The term “vegan” has been loosely thrown around to mean ‘someone who doesn’t use or consume animal products or by-products’. This is in fact true; however, it is much more than just that. Veganism does not start on your plate or your body — it starts in the heart and mind. Vegans are just people who believe that we should respect all living beings, ourselves and our environment. Veganism is simply these beliefs put into action — we boycott industries that conflict with our beliefs. These beliefs are the foundation of veganism. Without them failure is inevitable.
If someone considered themselves a vegan for a number of hours, days, weeks, months, or even years and then went back to consuming and using products made from animals then they were never vegan to begin with. How is this so? Because there is a very big difference between eating like a vegan and being a vegan. They may have eaten like a vegan and dressed like a vegan, but the fact that they stopped shows their true level of commitment to the vegan cause. They were not vegan in their heart and mind.
Rather than blaming themselves for their failure, “ex-vegans” often blame veganism as a whole. They are ashamed that they could not succeed at doing something that others are successful at. They reason that because they failed, veganism is suddenly a silly idea to begin with and is not practical in the “real world”. Some of the most common reasons (i.e., excuses) ex-vegans use for quitting veganism are:
- Wishy-washy morals (“I just love meat/eggs/dairy too much!”)
- Trend following (“All of my friends were trying the vegan thing for X amount of time so I figured I’d try it out too.”)
- Lack of nutritional and culinary research (“I got tired of eating salads, beans and rice all the time”, “I lost too much weight”, “I gained too much weight”, “My hair started falling out”, “I was tired all the time”, “I got bruises all the time”, “I don’t like vegan food”, etc.)
- Misinformation (“I’ve been told that I must eat meat, dairy and/or eggs because of my medical condition/fitness regimen/pregnancy/etc.”)
- Laziness (“Animal products are faster and easier to prepare and shop for, which works better with my busy lifestyle.”)
Note that in each of these cases it is not veganism that failed, but the person themselves. However, people don’t much like coming to terms with this fact, so they shift the blame onto something else (e.g., someone attempts to hammer a nail, hits their thumb and then proceeds to blame the “stupid” hammer for their injured thumb).
Of course, I’m always happy when someone gives veganism a try, regardless of whether they went back. This shows that they do care about their own health, animals, and/or environment to some degree and are at least open to hearing the information supporting a vegan lifestyle. The fact that they gave it a go is something worth applauding. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that they were not a true vegan.
“A principle is a principle, and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.” ~ Gandhi
If one’s principles are not strong, it becomes very easy to give up on them. An ex-vegan’s reasons for acting like a vegan are not based on principles; their “veganism” is just a passing fancy. They may genuinely think they care about animals, environment, and health, but the fact that they went back proves otherwise.
Should we go back to slavery, child labor, and treating women like property? Would any of the excuses above change our minds about these things? NO, because we have realized that these things are WRONG. No excuse could ever make them seem acceptable to us now that we have realized that they are not morally correct. Why should it be any different with veganism? In all of these cases we are looking at one group being oppressed by another — being commodified, exploited, and degraded.
This is called speciesism: the idea that one species (human animals) is somehow better than all other species (non-human animals). It is a form of discrimination based on feeling superior to a particular group because of things they have no control over (e.g., skin color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, culture, disability, or species). Discrimination is always wrong. You are either opposed to all types of discrimination, or none at all. You can’t have it both ways.
Now, I don’t live under a rock and I understand that not all dietary vegans are animal rights activists. Many vegans cite health as their primary reason for going vegan. But remember, veganism is about having and showing respect for animals, environment, and/or yourself. Part of treating yourself with respect is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But why would people go from thinking that veganism is healthy to thinking that veganism is not healthy?
Articles like this one about former vegans learning to embrace butchering, and this one about vegans going back to eating animal products due to health concerns work to discredit veganism. When non-vegans read these articles they think “Oh! Looks like they finally saw the light! It seems I was right all along — veganism really isn’t sustainable for a considerable amount of time in the real world”. They read these articles written by “former vegans” and assume that this is true of all vegans, but that we are just too proud to admit it. Other articles (written by ovo-lacto vegetarians who either have never bothered to give veganism a try or have tried and failed) read much like articles advocating meat consumption, claiming that veganism is “extreme”, “difficult”, “expensive”, “impractical”, and “unhealthy”.
There’s all this talk about people failing on a vegan diet. That’s exactly the problem! Vegan lifestyles don’t fail — vegan diets do.
I wonder… why is it that everyone else seems to think that being vegan is hard — except vegans? Is it because vegans are born with super powers that allow us to thrive on a plant-based diet while the rest of the mortal population has to suck it up and resort to eating animal products? No, it’s because they are not vegan in their heart and mind. If you think and feel like a vegan, you will eat/dress/buy like a vegan. You cannot eat/dress/buy like a vegan and suddenly be able to think and feel like a vegan. To quit veganism is to never have fully embraced the principles required to make the switch in the first place.
Don’t believe the naysayers. Veganism is healthy, fun, delicious, affordable and easy. Put your words to action; respect yourself, others, and our environment — LIVE VEGAN.