Mostly Vegan?
May 16, 2011

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A few weeks ago, one of my readers emailed me with a very good question. “I know you call yourself ‘semi-raw’ or ‘mostly raw’” she said. “But are you ever semi-vegan?” She went on to say that, in spite of being mostly vegan, she finds that there are certain things—ice cream, for example—that just aren’t as enticing in their vegan variations as the “real thing.” And she wonders how I deal with this: do I ever think it’s OK to “splurge,” as it were, on a non-vegan food?

Great question. Before I answer, let me say clearly that my response is personal, not prescriptive: I’m not telling anyone else how to be. I’ve experienced some discomfort among readers when they have the impression that I’m insisting that they follow a 100% vegan diet, so let me be clear: this blog does not exist to impose my mores upon other people. My goal is to foster curiosity about veganism among those of you who know nothing about it; to inspire those of you who are already interested to push your interest a little deeper; and to give those of you who are already vegan an online space in which to celebrate your lifestyle. Most of all, I try to incite thoughtfulness among all of my readers, and that means answering questions honestly.

The answer is no, I’m never semi-vegan. And the “why” is straightforward: it’s because veganism is primarily a moral question for me, and not a question of personal taste, preference, or health. I do believe that veganism is the healthiest lifestyle choice for me and countless others, and hope that I can be a champion of its health benefits, but that isn’t the main reason that I stick with it, even when I experience a craving for non-vegan food. I stick with it because I believe it’s the right thing to do. Asking me whether I’d be comfortable consciously consuming a little non-vegan food is akin to asking me whether I’d feel comfortable cheating a little, lying a little, or stealing a little: I wouldn’t. I’m human, of course, and I might do any of these things at any time, but I’d never aim to do them, nor would I do them without a sense of regret.

Being a raw eater is a defining part of who I am, but it doesn’t feel morally urgent to me: it’s something I do mostly because it makes me feel good. It’s a matter of preference, not a matter of necessity. When I don’t eat raw, I quickly feel sluggish and a little cranky, but that’s as bad as it gets: my health does not decline precipitously, and I don’t feel as though I’ve compromised my ethics. If I’m in a social setting or a travel setting with no raw options, I’m glad to eat cooked food.

If, on the other hand, I’m faced with a social scenario in which no vegan options are present, I’ll reach into my purse for a vegan snack bar, or I’ll find a piece of fruit until I can have a proper meal. Sure, it’ll be annoying, but that annoyance is pretty negligible in comparison to how I’ll feel if I stray from veganism simply to make my life easier.

Let me put it another way: on a few occasions in the last few years, I’ve smoked a cigarette. This hasn’t been a decision I felt good about, because of course it’s a health risk, but—putting aside for the sake of argument the fact that tobacco companies are very bad, and that smoking sets a poor example for others—I didn’t feel that I’d done something wrong when I smoked. I felt that I’d done something foolhardy with my own health, and I felt that it wouldn’t be repeated. This is how I’d feel, maybe, if I routinely ate things that weren’t healthy. But doing that wouldn’t feel like an ethical compromise: it would just feel unwise. To be cavalier with my own health is my prerogative, even if it’s foolish: to be cavalier about the lives of other living beings is quite a different matter. I have a responsibility to protect animals, even when I’m not protecting me.

Of course I value my health tremendously, and I avoid behavior that makes me feel poorly: it’s why I don’t drink very much, and why I’m not a smoker anymore, and why I savor a few squares of dark chocolate, rather than a few bars, and why I stop myself after my second cup of coffee each morning. It’s why I’m pursuing a career in medicine. But I, like most people, do sometimes put pleasure before health, and when I do, I don’t beat myself up about it. I think it’s easy for people to see my veganism as an extension of my healthy living habits, but that isn’t quite true: they’re related, but they’re not comparable in terms of their importance to me.

Naturally, these are only my thoughts on the matter; a person with a different set of ethics, who eats vegan primarily for the same reasons I eat mostly raw (health, energy, etc.) might treat the vegan diet similarly to how I treat the raw one: something that they do most of the time, but not all of the time. It’s just a different way of seeing this issue. I offer up my perspective because I think it actually might help new vegans who are changing their habits for ethical reasons to clarify what they are and aren’t comfortable with.

I should also add that, while it’s natural to feel that vegan products don’t match the “real thing,” a little mental readjustment can really ease the discomfort! I remember my longing for Greek yogurt distinctly, but it was soon mollified by a newfound love of thick, cold smoothies; I also remember thinking that butter was irreplaceable, until I discovered how magical it is to melt coconut butter on top of a baked potato. I was never much of a cheese lover, but Daiya has filled a necessary void in pastas and casseroles (like yesterday’s summer vegetable gratin) and hummus is so much better on a bagel than cream cheese ever could have been. And ice cream? Fugetaboutit. Banana soft serve is better, healthier, and easier to make from scratch than any carton of dairy ever was.

Sure, these foods aren’t exactly like the “real thing”; nothing is more annoying to me than when someone feels the need to say, “but banana soft serve isn’t really ice cream” or “this is good, but it’s not real cheese.” How astute. The point isn’t to mimic non-vegan food exactly, but rather to capture that food’s essence: it’s why a rich smoothie can evoke what Greek yogurt used to be for me, which was a thick canvas for granola or fresh berries. I understand completely the fond remembrance of once-loved foods, but I do believe that focusing on what a food gave you—texture, satiety, taste—rather than imitating it with precision, can be very freeing!

