One of the many accusations frequently levelled at vegans is how intolerant they are towards people who choose to eat meat and people who behave cruelly towards animals.
I’ve personally encountered interactions just like this.
For example, I follow articles and social media about animal equality, which support the elimination of animal farming practices and other forms of cruelty towards animals.
And what I’ve repeatedly noticed are vegans imposing guilt on others who comment on the upsetting content of the posts, but who haven’t yet arrived at a decision to stop eating meat.
Instead of influencing these people towards veganism, they end up alienating and embarrassing them.
I feel this is one of the reasons, vegans are often viewed as extremist, unrealistic and, at times, a little flaky.
They’re seldom seen as compassionate because their compassion can appear to be quite biased towards animals.
So why would it be helpful for vegans to change their approach and attitude towards people doing harm to animals?
Because then our love becomes grace-filled and truly unconditional.
Vegans have challenged themselves to look at things most of us don’t want to see
Out of their genuine love for animals, most vegans have exposed themselves to, what can only be described as, the sadistic treatment of animals.
So, this bias hasn’t come out of nowhere. It’s developed from a refusal to turn a blind eye to some of the absolutely horrific scenes they’ve witnessed following their enquiry into and support of animal welfare and equality.
If you’ve taken time to seek out information about what’s going on — in the food animal industry, the hunting of exotic wildlife and the abuse of domestic animals — as most vegans have, it’s very easy to see why a growing animosity towards mainstream attitudes, and meat-eating in particular, evolves.
Especially when these injustices are seen in the main as a normal part of life. As being ‘just how things are’.
It’s interesting to note that it’s veganism that’s being touted, by environmentalists, ecologists and of course nutritionists, as one of the healthiest and most sustainable lifestyle options available.
What a surprise that adopting a respectful and loving approach in how we live and what we eat — which isn’t concerned with ourselves alone — could have such far-reaching benefits.
Regardless of this obvious fact, what remains clear is that cruelty to animals is firmly cemented into the way modern society operates.
This highlights that the human race places vastly divergent value on the worth of human beings and animals — or even animals and animals.
If you enquire about the way we treat some animals you’ll find conditions and excuses, not love
Few of us care enough to refuse to contribute to the suffering of animals. The reality is that our love and compassion only extends so far.
Particularly in the treatment of food animals where it’s quite often non-existent.
Take the eating habits of the human race, for example.
Eating meat in the year 2015 hasn’t lost its appeal in any way, shape or form. And with the new proposed ag-gag laws in Australia, very little is likely to change.
The great majority of people, still consider meat as a healthy component of a well-rounded and balanced diet — even though we know it’s responsible for many serious health conditions.
In a ‘modern’ world, which prides itself on the advances it’s made in the fields of science and technology, the human species seems to remain quite barbaric when it comes to what we like and choose to eat.
Still, we consider ourselves the more sophisticated species.
It does leave some of us wondering: if we’re so sophisticated and advanced, why are so many people still butchering innocent animals for food?
I’m sure if you questioned someone who chooses to eat meat, they would feel perfectly justified in their reason for doing so. Yet, what is rarely included in their response is any real compassion for the silent suffering, powerlessness and pain endured by the animals who provide their meal.
It doesn’t even enter the conversation.
In fact, many display a complete absence of compassion or empathy for the animals they ingest every day.
This can leave true animal lovers with a deep-seated malice towards those who profess to love animals, yet repeatedly demonstrate no actual concern for their wellbeing when it comes to removing them from their dinner plate.
And that malice can deepen even further, when they observe the gross inconsistency of those who eat meat, but ‘adore their pets’.
A very bitter taste can be left in the mouths of vegans and vegetarians alike.
True love and compassion considers the needs and feelings of others as well as our own, and so to act from a place of compassion — towards people and animals alike — we need to make the needs of the other a genuine consideration.
Being loving, in its true sense, means questioning our thoughts, our beliefs and our way of living
We live in a world of contradiction. We all talk about wanting love, yet we discriminate at every turn.
So to eliminate discrimination and embrace unconditional love, some serious self examination needs to take place.
We must ask ourselves questions like:
Why are we all eating animals?
