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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Kind of Vegan Are You?

I created a twitter (@StefaniaLaBarre) account when I started this business, and I try to follow raw foodies and vegans- I get a lot of inspiration, recipes, and ideas from these people. However, I have noticed a recurring theme among the vegans in particular. Some vegans appear to think you aren't a true vegan unless you are doing it for the right reason- that "right" reason being animal welfare. My immediate reaction to this line of thinking is, what does the reason matter if the outcome is the same? If you become a vegan for health reasons or to lose weight, and NOT necessarily because you care about the welfare of animals, does it affect whether or not you avoid eating animals?

Another purist argument I hear is that one is not a "real" vegan (said derogatorily) unless one ALWAYS avoids ANYTHING from animals as well as anything processed with animal byproducts and/or tested on animals. This would include beauty products, clothes, shoes, purses, etc. I understand the truest definition of a vegan would dictate this, but I don't believe excluding people from veganism if they "cheat" accomplishes anything. For example, if a vegan buys a box of pasta that is made with eggs without checking the box first, goes home and eats that pasta, is he no longer vegan? Have they committed a sin? Would the vegan (and the chicken laying the egg that went into the making of that pasta) be better off had he not bought the pasta? Maybe, but in my opinion he is still a vegan- his intentions are good. Slip-ups are only human, and allowing some forgiveness for them makes the journey easier.

It seems as though there are types of vegan. There is the animal advocate type, the health reasons type, and the environment type. The benefits to animal welfare go without saying- no one wants animals to suffer; even most omnivores would concede the animal suffering that occurs by way of our food system is awful. But many omnivores accept that suffering as a necessary evil, that if they want to keep eating the foods they love, animals have to be used and abused. Some omnivores make a compromise- they vow to eat less meat and dairy; or they vow to only eat free-range, pastured, sustainable, and/or organic meat and animal products.

I don't think there is anything wrong with these compromises. Small improvement is still improvement. Every little bit helps. And if that's as far as a person is willing to go, they should still be commended for making a change, whatever their reason.

This is not to say that all vegans are so easily categorized- some would say they are vegan for all those reasons listed above. For some vegans, the additional benefits to the environment and/or their health are what push them to make that final step.

I wonder- does the type of vegan you are affect how vigilant you are about being a vegan? And back to my first question, are you less of a vegan if animal advocacy is/was not your first and foremost reason?

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  1. This is really an interesting discussion. I guess it's sort of recent that people who eat differently feel they have some sort of bragging rights-like they're a better person for becoming vegan.

    I consider myself a daytime vegan and I do my best to avoid animal proteins and dairy before 5pm. I don't stick to it religiously but that's what I'm aiming to do in order to incorporate more plants in my diet in place of the missing meat.

    I do not do this (and I hope I'm not alone) to put off some sort of "I'm better than you" vibe. I've learned what the food I was eating was doing/could do to me and I decided I wanted a healthier way of living.

    I'm really not trying to join an exclusive club. But when I meet a vegan I try to commend them for what they're doing because it's I believe it's healthy, honorable and certainly difficult. I guess I just don't try to fool them into thinking I'm "one of them."

  2. Thanks Juli! Yea, sometimes I find myself being judgmental towards those who don't want to make ANY change. I get not wanting to be 100% anything- vegan, vegetarian, whatever. But it doesn't have to be all or nothing, in my eyes. Even small changes make a big difference. Like people who do meatless Mondays- imagine how many animals are saved, how much less water, commercial feed, land, etc is consumed, how much less methane is put into the air... huge difference there, but not much sacrifice really!