When people find out that I am vegan, I often get the response, “I’m pretty much vegetarian. I don’t much meat.” Or sometimes I get, “I wish I could do that, but I could never give up my cheese (or ice cream, or whatever).” Once in a while I hear, “I’m almost vegan but I do eat eggs.” While it would be easy to stand up and wave the vegan flag (is there one? There should be), and say, ‘Well then, you’re not vegan, are you?’ But I don’t think that would get me anywhere. So does it have to be all-or-nothing, or what?
From my view, there are two schools of thought here. One is grammatically correct – the very definition of vegan is: “a person who doesn’t use or eat animal products.” Period. It’s quite simple. Either you’re vegan or you are not. Either you participate in the exploitation of animals, or you do not. And by the way, even though I mainly talk about food and diet on this blog, there is a whole segment to the vegan lifestyle involving avoiding animal products in clothing and furniture and accessories; about not supporting exploitation in the way of zoos and marine parks; and about avoiding personal care products tested on animals or made with animal products. It’s not that veganism is so restrictive. It’s that our ‘use’ of animals is vast and unthinkable.
The other school of thought is actually two thoughts. 1) Veganism is about doing the least harm possible. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about expanding your circle of compassion even when it’s inconvenient. 2) It is a process, for everyone. While I have not always been good about this, I’m working on expanding my circle of compassion to include people who are mostly vegan or who are “junk food vegans.” I learned from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau that there’s a message underneath when someone claims to be mostly vegan. If they are still consuming eggs on Sundays and they have tea and scones and baked goods at church, then technically they aren’t vegan. BUT by saying they are mostly vegan, they are sending a very important message – they want to identify with vegans. That’s a good thing. A very good thing. There’s something about veganism that is drawing them in and they’re making conscious choices to be mostly vegan.
Whether ethics and compassion or the desire to live a full and healthful life drives your decisions, there is a place for you in veganism. There is no initiation fee, no monthly membership, no questionnaire you have to take before joining the club. It’s a common misconception that all vegans have advanced degrees in nutrition. Given my knowledge about health and wellness, and the desire to share the joy of veganism and my own success on an unprocessed SOS-free diet and active lifestyle, I have a tendency to push toward healthful perfection. But the reality is that I support any reduction in the consumption of animal products! There is so much momentum moving in that direction that it’s really exciting. In fact, here’s a great new book that teaches all the basics if you’re looking for some support.
Next time you reflect on your own diet and lifestyle, give yourself a pat on the back for being better today than you were yesterday. Eating more health-promoting foods and less disease-promoting foods will help you reverse disease processes already at play. Eating fewer animals will save more animals. Wearing less leather and wool will protect more animals from harm. Eating fewer eggs and dairy products makes a world of difference for you and for the animals. Any movement in that direction is a great thing, so keep up the good work!
If you want to be mostly vegan, you have my unrelenting support!
Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Just do something. Anything. ~ Colleen Patrick-Goudreau