Jordi Casamitjana, the author of the novel “The Demon’s Trial”, uses an allegorical story to guide you through the “Vegan Mansion”, a metaphor to explain what veganism is.
Most people don’t have one, but I do.
They would easily have a favourite colour, film, or band, but it would be rare to find people with a favourite metaphor. However, I have one, because I have been using it for quite some time to explain something very important to me.
As an ethical vegan for more than 20 years, I have tried many metaphors to illustrate what veganism is. I used them to correct misconceptions, explain its different dimensions, show the extent of its scope and deconstruct its structure for educational purposes. I used them, essentially, to communicate better with vegan-deniers, vegan-curious, pre-vegans and vegans alike (I don’t really bother trying with veganphobes). However, about five years or so ago, I imagined the perfect metaphor for it. One so complete, so visual, and so versatile, that has become my favourite metaphor ever.
I have often mentioned it in my articles, but I have never written in detail about it. I have never developed it to the full in a format that is purely allegorical, rather than just comparative. If you read my work — or watched my videos — you may have come across the term “vegan mansion.” This is not a real place, but a metaphor I use to explain what I think veganism is. The vegan mansion is my favourite metaphor.
It’s time to show it to you in all its splendour, so sit back, relax, open your imagination, and join me in a guided tour through it.
Your Journey Begins Here
As you know, a metaphor is a figure of speech that describes something by saying it’s something else. In this case, I am describing a fully formed philosophy (that has an associated lifestyle and social movement) as saying it is a building with people in it. So, to see the full effect of a metaphor one has to be able to relate what it is described with what it is supposed to mean. At the end of the article, I will explain the meaning I had in mind when I describe the mansion and everything around it, but see if you can guess it before that. Let’s begin:
On a crisp winter morning, Alex and Kai, a young couple, are having a relaxed stroll through the pedestrian streets of an undisclosed city. In the distance, they see a few people standing around and watching what seems to be a performance of some sort. When they get closer, one of the performers spots them and hands them a leaflet.
“Thank you,” says Alex.
“Have a look and let me know if you need me to explain anything,” says the performer.
They keep walking, read the leaflet together, and after 20 yards or so, they stop, they look at each other smiling, and almost in unison they say, “Should we?”
They burst into laughter when a gust of wind takes the leaflet off their hand. Chasing after it for a few metres, Kai swiftly catches it in mid-air. Their laughter reignites again.
“Let’s find out,” replies Kai mischievously.
Locking eyes, they read aloud from the leaflet, “Come and Visit THE MANSION, Free Coach, Free Tour and Free Refreshments.”
A few days later, Kai and Alex are waiting at the coach stop full of excitement. Quite a few people are queueing too, some of them tightly holding a copy of that leaflet. “I always wanted to see THE MANSION,” said the stranger behind them in the queue.
“Yes, so did we,” replies Alex with a polite smile hoping to conclude the conversation.
“I have a cousin who went to see it last January, and now she can’t stop talking about it,” the stranger insists.
“Nice,” Kai acknowledged as they spotted the coach approaching. “Ah, here it is…I hope it’s really free, and it’s not a scam.”
A friendly-looking tour guide steps out of the modern-looking coach, and confidently addresses the group, “Come on board everyone…and yes, before you ask, it’s totally free, and you don’t need to show me the leaflet.”
Everyone enters the coach and finds a comfortable seat. After all passengers are settled and the coach starts moving, the tour guide picks up the microphone and makes an announcement:
“Before we get to THE MANSION there is something you’ll have to decide. It’s a big building, and unless you want to spend the night there — there are plenty of spare rooms, you just need to ask if you do — you may not have time to see it all. You will have to choose which gate you want to use to get in, and which wing you would prioritise during your visit.
“There are five outdoor gates, that lead to five paths, then five doors by five vestibules, one for each of the five wings of the mansion. You can see more of whatever wing you choose, but depending on how fast you walk and how tired you may get from our volunteers’ enthusiasm in showing you around, the slower ones may not be able to get to the fifth wing — but it’s up to you. On arrival at the hub, you’ll have to jump onto another coach that will take you to the gate that you chose. In front of your seat, you’ll find five cards, each with the name of one of the gates. Choose the one you fancy and give it to the right coach driver when you change coaches at the hub. It’s all colour-coded. Any questions?”
Alex raises one hand. “We are together, if we choose different gates, can we meet when we are inside?”
“Absolutely,” the tour guide reassures. “Once you enter the mansion from whatever door, you can go wherever you want. There will be plenty of people inside that can help you if you get lost.”
Alex and Kai pick up the five cards from the front seat’s pocket, all with different images and colours. The red one says The Movement, and has nice photos of animals all over; the green one says The Paradigm and has pretty paintings of forests, meadows, and seas; the white one says The Lifestyle, and it has enticing images of brightly coloured fruits and berries; the Black one says The Space, and it shows images of smiley people from different demographics and cultures; the blue one says The Realm, and it has a myriad of signs and symbols, some of them well known.
“Which one do you want?” asks Kai.
“I think I fancy The Movement, but we can choose whichever you prefer,” responds Alex
Kai looks at the Paradigm’s and the Lifestyle’s cards, not knowing which one to choose. “Is there any of the wings busier than the others?” Kai shouts to the tour guide.
“Yes, there is. Now in January, the queues in The Lifestyle are pretty long,” the guide replies through the microphone.
Kai shouts again, “What about The Paradigm?”
The tour guide makes a gesture with both hands as if weighing two imaginary cantaloupes.
