Growing up in 3HO I was raised a vegetarian. We ate dairy and cheese, but no eggs and we avoided any food with other animal by-products like lard or chicken stock. I’d say that our diets were very strict, health food diets, but not vegan. Yogi Bhajan often instructed his students to go on fasts, usually lasting about six weeks (40 days was “the standard” to “break” a “habit”). I remember one fast that he instructed to women who wanted to lose weight: Drink nothing but Skim Milk mixed with Diet Coke, but that’s another topic all-together.
One time, as a child, one of us was served meat by accident and we all started to cry. We had no concept of a world that was indifferent to our vegetarianism.
Organizations that promote vegetarianism are well aware that children are easily frightened and even traumatized by the sight of slaughter and they know that children are unable to disseminate the complex information within such imagery. Yet they knowingly present the information bluntly and unapologetically (it’s parallel to the anti-abortion fanatics handing out “literature” outside clinics with tragic imagery of extracted fetuses). I don’t agree with the tactic used, and it dismays me to see that the cause for humane treatment of animals has grown far too fanatic and dogmatic.
Growing up in 3HO we too were conditioned to signify meat and any and all animal slaughter with mass violence and savagery. We were implanted with far too violent a picture of the nature of food with complicated politics and causes that we were too young to comprehend. As small children who hadn’t developed the skills to act or think rationally, morally or critically, our innocence was exploited and we were conditioned to be traumatized.
A child growing into adolescence may continue to carry this brutal imagery and the big-picture consequences with them for a long time. We become more and more weighed down by the burdens of society, experiencing feelings of guilt for anything that could be harmful in any way, and developing an unbalanced barometer for right and wrong. I think THIS is primarily why it took me a long time to decide to be an omnivore (but not strictly speaking). Today I’m happy that I’ve given the subject a lot of thought and can comfortably make decisions based on my own intellect and needs.
Because I am someone who is skeptical of, and continually disillusioned by the moral high ground, I know that a one-size-fits-all approach is not for me. Nor is it sensitive to the vastness of cultures around the world that all have the same common ground – food for sustenance and survival. I am dismayed by people who were and still are willing to ignore this very basic truth and buy into diet as religion, suspending logic to extract some kind of meaning from anything their leader tells them, meanwhile separating themselves from others based on irrelevant choices.
I recently read an article about a vegan restaurant which espouses the self-help philosophies of Landmark Forum, and encourages, sometimes even requires employees to spend their own money on Landmark Seminars. The Landmark Forum has been designated a cult by most in the cultic studies and psychology fields.