When we think of veganism, our minds automatically go to the animals, as they should. However, in our extreme desire to save all of the animals of the world, we may begin to overlook a key component to veganism. Veganism stems from compassion. Compassion, by definition, is feeling of concern for the suffering and mistreatment of others. A vegan’s compassion is no doubt aimed at animals. But are we overlooking something?

People! The April 2017 Main Street Vegan Academy class at Riverdel Cheese, Brooklyn

In our desire to turn the world vegan, are we forgetting that we are human, as well. Humans make mistakes. Humans aren’t perfect. I’ve been speaking to more and more clients who are almost afraid to take the first step towards veganism because they are afraid of failure.

They don’t want to call themselves “vegans” because they may accidentally eat something not vegan and be called out on it. In our very well-intentioned effort to save the planet, get healthy and end animal suffering, we must take a step back and notice the human aspect to it all. We want to be compassionate beings. Some want to take this leap, whatever the reason may be, yet, they are afraid, maybe even suffering, because of it. Isn’t that the reason we do this? We want to end suffering, not instill it on others. How do we do that? Compassion!

As humans, we like to understand our options, know that there is room for error and that it’s ok to make a mistake. As advocates, we know that when we force veganism on another person, we do not get the same response as if we sat down and spoke with them or, better yet, shared a delicious vegan meal with them. When you have the opportunity to teach someone something, whether it’s a kindergartener learning to spell his/her name or an adult wanting to learn about veganism, compassion, patience and practice must prevail every time. We need not judge either of these learners for making mistakes. We wouldn’t yell or tell them to stop trying. We would try and understand what their needs were, where the mistakes were coming from, and offer acceptance and guidance. This, is true learning. This is what makes people want to keep trying. This is compassion.

Main Street Vegan Academy students and other patrons at Seasoned Vegan soul food restaurant, Harlem, NYC

As a vegan, whether you are an educator or not, you are representing a lifestyle — a lifestyle that is a mystery to some. You now have an opportunity to set a good example, demonstrate how wonderful the lifestyle can be and answer questions in a calm, patient way. Let’s help each other save the animals by showing one another compassion.

Susan M. Landaira, MS, VCLE
Vegan Teacher LLC, Coach/CEO
Vegan Teacher on FB
@TeachVeganism on Twitter

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