Today, on this national holiday that we honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I urge you to extend Dr. King’s call for peace and nonviolence to your plates (if you aren’t already). You'll be in good company. Coretta Scott King extended her life’s work of promoting nonviolence to include becoming a vegan in her later years.
She was inspired by the veganism of their son, Dexter King, who has stated:
“Veganism has given me a higher level of awareness and spirituality, primary because the energy associated with eating has shifted to other areas…If you’re violent to yourself by putting [harmful] things into your body that violate its spirit, it will be difficult not to perpetuate that [violence] onto someone else.”
Dexter King was introduced to veganism by human rights activist and humorist Dick Gregory (who was also my inspiration). In his memoir, Callus on My Soul, Dick Gregory wrote:
“I had been a participant in all of the ‘major’ and most of the ‘minor’ civil rights demonstrations of the early sixties. Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence, and I was convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form. I felt the commandment ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ applied to human beings not only in their dealings with each other—war, lynching, assassination, murder and the like—but in their practice of killing animals for food and sport. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life.”
Like Dick Gregory, I extended my veganism to express compassion and nonviolence toward animals by not wearing their skin or hair about 17 years ago.
This came as a surprise to me at the time, since my main reason for becoming a vegan was for better health. That began to expand when I served as public policy liaison for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 1999.
Just by working in that environment, reading the material in the office library, watching undercover videos on factory farming and zoos, and attending talks, I, too, came to feel that the cruelty that goes into using animals for fashion and entertainment was just as wrong as the cruelty involved in eating them.
We're all connected.
So, on this national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., consider extending his call for peace to your plate, as well.