It All In
By Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Waylan the burro. Photo courtesy Compasionate
Whether it’s through cooking classes
I teach, talks I give, articles I write or the podcast I produce, many
people ask me what they can do beyond giving up eating animals and their
secretions. They’re anxious to do more, and I commend them. We
need them, the animals need them, and there is much work to do.
But before I offer any suggestions, I feel compelled to guide new activists through
the process of taking it all in. Witnessing the cruelty inflicted upon animals
is a traumatic experience, and between the learning and the doing, there is the
being: the processing of it all.
Based on my own experiences as an activist and the trials and tribulations
encountered along the way, I offer these suggestions for newly awakened people
in a world that appears to be sleeping.
Knowing Our Intentions and Remaining Unattached to Outcome
When we know where we are coming from, we will have better success at reaching
our destination. When I set out to speak on behalf of animals, I find it helpful
to know what my intention is. Before I teach a class, record a podcast episode
or even answer someone’s question, I make sure I am clear about my goal:
to raise awareness about the suffering of animals, to be their voice, and to
speak my truth. I believe we’re here to be teachers for one another, and
I am grateful for my role as a conduit. That’s all any of us are. That
is why if we don’t speak our truth, we’re not only falsely representing
who we are and what we believe, but we’re also denying someone their
It’s important to note that my intention is not to make the world vegan
or to change someone’s mind. If those were my intentions, I’d fail
every time. It’s not my role to make anyone do anything. All I can do is
speak the truth and hope that inspires others to act on their own values. That’s
why I don’t like the word convert. I prefer inspire.
First Comes Peace
In my opinion, to advocate for animals and veganism is to advocate for nonviolence
and peace. And, not surprisingly, peace is the byproduct of a vegan lifestyle.
It is what you give, create and get back. It is an unexpected gift.
There’s a very deep peace of mind that comes from disconnecting yourself
with the inherent violence of turning beautiful, living, feeling beings into
butchered bodies. Events that occur at places such as slaughterhouses, feedlots,
factory farms and small farms, processing plants, egg hatcheries and insemination
facilities are beyond our worst nightmares. That’s why we don’t want
to look. We pay others to do it for us: anonymous workers killing anonymous victims
of our appetites. That’s why those who pick up the blade do so with a closed
heart and a desensitized conscience. It’s ugly, it’s brutal and it’s
To say “no” to that—to remove yourself from the horror, from
the nightmare—releases you from that burden of guilt that so many of us
experience—that low, constant, underlying hum that causes us to make
every excuse in the book to justify our actions, to release us from our complicity.
The hum that causes us to say we feel okay about eating animals. No prayer
ever said over their dismembered bodies exonerated me from the part I played.
No excuse I ever made washed the blood from my hands. I only felt free when
I stopped participating. I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I recognized
the inherent connections between animal rights and all other social justice
I believe that the absence of world peace is deeply connected with our violence
toward animals; I would even go a step further and say our violence toward other
humans is rooted in our violence toward animals.
Then Comes Anger
Whereas stopping our participation in the institutionalized exploitation of
animals brings peace of mind, bearing witness to so much cruelty and suffering
a devastating effect. Burnout is common among activists, and many become jaded,
hopeless and angry. And why shouldn’t we be angry? Corporate greed, personal
convenience and pleasure drive the socially sanctioned use and abuse of billions
of nonhuman animals. We live in a world where it’s considered normal
to champion this and radical to oppose it. We live in a country where our government
just passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Of course people are angry.
But anger is not a dirty word. It is a very real response, whose roots go deep.
It’s what we do with anger that will make or break us.
It’s helpful to know the root of the word anger is sorrow. In fact, its
earliest roots referred to something being “painfully constricted,” a “strangling,
narrowing, squeezing, throttling.” It’s anguish—utter anguish—we
feel when we see what happens to animals.
If we reframe anger so we see it in its proper context, we can recognize that
there isn’t a contradiction between the peace that comes with eating nonviolently
and the anger we feel as the result of so much abuse. The key is transforming
anger into action. It’s easy to become cynical, disheartened and hopeless,
but that doesn’t do anyone any good. Anger can be a great motivator,
but how do we not dwell in the sorrow, anguish and the grief? I think the answer
Finding the Hope
Hope—it’s everywhere. Those of us who work with the public are in
a very unique position—we get to see change happening. I have the privilege
of witnessing transformations every day—people changing their lives, their
minds, their habits, and it’s incredible to see. I couldn’t do this
work if I wasn’t carried by hope. I’m moved by the people who take
the time to write to me and share their stories of transformation. It gives me
a tremendous amount of hope. Read the stories of those who are making a difference.
Visit an animal sanctuary and look into the eyes of the animals who have been
rescued. Ask other vegetarians to tell their stories, to share their moments
of epiphany. Seek out the hope. It’s there.
Remembering Our Stories
When we go out into the world newly awakened, we are so acutely aware of all
the animal exploitation around us that we may become easily frustrated by those
we see participating in it. It’s a natural response. We’re looking
at the world through an entirely different lens and want to shake everyone, make
them see what we see. But I can tell you that we will neither make nor keep many
friends if that’s our approach. We will neither inspire many people nor
do ourselves any good. We absolutely have to remember that we were once unaware.
We have to remember that every seed we plant has the potential to grow. But it’s
not ours to control. Once we plant a seed, we might help water, nurture and fertilize
it, but we have no control over the outcome. In forgetting our own stories and
our own process, we lose our humility, and in doing so we risk becoming arrogant
and bitter. Bitterness is anger that has dwelled upon, and the root of the word
means “to split.”
Connecting With Others
Remembering our story is important, but so is telling it and hearing others’.
The only way we’re going to do that is by connecting with other like-minded
people. Many people who say they were vegetarian once but stopped will tell you
they didn’t have a lot of vegetarian friends, they didn’t have a
network, a support system. Having a circle of people in your community—people
you can dine with, people you can cry and laugh with, people who simply speak
your own language—is so important. We can gain so much insight from one
another, but first we have to find one another. How?
Find vegan meetups in your area (www.meetup.com), or start one. Host a potluck.
Have a cooking party. Volunteer with a local animal or vegetarian group. And
when you meet like-minded people, ask them to tell you their story and tell them
My hope is that we, as activists, understand that in taking care of ourselves,
we are better able to take care of others. When our hearts are open, we will
inspire and attract openness in others. On behalf of the billions of animals
who are at the mercy of humans and on behalf of the billions of humans who have
the capacity to show mercy, I encourage all of us to create a foundation of truth
and compassion, upon which we will build a better world for humans and nonhumans
Thank you to everyone at Satya Magazine for providing a medium through which
we were able to speak the truth. You have inspired so many. And though we will
miss you, your legacy will endure.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is a contributing writer for Satya.
She also founded Compassionate Cooks (www.compassionatecooks.com) to empower
people to make informed
food choices. Through cooking classes, podcasts, articles, recipes, her first-of-its-kind
cooking DVD, and her upcoming cookbook, The Joy of Vegan Baking, she
joys and benefits of a plant-based diet.
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