“Let’s choose The Movement if you fancy that one, then,” Kai concludes. “I don’t really care which gate we use, as long as we can see THE MANSION that everyone is talking about.”
The Paths to the Mansion
Alex and Kai change coaches at the hub and begin their journey toward The Movement Gate on the red coach. The coach goes up the hills, through beautiful forests and meadows, with no signs of having been messed up by people in any way. There are no fences, there are no electric pylons, and there are not even traffic signs. They also pass some fields where food is grown, but they are not conventional fields. There have fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetable plants and grain grasses all deliberately mixed, and they are not really enclosed. It all looks natural.
At one point, they see THE MANSION approaching from the distance on the top of a huge plateau. Alex and Kai turn their heads, look at each other with open mouths, and look at it again.
“It’s huge!” Kai exclaims.
“It’s the biggest building I have ever seen!” Alex replies in astonishment.
In that instance, the voice of a new tour guide with a different accent can be heard through the speakers:
“On your left, you can already see THE MANSION. It’s the biggest mansion in the world. So big, that nobody really knows how many people are living in it right now. Some say that 50 million, but I think there’re more. There’s plenty of room for many more, though. When we get closer, please pay attention to the different flags at the top of the towers. We never agreed on which one to put there, so in the end we put all those that were proposed because, well, they are just pieces of cloth.”
Upon reaching the fence surrounding THE MANSION’s grounds, quite far from the building itself, it does not take long to get to the red gate, as it’s the second gate to the left, after the blue one. When they get there, they disembark and are warmly greeted by some volunteers who give everyone fruit juices and mixed nuts. The visitors prepare themselves to line up to queue in front of the outside gate, expecting that someone will take them through after checking their bags for security reasons. However, nothing happens for a few minutes.
The gate is open, and nobody seems to be in control of operating it. The fence itself is quite short and easy to climb over. After a while, Kai and Alex break the spontaneously made queue and move towards the fence, where someone is on the other side sitting down eating a sandwich.
“Excuse me,” Alex calls out, “nobody seems to be at the gate letting us in.”
The person swallows, smiles, and says, “Don’t worry, that’s normal. It’s OK, you all can get in, unless…you know.”
Kai looks puzzled and asks, “Unless what?”
The person stands up, walks towards them, extends a hand, and says, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. Here, hold my hand and jump over the fence, find the path in the gardens that leads to the door, and someone will help you there.”
Alex and Kai oblige, taking the stranger’s hand. After a pleasant walk through the beautiful gardens, where freely roaming sheeps and pigs add to the rustic charm of orchards and wildflower beds, they discover the path. They see a few people wandering aimlessly, seemingly unable to find the path themselves.
“It’s right here!” Kai exclaims pointing in its direction.
“Ah, thanks,” some strangers reply, while others ignore them or appeared lost in their own thoughts.
The path gently ascends, with occasional steps, but generally follows a straight line (unless needing to go around to avoid big boulders or other obstacles). After twenty minutes or so, the couple reaches the end of the path, which is a massive red door at THE MANSION. It is wide open, and it is adorned with intricately carved images of animals ranging from insects to primates. People are sitting around outside. Some appear to be sleeping, while others are engrossed in reading some books. Some are looking into the vestibule as if something stops them to enter it, while others seem to be looking at THE MANSION’s façade as if studying its architecture.
Now and then, a volunteer offers around some snacks or a cup of some brew. Alex and Kai, after politely refusing, ascend the five stone steps leading to the door and move inside — looking back and wondering why others are not doing the same. After taking three steps into the vestibule, someone approaches them from the left with a radiant smile and open arms.
“Welcome to THE MANSION,” the red wing guide with an unplaceable accent warmly says right before hugging them. “I can be your guide, if you need one.”
Alex glances at Kai, who nods in agreement.
“OK…thank you,” Alex says timidly.
The tour guide proceeds to show Alex and Kai around the expansive vestibule.
“This is the vestibule of the red gate, part of The Movement’s wing,” the guide begins. “This was the third wing built in THE MANSION, more than a hundred years ago. The first one, The Realm wing, is much older — nobody knows how old, really.
“We have been referring to this wing as The Movement since the 1940s or so when a group of individuals decided to dedicate their lives to finish it off. You can see some of them depicted in these statues here. This is Dorothy, Fay, Sally, and this is Donald,” the guide points out.
“The wing was already in construction when they initiated the social movement that propelled its development, hence the name The Movement. People who were already residing in the blue wing there on the east helped them,” the guide explains.
“And here we have one of our residents, Gero. The day he entered THE MANSION he sat there, and he has not gone further. He seems to like it here, so we are OK with it,” the guide added.
Gero glances at them, offering a brief forced smile — as he has likely done countless times.
The vestibule is beautiful indeed, adorned with many paintings and sculptures depicting acts of kindness between people and animals. A group of children — some are eating ice cream and others are chewing sweets — are running around pointing at them, touching them, and even climbing on some of them. Soft music is playing in the background, reminiscent of birdsong and whales songs combined. Scattered throughout the vestibule, there are small tables with food and drink for visitors to help themselves.
“Feel free to have a nibble if you like, it’s all complementary,” the guide encourages.
Alex picks up some sort of nugget, chews it, and whispers to Kai, “Mmm, it’s delicious.”
“There, by the statue of Anna, you can find some guidebooks you can grab, if you’re interested,” the guide suggests, pointing to a statue of a stern-looking Victorian woman.
There are comfortable chairs all around, and some visitors are dosing on them while cradling guidebooks in their laps.
Continuing the tour, the guide shares stories about the paintings, sculptures, and the architectural details of the vestibule. After being introduced to the statue of a bearded man called Henry, Alex inquires about the numerous doors scattered throughout.