Hope this post gives you that proverbial “food for thought.” Again, everyone has different priorities when the dinner bell rings, but these particular distinctions are worth talking about. I’m curious to hear from vegan readers in particular here: do you find it hard to stick to the diet? How do you feel about exceptions? Do you think the distinction between self/other is urgent? And in general, I’d love to hear how all of my readers, no matter what the lifestyle, feel about the difference between food choices that are conditional, and those that are unwavering. What are you willing to be flexible about, and what aren’t you?

Back tomorrow!

xo

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    190 Comments
  1. First off I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question
    in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out.
    I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying
    to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?
    Kudos!

  2. I just want to say how inspired yet disappointed this post made me feel. Inspired because I know I won’t be alone when I begin my transformation. Disappointed in myself for every time I said to my vegan friends “don’t you miss_”. Thankfully, they have been nothing short of patience with me and reading most of these comments made me realize how hurtful it can be. They have never asked me things such as don’t I miss being a healthy weight and I am imagining now how hurt I would be if they did. Needless to say I appreciate their decisions towards this lifestyle more. I am an outspoken individual and there’s no doubt about it but I will try being a more humble person and mindful in general. I’m not in the position (financially) to begin my transformation but this is something I’m very interested in doing in the future. Once I do start my transformation, I wonder what will be my cravings. Considering I’m overweight and looking forward to eliminating the majority of “bad” foods that I am currently consuming I hope I will be able to receive some positive support during my journey.

  3. I just got warm fuzzies and chills reading this. What a wonderfully worded answer. I couldn’t have said it better and have this silly urge to print it and pass it out whenever someone asks me the same question so that I don’t give my own sloppy and irritated answer. Thank you. You’re my new hero.

  4. This has to be quite honestly the best thing I’ve read on why we should eat however we eat. It should come from a deeper meaning that what most of us see food for. THANK YOU for shedding light on this. If I could post this on a billboard somewhere I would! It is distinctively my philosophy on food and how we should eat. Everyone is different and thank you for respecting that, but also testifying to the truth that those of us who eat vegan in the manner it was mean to be eaten do so not for diet reasons but because it’s morally right and cheating on a vegan diet is like saying you need to cheat on a test or on your taxes- it’s a moral lie.

    Awesome as always- thank you!

  5. I guess I could say that my transition into veganism was quicker than most people. I tend to very easily rush into things and stick with them. That’s not to say that I am perfect because I may stumble a little along the way. In March 2011 I was a lazy overweight smoker and I ate anything and everything. I regularly ate until I made myself sick. But in March 2011 my wife and our roommates decided to get healthy. I threw away my cigarettes and I started working out. 3 months later I was the only one still trying. In June of that year I decided to start running and I am now preparing for my first half-marathon. My wife finds my ability to make a decision to do something and just stick with it odd. I just make a decision and stick to it. I think its all what your priorities are. If you make it a priority to be healthy then you will be healthy.
    Anyway to my being vegan story. In December 2011 I happened to watch Food Inc. I decided to go pescatarian. Upon further examination of my moral food dilemma I went vegetarian in January 2012. At this point I was a vegetarian for moral reasons and not for health. I then watched forks over knives and read more about the dairy and egg industry. I went vegan in February 2012. I am now completely vegan and its pretty simple for me. Food has to follow two different qualifications. The first is an ethical one. Does this food require an animal to suffer? The second question is a nutritional one. Does this food nourish my body? I always follow the first question and not always the second one. I do occasionally eat vegan junk food. Daiya cheese is not exactly nourishing. Vegan soymilk ice cream is not wonderful for you either. But when I eat I always feel good knowing that nothing suffered for my dietary choices.

    • hello! i have been mostly vegan for 2 months. The reason i like to say mostly, is because i am not 100% perfect. I would just like to point out that even if you are not 100% vegan you should still call yourself mostly vegan or vegetarian. It is important to spread awareness about veganism. When you associate yourself with this “group” you invite more people to discuss the benefits and importance of being vegan.

  6. I used to say I was 100% pure vegan. However, I have come to make exceptions. For example, when I am traveling outside of the US, I am not that picky. I would never eat meat but if there is no other options vegetarian food will do. I also will eat vegetarian food when it I am at a temple. If the food they have has dairy in it I still eat it.

    However, since I started eating dairy again, I realize I am not a fan. I prefer dairy alternatives. I never liked eggs so if I can see eggs in something I wouldn’t eat it. I would never buy it for myself but there are some instances where I am more lax.

  7. I began studying nutrition for health reasons. I started adding more vegetables, beans, whole grains to my diet, and soon was only rarely eating meat. I still ate eggs every day, and milk in my coffee, plus blue cheese on salads as I hate virtually all dressings except some vinaigrette.

    As my tastes changed, the idea of becoming vegetarian became easier and easier to me. As an athlete, i had worried about protein, but as my skills of making bean dishes improved, plus adding hemp protein to my smoothies, chia seed drinks, etc. , I worried less. As it turns out, replacing milk was easy, coconut milk actually tastes better to me in coffee, but eggs had been my staple breakfast for years… As I turned to green smoothies for breakfast I let the eggs go… So now, I am ‘mostly vegan’… If I’m at someone’s home, or ouat at a restaurant, and they make a vegetarian dish, I eat it. Maybe once a month, I eat a small piece of Salmon…

    In my opinion, this whole “mostly vegan doesn’t count” expressed on several posts on this thread is remarkably ignorant. If the entire world went vegan 5 days a week, and still ate meat on the other two, that would have more effect to eliminating animal cruelty on the earth, than if you manage to double the number of pure vegans. So, the strictness of the label is actually a disservice to the animals that you care about. In fact, it would be possible for eggs to be raised ethically ( I had ducks at my house as a child) if simply put, people ate much fewer of them. And, the factory farming of cows would not be necessary if meat and milk consumption dropped by say 90%. I’m not sure where the purist on here feel about free ranging grazing cows that would be raised and then killed as humanely as possible. For comparison, what happens to any other grazing animal in the wild? they generally are eventually killed by a predator.

