Vegan and why would I choose this? Recognising my Tasmanian heritage. With a history of shooting and fishing.

I wrote this on request three years ago for someone else.

Everyday Ethics: The Challenges of Being
Vegan Monday, 1 June 2015  | Scott Wilson

The term vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944. It is defined as

a way of living, which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.

While I was doing my Bachelor of Theology, I became fascinated with ethics. I found books at the local library on the subject and found it was challenging me to rethink my stance on many things. It encouraged me to think through what I really stand for. A turning point in my ethics concerning animal liberation occurred after reading Peter Singer’s book Practical Ethics. My brother-in-law had a copy of Singer’s book that he had never read, but after a conversation with him about my interest in ethics, he offered it to me. A key phrase from the book that stays with me is “equal consideration of interest”. This became a foundation on which I based some of my ethical thinking.

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This is me at 12 and the trout 10.5 rainbow trout I caught with my Grandfather

I was into weight training and losing some weight. About twelve months before the Vegan decision, I was pescetarian—an omnivore who excludes poultry, beef, and pork from his diet but includes fish (and usually other forms of seafood like shrimp, oysters, scallops, etc.). Because pescetarians choose to include meat in their diet (seafood is muscle tissue from an animal), they are not vegetarian as vegetarians do not consume meat. I made the choice to go pescetarian, not because of ethics but purely based on calorie intake. I found I was managing my weight better. This was the first shock for my family—I was no longer eating any animals except for seafood. They accepted this decision without too much opposition. I was very determined to lose weight and I thought I was onto something. Looking back on my choice, it makes some sense in terms of weight management.

Seafood is not really any cheaper than red meat and some can be far more expensive. Another issue with seafood is that you have to eat the fast-growing variety like blue grenadier because of issues of mercury content. Large slow-growing fish have very high levels of mercury. This is a bigger issue that the public is not made aware of. Since I was consuming a large quantity, it was a real danger.

After reading Singer’s book, I took a long time to think things through and process my thoughts. (Sometimes days, even weeks pass while I think about things before I have a clear view on how I feel about the issue!) The Vegan lifestyle is a decision that needs toVegan be thought through. Also like many Recognising choices, once we commit, we see the other side and this opens up more ethical questions and more decisions regarding our stance. For example, why doesn’t the Vegan eat honey?  Well, the bees are so precious to our planet’s survival that we should not be messing with them. This is an example of something that I really had to ponder on for a while. So much commodification and cruelty go under the radar because of big business and clever marketing that hides or disguises the realities of food production. People are just like the fish in a tank—does the fish know it’s wet? When the masses accept clever spin or an outright lie, they look at the person who takes a different approach as though they are insane or some ‘radical’ troublemaker.

I am a Christian. I found it very interesting that being Vegan is often more offensive to some than having a religious belief! I am forty-six and started to follow Christ in my twenties. I remember how some people did not accept my decision. Still, they would say, “It’s your decision.” But when you reveal you are a Vegan, some people just lose it and wonder what the hell you are thinking. “What are you saying?” they ask (often defensively), “That it’s wrong to farm and kill things to eat them? What is wrong with that?!” Sometimes there is an added religious or biblical justification: “Farm animals are here for us to eat and God created it like this.” Actually, if anything, a ‘creation ethic’ might point us back toward eating our ‘greens’ (Genesis 1:29-30).

I’m told, “You are going to end up with iron and protein deficiency!” I have to have blood tests every year for another medical condition. I am in excellent health and certainly not suffering from any deficiency. (For anyone reading this is Vegan or considering going Vegan or Vegetarian, B12 is a bacterium found in animal products and very beneficial to our health. I take a B12 supplement that is inexpensive and Vegan-friendly.)

My spirituality and belief in God have strengthened my ethical stance against animal cruelty. God did not create animals to be treated cruelly nor as commodities to be exploited. Our world is tainted by greed: many corporations and individuals profit from cruelty.

I am against the cruel practice of factory farming. There is some strong science supporting that the modern farming methods are very harmful to the environment and contributing to world hunger issue. I am no researcher or I do not have qualifications in this field: my road is to refrain from the cruelty of helpless, voiceless animals. I will not willfully participate in such cruel acts; I will not pretend ‘it’s all fine’ because ‘everyone is doing it’. I will stand up for the animals.

Among the challenges of being a Vegan is going out for a meal. There are many Vegan places in the CBD but very few in the suburbs. I always take my lunch to work from home because it’s uncommon to find Vegan food in most cafes. When first becoming Vegan, I spent a lot of time reading the packaging. Once you have been doing it a while, you learn all the best places to go and which products to grab. Family can be difficult at first, but once they better understand the rationale and try eating some of your food for themselves, things find their own balance. Considering that we live in a country that prides itself on profane trinities like barbeques, grog and football, I understand the cognitive dissonance people experience when challenged with the ethics of food and everyday socialising. I try to be very gentle when someone asks me about Veganism, not fanatically overloading the curious with information! Like my own journey, I try to give people time to consider things… if they ever do.

