Updated: May 26, 2020
This question has to be asked. Are you a bad vegan?
I've got a couple questions, and then I've got some *opinionated* answers. First thing's first:
Are you avoiding meat & dairy products but still consuming processed, vegan "junk" food?
Is your diet vegan, yet you're still buying clothes & other materials that have exploited animals at some point?
Do you claim to be vegan but every once and a while you slip-up & have some eggs or a piece of chicken?
Then I've got some news for you, family....
YOU'RE STILL DOING A GOOD THING THAT'S HARD TO DO, KEEP UP THE PHENOMENAL WORK!
Now before you bash me for encouraging "bad vegan habits" here is the main point of the following article: you're doing it wrong if you're advocating for the vegan lifestyle through judgement & arrogance. It's time to step off the high horse & share the love in a more positive way. Aren't you tired of the vegan community getting such a bad rep? I know I am.
Now let me get some things off my chest about our veg-life community.
I love us. I believe with all my heart that deep down we're just trying to do what's best for our bodies, the environment and the planet, but I can't deny the prevalent shame-culture associated with this particular label. So many non-vegan people I speak with about this topic already have a bad taste in their mouth about the whole thing because, at some point, they've experienced judgement from someone in the vegan community. The fact is, you could break down the benefits of veg-life along with the harms of eating a S.A.D (standard American diet) all day, but no one will hear you if they feel judged or harassed. Instead, their cognitive dissonance will likely cause them to lash out against you and the whole vegan lifestyle, or completely ignore it. Its a sad, well-known fact that most people can't be fed the truth if it isn't drizzled in honey. It can be quite frustrating, but it's something to keep in mind if you care about getting your point across in a way that's easily digestible to others.
That's not everyone's style, though, and some people don't care to sugar-coat things. That's just as well, because there are also people out there that need to be jolted into reality. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people get scared into veganism (it's me, I'm people🙃.)
That's how I started...but that's not what kept me here. And to be honest, many of the people who say I've inspired them to change mention how they didn't feel pressured into it, but rather encouraged into it (to me, that's really how you foster long-term change anyhow.) Many go for the abrasive or "tough love" approach, so I prefer to lead with love by example. Admittedly we do need both types of people for balance, but the vision of vegan culture in general has become uncomfortably lofty. I had to take a step down from the high horse myself to learn this lesson. To be completely honest, I'm just tired of the shaming & degrading. Not in 2020, no sir ma'am.
One of the most common stereotypes in regards to this topic is the judgey vegan. You've seen the memes. That same judgement isn't reserved for "outsiders", either. I've seen it run rampant in the comments section of vegan FaceBook groups and online forums, I've seen it taint otherwise pleasant plant-based gatherings, and I've seen it eat away at a persons own self-image. The finger loves to point in all directions, even back at ourselves.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not addressing interaction that uplifts, inspires & educates others. This is for those of us that get caught-up in the self-righteousness of it all. One thing that you have to be honest about on this journey is the fact that it doesn't look the same for everyone. My best effort avoids processed foods, GMO's & non-organic food. That doesn't mean I don't ever consume them though, because sometimes it's just not realistic. You have to work with the options available to you, and some people live in areas without easy access to fresh, organic produce. Their best effort may simply be avoiding fast food or buying meat. Encourage & celebrate them anyhow. We are all trying to better ourselves and however that looks for you, I applaud your strength!
I will often share things about why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best, but the reality is I admire the effort of vegetarians, "junk food" vegans, & alkaline vegans alike. I will still celebrate you because you are actively marking steps towards a better version of yourself. You actually decided to step out of the harmful, careless lifestyle that's been handed down generation after generation, even if it's just a little bit at a time. Let's be honest, that's not the norm, and it takes a ton of courage and willpower to be able to deviate from the norm. Whether you're doing it for health reasons, environmental reasons, moral reasons or spiritual reasons, your choice has some sort of positive impact. Well done, you! Well. Done.
You are quite literally breaking cycles, and there's no one right way to do that. If you’re eating a little healthier than you were last week, I’m proud of you. If you’re more conscious about the choices you're making than you were before, I'm proud of you. Breaking out of deeply rooted habits that we've been operating with for our entire lives is some of life's hardest work. Especially in a society that doesn't cater to the lifestyle you chose for yourself.
F*ck anyone else's judgments or standards. Maybe you don't want to commit fully right away and you want to start with simply limiting your consumption of animal products. That's ok! This journey isn't all or nothing. Start with making a choice, and keep making it every day. Even if your end goal isn't a total elimination of animal products, your body and the environment are still significantly impacted for the better because of your conscious choice to lessen your contribution to enabling sickness/disease, the emission of green house gases, low-vibrational consumption habits, etc.
So is there really a "wrong way" to pursue the veg lifestyle? I say yes. The wrong way is through judgement, shame & a self-imposed god complex. That includes your interactions with others, but especially within yourself. Be easy on yourself, such deep & meaningful change takes time, trial & error.
The veg life doesn't look the same for everyone, and it's my own (highly unpopular) opinion that if you're eating plant-based 90% of the time, that remaining 10% of animal products you may consume doesn't disqualify your right to use the vegan/vegetarian label. I have never encountered another vegan that would be inclined to agree with me on that one, but I shrug. That's why I made a blog in the first place, to share *my* own unique opinions. For instance, if I told you I was a body builder, would you tell me that on the days I skip the gym I'm suddenly no longer a body builder? No because that's ridiculous, because it makes up a majority of who I am and I am not obligated to embody that 100% of the time. Because I'm human. So, if it's a large part of your identity screw what anyone else says, use any term that helps you understand yourself & relate to the world around you.
Everyone has "slip ups" & relapses. That should be a more acceptable a part of the journey so long as you stay focused overall. It's also unrealistic to expect us all to change deep-seated habits & mentalities overnight. Integrating new information into behavioral change takes time, and growth isn't always linear. Growth is inevitable with consistency, though, so don't worry about it and just stay the course. Support our peers who choose to follow this path in one way or another, we're all just out here trying to do something better than what we were doing before. We all deal with old habits and cravings, we all deal with issues regarding available vegan options, we all deal with pressure & discouragement from our friends/family/society. Whatever "mistakes" you make while facing those issues don't define you, regardless of what anyone else may say. Two things & two things only define your veg-journey as successful, your resilience and consistency.