It’s pretty hilarious to look back on early evidence of my journey towards a plant-based lifestyle. There is plentiful hemming and hawing as I gradually convince myself to exploit animals less, making various justifications and exceptions along the way. Recently, I even stumbled upon my handwritten journals from high school, in which I lament the way vegetarians made me feel guilty for eating meat (early cognitive dissonance FTW!)
Even now, I am not 100% plant-based. I eat exclusively vegan at home, but make allowances when I’m at a restaurant, traveling, or a guest in someone’s home. In those instances, I typically compromise to vegetarian or pescatarian levels. In other words, I’m still working on it.
But, I am far more “radicalized” today than ever, and I speak up passionately for the cause. That said, I am perpetually conflicted about it. Not about veganism itself, but about my advocacy. There are days when I feel horribly guilty about “telling people what to eat” or about pressing my viewpoint on others. I remind myself that it’s less and less a matter of opinion. The more we learn about animal sentience, environmental degradation, health, global hunger, and climate change, the less we can dismiss veganism as a lifestyle choice or dietary preference. Now more than ever, it’s an existential and moral imperative.
Perhaps this inner conflict of how to approach changing the world is why Joaquin Phoenix’s speech at the Oscars resonated with me so powerfully.
We fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice to give something up. But human beings, at our best, are so inventive and creative and ingenious, and I think that when we use love and compassion as our guiding principles, we can create, develop, and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
We are in the very thick of that creation and development for change right now! He continues:
I have been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with and ungrateful, but so many of you have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best – when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other toward redemption. That is the best of community.”
I love how he acknowledges imperfection, and that making mistakes and learning is a crucial part of evolution and progress.
One could certainly apply these sentiments to any variety of causes. Phoenix himself references gender inequality, racism, queer rights, and indigenous rights before directing his focus to animal rights by describing the anguish of a dairy cow torn from her newborn calf, so that humans can unnecessarily consume her milk…
I was truly so inspired, and motivated anew by his eloquence and humility on this very important subject while acknowledging the need to forgive yourself as you go ❤ Please, consider going vegan. For the animals. For the planet. For the globally hungry. For you!
Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow.