Dear co-vegans, sometimes I took persuading others to change their attitude towards animals to win. I was extremely proud of how many people I convinced to get off the horses ’backs and take the animals off their menu.
I was angered when some refused to even consider change, especially when I had to witness the pain they inflicted on the animals in their care. But when the anger that drove my activism became a major source of conflict with people I genuinely cared about and respected, I took a step back. I reconnected with the difficult lessons I had learned during my time training horses and representing “gentler” and “friendlier” methods in natural equestrianism.
At the time, I was a “hardcore” advocate for better horse handling. Without exception, I came into conflict with anyone who wanted to advocate their use of metal accessories on sensitive parts of a horse’s body. Whether they were bridles, horseshoes or spurs, I argued and proved the harmfulness of their use every time, without considering or understanding the specific needs of the individual whose opinion I wanted to change. It was boiling inside me as I watched the horses ’responses to the pain such tools were causing, so I wanted to defend and protect them. Unfortunately, this rarely worked. Eventually, I resorted to suppressing my anger in order to be more effective in such emotionally charged interactions, but this spilled over into other areas of my life and manifested itself, for example, in a lack of self-care. All this time, however, I still hypocritically enjoyed riding my horses, relying on energetic and psychological manipulations to maintain control instead of equipment that would cause them physical pain. That’s when I was
mistakenly believing that I love my horses while everyone else abuses theirs.
After leaving the equestrian industry, I realized that I was part of a worrying trend of slandering those responsible for more obvious, cruel, and overt types of horse abuse, while adopting a much more insidious form of psychological warfare against horses. This more “loving” approach to horses essentially significantly increased their abuse, even if it reduced the horse’s direct, physical pain. Not only has the softening of coaching methods created many more horse slaves around the world, but it has helped give birth to a new culture of women who have begun to lead in the field of horse abuse. We have never before learned how to overcome more than five hundred kilograms of animals without effort or the use of physical force, which has attracted
women in astonishing numbers. Unfortunately, the shadows of humanity manifest in both male and female forms, regardless of gender, and we all participate in this until we recognize the parts of ourselves that exist in both roles. A similar worrying trend is developing in vegan circles and animal rights movements. Many vegans who talk about the necessary changes seem to focus more on their pain and suffering than on exploitation, while veganism is a non-exploitative attitude toward animals in the first place. There is a reason for this unconscious diversion of attention.
We become vegans because we love animals. We become angry because we harm the animals we love. And, to others who still harm animals, we get angry only because we can’t forgive ourselves for our past actions or when our love for animals is still expressed by needing or using them in some way, even if only indirectly . It is not possible to be angry at something outside of yourself that is not still alive inside you, even if only in cellular memory as a result of unhealed trauma.
What we see about ourselves mirrored in others is not always obvious or clear, but there is always some message for us, about us.
By directing our attention to the behavior of others, we avoid insight into ourselves. Such aggressive behavior in activism does not pay off with those who either do not want to change or know enough to expose the hypocrisy of such impulsive behavior. Believe it or not, there are many deeply developed individuals who work on themselves and create a better world but are not committed to veganism. I believe that the transition to veganism is key to living in the integrity of love, and I have met many non-vegans who make me much happier and who do much more for our planet than those vegans who condemn the latter for not yet making that decision. .
At least in part, because of my frustrations and the consequent relentless persuasion of others to transition to veganism, some of the best, most emotionally mature people I have ever known have left me. I often did this unconsciously and seemingly non-aggressively, but these sensitive people didn’t even need a sharp confrontation to sense the motivation behind my hidden intentions. When I remember them now, with a more holistic understanding of their exploitative behavior, I would say that they were probably even more vegan than I was, even though they ate meat. How is that possible? Well, they never agreed with the idea of having pets, that’s the first thing. Also, riding horses did not seem right to them and they were completely opposed to industrial agriculture, in all respects.
