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Veganism & Religion | Gary Yourofsky

For one reason or another, veganism and religion are often portrayed as mutually exclusive.  This is highlighted by the “God put animals here for our use so it's okay to eat them” argument.  But are religious views and practices truly in conflict with the tenants of veganism?  During my interview session with vegan activist ,Gary Yourofsky, I asked him for his view on the intersection of veagnism and religion.

You're never supposed to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table, right?  Well, veganism itself is a political way of eating, so it kind of breaks that rule from the outset.  Add in a discussion of religion, and you're primed for a tense meal.  We’re finally coming to the end of the Gary Yourofsky interview series and really getting into some intense topics.  Religion can be quite the controversial hotbed, and if you know Gary, you know that he does not mince his words.  I'll tell you ahead of time that if you are easily offended by strong language or religious topics, this is not the segment for you.

As an additional note, I plan on doing a full video series on the intersection of religion and veganism with a video dedicated to each religious view. I personally believe that veganism can be a meaningful part of any religious practice and, in fact, is supported in various scriptures.  But today’s video is Gary's response to this topic.  I would encourage you to push through any resistance that may come up and listen for the underlying message of Gary's answer.

For his full response, be sure to watch the video for this post, but here is a particularly tasty nugget:

“I don’t care what god you believe in, [or] if you even believe in a God.  I care about how you act.  Your actions count, not your beliefs.  Your actions matter.  Are you killing somebody, are you enslaving somebody, are you oppressing somebody, or you just discriminating against somebody. That’s what counts and that’s what matters.  And that’s what religious people need to correct.  [The] world would be a better place if we actually embraced and protected God’s creations.  Instead of just killing them all.”

As I said above, I truly believe that the core of what one may call “godly principles” are very much in line with veganism–the tenants of do no harm, of love, compassion, empathy, kindness.  Aren’t these the very bedrock of spiritual traditions?  Isn’t caring for the most vulnerable among us what countless religious practice advocates?  Certainly we humans have perverted even the most noble of principles with our own selfish desires and motives.  But when you really look at the original teachings and core philosophies of many of the world’s religions, veganism fits quite nicely.

I'm believe that anyone and everyone can be vegan.  From atheists to evangelicals, democrat and republican, Black, White, Hispanic, what have you.  Anyone from any background, ethnicity, religious practice, economic class, nationality: anyone can choose to live with compassion. To look in the eyes of an innocent animal and say, you deserve life.  You will not die on my account. What is more spiritual than that?

I’d love to hear what you think about this subject.  If you do identify as religious, do you find veganism to be in conflict or in line with your beliefs?  What do you see as the relationship between veganism and religion?  Let me know in the comments!

Stay tuned for the final installations of Gary's interview series.  And I'll be posting behind-the-scenes footage and questions that don't make it on the main channel to the ViV Area here. get the password free when you sign up for the Nugget Newsletter!  Just use the form at the bottom of this post :)

See ya next nugget!







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  1. Rick Winter on January 20, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Gary rocks!

    Yep — don’t allow people/Gods who thought the Earth was flat to keep you from going vegan.

  2. Econdemocracy on January 21, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Wow, Gary sure has strong feelings and sure knows how to express himself ;-) In this case, I mostly agree with what he is generally getting at – actions count, and love/compassion counts, whether you’re super religious or atheist or anyone else.

    Other than the disclaimer that I am not religous (but also have a fair number of criticisms of certain types of atheist activism and even gently declined to be the Faculty Advisor of the Atheism club when asked..) just want to share remarkable “parallel of quotes” from religious texts, even though I’m a non-religious kinda spiritual person.

    I have not read J. Moses’ book but as Dr. Emmett Miller says “In Jeffrey Moses’s fascinating book, ‘ demonstrates convincingly that the sacred texts of all seven of the world’s primary religions present the same fundamental truths”

    Here are the side-by-side quotse I wish EVERYONE could read, that should go VIRAL as an eye opener, on 100 things like ending wars or about justice and equality but in this case about the CORE common issue that leads to compassion that leads to VEGANISM:

    Amazingly similar five different quotes:

    Love thy neighbor as thyself. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” -The Bible, the Golden Rule.

    “This is the sum of duty; Do naught unto others, [that] which would cause you pain if done to you.” – Hundu, Mahabbarata

    “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that [which] you would not have them do unto you.” -Confucianism, Analects.

    “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” -Islam, Sunnah

    “What is hateful to you [if done to you], do not do to your
    fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.”
    -Judaism, Talmud.

    I like them all..and I like how parallel they are.

    But if I had to pick one, the last one…and that’s *despite* being bullied and shamed as a child by some super orthodox people and kids… because “everything else” that is “all the rest” of Religion, atheist principles for morality etc, are almost “just commentary” – so true: they are elaborations on that core and if you don’t understand the core, how can you really truly understand anything else, you know?

    In other words, the core is:

    “if you don’t want to be killed, don’t kill others, including non human others. You don’t want to be tortured, so don’t torture or pay companies to do that to others, to abuse people in other countries or non-human animals right here.. If you don’t want to suffer, don’t deliberately inflict suffering. If you don’t want to be caged, don’t cage others, including non-human, breathing, feeling, sentient beings”

    Everything else? “is just commentary”

    • louise on January 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      krisna philosophy also ,Jainism

      True Mohawk mateiarchy planting g the Three Sisters ,
      Got me to be vegan firstly,then later for health reasonskeep on Gary ,we need the Pink Saris to go visit the big animal businesses n Persuade them to Convert to nut tree n mushroom warehouses,,see Canadian Hazelnut ,concerted from Beef op

  3. Econdemocracy on January 21, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Really regret the typo, Hindu, not “Hundu”, really sorry about that..

    The Hundu quote came close to being my favorite: “The sum of duty” says it equally well, right?

    Though not just what “pains” us but anything “hateful” to us (like being caged) – don’t do to other sentient beings.And I had to love the “the rest is just commentary” also because it says all the stuff people kill other people about (the specifics of one religions vs another) that’s just the commentary part, while you folks calling for wars over religion? You’re missing the “Sum or Duty”, you’re missing “The entire Law”…

  4. Jo-Anna on January 21, 2015 at 8:13 pm


  5. louise on January 20, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    krisna philosophy also ,Jainism

    True Mohawk mateiarchy planting g the Three Sisters ,
    Got me to be vegan firstly,then later for health reasonskeep on Gary ,we need the Pink Saris to go visit the big animal businesses n Persuade them to Convert to nut tree n mushroom warehouses,,see Canadian Hazelnut ,concerted from Beef op

  6. Zoë on March 4, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I’m a Christian vegan and I absolutely believe the two things are compatible. Besides the ‘do unto others as you’d have done to you’ thing, in the bible Adam and Eve started life as vegans. God gave them plants to eat and told them to look after the animals. When they ate the forbidden fruit and gained knowledge of evil, they were thrown out of the garden and that’s the first instance of anyone eating meat. After sin came into the world. I’ve tried to explain this to my family but they tell me ‘God gave us animals to eat’ because they’re too lazy to change their ways.

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