Not Vegan Enough
I’m not perfect. Shocking, I know. There are likely many who would call me ‘not vegan enough’. And I understand their perspective. But I can’t help but wonder, are we doing the vegan movement a disservice by criticizing each other and expecting perfection? By demanding more from omnivores and vegans alike? By focusing solely on the negative, on what still needs to be accomplished, rather than how far we have already come?
You may well call me not vegan enough.
But the good thing is, I don’t need your approval.
We’re on the same team, we’re routing for the animals, for our planet, for our health. We are on the side of compassion. So while we may not always see eye to eye, we are far more similar than we are different.
And that’s good enough for me.
Non-Vegans to Vegans
I was surprised by many things after transitioning to veganism. Attitudes I had never noticed stood out to me, foods I had once loved held no appeal, advertising I had ignored jumped from the walls and billboards, and people I had been close to (and complete strangers) began to pick fights with me.
This is unfortunately a form of criticism many vegans face everyday. Due to insecurity, or ignorance, or any number of factors, people like to take vegans down a peg, pull them off the moral high ground. Prove a point; that even vegans aren’t perfect. Forgetting, I suppose, that no one is perfect.
They call out:
- vegans who wear leather;
- vegans who eat honey;
- vegans who are pro choice;
- vegans who kill insects;
They are all ‘bad vegans’. They are ‘not vegan enough’.
It’s as though they fervently hope that pointing out another’s flaws cancels out their own. It must be easier to live with the responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of animals each year for your plate when you consider that even the holier-than-thou vegan still wears a pair of leather shoes.
I wholeheartedly agree that it would be better if every vegan made sure to never kill an insect, even indirectly.
But is that really more important than the countless animals they save each year?
Does it negate their positive impact on the environment?
Does it reverse the benefits to their body and well-being from a healthy diet?
I often feel that I make others uncomfortable by being vegan, as though they feel threatened or judged in my presence. And while I must admit that I have definitely judged others for their choices in my life (let’s be honest here, who among us hasn’t?) it’s not as if I meet a non-vegan, immediately put them in the ‘I dislike and judge you’ bucket in my brain and criticize their every action.
I understand that simply by existing, by proving that another way is possible, I may give off an air of superiority. I can understand the instinct to retaliate, to point out my flaws to level the playing field. But I must admit, it’s tiring to argue tiny points and ignore the elephant in the room - the immeasurable suffering of countless individuals each and every day.
Perhaps a more open discussion would allow for the sharing of ides and the possibility of a better future.
Vegans to Vegetarians and the Veg Curious
Vegans are not always very nice to vegetarians. This is a fact I learned quickly as a vegetarian, and continued to observe for the 8 months it took me to go vegan. In some ways being vegetarian is even harder than being a vegan. Not only do you not fit into the status quo, but you also don’t get as much recognition for your efforts from the rest of the animal rights community as you deserve.
Of course, as vegans we know that the egg and dairy industries should not be supported. But there was a time that I didn’t know. I am so thankful that I stuck to my guns and continued on the path to veganism, rather than retaliating against the criticism and giving up.
Nowadays I get excited when I meet a vegetarian - here’s someone who is doing so much good already and with a tiny push could go all the way vegan! But many vegans only see the copious consumption of eggs and dairy, and the suffering that causes. I see their dilemma. The egg and dairy industries are horrible and result in intense pain and the death of countless animals each year (as well as contributing overwhelmingly to lifestyle diseases and environmental collapse). But consider for a moment the incredible number of vegetarians on earth and the millions of animals that are spared because of their dietary choices. They may not be doing everything in their power to make the world a better place, but they are still rebelling against the standard, taking a stand, and saving lives!
The more vegetarians in the world, the better off we are. Period.
‘You don’t really care about animals’ is something I hear directed at vegetarians far too often. Perhaps they are simply undereducated on the horror of the egg and dairy industries? I definitely did not realize how many animals died because of my egg and dairy consumption for almost a full year after I went vegetarian. Once I learned the truth, I went vegan in short order and will never go back. Perhaps suggesting a documentary to watch, or giving a book suggestion, or offering to chat over coffee would go over better than accusation and judgement? (You can even send them a link to my resources page!)