Conscious people who do not have or do not want to have animals do not, in principle, exploit animals on a daily basis, although they may support this with their purchases. Compare this to a vegan who does not support animal husbandry at all, but at home emotionally exploits one or more animals in his care on a daily basis. Not to mention the epidemic of glorified “petting zoos” that pretend to be vegan animal shelters. It’s worth considering – especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
People like my former friends are extremely intelligent, critical thinkers and are recognized for movements and upheavals in the world, in areas that have nothing to do with animals. They are more interested in how you behave, not what you say, and if your behavior is questionable, they will not listen to you for very long as they are focused on other, equally important topics. These are the people that vegan activism needs the most, as they are the real leaders among us and very influential in their own right. And they are the hardest to influence, because you have to be at least as clear as they are if you want them to listen to you about making difficult and unpleasant decisions in their already wonderful lives. I watched as I failed to influence them precisely because of my persistent anger, which made me impatient. If we want to put an end to the “angry vegan” stereotype, we need to not only talk about it, but also stop being angry at others when we obviously still have a lot of work to do with ourselves.
After six years of working towards discovering the most subtle layers of exploitation between humans and animals, I have learned how to treat them without any abuse of power. I created the work Sanctuary13 that supports these ideas. It breaks down thirteen practical principles that I believe must be in constant use in our relationships with others if we are to avoid exploitation. This practice of behaving towards animals has offered much more space in my life to process and heal the personal traumas of the past that originally led me to animals in the first place. Exploiting animals is a waste of time. Imagine how much more we can do with our lives and for the animals themselves when we no longer reach for them in order to distract ourselves from our unresolved pain.
At any given moment, within any relationship, we choose between only two options – love or take advantage. The energies behind them feel very different, although on the surface they may look the same. With experience, reflection and exercise, it is possible to confidently judge when exploitation is present. These more subtle forms of exploitation, which feed the widespread use of animals for diverse, deeply personal needs, are very common among vegans, especially those who have a lot of anger and direct it at others through their activism. Vegans who have accepted their past and stopped any exploitation are no longer angry. They become compassionate and understanding towards all who are not yet there, as they are aware of the potential lesson in every emotional trigger they feel in response to others.
This is not an easy job. It’s uncomfortable until we break through all the layers, and even after we start to become aware of everything I’m talking about here. It takes time to change habits and overcome long-standing conditioning and beliefs. Sorry
some leading activists still engage in such exploitation, in every photo and video they use to promote veganism. This usually reveals the animal’s posture in the presented situation and how it is overlooked, although it is obvious that it communicates something important. The person who creates such content has their own agenda, which is more important to them than the message of the animal. I would say that the most common example is taking “selfies” while a man hugs or holds an animal that clearly does not want to be a part of it. It’s not okay to just reach for the animals in our care and touch them when we want to feel connected to them. This gradually completely destroys their sense of self in the same way as ours if we were constantly dependent on someone to take care of us, and it would seem to him that he can touch us whenever he wants.
As we all know, one cannot be somehow vegan or partially vegan. Whether you support animal exploitation or not. We don’t become vegan overnight, not at all. As far as I’m concerned, you become vegan the moment you decide to end all forms of animal exploitation in your life, no matter how long it takes then. Vegans still cause unintentional damage and / or death to animals as a result of our existence and life on Earth, or even as a result of our unconscious patterns. However, you cannot be vegan if you use animals intentionally and actively. Please don’t be a vegan activist who fights to end animal abuse and then goes home where he reaches for a cat or dog to comfort himself. We may indeed do this unconsciously, but the deliberate and active exploitation of animals for personal gain will not bring success; be it emotional, psychological, physical, financial or, in particular, an acquisition aimed at promoting veganism. The inevitable damage we cause as humans is not a problem. Exploitation, whether covert or overt, is. This is a current and, last but not least, unsuccessful paradigm that we need to break free from. Exploitation is always a choice.
Anger is a healthy emotion, but it is the primary personal message of the body – the personality. It is not intended to be used in the form of a weapon against others in an equally violent manner, which we do not approve of in any way in relation to animals. As activists, we are the ones who are actively seeking change, which means that it is OUR responsibility to be that change – not those who do not want it. I understand, we all suffer and sacrifice ourselves to speak for animals that, in our view, cannot speak for themselves. But that is exactly the problem. Animals have their voices, anyway, and it’s up to animal lovers to start listening to them in a way that can create the genuine systemic change that is needed to end animal exploitation. I still get angry at myself, but now I can get caught up in it and turn to myself to transform that anger into something else, like passion.