    Anyways, I certainly respect anyone’s choice to be pure vegan, however, I think it is a disservice to the goals you espouse, and insulting to anyone who is moving towards a more ethical or healthy eating habit, to disparage a “mostly vegan” label. EVERY drop in meat consumption is a step towards less animal cruelty in the world, and often a step towards better health, and hence should be applauded.

  8. I just found this post today and think the discussion in the comments is fantastic, especially the conversation about being “mostly vegan.”

    There is not a word for the way I eat, so when people ask me about it, I struggle trying to explain myself. I’ve found that the words I use to describe it often depend on who I am talking to. If a vegan were to ask me if I am vegan, I would say no, I am mostly vegetarian. However, when for instance an meat-eating family member asks me if I am vegan, I might say “About 90% of my meals are vegan, but I do occasionally eat eggs and cheese and even more rarely, fish or meat from a local farm.” I can see why people who live the full-on vegan lifestyle would be annoyed at the use of “mostly vegan” but I think you should also take into the account the context of the statement. Some people who don’t know about the entire lifestyle at least understand that vegans don’t eat any animal products, and because I rarely eat animal products, I might use that word when talking to them, but would never profess to be a vegan, to them or to an actual vegan.

    Just my two cents. Love your blog!

  9. Gena, this is an amazing post. I have never had an ED but I have had friends who have challenged my veganism, telling me I am restricting, etc., and just generally not understanding. I had difficulty putting into words basically what you have just said in this post. Very powerful & inspiring post.

  10. Reading everyones responses here is quite enlightening. This blog is very much my soul food and resonates with so many things I’ve been thinking and feeling.
    I have been vegan for 3 years or so now after nearly 10 years vegetarian (having started wehn I was about 11 y.o.) I made a gradual transition away from red meat first, then chicken and finally fish. A few years later and a couple of meaty regressions I arrived at my ‘time’ to transition to 100% vegan.

    I am not without ‘temptation’ but having read some interesting books and articles and having watched some amazing docos and dvd’s I now realise that a lot of my ‘cravings’ for dairy and sugar were physiological not psychological. Sugar makes people CRAZY! And I have read that there is a component of dairy that we can become addicted to. I’m sure Gena can explain that better but once I realised this suddenly these “transition foods” Cows Milk, Dairy Ice-cream, Chocolate etc didnt have such a pull on me……
    Made it easier!

    • I try to avoid too many dialogs likening food to illegal drugs (sugar is cocaine!!!!!!!!!! etc.) because I think it casts a very forbidden, vilified, and negative tint on food, which is the last thing my readers need. But yes, sugar and dairy have both been shown to have addictive properties, which is why it’s a habit that needs breaking, but once broken, can be overcome.

      • As always Gena you’re so very eloquent and your words remind me to be more mindful of mine! 🙂 – thanks!
        I love the conversation your blogs encourage and feel grateful to read everyones thoughts. x

  11. I must leave a comment concerning a minor portion of your argument. While I realize your smoking example was not the focal point of your piece, I would like to emphasize the fact that second-hand smoke does indeed harm others and thus a moral argument concerning our duties to “other living beings” could be made. If it is unethical to harm animals by consuming animal products, I would argue it is equally unethical to harm our fellow humans by releasing carcinogenic toxins into the air they breathe. Perhaps this will strengthen your resolve to abstain from smoking.

    • I actually only smoke in private (my apartment) when I do have the occasional urge, but this is a good point regardless!

  12. I was pescetarian for a little more than a year; I didn’t eat lactose products and rarely ate eggs. A couple months ago I turned completely vegan, and have been loving it. However, I have had some severe indigestion problems which led me to buy some probiotics. It wasn’t until I got home that it was made from dry milk. Being vegan to me is easy because I am repulsed by animal products; when I see someone biting into a steak I hurl.

    At any rate, I direly need these bacteria, but I don’t know a vegan probiotic alternative. Help?

  13. I realize I may end up flamed here, but I actually am just ‘mostly’ vegan, largely because I eat vegan because it makes me feel better physically, not for moral reasons. The food I make for myself is almost entirely vegan or vegetarian; I generally only eat meat when I am away from home, so as not to inconvenience my family or friends.

    But I still enjoy your blog very much, and while I’m not quite ready to jump to fully vegan, it does help me to try to make more vegan and vegetarian choices along the way.

    • Hopefully people are respectful of your choices regardless of the reason! I’m pretty similar, I am not a Vegan, but do eat mainly raw and vegan foods, not for moral reasons, but for health ones. I still eat Greek yogurt, salmon occasionally and could never give up cheese! I really enjoy these things and they are a small part of my diet.

      Part of the reasons why I love her blog is that its always inclusive and non-judgemental for why each person is here. Its sad and frustrating (I have to say I found the second comment above pretty offensive) when other people are so harsh about your choices and whatever you choose to describe yourself.

