04 June 2012

Being vegan: No going halfsies

Vegan : a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather). - Merriam Webster Dictionary 

In 1944 Donald Watson coined the term vegan, after some of the animal rights movement at the time felt concern over vegetarians consuming dairy. It was a small group at first calling themselves the Vegan Society but one only needs to look at the nearest bookstore shelf in the cookbook section to see how this has blossomed into a full throttle force.

Simply put vegans do not eat animal flesh or secretions, exploit animals or wear animal skin. Why is there a new trend in people who claim the vegan label yet are still partaking in eating/drinking dairy or animal flesh? What started this trend? What will it do for the movement?

When asked the question "would you consider a person who knowingly eats fish/cheese/dairy on an occasional basis vegan?" Jessie VanPelt said, "No, they are following a plant-based diet. Giving up cheese (and other animal products) is hard because we are literally addicted to it, but it can be done, and it's the right thing to do". Jessie goes onto add "eating cheese is never excusable because being vegan is an ethical principle, not a diet. "Sometimes belittles those principles to yourself and to others. You cant put your principles on hold because of your weakness or addiction - the cows always pay the price. and that is never okay."

When it comes to the core values of the movement some might not think that a person who labels themselves as vegan -- and who actually is not -- will not hurt the movement. I don't think that it will go unnoticed. With the vegan book explosion more and more diet books are coming out, that promote veganisim but do not get to the core of the movement.

One day you can call yourself vegan, the next day you can eat cheese and still be vegan as long as you drop a few pounds by eating salad and doing a juice cleanse! Silly promises! These types of authors and books seem to make it onto mainstream shows and get top billing on bookshelves more.

People see these mega stars and think this is what the movement is about and it is not and the finger pointing begins. Neva Davis sums it up nicely by saying "The first reason is that many people look for any hypocrisy in order to discredit the movement. Secondly it's bad because it makes it harder for us to promote the correct definition of veganism. It also likely contributes to people selling 'vegan products' that actually contain animal products." Susmitha Subbaraju also sees something wrong with the growth of the vegan label being misused, "at a time like now, when the movement is growing and spreading, we cannot afford to have the message get diluted by 'vegans' making it seem like it's okay to indulge in cruelty once in a while."

When it comes to vegans who are not really vegan Melissa Bastian says, "Unfortunately, the most verbose people tend to be those who least represent the vegan community" and I agree. Seeing a "vegan" cookbook author on TV consuming animal products or someone who appears in a PETA ad who says they are "vegan" ordering fish-sushi and wearing fur is not really helping the vegan movement.

It does not even have to be on such a large scale. I know of people shouting "go vegan" and harassing people in parks who have a "weakness for milk in their tea." I believe you need to lead by example. If you really want to wear the vegan label with pride put down the animal products and embrace the word and core values.

Anyone can call themselves anything they want. However when you have a movement as passionate as this with people wearing their heart on their sleeves (or a vegan logo shirt on their chest!) do not say you are vegan and then drink milk! You will get the stink eye and a bunch of nasty Tweets!

Kendy Paxia | Facebook | Blog
Modesto, CA Kendy is on a mission to dispel the myth that vegans are bland like tofu straight out of the package. Vegan cosmetics, beauty products, crafting accessories and cruelty free fashion are her favorite things to talk about - when she is not talking about cats! She writes/runs her own zine The Stay At Home Girlfriend and has written for various indie magazines.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/anneh632 and TDIV