Vegans: they’re everywhere now; but eating no meat, eggs or dairy takes organisation and discipline. Can you occasionally lapse and still call yourself a vegan? Shouldn’t we all just be more relaxed about an individual’s food choices? I’ve been judged by many angry vegans as being a fake.
A Vegan who Sometimes Eats Meat – Hear Me Out!
I’ve been ‘vegan’ for more than two years now, but I am the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try to eat a vegan diet at home, and buy only vegan products from the supermarket, but there are a couple of times over the last year that I’ve eaten a small amount of meat or dairy.
Many would say that doesn’t qualify me to call myself a vegan at all – but let me explain. I choose to eat a vegan diet for health reasons; I eat plant-based foods because they make me feel healthier, more vital and lighter on my feet.
I’ve eaten restaurant salads that unexpectedly came with mayonnaise, I’ve eaten ‘just the sauce’ from a friend’s curry because I didn’t want to be left with only cucumber salad and I’ve blatantly eaten tofu Tom Yum soup, not bothering to ask if the stock used was fish-based.
Recently my boyfriend took me to his 85 year old great aunt’s house, forgetting to tell her about my food preferences. I ate the two wobbly, boiled chicken drumsticks that were put in front of me, then I struggled through eggy custard for dessert and remarked that “Yes indeed I would like the recipe” when she asked me after the meal. I put politeness above my ethics on that one occasion – but many ‘true’ vegans may not have made the same choice.
People, hear me out…please.
More and More People are Turning to a Vegan Lifestyle
Bill Clinton, once known for his love of hamburgers, recently turned to a mostly vegan diet after surgery in 2010. Anne Hathaway recently caused a stir when she wore Tom Ford vegan boots to the Les Miserables premiere, reflecting her desire to be animal-product free. Joaquin Phoenix has been a determined vegan for decades and Justin Beiber got veganism some bad press when friends accused him of becoming a ‘jerk’ once he’d ditched the meat, eggs and dairy.
Eating More Vegetables and Wholefoods is Good for Us
Eating a vegan diet is good for your health. By including more plants in your diet, the idea is that you’ll get rid of some of the fatty meat and dairy products and their associated health risks. Some people choose to go vegan strictly for health reasons.
According to Veeg.com “Some studies show that a carefully planned vegan diet can have enormous positive impact on heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, allergies, and a host of other health problems.” However, it’s no magic bullet. A vegan diet has to be well planned, low on ‘junk food’ and preservatives and balanced to be healthy, just like any other diet.
But Let’s Face it – it’s Hard
I found that the more I learned about veganism, the muddier the waters became for me. My questions started when I was dating a guy who could not eat pork or pork products for religious reasons. He carried around a little card which listed the “E numbers” of additives which could contain pork products. These days you can buy smart phone aps for this. (Editor’s note: here are some vegan apps.)
He’d examine every packet, every can and every dried herb I’d used to make a pasta dish, often refusing to eat what I’d prepared because it contained an additive that may or may not have been derived from pork. I found this extreme, but it was important for me to accept his food choices.
A particular company’s products may be technically vegan, but foods from that manufacturer might still be avoided by vegans if they believe that the company is unethical, and supports practises that are not animal-friendly. So where do you draw the line?
Vegans with a Bad Reputation
There is a perception in the meat eating population that vegans can be quite judgemental – the “angry vegan” stereotype. Whereas many vegans can be self-righteous, many are just as relaxed as anyone else. Choosing not to eat animal products stirs up more debate and emotions than a person who might elect to follow another type of restricted diet, such as gluten free or organic.
A Ex-vegan Blogger Receives Angry Threats
There was a case of a vegan blogger, Natasha (who wrote under the name Voracious) who received angry threats after she turned back to eating animals, citing health reasons. Natasha recounts exchanges with several other well-known vegan bloggers who admitted they “weren’t really vegan behind the scenes. They ate eggs, or the occasional fish, or piece of meat, all to keep themselves healthy, but were too scared to admit to it on their blogs.” [Editor's note: there's no proof to back up Natasha's claim.]
Is it alright to describe yourself as vegan if you slip up? Is it OK to call yourself a vegan if you eat a 95% vegan diet? Is it legitimate to call yourself vegan if your version of vegan differs from someone else’s? Or can we encourage more people to take veganism by supporting and accepting the “flexi-tarian” way of eating?
People Too Quick to Give up the Vegan/Veggie Lifestyle
In my experience, some people feel that if they have one slip up, they feel that they’ve “failed” and they decide to give the vegan diet up altogether. Could these people should be encouraged and supported to continue with their lifestyle, despite sometimes inevitable setbacks?
If everybody in the world made their diet even 50% vegan, wouldn’t that be better than the current climate that sees vegans and meat eaters pitched against each other in some sort of “holy war”? Take this comment, for example, from a Tumblr blogger, “If you are not vegan, I just don’t like you very much. If you talk about your love of bacon, I have probably visualized punching you in the face.” Sheesh.
Here’s What I Propose
Most vegans would love it if more people chose this way of eating, but to get the maximum number of people on board (which would maximise benefit to the planet) a bit of sympathy is called for. I’ve found that the more I transitioned away from dairy, eggs and other animal products the better I felt. I also found that the more relaxed I was with myself, the more I stuck with it in the long term. If I can eliminate most of the animal products from my life (and really, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate them all, depending on your point of view) I know that I’m doing better than if I’m not trying at all.
Part time Vegans
- Go easy on those starting out
- Don’t treat being vegan like a fanatical religion
- Accept that one person’s idea of vegan may differ from another’s
- There are no perfect vegans
- Encourage those around you and don’t criticise them, people who choose a non-animal diet get criticised enough
Tolerance is the key. There’s no harm in people dipping in and out of a vegan diet. Even Oprah gave part-time veganism a go. Support those around you who are trying to make the change and make veganism a world-wide diet choice that everyone feels is attainable (even part time) – no angriness needed!
About the author: Yvette Maurice is freelance journalist, former radio producer and professional copywriter.
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