Written by Silvi Burden
When I first came to Shangri La, to stay for a week with the people of Gentle World, I had no idea what to expect. I was really nervous about staying with people I had only emailed with beforehand. And in addition: vegans.
I had been a vegetarian myself for only two and a half years, and didn’t have much in my mind about vegans, except that I thought veganism a very fundamentalist and strict way to live. And, to be honest, I always thought it was a little bit exaggerated. I mean, I was a vegetarian because I loved animals, and I thought that should be enough. So, as you can imagine, I was really excited and curious about meeting real vegans (the first vegans in my whole life).
And then I met with all these kind and warm people, welcoming me into their home, and being really interested in me. In the next few days, I had a lot of really nice and informative talks; not only – but mostly – about veganism. It didn’t take long for me to come around and see the point. In fact, after the third night in my little cozy trailer, I felt pretty serious about becoming a vegan myself.
On the one hand, the decision seemed pretty easy, because I had these great people setting a wonderful example about how simple being vegan really was.
On the other hand, my parents own a farm. They raise animals for meat, and my mum milks cows for a living. So, I had a big identity crisis on my hands, about how to bring those alternative points of view in line.
How would I live with parents who are so different from me if I really went through with veganism? How would I be able to stand that the livelihood of my parents was grounded in murder? I couldn’t find any real solution to that problem, but I realized that the only thing that counts at first is me, because that’s all I can take care of in the moment. And I realized that I would still be able to love my parents even as a vegan. And so (after a long, calming talk with Summer – one of the Gentle Worlders) I decided to give it a try.
And here I am now, more than two and a half years later, still a vegan and still happy with my decision. I must admit that I do miss being ignorant sometimes (don’t get me wrong — I know it’s pretty self-centered — but sometimes I wish I didn’t know about all the horrible things that happen to animals everywhere). But I try to use all my anger and emotion to actually make a change. For instance, we have a vegan group at my university, and we have managed to get vegan options in the cafeteria on a regular basis, as well as soy milk for coffee.
Half a year ago, I moved to Berlin, and I think it is the best German city to live in as a vegan. We have vegan junk food, great cafés with cakes you would not believe, and vegan take-aways. Three weeks ago, a completely vegan supermarket opened up (right around the corner from where I live). They sell lots of great stuff.
But a lot has changed with my point of view about veganism in the last two years. When I first learned about animal exploitation, I couldn’t help but see every non-vegan as an enemy and a bad person. But that really drove me crazy, so I had to do something about it. With all my missionary enthusiasm, I had to realize that most people do not want to be lectured to. So, I started explaining everything to people who really wanted to know. But when people just want to fight, I stop the discussion immediately, because it just hurts us both.
In the end, I am very happy about the opportunity I had to meet Gentle World: the people who showed me that being vegan is the only way of living.
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.