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Do No Harm

Do No Harm bumper sticker

There are so many resolutions I have attempted and failed at over the years. I wasn’t going to gossip. I wasn’t going to swear. I wasn’t going to interrupt Greg. I wasn’t going to judge my neighbor. I was going to run 5 days a week. The list of my good intentions and failures is long, and while I try to do all these things (except the running 5 days a week bit), it is not something I commit to every day.

Now, more than two years as a vegan, I have a resolution that is with me constantly. I am reminded of it countless times a day, witnessing things that hurt my heart. It is my mantra. It is the thing I most want to succeed at, and yet it is impossible. Do no harm. Say that to a nonvegan and you will often get the argument that doing no harm is impossible.

They are right.

Just the business of living does harm. Our use of fossil fuel harms the environment, our homes displace vegetation. We mow the grass or even walk across the grass and we are killing bugs and worms. I’m sure I have inadvertently driven over bugs and caterpillars crossing the road. I’m not going to lie. I won’t share my kitchen with ants or flies. Prune a tree and you displace a bird or two or at least disrupt their world.

So how do we reconcile our commitment as vegans to do no harm with the realities of day to day living? We have compassion for ourselves. We remember that being vegan is about intentions and not about perfection.
Recently I had some soy cheese that I thought was vegan. After I ate it, Greg looked at the package and saw that it had casein in it. Yes, I felt sick, not because I was physically sick, but because I felt like I had failed. He reminded me that my intention was good and to let it go. I admit it took a while. I wanted to be better at being a vegan than that.

What I know for sure is that my being a vegan is the single greatest thing I can do for my planet and for the animals. It is as simple as it is powerful. If my intention is to do no harm as much as is humanly possible, then I can change my world.

Interested in more thinking about this? Listen to the wonderful Colleen Patrick-Goodreau right here and read a little of the always challenging JamesMcWilliams on his blog.

Georgia is an unpretentious foodie who, at 50, transitioned from a vegetarian diet to a whole foods plant based diet and is loving it. She works as a nurse, plays as a quilter, loves to run, hates to race.
She thinks dogs are actually angels (in dog suits).

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for your article and sharing your thoughts, I have been vegan for just over a year, and while it started out as a health thing, it has now become so much more. I have constant challenges with meat eaters and how so many people can have blinkers on over the damage and harm. I am happy walking by cows, sheep etc and tell them ” I no eat you”.. funny….how my thoughts have changed over the year. I have had a few slips, and am challenged by going out to eat and not making a scene over “what is in this” at the table, still. Why does being vegan illicit anger and mocking?still working on that one. So, I loved your article because it reminded me why I will never eat meat again, compassion. Compassion for the animals, and for me too, when I fail, but I keep at it. Mahalo, Malama Pono

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, and we are glad you liked our post. Isn’t it amazing how you see the world around you differently after making the change? Thank you for doing it and keep inspiring those around you!

  2. Thank you. Beautifully expressed. “Do No Harm” to the best of our ability, After all, perfection takes a little more effort!

    Wonder if you’d do your take on how to deal with (or tolerate) people who do not follow our gentle philosophy. I secretly think they are monsters, but of course – as some of them are much-loved close friends or family – I can never admit to this. And I can’t bear people to see me as “holier than thou” if the subject does come up. Guess we can’t have it both ways.


    1. Thank you so much, Fran.
      I have some ground rules for myself when talking to non vegans.
      I remind myself that they are simply not vegans yet.
      If the conversation starts over a meal and there is meat or dairy on the table, I defer, and request that we do discuss it, but not over food. I find that in that situation someone always gets defensive and I am far more likely to be perceived or accused of being preachy or judgmental. If it is a vegan meal, however, I am all in for the discussion, almost obnoxious with enthusiasm!
      When a meat eater starts by telling you how little meat they eat ( and they all do), you know you have an opening. Know your own intentions. It is not about, “I am right and you are wrong.” We once ate meat too. (ew) For most people the change happens slowly and while we would like sometimes to tie them up and make them watch Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and Earthlings, we simply cannot. We have to be patient and encourage every change and every step. When they tell you they can’t give up dairy, encourage them to try just giving up meat.
      Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, a wonderful vegan author and educator, said, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something.” This is a great place for many not yet vegans to begin.
      You will sometimes say the wrong thing or not enough. Don’t beat yourself up. Your choices of compassion speak volumes.

      1. I look forward to it. I have two blogs, but they are not on veganism, and I don’t think that I would have the patience to start one of my own (although my Pins are an outlet). Such a frustrating topic. But yours is so clear-headed and succinct. I admire you.

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