I was chatting away on some vegan thread yesterday and was told, for the second time, that I'm not a vegan. Apparently this post, where I mention that I slipped, disqualifies me. Then there was the indirect attack thrown at me, "damned, stupid, half-vegans."
I have to say, I'm not sure why deliberately having one non-vegan meal in over six months of vegan meals disqualifies me from being a vegan. I was in a social situation where there was nothing else for me to eat but pizza and Guiness (two of the things I miss the most) and potato chips and coke. But even if that weren't the case, why does one meal out of 6oo make me a vegetarian (or as someone else called me, a carnivore)?
I'm sorry, I'm not going to categorize myself as a vegetarian. I don't buy cheese or dairy products. However, I am on the fence about honey and sugar, and wool. When I shop I look for vegan products. I try my best to eat vegan when I'm not in my home, but I cannot control everything. The waitstaff at any given restaurant isn't likely to know every ingredient, and the refining processes of those ingredients, in every meal prepared in the restaurant in which they work. Nor will they have the time to go into the kitchen and speak with the chef during the busy dinner rush. So, I do the best I can. And I feel good about my choices. I know I'm making a difference.
Yes, the exact definition of the word vegan is to consume (in any form) no animal products.
From Wikipedia: "The term "animal product" in a vegan context refers to any material derived from animals for human use. Notable animal products include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Common animal by-products include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, and shellac."
But does that mean I'm not a vegan? There are some people who will unequivocally say "yes, that is exactly what it means." But I don't agree with that. Whatever your objective, be it physical health, environmental impact, or animal welfare, doesn't the first step start with a reduction in the consumption of animal products? Any change in behavior requires a period of adjustment and there will always be the occasional lapse in discipline. One step off the path doesn't mean I've changed my direction.
Do you say someone isn't a democrat if they voted green in the last election? Do you say someone isn't a Catholic if they only go to church once or twice a year? Do you say someone isn't a Jew if they don't keep kosher at home? Or if they do keep kosher at home, but don't when they eat out? Or how about the people who only recycle at home, are they not environmentalists to some degree? Lighten up people!
It's this militant, self-righteous attitude that is most off-putting when people consider going vegan. To know you are going to constantly have to defend your decisions to other people is wearying, and forbidding. In this country, we all have the freedom to choose our own paths.
And finally, if we are so busy preaching compassion to animals, doesn't that include compassion to the human animal?
“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” --Henry Ward Beecher