Why Living Cruelty-Free is a Spiritual Practice

I know that the statement in the title is quite bold. I am probably going against many spiritual teachings of  ‘doing what your body and soul tell you to do’. I’m also against considering something ‘more spiritual’ than something else, because that would only be a battle of the ego (have you ever read Eckhart Tolle?) but stay with me, I swear you’ll get the full picture in a minute.

Lately there have been a lot of debates on people in the spiritual world going back to being omnivores because they ‘felt it was the right thing to do for their body’ and that being vegan is often a ‘self-created identity that makes us slaves to our egos’. I totally agree that veganism IS a huge ego construct for many people. It is just another excuse to fight against something, to feel part of a minority, to feel part of something. But for many people it is not just that.

 

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Let me digress for a second on my take on veganism. I don’t like calling myself a vegan for the reasons I mentioned above, and also because I’m not sure I am what a vegan should be. I mean that I am not against the fact that we as animals could ‘use’ other animals’ products, because even animals themselves do that. I am against the fact that we as human beings take this for granted and take advantage of our position of power to exploit other species. That is where we hugely go wrong as a whole race.

We think that it’s natural and normal to exploit other animals for our vanity, pleasure, taste, convenience. Let me tell you something: it is not. What is normal is eating another animal when you live in nature and you’re hungry, or using other animals’ skin to keep warm (I’m sure you’re all thinking about Bear Grylls at this point, I’m sorry!) That’s no longer the case for us, because we don’t live in nature and we have plenty of other means to satisfy our primary needs.

 

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‘There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.’
Gandhi

Spirituality and Compassion

The reason why I say that a cruelty-free lifestyle is more spiritual than many spiritual practices is that it stems from compassion. Compassion is ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” The way I see it, compassion can only be felt by someone who feels that everything on this Earth is not separated from each other. Everything is connected, we are all connected, animals, nature and humans alike. This means that if we harm someone else, we are harming ourselves, too. From my compassionate and spiritual point of view, this vision makes perfect sense.

 

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If someone has a lifestyle that doesn’t involve cruelty towards any animal I am inclined to consider him or her a spiritual person. Of course, this person must also respect the environment and other human beings, as those things are part of the whole, too. For me, that’s the main reason why I live cruelty-free. I don’t see the point in doing harm that I can avoid doing, in spreading suffering when I can live without those items that cause that very suffering. Especially when it comes to unnecessary luxuries like clothing (fashionistas, you must admit it. Clothes are awesome, but we don’t need so many!).

‘By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.’
Thích Nhất Hạnh

Are all Vegans Spiritual People?

And are all spiritual people vegan? Of course not. But I think that there’s large room for improvement when one starts caring about something outside of himself. If you stop eating, wearing and using animal-derived products, you are one step closer to feeling more and being more. I also believe that if you think of yourself as a spiritual person, master, teacher, you can’t ignore the harm we are doing to a lot of other species on a large scale. Nowadays, it’s not about ‘life is killing, there is no life without death’ and other spiritual lessons like this. These days it is about gratuitous violence, it is about completely taking over other species just because they’re weaker. That’s a huge, monstrous ego taking over the human race with effects to the planet and other species. It’s not about doing what the source within you calls you toward. It’s about compassion, empathy, looking at what we are doing as a race, as a whole, understanding the whole picture. Listen to what a true spiritual master told us:

‘One should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.’
Buddha

Spiritual and Cruelty-Free Living

For me, it was a natural process. I stopped eating meat, I stopped using leather, I stopped eating fish, I started to worry about other animal-derived products and stopped eating and purchasing them. It’s all very easy: when you understand what we are doing from the bottom of your heart, it’s  not hard to stop. Even so, it took me ten years to come to these conclusions: in fact, I first went vegetarian when I was 16, but I went back and forth a couple of times before having a deep understanding of what was right and taking consequent action.

 

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The interesting thing is that the turning point came when I started delving into spiritual practices. That’s why I’m sure the two things are related: they certainly were for me, and as I grew more present, more calm, more conscious, I also grew more compassionate and less dependent on animal-derived products.

‘Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. Only collective awakening can create enough determination for action.’
Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

What about you? Do you think that your spiritual progress is connected to your compassionate living? Let us know in a comment below.

Editor’s note: the author of this article, Elisa Bini of the blog StyleBizarre, has published an e-book on dressing cruelty-free, Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe. See more on Amazon, here!

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Elisa Bini

Elisa is the founder of StyleOnVega.com and author of Your Cruelty-Free Wardrobe. She’s a costume designer, a fashion and lifestyle blogger and a yoga enthusiast. She has a vision: the human race is living on a healthy planet while not harming any other living creature, other humans included. She's determined to fulfill this vision and spread the love through her blog and her books. Buy her book here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WDIJ8Z0.

3 Comments
  1. Fantastic article and I couldn’t agree more. People often say that health, the animals and the environment are the trifecta for reasons/benefits to go vegan. For me the spiritual side of veganism is not only what keeps you vegan but also helps you to be a ‘nice’ vegan; someone that encourages others, promotes peace and love and compassion to all beings, not just animals, and above all is able to discuss veganism with non vegans in a way that is understanding and non-threatening.

    Because to become and remain vegan requires a huge shift in your beliefs and an acknowledgement of what your core values are. This is where spirituality, and spiritual priniciples that encourage inward reflection are hugely beneficial. Thank you for writing this Elisa and thank you Vilda magazine for publishing it xx

  2. Thank you Emma, I’m glad you understood what I meant perfectly! I couldn’t agree more with this thought of yours:

    “Because to become and remain vegan requires a huge shift in your beliefs and an acknowledgement of what your core values are. This is where spirituality, and spiritual principles that encourage inward reflection are hugely beneficial. ”

    I 100% agree on this! Sometimes I see a lot of “violence” in how vegan and especially vegan groups behave and share their vision with non-vegans or even with other vegan that are not vegan enough. I don’t like seeing that violence in people that should embrace peace, love and compassion. And we should always remember that unless you have been vegan from birth, we were non-vegans too. So why all the hate? Everyone has its own process on understanding and really making the connection. 🙂
    Thank you for your comment Emma, I really appreciated it!

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