      • Hey Ladies,

        Nice comments. If you don’t buy the moral argument here, then it makes sense, of course, to be mostly vegan–or however vegan you want to be. I’m not one to foist my morals on other people; I’d be mighty put off if someone tried to force theirs on me. The point here really was to say “look, if you *do* find the idea of animal equality/sentience compelling, but you struggle to take it all the way, let me encourage you and show you that it’s possible.”

        G

  14. This kind of objective, individual, rational approach to nutritional blogging is EXACTLY why I subscribe to your blog Gena. You are amazing!

  15. Gena, first let me say I love your blog for the compassionate way you treat your readers! I appreciate the frank and loving way you present these discussions and your own beliefs. Agree or disagree, one cannot help but respect that. I dislike labels in general, probably because of my disordered eating background. Since January I have been eating a more plant-centric diet. And I admit, in an attempt to succinctly describe my choices I have claimed a mostly vegan diet. But I always use the word vegan with diet in an attempt to not claim a lifestyle I am not fully participating in. I’m still exploring my belief system and I’m continually making better choices based on compassion, not just my own physical needs, but I am more motivated by my own healthy living than anything else at this point. I agree with a reader above, I do not place the same value on animal life as I do human life. I do not believe we are equals, but I do strongly believe that we are to be good stewards of our planet and animal treatment falls under that umbrella.

    Thank you for fostering this encouraging environment where beliefs can be challenged and compassionate choices can be celebrated.

  16. Sticking to your beliefs and eating what makes you feel good is fantastic, but so is perspective. Not all people can afford to eat free-range, grain-fed chicken eggs or shop for organic vegetables at Whole Foods. In light of world poverty, disease and famine, getting all self-righteous and indignant about who is or is not legitimately 100% vegan seems pretty narrow-minded and petty. #firstworldproblems

    • I hear this type of comment all the time and it is really beginning to bother me. Just because I care about animal rights does not mean I do not care about the current economic crisis or the political turmoil in Africa. Being Vegan is a simple choice for me to make as it eases suffering in the world. It does not remove all suffering but it’s a start. The rest of the suffering in world will take a bit more effort to fix. I do not have the money to send over to the starving children in Africa or the know how to achieve world piece. I am a pharmacy technician and my paycheck is not large. It costs money to eat healthier. It does not cost extra money to eat vegan.

    • I agree that self-righteousness and indignation are pointless and unnecessary. Nor do I preach organic; I don’t always have the money for organic produce myself, so I’d never get pushy with readers about that. I do, however, know that part of the reason I was able to survive in NYC on a tiny publishing salary for six years and part of how I manage to pay my rent as a student with colossal loans is through my vegan diet, which is extremely cost-efficient: there are few things cheaper or more accessible than a bag of dry beans.

      I happen to think that a lot of global hunger issues could be aided tremendously by a more vegan world. But I also reject the idea that, because the world is full of human suffering, it’s wrong to care about animal suffering. I can care about both. I can be conscious of one problem without sacrificing my consciousness of the other.

  17. I tweeted vaguely about this a few weeks ago. I was meeting with a group for dinner/drinks a few weeks ago and was “high-fived” by someone I’d never met before for being “a fellow” vegan and then she “took it away” when she found out it was due to allergies (as a side note I would probably be vegan anyway as I choose not to wear leather due to my convictions – and my coughobsessivecough love of cows) but then she ordered shrimp on her salad… Did I miss something? Don’t be a card carrying high fiving vegan and then order shrimp. Last time I checked I couldn’t grow them in my back yard!

  18. Wow, what an interesting post. I am vegetarian, but am very interested in veganism. For me too, the point of being vegan would be ethical – any health benefits would be a bonus. I’m now going to have a root around your site, Gena, to find out more. I feel that I need to find out more about the subject, not only to be able to feed myself well, but also to be able to articulate to others (who will no doubt feel the need to question my choices) why veganism is for me.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I am inspired. 🙂

  19. Gena ~ Such a wonderfully written post, I also thoroughly enjoyed the comments section. I don’t have much more to add that hasn’t already been covered, but felt I wanted to say thank you regardless – so much more interesting to read than the news sites this morning 🙂

  20. Is there a vegan police or something?
    I confess i only read half the posts and noticed i must not be vegan by your definition- i don’t eat meat for 4 1/2 months now.
    for health reasons – iVe tried not eating dairy b ut i just cant not eat cheese or chocolate yet- as for eggs i never really liked eggs as just eggs so thats not an issue- but with a barn full of chickens how can i not use todays eggs in todays chocolate / m&m cookies? i like to think I’m nice and crulety free to my ladies -but hey i think i left a few out in the rain tonight? some days they just don’t like to come home to roost!!!
    I think we each need to eat what each of us feel is good for out individeal bodies and situations- sometimes there are no vegan dishes to eat when i/m dinning out and sometimes i ask for vegan and get chilli with the meat taken out- I ask my self how is that truly vegan ? do i make a fuss or eat just the broth and wait till i go home to eat for real.
    As my daughter would say- Does it really matter?
    and now that i have all of you made at me let me say
    I love your blog JEna and find it very interesting I’m truly new at all this and need all the help i can get to find out how to replace eggs in my famous cookies- didnt work by the way so i will keep trying till it does-
    I do enjoy making your recipies and when it doesn work or satisfy I keep trying till it does- sorry if i wasnt cruelty free to you humans jplease for give me – my chickens do- time to fine them before the fox does!!
    ttfn Martha

  21. These days I choose to describe myself as an “aspiring vegan,” or as someone who is “evolving towards veganism” or, simply, as “trying to go vegan.” It has been my experience that these terms evoke enough recognition from food servers, coworkers and friends , that my food options are not jeopardized by the good intentions of others (as in the poster who was presented with organic meat) without diminishing the powerful ideals of the vegan lifestyle.