But despite the challenges, in the face of serious ethical problems, I strongly encourage you to examine alternatives to the status quo in your consumption of food. Your body will not be the only one to benefit. Give “equal consideration of interest” to others, human and animal.

Hidden Benefits of Volunteering and how we can help our communities.

 

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

I have continued volunteering since my late twenties. Realistically, it all started with Scouts as a kid. I don’t have space here to record all my volunteering roles. However, I am going to talk about the valuable benefits. In my experience volunteering, you are working for free with minimal financial benefits mostly they cover few out of pocket expenses. Despite this, the rewards not added to your finances are indeed made up in your personal and community growth. For instance, with personal growth, you will ask yourself common questions like, how could it be creating any real difference and what difference will it make to my life? This inner world exploration to is good for us.

Professional development and especially communications skills and conflict resolution.

You cannot serve in a volunteering role and have no conflict. Frequently the organisations you help have staff in positions of management who been their several years. Some staff members have spoken to me in a condescending manner on countless occasions. I have considered, I do this for free and you manage me terribly, and it’s not right. Nonetheless, I have also recognised this is a chance to grow and adjust my attitude to these personalities. You will invariably find this situation at work. How would it be any different in a volunteering role? Accordingly, the lesson for me was, work at my volunteering like I would a paid job. In paid jobs, we expand our resilience regarding less than ideal Organisational Behavioural situations, and we learn to work alongside people who we would not normally socialise with outside work. Volunteering is no different to working and we can gain some valuable skills.   When we do things for free and offer financial support it is life changing and universally affirmed in religions. You might say it is a universal or spiritual principle as well outside religion. I have worked with confessing atheist that loves volunteering just as much as the God believing ones. Anybody from any culture can receive the many benefits that volunteering provides.

∞∞ Religious examples ∞∞

Christianity. Luke 6.38

Give, and it will be given to you… for the measure you give will be the measure you get b.

Oracle of the Kami of Itsukushima

Those who do not abandon mercy will not be abandoned by me.

Hinduism. Rig Veda 1.125.5

He who gives liberally goes straight to the gods;1
on the high ridge of heaven, he stands exalted.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.1

Who is honoured? He who honours mankind.

Islam. Qur’an 39.10

Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.

My case study

It is regarding my volunteering in mental health in the psychogeriatric residential facility. I make observations and consider the conversation with staff and residence. This position independent of the services. The elderly gentlemen had food on his jumper (they claimed he aggressively would not let them change it) and have sore hands. The staff alleged he was threatening and I should be careful of him. I encountered a friendly man who was unhappy with the same food choices. Consequently, I initiated change for him, and three months later his jumper is now clean no more sore hands from hitting tables and doors. He smiles when he sees me and knows me by name plus enjoys his varied menu. Admittedly not all circumstances can be changed or improved doing my volunteering. However, it is very worthwhile when you see the voiceless and what I call “The forgotten people” in many respects getting heard and their quality of life improved.

To understand the spiritual growth that this ignites in us. We need to consider the types of societies we live in. When you do things countercultural we learn things others don’t. Giving is not a natural response for Australians.  I can only speak about Australia because I have not been overseas. This great southern land is fundamentally concerned with economics and the budget. If you do things for free you will be considered a sucker in commonly. Still, I have seen and experienced affluence and its disappointments as well. Economics will not bring happiness like the advertising promises. Having money does give me more options but by no means ensuring happiness or satisfaction. Objects have limited use with our inner peace. Wealth and power are about control and illusions of security. I love what Benner has to say about this –

‘When life itself is received as the greatest gift we could ever receive, we move away from trying to force it into a shape that will make us happy and toward accepting it as it is. This shift from willfulness to willingness opens us to the possibility of a life based on consent rather than opposition.’

Benner PhD, David G.. Human Being and Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and Love (p. 45). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Why would God let me have pain and sufferings?

  1. How did God help me with back pain and Bipolar?

  2. What were the essential spiritual insights aiding my progress?

    Firstly, God has not healed my degenerative L4 and L5 discs. Nore did He present some radical cure or supernatural move instantly alleviating my desolation. Nevertheless, he placed on my heart to start walking every day. The pain was agonising at the time, and it continued affecting the function of my left leg. My leg was only operating at fifty percent of its full movement. Walking was a tough task initially and extremely painful. I continuously requested for Gods assistance and determination to continue. Truly I was doubtful and not convinced if it would produce any measurable results. a44abe1ebb98cb18883201a9e16c9f36Gradually walking began to promote greater movement in the left leg. Before long both legs started to operate in unison and my back aligned. The pain was manageable, and I applied wisdom in bending and sitting in good chairs. This process appears simple on paper but nevertheless; it demanded courage and determination to get moving. It was almost ten years ago; In retrospect, I see how God uses pain and suffering to create a closer relationship with me. Why would a loving God do this we all including me may ask. Greenshaw has some great insight into humans and their false perception of what God should and shouldn’t do.  YHWH is an ancient word for God – google it for a full explanation.