“Some of those doors lead to outreachers’ rooms, others lead to corridors and passages connecting to other parts of THE MANSION, and some… well, some residents reside in the small rooms inside,” the guide explains.
At the end of the vestibule, there is a big door in the middle and several lifts on either side. Instead of traditional buttons, the lifts have a keypad where people can input the room number they wish to go to.
“How many floors has this wing?” Kai asks curiously.
The guide gently touches one of the golden lift doors, looking up with a pensive expression, “Nobody knows for sure. When you dial big numbers sometimes the lift doesn’t move, while other times it seems to go there. The top floors are still being built, you see, so some may become available with time.”
The guide then approaches the big door, pushes it open, and turns to Alex and Kai saying, “If you want to move beyond the vestibule this is the door that will lead you to the main hall of the wing where you can access the many public rooms. Let me know if you’re ready.”
Both Alex and Kai nod in acknowledgement, thank the guide, and step through the door, eager to continue their journey within THE MANSION.
The Red Wing
Once Alex and Kai pass through the red vestibule and enter the grand hall of The Movement’s wing, they are greeted by a vibrant scene of stairs, rooms, and corridors teeming with people.
The place looks busy, and everyone appears engrossed in important activities. Some groups sit around tables, engaging in passionate discussions, while others paint banners or attach placards to wooden poles. People carrying large parcels move purposefully, while some simply observe and enjoy the company of others. The space resembled a bustling shopping mall, albeit without any shops.
The guide takes them to what appears to be an information console and explains its purpose:
“All the private resident’s apartments of this wing can be accessed through this hall, but you can also visit many of the public rooms. Consoles like this, which you’ll find near lifts, will show you how to get to all these rooms, and I recommend you visit a couple before we move to the central garden. Have a look and tell me what you fancy.”
Kai and Alex examine the console and soon realised there are hundreds of public rooms to choose from. The research room, the circus room, the stalls room, the eggs room, the zoos room, the riding room, the foie grass room, the breeding room, the leather room, the hunting room, the sharks’ room, the milk room, the zoology room, the angling room, the fur room, the whales room, the honey room, the wildlife trade room, the sentience room, the wool room, the Rights room, the fighting room, the exotics room, the pangolins room, the meat room, the ethology room, the octopuses room, the tourism room, the strays room, the kangaroos room, the zoogeography room, the cages room, the transport room, the raptors room, the adverts room, the tardigrades room, the sanctuaries room, the Great Apes room, the companions room, the silk room, the fishing room, the war room, the kill room…
“I can’t decide,” Alex confesses.
“Neither do I. Do you have any recommendations?” Kai asks turning to the guide.
“It’s really up to you,” the guide replies, “but I would advise against the Killing or the Fishing rooms, as they might be a bit depressing.”
“What is there in each room, by the way,” Alex asks.
The guide gives them a brief explanation pointing at some examples.
“Let’s check the zoos’ room,” Kai suddenly suggests.
Relieved, Alex says, “Ok, thanks for choosing.”
Navigating through several corridors and stairs, with a quick stop to pat a couple of friendly dogs, the guide finally leads them to the zoo’s room, which, like any of the other public rooms, it has no door to close it off, remaining open at all times. Upon entering, they encounter numerous individuals engaged in discussions, large screens displaying images of zoos, tall bookshelves filled with books, as well as sculptures and paintings depicting famous zoo animals and anti-zoo activists.
Alex and Kai look around and read some of the displays. Topics ranged from zoochosis and zoonoses to surplus animals and cetacean shows. The guide explains to them the purpose of the room: to inform, educate, motivate, find solutions, and become active in rescuing zoo animals, closing zoological collections, and abolishing the zoo industry. Alex and Kai are interested, but realise that time is ticking, so they suggest going and visiting another room.
They visit a few, some giving them a euphoric sense of victory, while others a depressing sense of defeat, but they are all impressed by the dedication of the people who are working in them.
With pride, the guide says, “Some of these residents spend most of their time in THE MANSION in one or two of these rooms, you know? We call them ‘singulars’. We are very proud of their dedication and pressure campaigning work.”
As they continue through the hall, Alex points out two large rooms situated opposite each other.
Approaching one of the rooms, the guide says, “That one is the red-wing’s library. It’s a perfect place for learning. Although many rooms have their own specialised libraries, this central library has everything, including the most philosophical works, and a wide array of films, documentaries, and videos. That other room is the dining room for this wing.”
Alex’s eyes widened and says, “Ah, perhaps we could go there to have lunch?”
The guide interjects, “Actually, I would recommend the dining room of the white wing, the next one we will visit after we have a look at the central gardens. If you can make it, I definitively would wait. If you’re hungry now, here, have this samosa.”
Convinced, they all agree to continue with the tour. After expressing their readiness to proceed, the guide leads them through another massive door situated at the very end of the red wing hall. As the door swings open, a magnificent circular garden, devoid of a roof, unfolds before their eyes.
The Central Garden
Each of the wings ends in the central garden, an enclosed outdoor space that uses most of the area of THE MANSION. Rather than resembling a conventional garden, it appears more like a forest, abundant with diverse trees and plants. Many of the trees bear fruits, and colourful birds, singing with beautiful melodies and calling with amazing voices, are enjoying them.
As they walk toward the centre, the guide describes some of the trees: “That one there is a banana tree; do you see the small bananas growing? Most of the popular fruit and nut trees grow in this garden, and many more that you probably never heard of before. It’s a mystery to us why plants that typically shouldn’t flourish in these latitudes do so well here. But we’re certainly not complaining! By the way, all the fruits are edible. Feel free to take some if you’d like.”