    In fact, the subtle indication that I am in a period of transition in my diet and lifestyle often seems to spark curiosity and leads to both fruitful and frustrating (less often) conversations about topics dear to me.

    I think that when someone (admirably) declares that they are “a vegan,” it can tend to alienate and intimidate folks who may be vegan-curious or who could potentially become vegan-curious after an eye-opening conversation.

    While I do aspire to one day fully embrace the vegan lifestyle, I am very appreciative of the opportunity to share my journey (triumphs and epic failures alike) with others in the meantime, even if it just means dropping the name of a good pro-animal welfare book or providing one of Gena’s delish recipes.

    • Mikaela —

      I absolutely love the expression “evolving toward veganism” or “aspiring vegan.” I think there’s nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade if you are vegan, but how nice that you’ve found a way to work the idea of aspiration into your language!

      G

  22. Wow, so glad I came to the site today. Interesting and although I feel like your reader, I learned a lot from your perspective. I appreciate your honesty but find something funny about have an occasional cigarette but not a bit of greek yogurt.
    As you said though, we all have places we’ll be flexible.

    • Yep. As I see it, smoking injures me alone, whereas the eggs injure others. Of course, it was noted above that animal testing goes into cigarettes, which utterly changes things, but I think you see my point 🙂

      • But – for the sake of argument, assuming you sometimes eat drink non fair trade coffee, or eat non fair trade chocolate or nuts etc (of course most people do)? Or sometimes make decisions that are not great for the environment, like use disposable paper cups? These decisions could directly and indirectly harm other humans, animals or the environment, too! I wonder why more people are strict vegans and not strict “cruelty-free” seeker (probably because that term is so subjective and hard to define). This comment is kind of annoying, I know. No one is perfect obviously. Just want to play devil’s advocate. (PS: what about second hand smoke! that harms human animals around you) Sorry you can kick me in the face now! Haha

        • Kicking a loyal and intelligent CR reader in the face would hardly be compassionate, dear Sylvia. It would also be insane 😉

          To be clear, those errant cigarettes I mention — which *are* actually errant — are always smoked in private, or with one other smoker. I agree about second hand smoke. And that was really used as a rhetorical device: I know it’s evil to support big tobacco. I just wanted to make a point about personal health vs. responsibility to animals.

          Also to be clear: I never claimed that being vegan means we’re being perfect, and making all the right choices. I don’t know if there is a way to live in an industrial and corporatized world without doing crappy things with our consumer dollars sometimes. I know that, when I buy big organic, I’m probably supporting some shady practices. I know that there are abuse issues associated with the quinoa I like. I know that I should always be examining myself a little harder. My post entitled “cruelty free,” some time ago, made that pretty clear (I hope). Veganism is just a starting point. It’s the least I can do, not the most.

          I’m vegan in accordance with one particular idea, which is that I don’t think it’s right to kill animals for food or eat products taken from animals in captivity. I don’t need those foods: I can live without them, and for the most part — with the exception of some crummy restaurant and travel dining — I live happily. So why not just avoid animal foods? I don’t think this gives me some sort of virtue award. And I concede that there may be some scenarios wherein my vegan ethics mean that I actually make other ethical compromises. But isn’t this true of life? Sometimes, upholding one standard means loosening another? We do actually create hierarchies of ethical priorities sometimes, and how those hierarchies get built is a very subjective thing from person to person. This post was about my own set of priorities, wherein eschewing animal food and clothing ranks high. It’s hardly entrance to the pearly gates: it’s simply one thing I think I should do, and so I do it. One thing.

          G

          • Good answer! Very well said. And I totally get that about you from your writing, and completely respect the choice to be vegan, and don’t believe all vegans think they are “perfect.” Just wanted to underline the subjectivity of what is and isn’t virtuous, and the complexity of these issues, which sometimes get’s overlooked in my opinion, as many other commenters have also pointed out.

            Love these debates! I think these conversations are so important, helps me ponder and strengthen my own philosophies and habits. So thank you for leading them so open-mindedly on CR!

  23. Another thought:

    It scares me that people are so hung up on labels and being 100% anything. It’s like a left over puritanical desire to be pure or something. It upsets me that so many comments are “I’m guilty” of being only 95% Vegan. Oh I’m not good enough to be Vegan, not strong enough, not pure enough, but someday I hope to attain this goal of being 100% and only then will I be okay. I don’t like this attitude, or people being down on themselves. Let’s accept that not all of us will ever be 100% Vegan and that’s great! That’s fine, we all have our own path, needs, and that does not make up less holy then thou.

    • I agree with this wholeheartedly!! Just because one person is 100% vegan, the other is 87%, and maybe another is 65% or whatever, that does not mean the 87 and 65 person should feel guilty for not being 100 percent. Sometimes I get frustrated by the food blog world because it makes food out to be the #1 problem thing to worry about in the world (I’m not talking about Gena’s blog so much, but just in general). Yes, veganism can help with environmental issues, animal rights, but there are other problems/global issues not related to veganism that we should also take into consideration.

