There is a tendency for some of us who wish to promote veganism—a way of living which excludes the use of animals for food, clothing and other exploitation— to cushion the call to action with a warning / acknowledgement / suggestion that it is a difficult thing to do.
While this is surely the case for some people, for others, including me, it has happened quickly and painlessly when the time was right. To set the stage for interested seekers to expect hardship invites failure or a refusal to even try.
For someone who still really wants to eat animals and their secretions, or still wants to wear a fur coat or a silk shirt, but resists for health or moral reasons understood but not felt, it is certainly hard to do. They have to exert Willpower to resist things they still desire, and this almost inevitably leads to a failure to maintain the “sacrifice”. Someone who gives up meat for “health reasons” very often reverts, occasionally or permanently. But for someone who has internalized the horror and immorality of subjecting other feeling beings to abuse and slaughter, and who simply refuses to, simply cannot—just won’t— be a part of this any longer, there is no feeling of deprivation, and no enticement which can make them go back to participating in these injustices.
I call this Won’tPower, and in contrast to WillPower, it is effortless to maintain. Let me tell you what pushed the button in my being and changed my life in an instant.
At the time, I subscribed to the Los Angeles Times newspaper. I sat down one morning and turned to the feature section, and began reading a human-interest story about a man who had become very bitter about life due to some tragic personal experiences. He had become very hard-hearted.
He somehow got a job in a slaughterhouse, killing lambs—baby sheep— as they came by in procession, he took their just-beginning lives with a knife. One day, a particular lamb passed his station, and he stabbed as before. But before this lamb could fall, mortally wounded, she turned and tenderly licked her own blood from her killer’s hand.
The man broke down, had an instant change of heart, his bitterness melted, he left and became a minister, enriching lives instead of ending them. I folded the paper, set it down, and have never looked back, except to regret that I had not saved the article!
It is important to note that I had already been thinking about the morality of eating animals, primarily due to my experience of having my first dog as an adult, with all the revelations that living with another species brings, and having met someone’s “pet” turkey, who had expressed as much interest in me as had their Great Dane dog. In other words, the time was right for me, much as the time has to be right to change any ingrained habit, whether it’s smoking, drinking or anything else.
So if you have been wrestling with the ethics of consuming and wearing animals, if you are torn, keep wrestling. Keep thinking and considering. Keep the internal quest alive. When it coincides with the thing—your own personal newspaper article—that pushes your moral button, you may find that it is the easiest and most satisfying thing you have ever done.