The following address was read out at the International Vegan Festival at Tossa de Mar, in Spain in July 1993.
To the attendees of the 7th International Vegan Festival and to friends of the vegan ideal everywhere, it is an honor to be able to address you, if only through these words spoken by another.
Of all the festivals that are celebrated around this earth, there is none more appropriate, nor more needed, than a festival celebrating the preciousness of life itself. If ever there were a time for voices to be raised in favor of reverence, of gentleness, of compassion for all who live, surely the time is now.
Today, so many seem to hold life so cheaply - human life, animal life, the life of the Earth itself. Life is often treated as a consumer product, a disposable commodity to be "used up". People exploit human and animal life for profit. They snuff it out for entertainment, and obliterate the living world out of a misguided vision of " progress".
Daily on television we see pictures of soldiers firing high-explosive artillery shells into cities and villages where women and children live - an ultimate disconnection from the preciousness of life. Shielded from the lives they are shattering, they are blinded by a veil of ignorance and fear that makes them see other people as "them" rather than "us", "enemy" rather than "family".
The vegan ideal says that if there are diffe-rences between people and their cultures, between humans and animals, between humans and the natural world, ways must be found to accommodate and co-exist based on mutual respect and compassion for the other and their situation. We need each other, and we need to live in harmony with the natural world, far more than any of us realize.
Such harmony and compassion begins with the acknowledgment that all that lives is a miracle, and carries with it a spark of the divine. As such all living beings are worthy of our recognition, of our reverence, of our protection.
As humans we are all on a journey of the spirit. This is not an easy journey, or one that proceeds without effort, obstacles, or setbacks.. An essential element of that journey is fully opening to the sanctity of life and originating our thoughts and words and actions from that center. Fortunately, life is a journey we are allowed to take one day at a time, one decision at a time - and each decision invites us to choose and to grow.
Frequently, situations arise where our actions make a statement about our true feelings towards life. What we order in a restaurant to eat, from what material the shoes, belts and wallets we choose to buy are made, what soap we buy to wash our hands - all these actions make statements about how much we care about life.
The vegan person says, "I care". "It does matter what I do", "It matters how much harm I create or do not create". "It matters how much healing I can bring into the world around me". It is from such a vegan ideal that the healing of the world can come.
As a vegan physician, my medical practice is based upon pure vegetarian nutrition. Daily I see the health-enhancing powers of a diet free from the flesh and milk of animals. The medical journals are now filling with scientific reports on the hea-ling properties of a vegan diet, of its abilities to unclog arteries, lower high blood pressure, nor-malise cholesterol, and soothe inflamed joints. It is gratifying to see these reports, yet not really surprising. Beyond the elegant science that explains why a vegan diet is such a healing one, there is a further, overreaching truth. To me, it is altogether natural and proper that a reverent, vegan approach to nutrition is rewarded by a leaner, healthier body - far more resistant to disease and degeneration.
And, as a man on this planet who loves this earth and all who dwell upon it, I know a vegan approach to eating and to life will heal far more than the human body. When we no longer kill sen-tient beings for our food, when we no longer have to blind ourselves to the blood and the pain that fills the slaughterhouse, when we finally eat food sown with love and harvested with gratitude, much will change within us and around us.
I believe, and the scientific literature is now beginning to show, that plant-based foods tend to balance the brain chemistry and create a-gentler, more serene nature. Vegan people seem less prone to violence and aggression, which can only help our ever more crowded population.
An Earth with a population of vegan humans will be a far healthier Earth. The land required to grow the food for a person consuming a meat-based diet could sustain seven people eating in a vegan style. The effects of this economy are profound, as land now in bondage to feedgrain production will be freed for other, more life-giving uses. A vegan diet, on a national and even global level, will mean billions of acres of fertile land freed from the tyranny of fodder production, and with this will be lifted much of the curses of soil erosion and chemical agricultural pollution. We can look forward to present feedcorn fields being replaced by fruit orchards, forests, and fast-growing growing fiber crops that make textiles, paper and cleaner biomass fuel - fuel which is actually stored solar energy. As this nutritional and then agricul-tural evolution occurs, the land will begin to heal deeply, the forests will return, and the waters will begin to run sweet and pure again.
But for this wonderful, and now essential, evolution to occur, a quantum leap of the human spirit is required. Now is the age when the human heart must gain the ascendance. Now must the heart of love and wisdom become the source of our actions as we set about trying to solve the many problems we have created on this planet. For only with guidance from our hearts will we make the best decisions. When, from this heart of compassion, we view ourselves and all our fellow passengers on this huge - yet tiny - Earth, we see that the answers lie in not more violence, but in more caring, more reverence, more love.
For the vegan person, the list of possibilities for solving a given problem simply does not include violence, does not include killing. We hold our lives, and all lives, as something to be cherished and preserved. Wherever possible, killing is to be avoided, especially where matters of the palate or fashion are concerned.
The vegan person knows what they do does matter. Not only does their decision to eat or not to eat a meat-based meal affect the fate of farmed animals everywhere by perpetuating the demand for their flesh, but the example that we set ripples out to all who observe - friends, family, business associates - and who use our example to guide: and justify their own actions. Thus do our decisions and actions become magnified and make great impact upon the world.
Mahatma Gandhi said that example is not the best way to teach; example is the only way to teach. Now is the time for the vegan ideal to flourish, to flow around the globe, to bring its life-giving message to people everywhere.
The vegan ideal is you, and is me. It lives in our hearts, and within our vision of a kinder, gentler world. Perhaps each of us alone cannot remake the world, but we each can take responsibility for our corner of the world - and make that part of the world as peaceful as can be. Once we understand the vegan approach to life, even seemingly small things become very important. The thoughts we think, the words we say, the actions we cause to happen, when coming from the center of vegan understanding, all have the power to heal even the deepest wounds. What more beautiful and needed concept around which to build a festival. I am grateful to each and every one of you who have worked to make this festival a success, and to keep the vegan ideal alive in your hearts.
May the example set by this festival and by this city, where noble bulls are no longer tortured and killed for entertainment, inspire people and government leaders everywhere to stand courageously on behalf of compassion for all life. The Earth has a human problem, and a human solution. A safer, greener, saner world is ours for the growing. If we act soon, wisely and compassionately, there is still time to save ourselves and the other passengers on our magnificent spaceship. May the vegan spirit within our beings, nourished by this festival, kindle the flame of love and understanding in hearts around the globe. If we all love enough, we will see a brighter day.
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Cross-reference: Nutrition and Health
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