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Waking Up: Vegetarian to Vegan

Cutting up scrap wood for the winter.

Then, out of the blue, the mother of one of my friends emailed me a Care2 story about  “Veganic Gardening” and said I should check out Gentle World’s Vegan Education Center and Intentional Community, while I was in New Zealand.  I thought, “what the heck, why not WWOOF for a week and learn a new way of farming?” When I made my decision, my mother, who was traveling around New Zealand with me at the time, asked:  “Do you think you’ll become a vegan?” I replied, mouth full of grilled cheese sandwich, “You never know, but probably not.”

Yet….. the second I walked onto Gentle World’s property, my idea of what a vegan was started to crumble. These were not the skinny, wimpy, slightly grubby hippies I had gone to college with. (No offense intended, but many young vegans subsisting on french-fries and cigarettes do veganism as a whole a great disservice.) The Gentle World community members’ faces glowed. I watched in amazement as one of the senior members walked by carrying a twelve-foot ladder in one hand, over his head, like it was nothing. The food was AMAZING and there were NO animal products on site.

Suddenly my excuses seemed flimsy, the “inconveniences” trivial in comparison to the lives and pain vegan choices would save. After a couple of days, one of my fellow WWOOFers asked to watch Earthlings – a powerful documentary on the abuse animals receive on this planet, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix – and I stayed to watch it with her. I finished the video in tears, nauseated, convinced that there was no such thing as a non-vegan animal lover, and 100 percent vegan. Well, maybe 100 percent vegan in diet choices and 60 percent vegan in philosophy and action.

Veganism is in many ways an evolution; not merely a diet choice, but a complete shift in perspective. As one of my favorite Gentle World volunteers said, “you can’t be vegan on and off — you’re either vegan or you’re not.”

As I look back over the last 27 years of my life, I wonder how it is that it took me so long to stop being lazy and live my life the way I’ve always said I wanted to: with love, kindness and honesty.

If you’ve asked the same questions I have, claimed to be an animal lover, an environmentalist, a health nut, or if you gently remove bumblebees from your house instead of squashing them flat, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself why you’re not vegan and what excuses are left.

Read more: Global Healing, Health, Spirit, ,

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


+ add your own
8:26AM PST on Jan 3, 2014

WOW're an angry person!

9:48AM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

Great article!

7:32AM PDT on Jul 3, 2013

WOW this is a real eye-opener for those of us who basically just eat. Seems like a lifelong commitment which needs to start now ... (willing to try hard, wish me luck - hell is paved with good intentions).

12:42PM PDT on Oct 24, 2012

@Valentina R.
Could you explain your statements ;
"You're not saving the world"
"You live in denial"
"You have zero realisim" . . . . .
Please back them up with some facts?

5:27AM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

I now understand why Vegans can be so judgemental of Vegetarians :-/

9:05PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

"Vegan was, from my perspective, the sister of vegetarianism; close, but with a tumultuous relationship." Hahaha, hilarious.

Poor naive vegans, they think they're so special. Know what? You are not heroes. You are not saving the world. You are not more worthy than vegetarians. You have no right of bashing them. You live in denial. You have zero realism. You are the ones who need to wake up.

5:48PM PDT on Sep 26, 2012

Thanks. This is something I am working towards.

2:47AM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

thanks for this inspiring article!

1:30PM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

To "go vegan" is not something you decide lightly, as it seriously demands that you: ALWAYS have access to a wide variety of ORGANIC whole foods, locally grown, know how to balance nutrition (getting enough protein if you're sporty for ex.), know how to cook, and take supplements of vitamin B12...this is perhaps not for everyone, due to geographical or other constraints....
Vegan's be more tolerant!
(this is such a "hot" debate!....)

6:51PM PDT on May 14, 2012

I also was resistant to going vegan because I love cheeses and milk so much. Even though I knew about the fate of male dairy calves, it still seemed so far removed from my direct responsibility that I still ate dairy. A few months ago I saw a video showing a dairy cow giving birth in a muddy corral, then chasing after the farmer as he dragged her calf away, through the mud. Finally decided to give up dairy, eggs too. I will admit, that if I ever go out with friends and family, and if there are no vegan options, I'll get the vegetarian option and not commit hari-kari for my transgression. At least everyone who knows me knows I've been a vegetarian for 30 years, so I never have to get into a fight for not eating turkey on Thanksgiving!

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