Vegan Enough For Enough Vegans

It was 2006. I had recently gone vegan. I was in a workshop. We were asked to choose an area in which we were experts. I was at a loss. There were so many issues I cared for passionately. But nothing I was an expert in.

I was last to announce my area of expertise. No one had mentioned veganism. The animals needed me to say it. So I did. I blurted it out: “I’m an expert in veganism.”

That statement literally changed my life.

But the moment I said it I felt like a fraud. I knew a lot about veganism but I knew enough to know there were lots of things I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure I was vegan enough.

During a break, a woman came up to me and said she was vegan too. Then she started eating a bagel. I was sure the bagel had L cysteine in it. I thought to myself “she’s not a real vegan.”

Later that day I recounted the experience to a vegan friend who responded “Plain bagel? That’s vegan enough.” And from then on I embraced the concept of “vegan enough.”

What is vegan enough?

Vegan enough is the idea that being vegan is about avoiding the biggies (meat, dairy, and eggs) and not sweating the small stuff (trace ingredients). The small stuff doesn’t really matter in the big picture. Avoid it if you want; don’t avoid it if you don’t want. If you can’t even see it under a microscope, it’s is not a big deal. Literally.

Vegan enough is about being vegan conspicuously enough to make a significant change in the world. It’s about being vegan enough to influence enough nonvegans to go vegan. When we do that, we won’t have to worry about being vegan enough because enough of the world will be vegan that being vegan will be the mainstream.

18 Responses to Vegan Enough For Enough Vegans

  1. Thank you for this post! Our family has been vegan since September and recently we’ve made the decision to not sweat the small stuff (because the small stuff will drive me insane and eventually make me throw up my hands and quit). My husband, son, and I each do what is comfortable for us – and it runs the gamut from 60% vegan in my son’s case to about 98% with me (no meat/dairy, but still use honey from a friend’s hives, still wear the leather/wool that was in my wardrobe before going veg, etc). And you’re right on point about showing people that it’s possible to be vegan without being judgmental. Sometimes I think people seeing me, a vegan, wearing leather shoes, they see us as more approachable and it starts a meaningful dialogue. At least that’s been the case here. :)

  2. I loved reading this!! This hits the nail on the head for me. We are “going vegan” for health AND compassion reasons, but in doing the research I’ve been fairly appalled at the intolerance shown for any deviation from what that person deems “properly vegan”. Thank you for expressing the phrase “vegan enough”. I’ll be using that!

  3. i kinda/sorta subscribe to the ideas that drive the ideas behind the concept of vegan enough. but that’s not good enough for me, it’s the ideas of ethical purity and really being committed for the animals that now drives my veganism. but the truth is we don’t live in a 100% pure vegan world, but again i feel that is but a cheap cop-out, which again forces and tends to lose focus on the animals. and the horrible suffering they endure, being treated nothing more as a mere commodity. fortunately i got the chance to see and hear John Robbins talk the day i went vegan. he himself said to a roomful of univeristy students that there were many issues concerning the mistreatment and abuse of animals and that needs to be addressed in the AR camp. he was right.

    and this is the reason i went vegan.

  4. You are degrading the term “vegan” every time you shrug off those hidden
    Ingredients. Yes, a more casual approach to small ingredients may soften the idea of being vegan to some. But others will call hypocrite. You KNOW that you are eating animal byproducts. Where is your right to deny others the animal ingredients (meat, eggs, dairy) they choose?
    Animals die for all of it.

    I honstly don’t see how you can call yourself vegan. Or what is to stop everyone from calling themselves vegan enough while they continue to eat meat?

  5. Daisy, you said “Animals die for all of it.”
    Can you prove it? Please show me how consumer demand for bagels with animal-based L-Cysteine increases farmed animal cruelty and death.

  6. “Vegan enough” is a great philosophy. If enough folk were “vegan enough” there would be more direct impact and change for animals than any focus on trace ingredients could ever achieve.

  7. You are using a ” straw man” argument. I’m surprised you would stoop that low.

    I did not say eating bagles containing L-Cysteine increased animal death/cruelty. But thank you for making my point. L-Cysteine is an animal slaughter by product. It comes from dead animals. So does leather. It’s not a huge jump (IMO) from knowingly eating animal slaughter by products to wearing them. It’s a slippery slope to justify a return to omnivoreism. It certainly weakens the term vegan.

  8. I agree with daisy, if you are bending the rules of veganism to what you are personally comfortable with, then you can’t really call that veganism, AND (most of all) you can’t judge people or think you are higher, more pure than those who are “vegans” but go further and eat more animal by products. And yes, L-cycteine contributes to animal cruelity…and human cruelity. Women selling their hair and their daughters’ hair for money to feed the Western World. Shame on the industry for stooping so low and resorting to such ingredients, and shame on educated vegans for eating such products.

  9. This is the philosophy I generally follow as well. I try not to stress out on hidden ingredients–but if I do eat something and then find out later on that honey (or L-Cysteine) was in it, then I make a mental note of it and avoid it next time. In the very end, we all have to do what works for us, and “vegan enough” works for me. I try not to be judgmental of other vegans (or other people in general) and their choices, and I always try and make veganism appear fun, easy and delicious when I’m out with non-vegans (which is most of the time). For me, being vegan is about doing the best I can, and not about purity.