Kai spots a small elongated pink fruit on a nearby bush, picks it up, takes a bite, smiles with satisfaction, and pockets a couple more for later enjoyment.
“In case you are wondering, various wildlife roam around the garden,” the guide interjects addressing their curiosity. “But there’s no need to worry; they’re all quite friendly. They have their own wildlife corridors to come and go as they please.” The guide gestures toward what appeared to be the entrance of a tunnel.
There are other people in the garden. Some are just laying around, others are chatting while strolling, and many are just watching the plants and animals they find. Many of the residents, though, seem older than those they encountered so far.
The guide continues the tour, mentioning, “Many of our oldest residents prefer to spend most of their time in this garden. Some just live among the trees, while others go back to their apartments in the evenings. It’s such a lovely place, isn’t it? If I hadn’t volunteered to be a guide, I would likely spend all my time here too.
“In fact, I do not know anyone who has visited all the public rooms in THE MANSION, but some residents, after many years, have become much more interested in the garden than in the rooms.”
They pass by a man wearing a turban sitting on the ground by a palm tree and a rooster. He appears to be extremely old.
“Who is that man?” Alex asks discretely.
“Ah, Abu, one of our oldest residents,” the guide replies fondly. “He is a lovely man. A poet, you know? He is always in the central garden. Sometimes he recites one of his poems, but now he seems to be dosing off.”
“How old is he?” Kai asks.
“We don’t really know. Some say that about 900 years old! Can you believe it!” the guide replies with an expression of disbelief. “Some of the older residents in The Realm wing say they use to debate him already when that win was the only one THE MANSION had. We do not ask residents about their ages here. Times seem to work differently when you’re at peace.”
Fascinated, Alex poses another question, “Is he… in charge?”
The guide replies assertively, “Oh, no, nobody is in charge here. Or rather, everyone is. No leaders in THE MANSION. No founders, no bosses, no directors, none of that. We all try to live under equality, equity, and equanimity principles in a non-hierarchical way, if you know what I mean.”
Alex and Kai do not quite know what the guide meant, but before they dare to ask, they step into a clearing at the very centre of the garden.
“Ah, here we are,” the guide proclaims, exuding a profound sense of satisfaction.
In the very middle, they find an Aztec-style pyramid with five big steps-like levels. It is entirely covered in moss and lichens, and the base step is part of the bedrock underneath THE MANSION. Several colourful butterflies are playing around it. The guide proceeds to explain its significance:
“This is The Core, an ancient monument of THE MANSION’s principles. We don’t know who build it, or if it arose through some extraordinary natural volcanic activity, but we believe that the first architects of THE MANSION chose this spot because they found this. Personally, I find solace in this place; it grounds me.”
“Is this some sort of sacred religious thing?” Kai asks.
“Not really, many of us are not religious, it’s just a symbol of our most important philosophical principles. THE MANSION was formally secularised in 1847, however, many residents of The Realm still see this place as in the old days, combining their own religions with the spiritual meaning they take from The Core. They even call the entire garden gan-ʿĒḏen, you see? But who am I to contradict them, eh?” The guide replies with a mischievous smile.
After relishing the tranquillity emanating from The Core, the group takes a path on the left, that will take them into The Lifestyle wing, also known as the White Wing, their next destination.
The White Wing
Still under the relaxing spell of the colours and perfumes of the garden, the trio crosses the threshold to the white wing’s main hall. To their left, a spacious room emits a tantalizing blend of aromas.
“Is this the dining room that you talked about?” Alex asks eagerly.
“It is indeed. Let’s go in, find a seat, and have some amazing lunch,” the guide replies with infectious energy.
The room has a series of long buffet tables with lots of bowls and platters with a high variety of colourful food. Some tables boast raw food, others feature wholemeal plant-based cuisine, macrobiotic delicacies, non-pungent plant-based options, high-carb-low-fat plant-based items, and some solely display an assortment of fresh fruits. The presentation is exquisite, and the portions are generous. In the centre, a fountain drips crystal-clear water in all directions, as people collect it in small jars, creating a soothing soundscape occasionally punctuated by the clinking of cutlery.
Alex and Kai eagerly fill their plates with a diverse selection of items, creating their own personal feasts.
“Everything looks so delicious and healthy!” Alex exclaims dipping some baby broccoli in a small mound of basil hummus.
“That’s the idea, I suppose,” Kai replies after taking a sip of an orange smoothie.
“You’re absolutely right,” says the guide. “The residents in this wing take their health very seriously. In here, you won’t find any of the very processed food you saw in the other wing, but as far as variety and taste are concerned, I think no other dining room beats this one — but this is just my opinion.”
Reinvigorated by the satisfying lunch, they continue their tour. The hall is bustling with activity, and Alex and Kai notice how fit and energetic everyone seems to be. Some engage in Pilates exercises, others jog around, while some stretch on the floor or practice Tai Chi. In a kind of stall, some people press tofu while others squeeze fresh juice, and in a few rooms, people are exercising with gym equipment or recording some cooking videos. The atmosphere is distinctly different from the other wing, with fewer people engaging in discussions or group activities — many more doing ‘their thing’ on their own, whatever that may be.
“Who are these people wearing white coats?” Kai asks. “There are many physicians and scientists in this wing,” the guide replies. “In fact, in that very group you’re looking at, you can see Michael and Thomas, two of the most famous doctors of the place, I dare to say.”
