The Top 10 Tradition

We would be remiss to end this month of exploring tradition without addressing the “Top Ten” tradition. As 2013 comes to an end we all want to look back at what the year has held. We have selected ten posts, not because they are the best, or the most popular, but because they have represented some important moments from 2013. Even though we have only selected ten, (hey! it’s tradition!), the top thing to remember from 2013 that everyone’s journey is special and filled with wisdom, love …and lint.

  1. A Crazy World — A beautiful post about life and loss in war-torn Syria
  2. Mosaic — An artistic representation of the beauty and the diversity of humanity
  3. Eating our Values — A post about living one’s values through what one chooses to eat
  4. Creating Spirituality — A poignant post about religion, creativity and spiritual experiences
  5. In Defense of Prayer — A story about grief, confusion, prayer and atheism
  6. Doomsday for DOMA — A post that marks the end of the Defense of Marriage Act in the United States
  7. Heifer International and My Brother’s Gifts —  A sweet post about keeping a loved one’s spirit alive
  8. Manu Temple — A post from Jenni Taylor about a beautiful exchange in India
  9. Strangers and Angels — a post from Autumn Elizabeth about a beautiful exchange in Chicago
  10. The Proverbial Women —  the post that started it all…

Eating our Values

Today’s post is from Max Fischlowitz Roberts, who is a history teacher in the Boston area.  Max writes about how being a vegan is not always easy, but it is a way to live out values of love and respect for all of the creatures of the universe. For those considering veganism, Max offers some good starting point for that journey  but no matter what your dietary choices are, Max offers us some wisdom about living authentically with our values.

As humans, we are often concerned about what our peers think of us. Those of us who identify as vegan are no different.  Although the world is gradually becoming more accepting in this regard, I still cringe a little on the inside when I identify publicly as a vegan. Too often, people assume my veganism means I am some sort of extremist; they ask (in bewilderment) where I get my protein; or they inject their own opinion – “I could never give up [x, y, or z animal product]!” Most of these people with whom I talk about my veganism are not mean-spirited, but perhaps they haven’t fully understood where I come from with regard to my dietary choices.

Why do I follow a vegan diet (one that avoids meat, dairy, and eggs)? Quite simply: to reduce as much animal suffering as possible. In the U.S. alone, over nine billion animals are raised and slaughtered for food each year. The vast majority of these animals – chickens, cows, pigs, and others – live their short lives on “factory farms,” with little or no access to the outdoors, all the while being pumped full of antibiotics to avoid infection – which is rampant because of how closely they are crowded together. The standard American diet has produced such incredible demand for animal products that the modern factory farm looks nothing like Old MacDonald’s farm. Instead of cows happily giving us their milk, hens happily laying eggs, and farm animals of all kinds willingly sacrificing themselves for our tastebuds, we know from research that the animals living in these horrendous conditions experience stress, fear, and pain.

Thinking about life on a factory farm, it’s not unusual to realize that farmed animals don’t like this arrangement. How would our pets react if they were held in captivity and led to slaughter? How would we?

I approach veganism from three perspectives. First: I see veganism as the best way to align one’s diet and one’s values. The overwhelming majority of people love animals; in fact, most are appalled to learn of the intense cruelty that takes place in producing the animal-based food on their table. Most people of faith already believe in the humane treatment of animals, and biblical texts contain many references to this tenet; the next step is to find ways in which we can more fully marry our actions with our beliefs.

Second: I think it’s important for vegans – and anyone who cares about animals – to find a way to get active to promote their cause. Spreading the word about the abuses of factory farming has exponentially more impact than simply following a vegan diet in silence. Everyone has a specific talent or way they can get involved that can benefit animals, whether that’s leafleting, writing letters to the editor – one of the most widely-read parts of a newspaper – or making financial contributions to existing nonprofit groups.

Finally: it’s helpful to remember that veganism shouldn’t be a contest about who can best scour a list of thirty ingredients. We all cause suffering in our lives, whether that’s by stepping on an ant or running over a squirrel. Sometimes things happen. What matters is that we work to reduce as much animal suffering as possible – and avoiding meat, dairy, and eggs as much as possible is a great first step on that path.
For more information about veganism and ways to become active for animals, check out one of the most effective and efficient advocacy groups out there, Vegan Outreach.