  24. Why is it that with diet, you are either Vegan or Non-Vegan. It seems to many Vegans being Non-Vegan is equivalent to being an omnivore, a heavy meat eating or a SAD diet follower. So, if you are 95% Vegan, and very interested in plant-based eating for health, environmental reason and/or ethics, but you eat an egg that a happy chicken in your back yard laid, then you are therefore a Non-Vegan, and pretty much just a meat eating “evil” omnivore. (Exaggeration for the sake of argument, here)

    To paraphrase Jonathan Safran Foer, we do not ask people ARE you or AREN’T YOU an environmentalist? And if one day you drink from a paper cup you are NOT! an Environmentalist! So why do we condemn plant based eaters who occasionally do not follow 100% Vegan standards? I think Vegans should focus on promoting the increase of Vegan meals and habits in peoples lives, not only the title of Vegan and the goal of 100% Vegan people. If everyone was 80% Vegan that would be a very positive thing! But acting as if it’s such an all or nothing decision, I think, just scares people away from the Vegan lifestyle, and makes it a guilt trip-scary situation. If Vegans truly care about spreading Vegan habits then they should support the 95% Vegan habits of many, and not condemn the 5% Non-Vegan. Support Vegan habits, and not the the title! Supporting only 100% Veganism just seems too simplistic, too black and white, and not will probably have the opposite and scare people away, thinking Veganism must be this huge drastic decision.

    • Elizabeth and Sylvia,

      All great points. I’m the first to say that any step toward veganism (or any vegan-ish habits) are worthy of tremendous applause and hearty celebration! It’s why I like to talk to people about progress, rather than perfection, and I believe it also helps vegans to remember that our goal is to help animals, and not to preach for preaching’s sake.

      At the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with encouraging people to go all the way with veganism. Many will find it practical, possible, and pleasureful to eat an entirely vegan diet, but they need a little motivation. There is–at least as I see it–no reason not to provide such motivation, just so long as it’s in a friendly voice.

      As for Pollan, I agree that he’s been a tremendous force of good, and I’ve read all of his works. But I also sympathize with vegans who find his fascination with the hunter/gatherer fantasy to be utterly at odds with their world views (Elizabeth, this of course all comes down to that crucial question of whether or not one sees animal and human life as equal, which is what you commented on earlier). The boar hunting passages made me very uncomfortable, too — and I’m the child of a father who has always hunted. Nor do I agree with the idea that meat is fine, so long as it’s grass fed and local and a small farming model. This doesn’t mean I don’t prefer Pollan’s world view to many others, and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend his books to non-vegan friends; it simply means I have both praise and criticism.

      xo

    • Sylvia, it gets worse. Some of the vegan criticisms of Michael Pollan, who has single-handedly done more than all vegans combined to raise awareness of factory farming amongst mainstream easters, are just appalling. And frankly, shameful. A “mostly vegan” planet would be hundreds of times better than the planet we’re living on.

      • I love both of your comments. I am 95% vegan and 100% lacto-vegetarian. I save the remaining 5% for any trace amounts. I have learned not to judge where people are in their eating spectrum. If they are curious as to how I eat, I will show them how nutritious and delicious plant-based vegan foods can be. We should be supportive of ANY direction towards veganism. People can be turned off by the all or nothing approach. We must be compassionate for where people have come from. I am lucky as to have parents who let me buy whatever food I need to remain vegan. Perhaps there are others my age who live in poverty and have other pressing life issues besides maintaining 100% purity. It’s all about perspective.
        I do understand that veganism is a lifestyle beyond diet. Many people need stepping stones and cannot go from an omnivorous diet to this lifestyle in one breath. If they are vegan for health reason, so be it! Wonderful! If they are vegan for ethics, that is great too! Let’s all be supportive and understanding of each other so that this community can grow. 🙂

  25. Being cognizant of my vegan friends’ wanting to keep that label pure, I usually refer to my diet as “plant-based.” I think this properly signals the fact that the base of my personal food pyramid is green, leafy veggies but I eat some animal products when I feel like it. This mostly comes up when I’m traveling and want to try something local or sharing a meal with my very carnivorous family.

    • Granted, I have gone weeks eating no animal products at all. I just would not call myself a vegan unless I had gone several months without animal products. (And felt comfortable labeling myself as such).

  26. I greatly appreciate this post. I have been a vegetarian for the past 4 years and found myself wavering for the last year of that because a little taste here and there of bacon or chicken wasn’t bad, right? I think I lost sight of the reason why I became a vegetarian(health, energy, getting to explore a new food realm, etc). About a year ago I got back on the vegetarian train and met a friend who was vegan and we had a lot of great discussions about why she was full on vegan and not just vegetarian. She was starting med school and she didn’t want to be shoveling double quarter pounders and turn around and tell her patients to do the exact opposite, made sense to me. While her first year in med school, I’d cook for her(med school is a bit intense, I’m told) and I found an entire new realm of cooking, even more and better than just becoming a vegetarian. I wavered, I’d eat vegan when I cooked for her or inadvertently but I held cheese so dearly. I was the person who put loads of more cheese on her mac and cheese.

