I’ve spent a bit of time lately trying to decide on a name for my vegan coaching business. Aside from having to deal with details like searching for availability of domain names (you’d be shocked what names are actually already taken!) I’ve really had to think about what I want to communicate to the public about both what I can do and what being vegan is about. I think I’ve settled on something, but I’ll share that in a later post when I’m a little further along in my branding.
As I considered dozens of names and tag lines I wanted to be authentic in how I see veganism and what aspects of this lifestyle I wanted to highlight and communicate to others. As I went through this process the words “simple” and “easy” came up in conversation many times. That makes sense, right? After all, suggesting that being vegan is difficult is hardly a way to induce others to sign on and give it a try.
Years ago, when I was training to be a community mental health counselor I remember working with clients for the first time, and they often lamented that making changes in their lives was not easy. While no two situations were the same, it became clear to me that the changes people were trying to make in their lives were often simple yet seldom easy. For a person suffering from depression, for example, the “simple” act of taking a daily walk could, in practice, be quite difficult. As I thought about the transition to veganism I realized that it is helpful again to consider the difference between what is “simple” and what is “easy”. And I’ve come to the conclusion that going vegan is indeed simple, yet seldom easy.
I can sum up in just a few sentences how to be vegan. For me, it means eliminating the use of all animal products from my life–for food, clothing, personal care, and entertainment. It also means promoting alternatives to these things so that others can learn from my example and start to consider how to live without exploiting animals. Once I decided to go vegan, living this way became a pretty black and white thing. If the food contains animals products, no thank you. If the clothing has leather or wool or silk or down, it’s not for me. If the product was tested on animals, I’ll pass . No to rodeos, zoos, circuses and aquariums. Not so complicated.
Aside from having to read labels and do a little internet research as I phased out some products and replaced them with others, the “how-to” of it all has been pretty straight forward and simple. As I’ve become more and more educated about all the excellent alternatives to animal-based products it’s become even more simple. And if David and I lived in our own vegan bubble and never ventured out I would say that nothing could be easier. That is not, however, where we live, and neither does any other vegan that I know.
I can say that what feels “not easy” about being vegan usually involves some combination of the emotional and the practical. Here are examples of some “not easy” experiences I had just over the past few days:
-My favorite (mostly) vegan restaurant just closed. There are very few vegan restaurants in Tucson, and The Food for Ascension Cafe downtown was the place where David and I celebrated our birthdays, brought friends and relatives and went weekly to unwind. The calm, relaxing environment was unique among the other veg offerings in town. We are sad, both because they could not make it work economically and also because we are really left with no comparable options where we live. Unfortunately, for those of us who do not live in a major metropolitan area, this is all too common. Let’s face it, for non-vegans there’s always “another place”, for us not so much. This can feel limiting and not so easy.
-I was catching up with my friend, Diana (from Main Street Vegan Academy)on the phone yesterday and we were commenting that no one we talk to ever asks us anything about veganism. Ever. At all. We wondered if this is because people fear being lectured to or simply because our veganism is too disconcerting for other people to discuss given their own food choices. I can’t answer that one but the reality of the situation can feel stressful. I am interested in the lives of others and like to think that I’m curious about what’s important to my friends and family. It is the rare non-vegan who can be truly interested in my passion (veganism/animal rights) and not feel defensive, consequently I usually feel like I’m censoring myself in one way or another in most social situations. This may be necessary for peaceful relationships, but it’s not an easy trade-off and it isn’t very interesting for me.
-Following the horrible story of Cecil, the lion, Delta Airlines decided to stop transporting dead trophy animals in their planes. While that sounds great, my mind goes immediately to the dead animals being served for meals on that plane, because I know that each of the animals raised and killed for food suffered far more than poor Cecil. I encounter this kind of moral schizophrenia daily as it is truly everywhere and a deeply entrenched part of our culture. I am more acutely aware of this and other forms of hypocrisy and injustice than I ever have been before. It comes with the territory, but it’s not easy.
OK, so maybe with these examples I’m making a good case that going vegan is simple but not easy. So what? Why point out these difficulties? Well, I think it’s important to be honest with others about our experience because this is the real story. It takes commitment, perseverance, courage and a thick skin to navigate these kinds of situations. That being said, I don’t doubt for a moment that a person committed to living a vegan lifestyle can handle them. The transition brings about changes in our relationships with other beings (human and non-human) and sometimes these changes are challenging or painful.
Yet even with all this said, I don’t know a single person who regrets the decision to go vegan, and I think that’s because the most important changes that happen when we go vegan are the ones that happen within us as we begin to live our values. As we live our belief in justice and compassion for animals we deepen our belief in justice and compassion for all beings including ourselves. As our health improves we feel a desire to help others as well as the earth to heal. Life becomes full of possibility, and we find the courage to face our own fears and step boldly forward. We become aware of the interconnectedness of all things. This is the stuff that transcends convenience, comfort and “ease”. And for me, that’s what makes life worth living.