Passion imbued with love becomes compassion for oneself and all others. The only thing that really needs to be revived on this planet is genuine, holistic, all-encompassing love. If it is not our love for the whole (even those we condemn) that inspires our actions, we are only deepening and recreating a separation that prevents us from peace. Actions that stem from fear and anger do not lead to worthy or fulfilling changes.
The foundations of animal abuse are rooted in domestication, and a huge amount of domestication is driven by the interdependence of those people who seriously claim to love animals. Emotionally mature adults do not have and are not looking for domesticated animals for affection or company. Interdependence and emotional exploitation between caregiver and caregiver is an extreme form of abuse, even when it seems like genuine care and deep affection.
Think of an example of an interdependent parent who suffocated children with his behavior in an attempt to satisfy his emotional needs through them. Now think about how unstable an individual would become if this dynamic marked his or her entire life. Unlike human children, animals do not grow up and begin an independent life in which they can find a psychotherapist or whatever they need to heal these wounds. They have depended on us their whole lives. Such abuse of power and the emotional burden placed on permanent caregivers is most often the reason for the death of an animal through some disease.
Are any of the animals in your care anxious? Problems with aggression? Obsessive compulsion? Maybe he has cancer? Is there any unexplained health condition or behavioral problem? Most likely the reason is just emotional exploitation. These types of imbalances rarely exist in the wild, as healthy, adult animals are emotionally mature and do not reproduce out of a selfish desire for personal fulfillment. Thus, the beings in their care are allowed to mature and develop appropriately as a direct result of the unconditional love and support they receive from caregivers. If only humanity would retain enough savagery within itself to act the same. So far, one of my most painful lessons when it comes to animals has been to observe how different Denali, the homeless husky puppy in my care, and Spur, my beloved corgi, have been emotionally exploiting me since day one. Otherwise, I managed to relieve him of a lot of conditioning in his last years, but not before he was taken over by cancer. To deny her role in his downfall would be irresponsible and would tarnish his amazing being. That I accepted it, however, broke my heart.
I’ve touched on quite a few topics here that we rarely explore in our relationships with animals. I understand how hard it can be to just think of such ideas – I’ve been there myself. I am sure that an article like this raises a lot of new questions, and I am working diligently to publish a book that will contain guides and much more information on these topics. On the other hand, all of this is something extremely powerful and much more fulfilling than any need to save an animal driven by selfishness or fear. These days, I am most proud when I inspire people to be vegan, precisely because I am able to let go of condemnation and love them for who they are. This is a direct mirror of my loving care for myself, as people who receive this kind of support never turn back. They themselves become proponents of veganism and often even influential leaders within this movement, as they have been loved through all the profound and difficult changes, rather than being pushed into superficial ones by shame. It’s easy to love people who don’t need to change much to come to the same conclusions as us. However, it is not easy to do this with someone like you
a successful, professional horse trainer who already has a voice in this exploitative industry and thus serves well.
Let’s be clear – I wouldn’t be reading my article today if I weren’t in love with veganism. There is a good reason why more people don’t go from exploitation to love, especially when they have a lot to lose. Someone who masters animals ten times harder than him will never be persuaded into veganism with anger. To influence an addict with a sense of the power he gains from such domination, you need genuine power that comes only from love. And these are the people who need your help the most. They have the strongest voices once they change, because they know the other side too well. Every time you see a villain in someone because he opposes veganism, you have the opportunity to create another key player in our movement; but these people will only hear you if you respect them as they are.
For activists, the greatest advantage is the full embodiment of our values, not any information presented to those we want to influence. That is why people like Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and especially Jesus, so remembered. It is not difficult to inspire others to change if they enjoy being with us. This was for me personally the biggest obstacle in my path. I have demolished enough bridges and built enough new ones to know how consistent the truth is that the energy behind our actions affects their outcome. I stumbled and crawled through these layers and made a huge amount of mistakes along the way. It is not about achieving perfection – it is about taking responsibility and the integrity of the message we give to the world. Let’s start really listening to each other and stop making excuses so we can stand together for the benefit of animals. Trust me, the person who masterfully manipulated energy for 20 years to achieve the desired goal. When you can’t control others, you can only influence them well by being the change you want to see.