“And who is that bust over there?” Alex asks pointing to the statue of a man with short receding hair wearing modest robes adorned with a small Renaissance-looking collar.
“Ah, that’s Pierre, one of our pioneers. He gave René a run for his money, and we’re grateful for that. There is a room where you can learn what happened, but if you want to see all the wings, I suggest we keep moving.”
After some more exploration, Alex and Kai notice a noisy crowd gathering at the far end of the white wing hall.
“What’s going on over there?” Alex asks.
“That is where the door of the white vestibule is located. During this time of the year, the vestibule is packed with visitors and residents, and sometimes the crowds spill over the hall with visitors who, inexplicably, choose to linger there instead of continuing to explore the rest of the building.
“In addition, many people gather in that part of the exterior garden. It has always been a popular spot since the construction of this wing over four centuries ago, but its popularity truly soared in the 19th century. Now, since some residents organised the free coaches in January, the white vestibule has reached its capacity, and some visitors give up and decide to return home before they had a chance to enter the hall.”
Curious, Kai asks which gateway the guide had chosen when first visiting THE MANSION.
“I first entered through the red gate several decades ago,” the guide happily responds. “After a few years, I decided to keep my apartment in the red wing, even though I’ve extensively explored all the other wings and even stayed in them for a few months. Some of my neighbours in the red wing have been here longer than I have, but they entered THE MANSION through this wing.
“When residents find an apartment in a wing, they often become enthusiastic and spend most of their time there, as each wing offers plenty to see and do. It might take a while before they begin exploring the other wings. Some residents move in with their entire families, while others come on their own. Some even have family members from outside stay as guests, and some of them end up becoming permanent residents. It’s a dynamic and fluid environment.
“Regarding where people will be staying once they become residents, there is no rule. You don’t have to fill out any form or pass any test, you don’t have to be placed on a waiting list, and you don’t have to be invited by neighbours or any permanent resident. You can choose whatever apartment of the many that are vacant, and choose when to move in. It doesn’t need to be in the wing you first entered, as wings are just parts of the same building. It could be anywhere in THE MANSION, which only has these five wings so far because of the way it was built over time. However, most residents, after having explored all the wings long enough, choose as their final residence the wings they feel more aligned with their values.”
“What if they don’t feel aligned with any wing? What if they don’t like THE MANSION? What happens then? Alex interjects.
The guide, with a serious face, replies, “If someone tries several rooms in different wings and still doesn’t find alignment, they can choose to leave for good. Nobody forces anyone to come here, and nobody forces them to stay. It’s entirely their choice. Some residents left THE MANSION and now squad in the exterior gardens, never entering the building after that — we call them ‘posties.’ Others have left the grounds entirely and have never been seen again.
Sensing the restlessness of the couple due to the crowd, the guide leads them to a lift that will transport them directly to the next wing. In THE MANSION, the lifts not only move up and down but also sideways, allowing residents to effortlessly travel between wings.
The Green Wing
After an accelerated journey that took the air out of Kai and Alex’s lungs for a few seconds, the lift door opens.
“Welcome to The Paradigm,” says the guide stepping out with the arms opened. “This is the fourth wing that was built in THE MANSION, and, as you can see, we like to decorate this one with many green plants.”
In the centre of the hall stands a large globe slowly turning clockwise. Surrounding the globe, several screens capture people’s attention as they watch and interact with them, causing different parts of the globe to light up. Some individuals are taking notes, akin to a nurse jotting down observations during a doctor’s diagnosis. The atmosphere is a mix of focused determination and genuine concern.
The green wing hall feels similar to the red one. There is an active collaborative vibe about it. There are also many people in groups working on things together, and many of the residents seem quite young. In fact, there are even groups of children very immersed in whatever they are organising.
“Hi, Greta!” shouts the guide in the direction of one of such groups, immediately turning toward the couple and whispering, “She was a child herself when she first came here, you know?”
Alex and Kai strain their eyes to catch a glimpse of Greta, but she remains elusive among the noisy crowd.
“Not everyone here is young,” the guide remarks, redirecting their attention. “For instance, that statue over there is of Kathleen, who first came to THE MANSION through the green gateway in the 1960s when she was already in her late 40s. She made quite an impression, I can tell you.”
After going to check one of the green wing information consoles only to find a content cat fast asleep on it, they decide not to disturb her and go to have a look at the green vestibule instead. Stepping inside, they find it quite busy, although not as crowded as the white vestibule.
The walls of the vestibule are adorned with vibrant paintings depicting landscapes from all corners of the world — lush rainforests, vast Antarctic plains, colourful coral reefs, and majestic rivers. While humans and other animals are present in some of the paintings, they appear small and in the background. Several animal statues, including a polar bear on a tiny ice sheet, an injured dodo, a bee pollinating an almond tree flower, and a panda eating bamboo, enhance the ambience.
In the centre of the vestibule, a black flag bearing a white skull over a crossed shepherd’s staff and a Neptune’s trident sways gracefully in the breeze flowing from the open door leading to the exterior garden.
“The entire mansion is carbon negative, operated sustainably, and run by renewable energy, you know? These guys here made sure of it,” says the guide pointing to a spiral windmill that can be seen at the far end of the garden through the open door.
Mesmerized by the sight of a herd of feral horses passing by the windmill, Alex turns around and notices the absence of guidebooks in the vestibule.
“I notice that there are no guidebooks in this vestibule,” Alex comments.
Impressed by the observation, the guide confirms, “Well spotted. The residents in this wing tend to be very particular about things like that, as they find them a waste. You’ll notice very few plastic items in this wing, and those things that may look like they are made of plastic, are in fact crafted from recycled materials gathered from other wings,” the guide continues pointing to a resident’s shoe.
