Vegangelicism — You’re Not Good Enough For My Vegan Club

I wish I'd seen this information on vegan activism when I was attacked for being a "damned, stupid half-vegan" (see our post Compassion Will Cure More Sins Than Condemnation).

Vegan Outreach has a particular segment on activism entitled, Busting the Vegan Police, in which they say:

It is imperative for us to realize that if our veganism is a statement for animal liberation, veganism cannot be an exclusive, ego-boosting club. Rather, we must become the mainstream. Fostering the impression that "it’s so hard to be vegan–animal products are in everything," and emphasizing animal products where the connection to animal suffering is tenuous, works against this by allowing most to ignore us and causing others to give up the whole process out of frustration.

The way veganism is presented to a potential vegan is of major importance. The attractive idea behind being a "vegan" is reducing one’s contribution to animal exploitation. Buying meat, eggs, and/or dairy creates animal suffering–animals will be raised and slaughtered specifically for these products. But if the by-products are not sold, they will be thrown out or given away. As more people stop eating animals, the by-products will naturally fade, so there is no real reason to force other people to worry about them in order to call themselves "vegan."

We want a vegan world, not a vegan club.

Amen.

Obviously, this veganer-than-thou attitude is something that really bothers me. I agree with Vegan Outreach. If the objective of veganism is to reduce the suffering and exploitation of animals, then to criticize and condemn people who drink Guinness, for example, because it's refined with Isinglass (see this post) isn't going to accomplish that goal. Instead of demanding that people who don't concern themselves with the animal by-products in their food label themselves as "strict vegetarians" perhaps we should allow the term vegan to encompass a broader perspective. As Vegan Outreach points out when fewer animals are consumed, fewer by-products are created. In turn, this will result in the cost of animal by-products rising so that cheaper alternatives will be sought out. The basic principles of supply and demand.

The definition of Vegan in Wikipedia states:

Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans do not use or consume animal products of any kind.

And as Convenient Vegan says in her post:

...the words “seeks to exclude.” This because it is impossible to assure that everything you eat, everything you wear, every part of how you live is completely free of cruelty to animals. The tires on your car – or your bike – were probably created with the assistance of animal by-products. The organic food you eat might well involve the deaths of many little insects. The materials used to build your home may include some products that involved the use of animal products in their production.

In order to bring veganism, and therefore animal rights, into the mainstream it might behoove us all to rethink where we draw our lines.

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Comments

  1. Amen! Amen! And Amen again! You know I have had more junk said to me about my not being an “ethical” vegan and I tell you what, it has made me very unsure when I hear someone say that they are vegan.

    I have tried to get few of the naysayers on my podcast, but to no avail. One of them posted a 2 page comment and I deleted it because it was repetitive, irrelevant, and judgmental. She was putting words in my mouth that I never said and told me that post after post (comments is what she meant I believe) on my blog are from people who seem to have no clue that there is a definition of Vegan.

    I am still scratching my head behind that one.

    I for one am tired of the Vegan Police and all that they spew. I am going to have to check out Vegan Outreach more.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Fabulous post!
    Dissemination of this is a must, far and wide.

    Off to post link to it now.

    Quick, others do the same!

  3. Vegan Convenient is a she not a he, by the way :)

    I agree that we ought not to chastise someone for eating something they thought was vegan but was not. But I wouldn’t go from there to conclude that ingredients are not important or that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a little nonvegan here and there.

    None of are perfect and we should allow ourselves to recover without much guilt from mistakes and adjustments. Even people who drop animal products cold turkey have a transition period where they likely make a mistake or two.

    However, I do not agree that it’s right to use the term ‘vegan’ to describe people who don’t care about animals and/or who simply eat like a vegan. If you wear fur coats or eat eggs, you can’t call yourself a vegan and be truthful about it. I’m not trying to be the vegan police, but words have meanings and most words should be used correctly. If you called yourself kosher and kept eating ham, I’d say you were lying about calling yourself kosher. It’s not about policing the borders or making veganism elitist, it’s about maintaining the integrity of the vegan philosophy: “Vegans do not use or consume animal products of any kind.”

  4. LaTara and Nadir, I’m glad to be able to provide information my readers find useful and worth sharing.
    Elaine, I agree with what you have to say, and disagree at the same time. There is definitely hypocrisy involved in wearing fur and avoiding animal products in your food, since animals are slaughtered for their fur. But I’m not sure we really need to concern ourselves about the animal by-products in the things we consume. Living in this society animal by-products are in a startling number of things you’d never suspect… animal fats and fatty acids in crayons and shaving cream; b0nes, horns, and hooves in bandages, adhesives, paneling and plywood. So the statement that “vegans do not use or consume animal products of any kind” is virtually impossible today. Sheetrock may contain hides and skin. So my home is not technically vegan. Does that mean I can’t call myself a vegan? I “keep vegan” as best I can, therefore I am a vegan.

  5. ps – thanks for pointing out that Convenient Vegan is female. I corrected that in my post.

  6. I agree. Even if we may not be “pure” 100% of the time we still do so much more for animals that the average person, and that I think is better than nothing!

  7. Hi Samantha,
    Or, as Jane likes to say, every little bit helps!

  8. I think we should go back to the origins of the word (vegan), then check if it matches with what we call vegan. I think, as a vegan, drinks witch contain animal products, or use them in their production should be avoided. The alcohol industry is a large animal user industry, and I don’t want to contribute to that.
    I can understand that we do not want to make things difficult,yet neither should we want to devalue a word. Maybe a knew word is needed, witch was why the word vegan came into existence in the first place.
    If I was a journalist, and an opponent of veganism,and new that a vegan drank Guinness, every time that vegan tuck part in a demonstration against animal abuse, I would constantly draw peoples attention to the poor old fishes that were used to make their drink. When Bono keeps going on about the poor, I can’t help thinking of all the millions of pounds that he has got, and all of his mansions – hypocrite. We don’t want to become like Bono.

    Thanks, Dave.

  9. Bandit a la mode says:

    Amen. Even the most strict of vegans are harming animals in some way by being inclusive with modern culture. The vegan tent needs to get bigger, books like ‘skinny bitch’ are a good example because they bring in people who aren’t necessarily doing it for ethical reasons but learn the benefits through the vegan community.
    I’m sure some people do it to feel ‘special’, to feel a certain amount of control, but like any fundamentalist the judgment can get out of hand and be counter-productive.
    I would rather have 500 vegans that ‘screw up’ sometimes that one ‘super-vegan’. Why, because that saves more lives and gets us closer to the goal.
    Lead by example – not by proselytizing.

  10. Vegetarians,Vegan,Raw Food Vegan,or Fruitarians are all working towards a common goal #1 for better health #2 to end animal cruelty &#3 to heal the planet. We are heading for the same goal just doing it differently.Respect the differences & drop the titles & move towards the goal. We as human beings have not heaven nor hell to.place each other in so stop letting people with huge ego( pride before the fall)make you feel condem(judge not unless you be judged). We all should have compassion for those who come against us. I will personally tell that it’s not easy ,but in order for us to see the change we are seeking we must all show Compassion for one another even if we don’t always agree. PEACE & LOVE

  11. I like pie.

  12. Everyone who even only eats vegetarian/vegan one day a week should not be made to feel like they aren’t making a difference.
    Holier-than-thou attitudes are the reason most people (omnivorous people) think that veganism is ‘stupid’ and ‘unhealthy’ and ‘bullshit’. We need to encourage people to veganism, not make them feel as though they are a bad person by not being one.

    Yay for vegans and everyone else who tries to make a change!

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