  10. Vegan enough is a great philosophy.

    vegan enough is a clearcut, cheap sell out. it beckons to, recognizes and erroneously validates a broken and corrupt economic system, one that runs upon apathy, greed, intolerance, pretended freedoms and irresponsible behavior, and caters to and creates consumer demand via non-stop cruelty, selective apathy and greed, not to mention the exceedingly cruel and barbaric mistreatment of, and the unthinkable torture of and sadistic slaugther of innocent, sentient non-human animals as a source of income.

    this is just an expression of pc apathy and “off the shelf” greed and little else IMHO.

    a reliable and acceptable description of veganism is that vegans actively choose to prevent, and not contribute to cruelty against animals.


    You are using a straw man argument. Im surprised you would stoop that low.

    I did not say eating bagles containing L-Cysteine increased animal death/cruelty. But thank you for making my point. L-Cysteine is an animal slaughter by product. It comes from dead animals. So does leather. Its not a huge jump (IMO) from knowingly eating animal slaughter by products to wearing them. Its a slippery slope to justify a return to omnivoreism. It certainly weakens the term vegan.

    yes. that is, i am in total agreement with your statements.

    and it does weaken the term vegan. this definition bending thing doesn’t work for me. just mindless selloutism in all it’s glory.

    there just is no excuse to increase via consumer demand and/or not try to prevent animal suffering. even so one can always fall victim to hidden ingredients and mislabeling and honest mistakes. but that is another matter. altogether now.

  11. For me, being vegan in a definitely non-vegan world does require more attention to the “small stuff”. Veganism means being aware of these things and actively pursuing the path of compassion towards animals. Now, I’m not saying 100 % can even be achieved, but the strive towards it is what makes it worthwile. Countless times I’ve been offered vegetable soup with “just a hint of meat” – did I eat it? Hell no. Would you eat soup from which all meat chunks were taken out, but it was still cooked with meat? Same thing with the ingredients we don’t see. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. Also, I’m not so sure about the level of hardship vegans endure in the Western world, where there are specialised stores just for vegans and vegetarians. Try living in a country where the only products, besides vegetables and fruit, are soya steaks and soya milk. Nothing else. No bread spreads, no vegan salami, no yogurt, no pudding. But I still get on by just fine, have been doing so for the past two and a half years. There is a thin line between being “vegan enough” and shaky principles.

  12. I agree. Besides the rather obvious definition bending, there is a fine line between being “vegan enough” and shaky principles. It’s the animals that suffer, and horribly so.

  13. I notice the vegan fundamentalists commenting. They want Veganism to be a small club in which they are a member. It’s not about the environment, health or animals. It’s about them being special, part of a tiny elect group. You see it in politics, religion and other belief systems. In almost all cases, fundamentalistism damages the cause that it’s members espouse.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. You can be so liberal in defining Veganism, that it can lose its meaning. However, I consider the fundamentalists to be the greater threat to increasing the number of vegans and their effect on health, the environment, and animal welfare.

  14. As a vegetarian who has recently become vegan, being “vegan enough” to me means that you do your very best to avoid all animal products all the time, but if you find out after you eat that there was (for example) gelatin in something, that you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. If vegans insist on other vegans having a 100% pure lifestyle, it discourages the vast majority of people from even attempting to become vegetarian or vegan. The goal is ethical living to decrease the suffering of animals. We shouldn’t create suffering in other humans who are trying to do their best to be vegan, but are not perfect.

  15. Steven Carter and New Vegan, I wholeheartedly agree. I have been vegan, in so far as it is practicable to be, most of my adult life (and I’m well into middle age). I find that these ‘veganelists’, for want of a better term, who think that they are ‘purer’ than everyone else, do more harm than good.

  16. Everybody draws their own line in the sand. Arguing about labels is tiresome. I’m bugged enough by carnivores trying to tell me what I must do to be “consistent”, typically extending to just stopping breathing and other vital functions. I’m tempted to ask about their favorite recipe for baby human meat and if it tastes like chicken…

    By the way, the major source of L-cysteine is human hair, voluntarily cut at the barbershop. That gives a far better yield of L-cysteine during the chemical extraction process than the slaughter process indicated by some here. That means it can be difficult to know the origin, though, since it depends on what is available cheapest at the time of manufacture. I myself would never consider substances of human origin, voluntarily collected, as inconsistent with vegan eating. Other animals cannot be asked for their consent for most collection processes, and that makes a huge difference when they are harmed in the process. I wouldn’t have trouble with feathers that naturally dropped off a bird, either. The general problem is raising animals to be killed and treating them badly during life and at the time of death; if the only animals people ate were ones who died a natural or accidental death (like road kill…), we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  17. “and their effect on health, the environment, and animal welfare.”

    I love how “animal welfare,” and NOT “animal rights” comes third in there.

    Veganism is NOT something everybody gets to redefine. Veganism was created by a man named Donald Watson in 1944 as a social justice movement to attempt to completely end the exploitation of animals because it’s immoral, NOTHING ELSE.

    If you don’t ATTEMPT to stop consuming all animal substances in your diet, clothing and other products and exploiting animals for research or other reasons, you are, by the definition of Veganism as coined by the founder of the movement, NOT VEGAN.

    Several people who commented in this thread have got it right, but the people who haven’t are the ones advocating that it’s ok to consume some animal substances and also call yourself Vegan.

    “Vegan enough” is immoral. THAT’S why ACTUAL Vegans don’t do it and call themselves Vegan.

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