As the questions keep arising, Kai abruptly asks, “What do people do once they move in? Do they stay in THE MANSION forever?”
The guide pauses, sits on a nearby chair, gestures the others to sit too, leans in, and responds: “It depends. Some residents never leave THE MANSION, as there is a lot of work to do to keep it running, tend the gardens, and build the new floors and sections. Others go out only to work the fields and the sanctuaries in the land surrounding the grounds. Others go further afield to cities and towns during workdays and only come back in the evenings or weekends. Others spend some time away on longer trips.
“THE MANSION is their home. It’s not a prison or a castle. It’s not a hotel or a business hub. It’s their home, so they can do with it whatever people do with their homes. They can decorate it as they please, knock down walls, build extensions, invite friends to stay, or keep it as a private sanctuary. They can keep in it their most precious possessions or use it only to rest. It’s their forever home.
“The best part is that they don’t have to pay any rent, and there are always housemates to rely on if you need any help. It’s a communal inclusive home where everyone is welcomed, and once you’re a permanent resident, is going to always be there for you. That’s why so many people live here. It’s not just the beauty of it. It’s not just the goodness of it. It’s not just the health of it. It’s the peace of mind it provides.”
After a bit more conversation, the guide, noticing the lateness of the hour, leads the party into one of the vestibule’s lifts. They dial “0005,” and as the golden doors close, the lift sets off to their next destination within THE MANSION.
The Black Wing
“The Space is the newest wing of the mansion, built only a few decades ago,” says the guide after they all leave the lift and enter the Black wing hall, some of it still under construction. “However, in many respects, is also the oldest, because we believe that the first architects of THE MANSION might have started to build something here hundreds of thousands of years ago — but no remains of what they built have survived. Come, and have a look at this.”
The party moves through the half-built hall that has an ancestral feel about it. The decoration is reminiscent of old African styles, and a considerable proportion of people they see around are BIPGM (Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority. There is a lot of construction still happening, and you can see many discussions around creased blueprints that resemble old maps. The guide takes them to the centre, where a big Black sculpture of a person dominates the space around it. It has no face, misses the right leg, and one hand is extended with the palm open as if signalling stop.
“This is the monument of the unknown architects of THE MANSION, made from the same rock we found in the plateau underneath,” the guide explains. “The figure has no face because we do not know the identity of whom it represents, but it is black because we suspect the first architects were from Africa. As humans we all come from Africa, we assume the first architects did too. They might have found The Core Pyramid and built something around it that other people later destroyed. Or they might have never built any permanent structure and just designed their communities around it without buildings.
“Not that long ago, some of my colleagues decided to build this statue, and a new wing around it, and soon people from all over the world came to help. People who have been fighting to help the oppressed and marginalised. People who have been oppressed themselves. People who have been colonised and exploited. People who are still fighting many battles, but they realise THE MANSION may help them win them — and the other way around.
“They all will have their public rooms in the wing — some already do. They all can live wherever they want to live in the building, but some prefer to have their spaces here, as they feel more comfortable this way. And some of them seem to have ancient knowledge that may help us to understand what the first architects were thinking.
“We are very excited about this new wing because we feel we are re-building the very first forgotten MANSION, and this has made more People of the Global Majority come to live with us —we need them here because we need to improve our diversity of voices — but also because many of the residents here are very good at finding the roots of problems.”
Looking up at the impressive sculpture, Kai asks, “Why it only has one leg?”
The guide opens both arms and slowly turns, saying, “Look around you. There are all sorts of people here who have experienced oppression. Some because of their sexual orientation. Others because of their gender identity. Others because of the disabilities they have. But they all are standing their ground, like the statue, because their difference is not an obstacle to them. Like the statue, they stand with whatever they have, to protect others who need more help than them.”
While walking around, the guide keeps waving at some of the people working,
“Hi, Carol!.. Hello, Angela!.. You’re right, Aph?” the guide greets those who are closer.
Eventually, they get to one of the Black-wing information consoles, and they browse through the different rooms.
After a while doing that, Kai comments, “I see there are fewer rooms in this one, I guess because is newer than the others. What do the other residents think about this place, by the way?”
The guide replies with a slightly tensed expression, “There are residents who choose not to contribute to the construction of this wing, and those who are still in the vestibules of other wings may not even be aware of its existence. Even new residents who haven’t had the opportunity to explore all the wings may take some time before coming here.
“There are also visitors stuck in the Black vestibule who may have very little understanding about what THE MANSION is all about. But that’s OK; we always had people like that in the vestibules and the outside garden. Many, with time, move on and begin exploring the rest of the building, so we give them the time they need, and we do not expect they will help out until they have time to look around.
“And this wing it’s still in the initial stages of construction, so there is a lot of improvisation too, as the architects are no longer with us to guide us. It’s always been like that when a new wing has been built, I’ve been told. It took about 40 years for the red wing to find the stability that defines it today, you know?”
As the evening draws near, Kai and Alex express their desire to take a quick look at the last wing before concluding their tour. They collect some information leaflets to peruse later and head towards the nearest lift.
The Blue Wing
Compared to the previous hall they visited, the blue wing hall exudes a sense of tranquillity and serenity. The structures in the hall appear ancient but remarkably sturdy, with the dominant colour being sky blue. People dressed in robes move slowly, some wearing face masks, while others engage in various forms of prayer. Residents can be seen kneeling, bowing, and sitting in deep meditation, alongside individuals immersed in reading heavy books or softly chanting while holding peculiar objects.