Why doesn’t anyone else around me question why we’re eating animals?
How can I truly say I love animals if I eat them for dinner, every day?
If I choose not to eat animals, does that give me the right to judge those who do?
Through personal evaluation we can begin an even broader examination into the way we live our entire life — and bring love into every decision we make.
If we embrace unconditional love with a true and honest heart, we inevitably arrive at a consciousness of personal accountability. Here, a policy of ‘no excuses’ drives our decisions as compassion and unconditional love grows for ourselves and all those around us.
And while we may have to exercise great discipline at times to honour this level of honesty, it pales in comparison to the alternative: living without our integrity.
We can put an end to cruelty if we all stop making excuses
For some of us, this change in attitude leads us to having to say ‘no’ to many of the things we once took for granted — and ‘no more excuses’ becomes our silent mantra.
No more excuses just because that’s the way we were taught to do things.
No more excuses for being involved in the manufacture of products that cause suffering.
No more excuses for choosing to eat meat just because our physical senses enjoy the experience.
No more excuses for cruelty towards animals.
No more excuses for cruelty to other living beings!
And compassion then becomes our compass for right behaviour and right action.
How do we extend compassion to people who are acting without it?
For vegans and vegetarians, this can pose the ultimate moral dilemma.
Standing up for beautiful, innocent creatures which are unable to stand up for themselves feels like the only right and loving thing to do.
But how can we do that in a way that isn’t hateful to those involved in that cruelty?
It is, after all, conditionality and a lack of compassion that has led to cruelty towards animals in the first place.
And, if as vegans we say we believe in compassion and equal rights for all, then doesn’t that intrinsically include those who act with cruelty?
Compassion, if unconditional, would be offered to all living creatures.
This includes people who act according to their own conscience, whatever that may be, rather than acting from the conscience we would like to assign them.
This can be very difficult if you’re someone who’s willing to apply great discipline to yourself for the sake of your integrity, and especially when that integrity is coming from a place of true compassion.
However, if we’re to be consistent, then our respect must extend to all sentient life. If we say we want equal rights for all then that must also include those who do things we personally disapprove of.
So how, then, do we extend love to others when they choose to not only to act without it, but to sometimes act with great cruelty?
It’s up to each of us to challenge our own view of the world, through the lens of love
Becoming more loving is precisely how we became protective of innocence in the first place. We recognise that the innocent are sometimes targeted as weak by those who haven’t yet awakened to the truth.
At these times, it can be helpful to examine our own values.
We can ask ourselves: Do I want offer compassion and unconditional love to the world?
If so, then I must extend compassion and unconditional love.
No excuses or exceptions.
We each have to start our own personal revolution based on love.
We each must say ‘no’, for our own reasons, to cruelty of every kind. And that includes unkindness to those who do the very things we oppose.
Until we can extend love equally, expressions like ‘unconditional love’, ‘equal rights’ and ‘compassion for all’ are simply words we throw about to make a point.
Remembering love’s inclusiveness helps us to love unconditionally
Loving animals is so much easier than loving people.
And it’s clear that animals are treated with great disparity by the human race.
But being angry towards someone who is acting unlovingly towards animals just causes an issue between the two of you. And making someone feel guilty or ashamed by judging their mistakes is actually unkind.
By offering love to that person, on the other hand, we give them an experience of acceptance and compassion. The very thing we see as lacking in their attitude towards animals.
We must resist the temptation to blame and be conditional where both people and animals are concerned.
By challenging ourselves to grow in acceptance and tolerance, we begin the great task of unification through compassion and unconditional love.
We must learn unconditional acceptance for animals and people alike.
From this more positive position — for everyone involved — true communication and friendship can begin.
Then anything becomes possible.
Love isn’t selective. It’s the unifying and graceful force that unites us all as One.
It’s the power that can transform ignorance into understanding and cruelty into compassion and acceptance.
So, if you’re moving into a deeper understanding of this and want compassion, unity and unconditional love to inform all of your choices, then this blessing is for you:
May all living creatures be embraced by that love
And may Unity, Compassion and Unconditional love fill your heart today.
With all my love
Image credit: Balaji Photography