Two Kinds Of Vegans

Some people say that veganism is a boycott. They say the reason to be vegan is to lower the demand for animal products and thus encourage the producers of animal products either to:

  1. stop producing animal products cruelly or
  2. stop producing animal products.

Let’s look at these two types of vegans:


1. If you think that producing and consuming animal products is morally acceptable, then for you veganism is a boycott. Perhaps you’ve decided that veganism is a socially and environmentally responsible choice, but you don’t feel that animals have rights beyond “humane” treatment. To you, veganism is a choice, not a moral obligation.

You might abstain from consuming animal products for health or environmental reasons. Or maybe you care about animals: you’re vegan in order to send a message that animals deserve better treatment. You’ve taken a good, hard look at the problem of factory farming and after all your research, you’ve concluded that it’s better to abstain from all animal products rather than to increase the demand for “humane” animal products. You understand that most so-called “humane” animal products still aren’t humane enough to bear that title.

You’re smart. You know that there simply isn’t enough land to produce “humane” products for everyone. You understand that the only long-term scenario capable of guaranteeing humane animal products requires that either a) most humans are 100% vegan or b) 100% of humans are mostly vegan.

If/when factory farming stops, then you’ll stop being vegan. Or you might continue to be vegan, but you’ll stop encouraging other people to go vegan. For you, veganism is a boycott.

This is an acceptable choice. You’re smart and you know what you’re doing. Thank you for all you do.


2. If you think that producing and consuming animal products is not morally acceptable, then for you veganism is not a boycott. Perhaps you’ve decided that veganism is a socially and environmentally responsible choice, but because animals deserve basic freedoms, veganism is more than merely a choice, it’s a moral obligation.

You abstain from consuming animal products because animals are not products.

In exactly the same way that you wouldn’t eat your dog or suck your cat’s teets, you don’t eat pigs or suck cow’s teets. To you, the supply and demand rationale doesn’t matter because you’d be vegan even in a non-capitalist system. You’re vegan because animals are not food. You’re vegan because animals are not clothing. You’re vegan because animals are not products. It’s that simple.

Your veganism might send a message, but you’d be vegan even if no one heard your message. That’s because you’re not vegan merely in order to send a message; you’re vegan because it’s the right thing to be. If you want to send a message, you open your mouth. You realize that your everyday habits of avoiding animal products aren’t enough to make a real difference. You know how animal industries work. You know how sneaky they are. You know that for every college-age consumer they lose because the consumer goes vegan, they gain many more elementary-school-age consumers who have no choice but to eat the National Lunch Program’s offerings.

You’re smart. You know that in order to make a real difference, you have to do more. You know you have to get active.

If/when factory farming stops, you’ll still be vegan. You’ll still encourage other people to go vegan. For you, veganism is just the beginning.

This, also, is a perfectly acceptable choice. You’re smart and you know what you’re doing. Thank you for all you do.


So… which one are you? Are you vegan 1 or vegan 2?

Remember, there’s room for all of us. When it comes to how we view factory farming and when it comes to what we eat, we vegans, regardless of intent, are more alike than not.


This article was originally published in September 2009. It has been republished with minor edits in order to reach a new audience.

11 Responses to Two Kinds Of Vegans

  1. Definitely 100% vegan type 2

  2. Albeit a much smaller segment, there’s also the vegan “for health” group. They’ve done the research and believe that animal products are more detrimental than beneficial to your health.

    Then there are people who are vegan for religious choices.

    And let’s not forget the 7th level vegan… eat nothing that casts a shadow.


  3. What does it matter? Litmus tests about people’s intent for being vegan is judgmental and polarizing. The important thing is to get people thinking about their food choices and making more sustainable positive ones. It’s not our place to interrogate people’s moral compasses in doing so.

  4. I’m vegan 4. Vegan 4 the animals; vegan 4 the planet; vegan 4 human health; vegan 4 feeding the world’s hungry. No doubt about it, I’m vegan 4 life!

    Great post Elaine, really great.

  5. Cute, Daniel :)
    I’m vegan 4 life, too!

    Andrea – If you read my post from the perspective of a non-vegan, you’ll realize that I’ve just provided a variety of reasons to go vegan. The commenters like Daniel and Sharlene are giving non-vegan readers more reasons to go vegan.
    If you’re already vegan and this post moves you in the direction that you want to attack me, I’m sorry for that. Go ahead if it makes you feel better or if your point is worth it. Just please know my intention wasn’t to polarize or be divisive; my point was to inspire non-vegans to get vegan and vegans to get active.

  6. i am vegan for all the reasons u can think of (with the exception of health – which just came naturally as i started loving healthy food more). i get frustrated with vegans who are only vegan for the animals (even tho i agree it is morally unacceptable to eat animals) – because it involves much more than not eating animals, it involves being kind to the earth, people and taking responsibility for the disgusting condition we have put mother earth in. i don’t understand vegans who are vegan but don’t recycle, or waste too much, or are very consumerist… but i guess that’s just me. there are all sorts of sizes of pictures – u decide how big yours is.

  7. I initially started as vegan 1, then vegan 2, and now vegan for all the reasons mentioned in the comments above. These days I can’t even think of any good reasons not to be vegan except laziness or because something tastes good. And both of those aren’t good enough to remain omni but are at least the truth and not flakey uneducated arguments to defend eating animals.

  8. Being a student of language I argue that the word vegan shouldn’t be applied to or used by the people described in the first description. In my opinion these are people that are on a plant based diet. Veganism is not a lifestyle but a moral and ethical baseline for human behavior and conduct. I think it is important to stop the distortion of language which as a society we have come to be so comfortable with. Whether it is by way of politicians (lawyers make a living by distorting language), media, or purported leaders who apply the vegan to people like John Mackey of Whole Foods.

    If we are to work for justice for all beings then there cannot be any ambiguity about what we say and what we mean.


  9. I’d say that most of us fit into both categories, but why should we be categorised in any case?

  10. Live and let live- that is the vegan lifestyle.

    to judge and harass others (including other vegans!) who try to abide by vegan moral codes, should be encouraged and applauded for their strides in accomplishing veganism etc- not cast aside for their application of veganism, just because it doesn’t suit some people’s application!


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