Speaking in a hushed and measured tone, the guide begins the introduction to the blue wing. “The Realm is the first wing built in THE MANSION that still stands. As you can see, most of it is made of stones, and the oldest ones we could date are millennia old. As I mentioned in the Black wing, there might have been other buildings before that came and went, but the walls that constitute this wing are the oldest that are still here. Let me take you to the vestibule because it would be easy to explain who built this by looking at the statues we placed there.”
On the way to the vestibule, the couple notices a prominent marble hand at the centre of the hall, bearing a wheel with a word inscribed in an Eastern alphabet. As people pass by it, they bow in its direction. Upon reaching the vestibule, the couple finds an eclectic and multifaith temple-like space. Symbols from major religions, as well as esoteric and mysterious ones, decorate the area. Since there aren’t many visitors, they quickly proceed to the centre, flanked by numerous statues.
“Take a look and let me know if you recognize any of these,” the guide says, but when no immediate response is given, proceeds with introductions. “This is Vardhamana, this is Siddhartha, this is Makkahali, this is Lao, this is Manichaeus, this is Hazrat, this is Srila, this is William, and this is…you must recognise him, surely,” the guide pauses, expecting a response.
Before the couple can reply, the guide continues, attempting to save time. “This statue represents Yeshua; the Ebionites crafted it and placed it here — don’t ask me why,” the guide remarks.
“Residents in this wing use different names for them, but I like to use their first names to reinforce the non-supremacist principles of THE MANSION. And this section over here represents the less structured part of the wing, the most New Agey and pagan-looking, if you like.”
Observing the symbols on the ceiling, such as the Yin and Yang, Coptic Cross, wheel of dharma, all-seeing eye, omega, crescent moon, and star, the couple recognizes some familiar emblems.
Continuing the tour, the guide shares historical insights. “Up to the 19th century, this was the only building standing in THE MANSION. However, some people who had stayed here for a while began constructing the white building around another part of the central garden. When that one was finished, people began using the white gateway directly without having to go through this building at all. When the third building was built between the two, The Movement, then is when all the buildings became interconnected, becoming wings of a bigger building, THE MANSION.
“It was only recently, with the building of the Black wing, that the central garden was entirely enclosed with buildings. It was as if a missing piece had been found, as the central garden began flourishing with plants that had never grown before, creating a cosy microclimate fostered by the five wings,” the guide explains.
“It’s almost as if each wing is the manifestation of the five dimensions of THE MANSION, showcasing distinct facets within an overarching architectural theme. All of them stand on the same bedrock, encircling the same garden and an ancient pyramid. It’s a home for everyone, embodying the diversity, functionality, and individuality found within any home, with various rooms, decorations, and aspects.”
The guide reflects on the ongoing construction of THE MANSION. “But, as I mentioned earlier, we haven’t completed the construction of THE MANSION yet. Apart from finishing the Black wing, we are adding new floors to each of the other wings. We hope that, eventually, there will be room for every human being on the planet.”
As the sun sets, signalling the end of the day, the couple prepares to depart. Approaching the blue door, ready to walk the path in the outer garden to the blue gate, they pause and turn to the guide.
Alex asked the final question: “You haven’t told us what people need to do to become a resident of THE MANSION.”
With a gentle touch and hands placed on their shoulders, the guide looks them directly in the eyes and replies, “You simply need to make the genuine decision to embrace and follow all The Core principles at all times, that’s all. No need to inform anyone or sign up anywhere. It’s a personal commitment you make in your mind and follow to the best of your abilities.”
The last buses for the evening leave from the five gates around THE MANSION in the direction of all the cities and towns in the world. Alex and Kai are not in any of them.
They decided to spend that night at THE MANSION, and learn more.
The Metaphor Explained
If you are a vegan, you probably managed to guess many of the meanings of this story about the Vegan Mansion, and even if the word vegan was not mentioned once, you may have found many aspects of that story familiar to you. But if not, and for those who are just pre-vegans or even new at following this philosophy, here are some of the metaphorical meanings I had in mind when I wrote the story (follow the hyperlinks if you want to know more about them):
Alex and Kai represent the average open-minded vegan-curious carnists who have not yet tried veganism, while the tour guides represent ethical vegans who have been vegan for decades and who embrace all dimensions of veganism (for example, me).
The leaflet and the free coach promotion represent Veganuary, the campaign — and organisation — that every January introduces people to veganism, asking them to try it for a month (represented in the story by the day the couple visits the mansion).
The coach guide’s estimation (and uncertainty) of the number of people living in the mansion represents the current estimation of the number of vegans in the world.
The forests on the way to the mansion represent rewilding, and the fields represent regenerative veganic farming. The journey uphill toward the mansion represents the effort required to become vegan, and the fact that the journey is done in a coach represents how easier has become now.
THE MANSION represents Veganism, in all its facets and dimensions, and the fact that it has been built over time, one wing after the other, represents the history of the vegan philosophy and its associated socio-political movement. The fact that is the biggest mansion in the world built on a solid plateau represents the idea of veganism being the only ethical choice that will solve all the current global crises.
The five wings represent the five dimensions of veganism, with the combination of their respective gate, garden path, and main door, representing the five gateways to veganism. These are the animals, health, the environment, social justice, and spirituality. The red of the animals’ gateway represents the blood of all the animals exploited by humanity. The white of the health’s gateway represents the classical vegan food such as plant-based milks and tofu. The green of the environment’s gateway represents Nature and the planet. The Black of the social justice’s gateway represents Africa and the People of The Global Majority. The blue of the spirituality’s gateway represents the deities’ dwelling sky and the Universe.
