Is Being an Ethical Vegan Affecting Our Mental Health?

Italy actiivist holding dead animal

Italian activists mourn the cruelty and abuse of animals in a street protest, holding the bodies of dead animals, 13 April, 2014.

I found this fascinating article – Should vegans be issued with a mental health warning? – written by Australian psychologist Clare Mann. She relates how she has had doctors referring patients they believe have a mental disorder to her. After talking to them, she found the common element is that they are vegan.

What if their associated symptoms were not signs of mental illness at all, but instead signs of extreme anguish, grief, betrayal and the madness of speciesism? …

Once you lift the veil on what is going on behind our speciesism, you will most likely reach the same conclusion – that it is a form of madness but not your madness.  The madness of how our society thinks speciesism – our unspoken superiority over the animal kingdom and differing treatment of different species – is ok.

So why is it so painful to be an animal advocate or adopt a vegan lifestyle? And most importantly what can you do to alleviate your pain and help animals?

I have been eating a plant-based diet for a year and a half now, but it has only been in the last nine months or so that I have had the “veil” lifted and understood the madness.

I was a vegetarian “for ethical reasons” for almost 15 years and didn’t know the ways I contributed to the exploitation of animals.

Now that I am aware, I am experiencing what Dr. Mann describes in this article – the grief, the anger at the industrialized food system and the inability to talk to non-vegans about how I feel. Are the relationships vegans have with non-vegans different from those we might have with someone who has gone through a divorce or other life-changing event, if we haven’t experienced them?

Dr. Mann believes they are.

The vegan who then talks to their (non-vegan) friend about these issues, who subsequently doesn’t also become vegan, believes that their friend either agrees with the cruelty, disbelieves what goes on or is indifferent to it.

Either way, the vegan knows that the non-vegan now has the knowledge but chooses to continue with the collusion. This is why they say that their friends or family don’t understand them.

Luckily, since moving to California, my wife and I have found vegan meetups and gotten involved in vegan book discussions where we can share these feelings.

If you are experiencing these feelings and don’t have people to discuss them with, go online and find the support you need through local vegan or animal activist groups.

How do we move forward from here?

Dr Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet, offers us a solution to help us on this journey. He says that each of us are born vegan and is on the path to returning to this place.

If you are an animal activist or vegan reading this, you will most likely remember a time before your eyes were opened to the institutionalised superiority humans hold over animals i.e. speciesism.

Draw on that experience to ‘leap ahead’ for other people who have yet to have their eyes opened, holding the vision of a more compassionate world, one in which humans do not exercise superiority over non-human species and where animals live their own lives for their own sakes – not ours.

The entire article is worth reading and I hope will spark some great conversations.

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