    I had been suffering from intense migraines for a couple years, been to the doctor, been on meds, cut coffee, chugged coffee, etc. Noting was helping the migraines and i continued to chase 3 excedrines three times a day with coffee or diet coke. After two years of unbearable and mostly constant blinding pain and no answers from doctors I actually figured out that dairy was the cause of my migraines. I love cheese and Ben & Jerry’s like no one else but i know now that if I cheat, I’ll pay for it in the form of a migraine. I figured while I was at cutting out dairy, why not try an all vegan diet. I gave myself a month to purge my cabinets of dairy ridden things and for “last tastes” of things I loved. I really didn’t need the last month because I’d rather be migraine-free than shovel a bunch of cheese just to taste it. I’ve been migraine/excedrine/dairy/animal product free for the last three months and I haven’t felt this great, EVER. It is taking some adjustments to find “replacements” but that’s the fun part, for me at least. I’ve gotten into eating raw as well, especially during summer. I won’t say I haven’t slipped, I have a full on meat and dairy eating roommate so I’m around it and when she wants me to cook something, we compromise so we’re both satisfied, i.e. vegan fudgy brownies- they’re vegan(for me) and they’re chocolate and delish(for both of us). She can’t tell the difference. Its also helping me to show her the health benefits of vegan, not pushing it on her but opening up her mind to more healthful eating as well. Ethically, I like compassionate eating as well and I can’t help but have it creep in when I consciously chose to eat vegan every single day. Its a part of being vegan and I love animals so it goes hand in hand.

  27. I understand the argument-I’m not willing to compromise on vegetarianism and never, ever, ever eat meat. However, I think it’s useful to look at the terms “vegan,” “vegetarian,” and “raw,” as diets, not people. I agree, when I go to a restaurant and order a vegan dish, I want to know it meets the highest standards of veganism. However, anybody can (and should!) order that dish, whether they eat 100% vegan, sorta-vegan, and all meaty and are just in the mood for something vegan. It’s disheartening to me to see how holier-than-thou some people can be on this issue. Good for you for being committed to a lifestyle and able to do it fully. However, we each have to find what works for us and as long as me eating a 95% percent vegan diet doesn’t result in dairy getting inserted into your vegan dish or product, then I really don’t think my diet has any impact on you. So no, I don’t use the term vegan to describe my mostly vegan diet, but I also don’t use it to describe you. You’re a human who follows an exclusively vegan diet. We can all have our own relationship with veganism! It’s not as black and white as many of these comments suggest.

  28. People always ask me if I miss meat. I have to honestly answer “no.” I don’t miss dairy or eggs either, and when I smell or see them in front of me I have no desire to put them in my body. What I did miss was the smoky flavor of grilled food. Chipotles, smoked paprika, my favorite grilled Caesar salad, smoked coconut and dried shiitake powder fixed this. Similarly to you, I have found replacements that far surpass the originals. Ricotta made from cashews; bechamel made with rice flour, olive oil and almond milk; ice cream made with coconut milk, hempseeds and pistachios. These are the foods I crave.

    Food has never been this flavorful or satisfying. If I didn’t enjoy the taste, I wouldn’t eat this way. I consider the ethical and ecological impacts of veganism a “perk,” but I am mainly in it because this is the kind of food I love to eat, and it is the kind of food that makes me feel fantastic.

  29. After reading some of these comments, I’m not sure I could call myself 95% vegan. Maybe 90%. Depends how we’re calculating- food volume, food weight, number of non-vegan foods, days being vegan, vegan calories, etc etc etc. I do find it hard to be vegan- if I found it easier I’d be one. I have made the decisions that feel most pressing- elimination of meat and seafood, and focussing on vegan foods as much as possible. As for the non-vegan foods I still eat sometimes and love, it can be for a range of reasons- not wanting strict rules that feel too limiting, not wanting to be stranded at potlucks or work events, or wanting to share food with my partner. Usually it’s simply a food craving. While I most often avoid blatantly non-vegan foods, I am not sure I want to begin all the micro label-checking that would results in elimination of a lot of foods I commonly eat with trace dairy or egg. I find a lot of other ethical issues around food very compelling, and I feel more strongly about avoiding pesticide contamination of the earth or deforestation for corn and soy crops than I do about taking honey from bees or eggs from chickens (when actually raised under the best conditions). Poisoning of land and water and deforestation lead to a great deal of suffering and loss of life of free-roaming animal species, and are a greater concern for the survival of many species, ours included. So while I see vegetarianism as a moral imperative for myself, and avoidance of all factory-farmed dairy and eggs as a moral goal for myself, I don’t see veganism per se as the exact mapping onto my moral priorities.

  30. PS– Once I did have a friend offer me quiche and tell me that it was vegan because the chickens who laid the eggs had names. It was kinda awkward. I just sorta stood there and said it looked good but no thank you while he offered to cut me a piece.

  31. I am now all-vegan but recently phased in after a year or two of being mostly vegan. My cravings for fish and Greek yogurt have subsided, but the cravings for cute leather shoes took much, much longer!

    If I can share something I’m learning, it’s that one thing I think all of us, totally-vegan, partly-vegan, preferentially-vegan, and vegetarian, should remember is this: if you make it all week without meat, eggs, or dairy, and then cave and eat your friend’s mac and cheese at a pot luck… first, you’ve done something great for the planet, your belly, and your animal friends all week! That’s way better than if you ate burgers daily. Second, chill. Tomorrow’s a new day. Third, try to find as much enjoyment in your food as you can. Enjoy your vegan meals and your Greek yogurt as fully and completely as you can, and if you find you don’t love anything, ease out of it. I struggle with being kind to myself but I’m going to keep on trying even if I do break down and buy a wool sweater every now and again.