The lack of people operating the fence gates, and the fact the fence is quite short, represents the lack of formal gatekeeping that allows many people to claim to be vegan when they are not.
The volunteers offering food and beverages represent the vegan organisations running stalls with free vegan food.
The paths in the external gardens between the fence gates and the wing’s main doors are the final journey people must take to become vegan and the last obstacles they have to overcome (the mostly straightness of the paths represents the fact that it is easier than people think).
The people wandering through the outside garden represent the pre-vegans — such as vegetarians and plant-based people — some of them steadily moving towards veganism, while others either lost or are no longer interested to learn about the philosophy, as well as post-vegans (known in the story as “posties”) who left veganism but did not go far (such as the ostrovegans, the beegans, and the veggans).
The residents of the mansion are the ethical vegans, those who follow the official definition of veganism of the Vegan Society, which is, “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
The visitors represent either dietary vegans, pre-vegans or non-vegans who interact with vegans in vegan spaces. The residents of the red wing are animal rights vegans, the residents of the white wing are health vegans, the residents of the green wing are eco-vegans, the residents of the Black wing are Social Justice vegans (sometimes called intersectional vegans), and the residents of the blue wing are spiritual vegans.
The vestibules of all wings are the parts of each dimension built to welcome new people and to showcase what that dimension is, but they were not meant to be places for people to live in, despite some do. The vegans superficially obsessed with one of the dimensions of veganism who know very little about the others (you know, the kind of vegans who often deny the veganhood of others who became vegan for different reasons than them, even when these also follow the official definition of veganism to the full) are those in the story stuck in the vestibules, living in the small rooms there.
The three steps the couple take in the vestibule before the guide welcomes them represent the three first (and minimal) steps expected from anyone trying veganism, which are not consuming flesh, not consuming dairy, and not consuming eggs.
The guidebooks in the mansion represent books about veganism, and the libraries represent all the information resources veganism has been accumulating (including research and undercover investigations).
The main halls in each room represent the community spaces where vegans get together. The people working in the rooms and main halls of wings represent vegan activists and the builders of the vegan world.
The golden lifts represent how easy is to move between the different dimensions of veganism, and how valuable exploring such dimensions is.
Each public room of each wing represents one of the issues that dimension of veganism deals with. The “singulars” in the story are what is known as “single-issue animal protection campaigners.”
The different statues referred to by their first name represent key people in the history of veganism, and some of the residents also mentioned by their first names represent famous vegans. All these first names match the names of real people in such roles: Dorothy Morgan, Sally Shrigley, Fay Henderson, Donald Watson, Henry Stephens Salt, Michael Greger M.D., Dr Thomas Colin Cambell, Pierre Gassendi, Kathleen Jannaway, Abū al-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, Dr Anne Kinsford, Greta Thunberg, Carol J Adams, Angela Davis, Aph Ko, Siddhartha Gautama, Vardhamana Mahavira, Makkahali Gosala, Lao Tzu, Manichaeus, Hazrat Rabia, Srila Prabhupada, William Dorrell, and Yeshua of Nazareth.
The central garden represents the peace of mind veganism gives, the unity between all the dimensions, and how natural the philosophy is.
The Core pyramid in the Central Garden represents the five main axioms of the philosophy of veganism, which are the first axiom of ahimsa (trying not to harm anyone is the moral baseline), the second axiom of animal sentience (all members of the Animal Kingdom should be considered sentient beings), the third axiom of anti-exploitation (all exploitation of sentient beings harms them), the fourth axiom of anti-speciesism (not discriminating against anyone is the right ethical way), and the fifth axiom of vicariousness (indirect harm to a sentient being caused by another person is still harm we must try to avoid).
The story that the pyramid could be a natural phenomenon represents the possibility of the biological nature of ahimsa. The mosses and lichens in the pyramid represent that it is surrounded by life (so the principles are alive today) and the butterflies represent the transformative nature of veganism to something beautiful. The five last steps the couple climbs before entering the mansion also represent these five axioms (which should be believed when people decide to hold the philosophy).
The bedrock under the mansion, the base of the pyramid, and the rock from which the statue of the Black wing hall is made represent ahimsa, the ancient principle of non-violence. The hand sculpture in the blue wing hall also represents ahimsa, but as the Jain religion interprets it.
The visitors who were stuck in the Lifestyle vestibule and eventually decided to go back home without advancing further represent the plant-based people who do not identify as vegan.
The constant building of the mansion until is big enough for everyone represents the building of the vegan world of the future.
The couple deciding to spend the night rather than go home represent those who try Veganuary (or similar campaigns) and then become vegan.
Some of the takeaways of the story (the moral of it, if you like) are that veganism is not a single thing, but it is a multifaceted philosophy that has developed into a social movement, a lifestyle, a diet, a paradigm-changing political and economic theory, a space for human communities to challenge oppression, and a spiritual realm to find refuge in. It maintains its unifying integrity with its core values all ethical vegans share, but also allows variability beyond these values so different types of vegans who especially care about non-human animals, health, the environment, social justice, and spirituality, can thrive within veganism keeping their identity intact. It is a dynamic human-made global philosophy based on natural and universal principles of non-violence that is still growing and correcting its imperfections, and which welcomes everyone to join. It’s a human project organically grown over many years from the collective efforts of people from many backgrounds and cultures, and as such not devoided of tensions and obstacles to overcome.
It is, above all, a comfortable and safe permanent home for everyone, far from the destructive narrative humanity has been enacting since the dawn of civilization.
It’s a nice place to live.