Good for you for going vegan. You've nixed the meat, ditched the gross dairy and have sworn off leather boots for life.
But what was that? You still eat honey? Well, then clearly you’re not a real vegan.
As a vegan – and the editor of a vegan website – I hear these kinds of accusations all the time. If you wear leather, you’re not vegan. If you eat soy products with casein (a milk protein) you’re not vegan. If you haven’t tossed out your goose down comforter – you’re not vegan.
I’m beginning to think we’re all a bunch of snobs.
It’s starting to feel like vegan is an exclusive club where, if you don’t follow the rules, you’re scolded for not being truly “committed” to the lifestyle. No wonder people are intimidated by veganism – we’re not always the most accepting crowd.
Here are some reasons I think we need to lay off the attitude and just embrace one another’s choices, vegan or not:
Progress, not perfection. You know what I love? That whole concept of Meatless Mondays. A movement that dates back to World War I, the idea of giving up meat once a week was jump-started as a public health campaign in 2003. The results? Research has shown that around 30 percent of Americans were influenced to cut back on meat. If you’re vegan seven days a week or one day a year, every conscious choice helps protect our planet, our animals and our bodies. Let’s focus more on what people are doing right, not criticizing them for not doing enough.
Talk isn’t cheap. I have a friend who’s very committed to the Paleo diet lifestyle. We couldn’t be on further ends of the food spectrum, but I love having conversations with him. Why? Dialogue fosters education and awareness. If we’d stop criticizing one another long enough to have a discussion, we might find we’re actually on the same page. While I don’t agree with the Paleo diet principles, neither vegans nor paleos consume dairy products. Hey, lookie there. We have something in common. Who knows? If you have an open and non-judgmental conversation with someone (without pushing an agenda), you might even get them to try a vegan diet.
Others learn through our failures. What good are you doing when you lie about being 100 percent vegan? Let’s be real: giving up animal products can be a long and hard transition for many. I doubt any of us never slipped up, and people trying to go vegan ought to know this. It’s OK if you eat a piece of cheese. The world will not end. Try again tomorrow.
Sometimes, processed is better than nothing. Ever heard someone get on her high horse about how real vegans don’t eat processed foods? While in no way am I condoning a diet of processed vegan cheeses, soy meats or packaged foods, sometimes this is a vital first step on a vegan’s journey. Maybe you’re not at a point where you own all the fancy tools or have the time to create healthy meals. If buying some Daiya and making a vegan pizza keeps you from grabbing a hamburger, eat your heart out, honey. Can we stop harping on bad-diet vegans and just encourage them with healthy recipe ideas and tips that we’ve learned along the way?
Let’s not lose sight of what’s important. Passing up one hamburger for a veggie patty saves about 600 gallons of water. Forgoing a plate of scrambled eggs means you’re not supporting the torture and killing of millions of animals. “Real” vegan or not, bravo to you for trying. Keep it up – every little bit counts.