as practical and possible.

    I am sure for example that using a computer, or mobile phone, or driving a car, travelling on public transport or whatever can be found to have involved some harm to an animal. After all, animal use has insinuated itself into almost every part of modern life, and of course just being alive will result in other creatures being harmed (eg insects as I walk or drive). Another example is medicine – many medications have probably had some sort of animal trials but I am not about to stop using medicines entirely on that basis.

    What I DO do though is try to educate myself and take what steps I can to minimise those day to day behaviours/activities that contributes unnecessarily to harm. I have no answer for example to medications right now, though I might hope in time it changes. I do take as few medications as I can in the absence of any serious investigation of whether say Panadol is “vegan-friendly”.

    All of that said, it is consumer choice and behaviour that is key. To really make a difference, we have to choose when we can not to buy goods that have been created on the back of animal exploitation. It makes absolutely no difference to anything to throw out your old leather jacket, or your shoes or whatever. In fact, you are probably making a net greater impact by throwing out old goods that are still usable and replacing them with new ones. Recycling them by sending them to a second hand store or selling them to someone is no different from using them yourself.

    So I suggest just keep old items bought from before you adopted this different moral perspective. Of course, if the idea of using a leather jacket affects you, then it’s a different thing. I tend to be pragmatic about such things and don’t have any great concerns about wearing such a jacket that I’ve owned for some time. Or playing cricket with a ball someone else bought. I realise many people won’t agree with me on this, but that’s my stance.

    I want to change the future, not the past…

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  2. thomastryon says:

    I try to honor the nonhuman animals that have been murdered for these products. With feather, wool and leather, I went into a beautiful area of the woods and buried the wool/leather “items” and told the sheep/lambs/cow/calf whose life had been taken, how very sorry I am. With the feathers I let them fly free and told the spirit of the hens that this was the only way I could set them free. Probably the first and last time a part of them had ever been free.

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  3. vanillarosetangents says:

    It’s American “football” that uses leather balls. Actual football, or soccer (as Americans call it) doesn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pierre Parent says:

    As you say, the food part is by far the easiest for new vegans to adjust to. To me the tricky one is what to do with old sweaters, coats, belts, shoes, boots (all of which contain animal products), a couple large leather chairs and especially a vehicle with leather seats – all the “things” that I purchased prior to becoming vegan. All are still quite “functional”. I have run the gamat of thoughts/possiblities of what to do/not do with these “items”. I wish I had never purchased them in the first place. None of the solutions I have thought of or been presented with seems 100% “right”. Many vegans I have asked or seen respond to this dilemma seem equally puzzled and the answers run the gamut from digging a hole in one’s backyard and bury everything to 2) wear it/use it until it wears out to 3) sell it. It’s not too hard to dig a hole and bury some sweaters, coats, belts, shoes and boots. It’s a lot harder to bury large leather chairs and a large vehicle. There’s always the “on one hand” vs “on the other hand” type of rationilizing that goes on. So where am I at now? I no longer use the sweaters, coats, belts, shoes and boots. I have placed these in a cedar chest, which is acting as a tomb of sorts for them at the moment. I no longer sit on my two leather chairs. I do drive my vehicle. I don’t like the idea of selling these “items” either since whoever buys them will continue to use them. I don’t know if there really is an answer that will satisfy everyone who is in this situation. It becomes more of a problem for people who have become vegan later in life. We have more “stuff” from our old non-vegan days. Any thoughts are welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no answers to this, as you know. However I can’t stop considering the points you’ve raised and eventually I’ve no doubt that a blog will result. As your comment covers so many of the issues, I hope you won’t mind if I quote you on this topic? Vegan best wishes as always!

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    • Diane Harms says:

      You could donate them. That would mean one less new sweater, chair, etc., which otherwise could end up being supplied by another victimized animal. In other words, you would be decreasing the demand for more animal-derived products. Not by much, but still. I feel like I didn’t explain this well – let me know if it’s unclear.

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  5. cushpigsmum says:

    My latest realisation was that there could be animal ingredients in plastics. So now a whole new area of investigation and questioning appears on my horizon. Do the manufacturers of vegan products know if the containers they are using are actually free from animal-based substances? I want to know!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cushpigsmum says:

    Reblogged this on iliketowritewhatithink and commented:
    As I find out more, I change my behaviour. I respond as more knowledge comes my way. I live in the moment more, since I became vegan. I realise more fully that every small action and every word has much greater significance for the world than I ever imagined. I want all my interactions with the world now, to be about doing less harm and more good – in whatever way now presents itself to me as an opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

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