With the prevalence of the ‘I could never give up cheese’ excuse, it’s not surprising to hear the response ‘You’re so selfish - you’d rather eat cheese than save animals!’ Now, I must admit this thought has popped into my head before. It can be hard when vegetarians say - oh, you’re vegan? Good for you! I could never give up cheese. I want to shake them and say, of course you can! I was the biggest cheese addict you could ever meet for as long as I can remember right up until the day I went vegan. Twenty years of grilled cheese, bowls of parmesan, a la carte, pasta smothered in melted cheese, slices of aged cheddar as a snack, cream cheese and cheese strings and blocks of cheese always at the ready. I look back at the amount of cheese I have eaten in my life and feel slightly nauseated. I LOVED cheese. Ask my family and they’ll tell you they were incredulous when I gave it up. They were shocked, and with good reason. Cheese was my main food group. It was my number one source of calories. It was the one thing I would never refuse to eat (and I was a picky eater). But guess what? After almost two decades of daily cheese consumption, I cut it out, cold turkey. I won’t lie and say it was easy. I had cravings coming out the wazoo, but I ate daiya every time a craving hit for a month or so, and then, much to my surprise, I kind of forgot what cheese tasted like. I didn’t reach for the bag of daiya nearly so often. I smelled cheese and thought it was pleasant but didn’t salivate. My taste buds changed, and they changed rapidly. It ended up being much easier to give up cheese than I ever thought. (Check out my 10 Tips For Going Dairy-Free here!)
Vegetarians are a necessary part of this movement, and are doing a world of good. Let’s inspire them to make even more positive change rather than tearing them down, and educate them on the truth of dairy and eggs!
Vegan to Vegan
You might think that once I went vegan I was ‘in’, one of the cool kids. But unfortunately, especially in anonymity on the internet, some vegans seem to LOVE to point fingers at other vegans, explaining why they aren’t in fact actually a vegan. Seem confusing and unnecessary? That’s because it is.
Just some of the arguments I have seen flying around the internet as of late include:
- You eat palm oil, that harms orang-utans so it isn’t vegan!
- You once took a bite out of a real burger that you thought was a veggie burger. You aren’t vegan!
- You kiss your non-vegan partner. You aren’t vegan!
I could go on. What good does it do to point out each other’s flaws rather than celebrate our similarities and attempts to live compassionately? A suggestion, if asked for, is one thing. But throwing criticism and judgement this way and that simply turns people off of this lifestyle.
How excited would you be to go vegan if all you say of them was the way they tear each other down? I am so glad I didn’t witness this until after making the transition, because it may have deterred me. It’s hard enough for people to want to make a change that they see as almost impossible. If not for each other, we need to pull together for all of the non-vegans out there, and for the animals! Educate, don’t hate, should be everyone’s mantra.
Vegans to Ourselves
This one can be the biggest downfall of a new vegan. Being too hard on ourselves when we make a mistake and using that as an excuse to give up entirely is a phenomenon I have seen far too much of. It’s even hard for long-time vegans, and it’s a difficult feeling to shake.
Just some of my own destructive and self-critical thoughts include:
- I bit into something that I didn’t know had animal products in it, I’m a bad vegan.
- I can never take back all of the death and suffering I caused in my 19 years as an omnivore.
- I should be more outspoken at every opportunity in my day to day life, I should never sit quietly ignoring a comment born of ignorance when I can set the record straight and be the voice for animals, no matter how much I end up alienating myself from my peers.
While I know that these thoughts can’t change the past, and I understand that I am not perfect and never will be, I can’t say that they won’t continue to be a part of my inner dialogue.
Since going vegan I have found my true purpose. Making the world a better place for animals of all species is my number one priority, my biggest passion, and what keeps me up at night. I am constantly thinking of ways that I can make a bigger difference. Reach more people. Be a better activist. Be a better vegan. And while these thoughts can be painful, I choose to use them as an impetus to do better, to be better, to focus on what I do right rather than what I do wrong. To learn from my mistakes and failures to be a louder, more articulate voice for the voiceless. To change the world.
I don’t think that the world will ever be free from judgement or criticism, nor should it be. Change comes from recognizing the flaws in the system and seeing a better way. But directing this judgement and criticism at individuals, rather than society, industry, or certain worldviews leads to defensiveness, retaliation, and damaged pride. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s take notice when someone eats a meatless meal, or chooses to buy cotton rather than silk, or goes for agave rather than honey. Let’s celebrate even the smallest changes, while educating and sharing our bigger vision for a peaceful, compassionate world.
Let’s change the world for animals, whether it be by a tiny step or a huge leap.
What kind of criticism have you received that has stuck with you? How can we work to improve our interactions and foster community rather than spite?
Until next time,