Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Feeding the Heart

A pervasive myth that has persisted for years is that vegetarians are intrinsically more kindhearted than their meat-eating counterparts. This is founded on two basic misconceptions: 1) gentle people are intuitively attracted to a meatless diet, and 2) a meatless diet naturally makes aggressive people more gentle. The underlying assumption is that food has an incredible influence over our personalities or that our personalities dictate our tastes. Neither is accurate. Food choices are influenced primarily by culture, ethnicity, availability, familiarity, custom, convenience, taste, mood, and economics.

There is no evidence that vegetarians are more sensitive or magnanimous than anyone else. History is replete with the scars of monstrous vegetarians as much as it is filled with the contributions of selfless others. To assume that diet shapes one's demeanor is to ignore a wealth of psychological and sociological factors that most likely have a much tighter grip on our palate.

People are drawn to vegetarianism for a multitude of reasons. Although some people have referred to vegetarianism a "social movement," it is somewhat ludicrous to believe that a cultural revolution could be fashioned by a group whose eating habits have an element of commonality but whose ideology is incongruous. Veganism, on the other hand, encompasses significantly more than what one eats or doesn't eat. It includes a reverence for life philosophy exhibited through tangible endeavors in all areas of daily living, making it a more tenable route to effect social change.

The point is that social reformation instigated by compassionate individuals is essential for producing a compassionate culture, not to mention a compassionate world. Food choices alone won't cut it. Transformation requires a fundamental shift in priorities, and veganism can provide not only the rationale but the tools. However, is becoming vegan sufficient to INDUCE compassion?

There are principally three reasons why people adopt a vegan lifestyle: 1) to do as much as possible to eradicate suffering in the world, 2) to generate inner peace by eliminating conflicts of conscience, and/or 3) to expunge karma by observing religious proscriptions. The desire to end suffering in the world may be based on intellectual realizations and not necessarily on altruistic empathy. Also, if an individual is motivated toward veganism solely for reasons of personal gain, such as inner peace or karmic relief, it would not be accurate to say they are driven by compassion. Nevertheless, it is true that when people strive for peace -- whether it is internal, external, or spiritual -- they are less likely to engage in actions that would inflict suffering on others, even though their justification might be that doing so would in turn impose suffering on themselves.

A compassionate disposition is cultivated. It is not the osmotic result of what one eats or even what one does. It is the consequence of a conscious and concerted commitment to awaken to the suffering around us, and then caring enough to do whatever is necessary to end it. This awareness begins with a longing to see the truth. It is not rooted in erudite theories or abstract concepts. It is not a question of whether a cat or a dog or a fish or a cow or a pig or a person feels pain and suffers, and certainly not a matter of degree. All we need to do is open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts, and the truth will flood our being with compassion.

Even once we perceive the anguish of others, it is tempting to turn away. Empathic people have tender spots that can be frightening and overwhelming to acknowledge. But to become wholly compassionate we must force ourselves to look directly into the face of suffering. Only then will we see our reflection and know that the hurt of others is equal to our own.

Compassion is an affair of the heart and spirit; it has nothing to do with the head and even less to do with the stomach and mouth. Neither food nor rhetoric entertain compassion. Fostering compassion merely necessitates paying attention, noticing every moment of our lives, every thought, and every deed, and doing the most in each moment to alleviate suffering and promote harmony, justice, and peace.

Vegans are not inherently more loving, generous, kind, or thoughtful than nonvegans. However, vegan precepts do present a pragmatic structure for nourishing and guiding our compassionate nature, independent of whether veganism or compassion comes first.



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Vegan Vittles:
Second Helpings

Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings by Jo Stepaniak

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The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook

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Review by Dan Balogh

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The Food Allergy
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The Food Allergy Survival Guide

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