practice non-attachment

Although I am not a Buddhist, I do live according to some of the Buddha’s teachings.

Like mindfulness, doing no harm, practising non-attachment and being aware of the impermanence.

I think of it more as a philosophy and not a religion.

Today I want to talk about some ways we can practice non-attachment as vegan activists. Especially since what we do is with the goal of animal liberation in mind.

First, is our attachment to winning an argument.

We are constantly trying to have the right answer for every single question thrown our way. Saying that we do not know something is worse than not showing up as advocates in the first place.

I used to think that there must be one vegan who could help any person realize that being vegan is a morally superior choice than not being one. Surely there must be a vegan Christopher Hitchens, right?

But not even Hitchens could convince religious people that their God is not real, no matter how well he used logic, reason and science to fight against the brainwashed masses.

We must come to the realization that some people just do not care. There are individuals who are so addicted to their point of view, no matter how harmful it is, that they cannot question their own views and beliefs – they are too ingrained in them.

Second, is our attachment to having people go vegan after hearing our message.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau writes on her website: I strive to have no attachment to what people do with the information I provide. Their journey is their own, though I am grateful to be a messenger along the way. That’s all any of us are.

Hearing her say these words in one of her podcast episodes took me out of the bubble I was in. The thought of failing to make someone go vegan was painful, as I thought that was my job as an advocate for animal rights.

It was even more painful to think about someone who went vegan after hearing me talk about the importance of compassionate living, only to go back to eating pigs and cows a few months after and lying to me about it.

I felt like I had failed at everything. I couldn’t even keep someone from harming the innocent, why would I continue doing my work after what happened.

It is important to remember at all times that we are only here to provide information and food for thought, not to convert anyone. This is what separates cults and religions from the vegan philosophy whose only goal is to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals. 

We are only here to speak up for the innocent, just like every person in the past has for those who were excluded from having any rights over their own lives.

Third, is our attachment to the suffering of other animals.

This just might be the hardest one, but the one almost all of us fall victim to.

We are attached to what is happening to those who are abused, enslaved and murdered, and it is keeping us from being effective sometimes. The sight of a pig screaming for his life and a cow running after her child who is being taken away is tearing our hearts apart.

That, in turn, makes us angry and at times pushes a small minority to do things that are harmful. Sending death threats to farmers, throwing paint on people and their fur coats, walking into a restaurant and calling people who are eating steak murderers, is not activism. It is harassment.

Being attached to the suffering the most innocent among us endure, makes some of us fail at accomplishing what we chose to do with the information we have. It can turn us into someone who instead of helping, harrases, and turns what could be a good conversation into a screaming session.

We can either do more good or more bad. It’s on us to choose attachment or freedom. 

It is possible to do great work and care about those who we are trying to save without being attached to every single situation, being and emotion. 

In my opinion, it is only when we are not attached to the outcome and what we believe should happen that we do the most important work. Sometimes we will fail and sometimes we will win. 

Don’t dwell on what happens, just do your job. Things change all the time and you cannot hold on to any of them. 

Do your job and do what is right.

Whatever will happen is whatever will happen. If you do what is right nothing will keep you from doing the work you believe in. Do what you can at the moment you are able to do something.

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Tanja