Letter to a New Vegan by Leigh-Chantelle from Viva la Vegan!
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Friday, 15 November 2013
There's a great little book being put together by some long-term vegans. They've been looking for submissions (which close today) of letters from other vegans for their Letters to a New Vegan. They are looking to create a community of words that can encircle new vegans everywhere, from all walks of life, as they embark on their own journeys.
If you would like to submit a letter please do ASAP as they've extended the submission date to allow for 100 letters.
Here's what I submitted:
Dear New Vegan,
Congratulations on getting here. You have chosen to think with your mind and feel with your heart – a talent that seems to be missing in most of the mainstream population.
I don’t care for the reasons you chose to become a vegan - and there are many reasons. Whether it’s for animal rights and ethical reasons (that’s the reason I started my vegan journey almost twenty years ago); health and dietary; environmental and sustainable living; religious or spiritual; or just because someone you respected planted the seed; you have chosen to choose, and you chose compassion. Always remember this.
I do however care that you remain vegan. So please ask for help when you need it, take some time out for and to look after yourself. You alone cannot do everything, and you alone do not have to. When we all combine together, that’s when the best things happen.
Remember that nothing in nature is ever still. Just as a seed becomes a plant becomes compost, you too will change. Things that mattered most to you before will seem less important and even irrelevant. This isn’t just to do with time passing and getting older and hopefully wiser. It’s to do with what situations you find yourself in and the people who you choose to share these moments with.
When I first became vegan at the beginning of 1997, I joined the vegan societies and volunteered with animal rights groups in my area. I suggest you also do this. There weren’t many people of my age at these places and I didn’t feel as though I belonged. It wasn’t until years later that I realised I needed to create my own vegan tribe. I had started this online already, with my website vivalavegan.net – an online vegan community that has been running since 2006. Most of my vegan friends were all, however inter-state.
In 2009, I started to create my own vegan tribe when I also started to create the Green Earth Group – an environmental group focused on promoting veganism and putting on Brisbane, Australia’s first vegan festivals. Most of my closest friends are from this time in my life.
At the beginning of the Green Earth Group movement, I only wanted to surround myself with other vegans. There were all types of people who volunteered and came into our tribe. Some were vegetarians who just needed that extra push to become vegan, some were already vegan, and like myself also into the feminist, environmental and social justice areas.
I remember the first time a guy (I was about to date) and I were having a talk about how females’ bodies are used in the animal rights movement to promote animal rights – to the detriment of women’s rights and he just didn’t understand why this vexed me. This was the first time I realised that not all vegans are alike, and more importantly not all vegans are like me.
The world would be very boring if everyone was the same. We would never learn from each other. People and friendships come and go. Never hold onto things, people and circumstances that you have long outgrown. Always move forward and not backwards. Know whom you can trust and keep these people close. You will be surprised that a lot of these people are not vegan. Don’t forget that the people in your life who are not vegan but fully support your every decision are the people who can teach you just as much as you can teach them.
It hurt the first time I realised that just because someone is vegan does not mean that they’re a wonderful person. I also found out that just because someone isn’t vegan, doesn’t mean that they aren’t wonderful. Always keep an open mind – it’s what we’re always expecting of the mainstream.
Over the past few years since creating my vegan tribe, I have weeded out the people not so suitable for my own positive growth. The talkers and not walkers always go first. Next to farewell are the ones who create and thrive on drama – online or in person, and the next are the ones who escalate drama. This leaves me with a great tribe of positive and compassionate individuals who are all really respectful of each other and who are on the same life path as me.
Whether or not it’s right and whether or not you like it, you will become a role model for others. For this reason, be consistent with your believes and what you practice. Don’t call yourself a vegan if you’re not. A vegan is someone who not only follows a vegan diet – this includes not consuming animal flesh including fishes; animal products including dairy, eggs and honey – but it also means that as a vegan you are against any exploitation, abuse or harm of any of our animal friends.
Use your position of influence to promote positivity, inclusiveness and compassion in everything you do. Realise that you can educate more people with a soft tongue more than you will a sharp one. Be careful what you say to another online and in person. Remember that you may be the only vegan the person you are conversing with knows, so make it kind and respectful.
Remember to use your time wisely. Remember to have a break from activism. Remember to do the things you love and love the things you do. Remember to be kind. Compassion is always the answer.
Don’t get caught up in the negative aspects of the movement – the egos, the name-calling, the competitiveness and those who constantly judge others. Always be open to learning more and educate yourself about everything you can. Know that you are on the right path and remember why you’re doing this: for our animal friends. Get rid of the situations and people whom no longer work in your life. Be the best person you can be at this moment in time.
Veganism is not the end step in mine, your, or our evolution. It’s a pretty big step and a pretty massive statement, but it’s only just the beginning.
If you want to be listened to, listen. If you want to be understood, understand. If you want to be loved, love. To me it’s that simple.
I believe in this movement and I believe in you and I. Good luck.
Love and hugs,
Keep up to date with the book due out 2014 on the Letters to a New Vegan FaceBook page.
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