“Lying behind the poignant question, “Shall not the judge of all the earth act justly?” is the notion that YHWH must abide by a moral code of human devising.”

James L. Crenshaw. Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil (p. 88). Kindle Edition.

The relational aspect of God is overlooked because most humans including myself initially consider God as separate and not abiding in the heart. Spirituality is a complex word and the college I study at has coined ” inner life” simple and to the point, God meets us in conversations in our “inner life.” My pain and suffering forced me to go inward and look at my heart and the way I began, was essentially in solitude when walking or sitting at parks. Benner explains surrender and articulates my attitude towards it.

“The act of willing surrender is a choice of openness, a choice of abandonment of self-determination, a choice of cooperation with God.”

David G. Benner. Desiring God’s Will: Aligning Our Hearts with the Heart of God (Kindle Locations 169-170). Kindle Edition.

My attitude shifted and my life did with it. This was not overnight but over several years and remarkably the years were even harder than the back pain in many respects. Studying theology was no easy task me, especially considering my literacy issues and negotiation Bipolar as well, I have no space to elaborate on Bipolar management here but will at some point. Another major shift in my “inner life” was loving me. Yes, caring and nurturing for myself. I have no ability to share love unless I understand I am love and my cup is overflowing. Burns understands the value of loving yourself and the devastating results of poor self-esteem.

“Some experts claim that the most important deficit that leads to relationship problems is a lack of self-esteem. In other words, if you don’t love and respect yourself, you’ll have a hard time loving anyone else because you’ll always be trying to get something from the other person that you can only give yourself.”

Burns, Dr David. Feeling Good Together: The secret to making troubled relationships work (Kindle Locations 156-159). Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Burnes maybe discussing human relationships. Nonetheless, my relationship with God is no different. I will not have a deep and meaningful relationship with God hating me or disrespect my body with poor nutrition and idleness. Consequently, working on loving myself would have been an excellent first step but it took me years to understand myself. Clarification, loving me in a relationship with God. Is different to loving me in the context of ego/pride and possible narcism or selfishness. To understand Gods idea of love there is a scripture verse widely used in non religious circles too.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7  New International Version (NIV)
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.images

Never give up, literacy challenges can be overcome.

I grew up in Tasmania and spent my childhood in the country. Consequently, occupying my time with activities like camping, fishing and shooting. Education was not something that had any emphasis or priority. Furthermore, my grandfather who I spent lots of time with told me not to worry about school. He was a farmer sheerer and an old bushman all his working life. The countercultural reality I lived in then compared to society in Australia today was ” education was not the number one necessity.” So, what was important to my grandfather? Scots-6 2My knowledge of fishing and shooting and skills in knot tying and making the neck and foot snares. Absolute necessity was good manners, and grooming also resilience and willpower. My father died in a fatal trench cave in when I was eight. This accident changed my life forever; you can read about the impact of this one event in my book when it finished. The accident initiated a whole new set of circumstances, but living with my grandparents on weekends is still a treasured memory of mine. My education ended at fifteen years old; I left school in year nine. I had literacy issues and decided at forty years old to get some education. I have a Bachelors in Theology now through the University of Divinity. My transcript from my Theology degree allowed my entry into a Masters of Arts ( Pastoral Care). Furthermore, as a part of my master, I completed three certificates of clinical pastoral education (CPE). The CPE was a nine-month program at a specialised oncology hospital here in Melbourne. Twelve hundred clinically supervised hours as a pastoral care interns. Plus sixty thousand words in clinical reports that were presented peer to peer and in supervision.

My father died in a fatal trench cave in when I was eight. This accident changed my life forever; you can read about the impact of this event in my book when it finished. The accident initiated a whole new set of circumstances. However, living with my grandparents on weekends is still a treasured memory of mine. My education ended at fifteen years old; I left school in year nine. Consequently, had literacy issues and decided at forty years old to get some education. I have a Bachelors in Theology now through the University of Divinity. My transcript from my Theology degree allowed my entry into a Masters of Arts ( Pastoral Care). Furthermore, as a part of my master, I completed three certificates of clinical pastoral education (CPE). The CPE was a nine-month program at a specialised oncology hospital here in Melbourne. Twelve hundred clinically supervised hours as a pastoral care interns. Plus sixty thousand words in clinical reports that were presented peer to peer and in supervision. IMG_0166
The challenges I faced with my literacy is hard to articulate, but the word that comes to mind is ” Everest. ” I decided to write a book about my life and never dreamed I would manage or achieve such a literary milestone. I still have bad grammar and spelling but thanks to software and practice I have improved out of sight. I also had another challenge other than literacy issue. I have bipolar and two degenerative discs. My health was at it worst when I started my degree, thanks to medical professionals and determination. I managed it all well these days. I am going to write more about managing pain and mental health at some point.