    This is a really great community. I think you are all rad and I’m so thankful to you all– especially Gena– for your words.

  32. The one thing that makes this post hard for me to grasp is that I don’t think ethics are a personal matter. When you equate eating animal products with cheating, lying, and stealing, it implies to me that, while you aren’t going to tell people not to do those things (which I admire), they are still morally wrong things to do not just for you but for anyone. This makes it sound like people who do eat animal products are morally inferior and comparable to liars, cheaters and thieves.

    I love your blog and I greatly admire your dedication to a vegan lifestyle, so I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. I just wonder if there’s any way to emphasize the importance of a 100% vegan diet without presuming the moral inferiority of people who chose to eat some animal products.

    • Sandi,

      I think that, in this day and age, it’s pretty standard to believe that morals are subjectively defined. I think so, anyway. Of course my morals do by definition dictate my feelings about what’s right and wrong, but I can’t deny that all morals vary culturally, across geographic and national lines, across traditions, etc. So I don’t tend to condemn other belief systems–be they ethical, religious, or other–with which I disagree. Those ways of seeing the world and how we ought to behave in it are no less valid than mine.

      I’m not such a moral reletavist, then, that I don’t believe in having any ethics. I think that’s a step too far. I just think that seeing one’s own as the only ones that have value is a bit antiquated and unsustainable. When I talk about my ethics, I do of course mean a code of behavior by which I try to live, but I don’t exclude the possibility that someone else’s code–be it a different feeling about social justice, politics, or whether or not animals are our equals–is legitimate.

      Gena

          • I’m overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness of this post and all the comments. There is hardly anything I can add that has not been eloquently shared and discussed. I do want to chime in about not sharing the morals and ethics of those around you without thinking of them with negative judgment. My parents eat a mostly plant based diet but are far from vegan. Do I think that they could live a more ethical life? Absolutely. And this stands for all my friends and family who continue to consume animal products. I would be upset to know that my loved ones abused one of my three rescued cats. Or looked the other way when they saw a human being beaten. Do I love them any less? No, none of us is perfect and I see in my loved ones the potential for compassion that would inspire moving toward a vegan ethic. However, in considering this comment, I began thinking about the subjectivity of morals.

            My life is considered sinful and wrong to many based on religious principles (that I as an atheist do not share). My least favorite phrase in the world is “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Which basically means, I’m ok as a person, unless I choose express my love for the woman I love. Do I take a “love the sinner but hate the sin” approach to my non-vegan friends and family? I struggle with this because (Right Wing rhetoric aside) my loving of my partner does not hurt anyone, whereas my friends and family continuing to consume animals and their secretions are hurting another living being. So in the sense that “love the sinner but hate the sin” is proscriptive, I am in fact proscriptive with my morals and ethics.

            No one is 100% vegan (although I think the label is important for political reasons)…the tires on my car, that I must drive to work, contain animal by-products. As Colleen Patrick Goudreau says “Just because you can’t be perfect, don’t do nothing. Do something. Do anything.”

  33. I’ve read a handful (or two) of comments and I’m seeing lots of valid and wonderful points, so I thought I’d throw in my opinion. I eat [organic] yogurt and eggs that come from someone our family knows – aside from that I eschew animal products. I think too many of us overlook the fact that any reduction of animal products is one step toward a more vegan-friendly environment and using the term “semi-vegan” or “vegan” as a title of superiority or something to belittle someone else with is just plain crap. I shouldn’t have to specify that my yogurt is organic because I’m afraid that someone is going to attempt to say that I’m “not really caring” or “doing enough” and that I’m still being harmful. I cut out all animal flesh from my diet for ethical reasons and I still eat yogurt and eggs on occasion because I enjoy them and because while I do care about animals, I’m one of those animals I need to start taking better care of as well.

    Am I perfect in the sense that I eat dairy and somehow I’m ruining the life of a baby calf and mother somewhere? No, not by any means. But choosing organic is at least one step closer in the right direction and I think all little changes add up and make a difference. I have to agree with everyone who doesn’t like to stick with labels because so many stigmas are attached to them. So I may not be a “100% vegan” but I’m doing my part and what I feel is right to the best of my abilities at this time in my life and that doesn’t make me any more or less of a human being than someone who is “100% vegan” or someone who chooses to eat meat.

  34. I am a vegan for health, ethical and environmental reasons.

    While I can definitely relate to the dissatisfaction with having labels associated with lifestyles (especially given the word “vegan” is often falsely equated with “holier than thou”, “smug” “judgmental” or “militant”), when you are a committed vegan, it is simply necessary to use that label more often than not (at restaurants, clothing stores, hotels, hair salons, even vitamin shops).

    For my personal journey, it has been important to treat others the way in which I would like to be treated and also help dispel the negative traits people often associate with vegans.

    This means making it clear I do not pass judgment on others for choosing to incorporate animal products, firmly articulating that while I will not be eating animal products I will go to great lengths to not make my lifestyle an inconvenience (I also tote snacks).

    Also, I don’t give unsolicited dietary recommendations, but if someone inquires to me about wanting to lean into a vegan lifestyle (and not necessarily going vegan tomorrow), I embrace them with open arms and am happy to answer any of their questions.

    Definitely one of the most well articulated posts I have read and I really like the open forum for comments here.

  35. I too, am one of the “mostly vegans.” I’ve been a vegetarian for 9+ years now, and any and all meats are out of the question for me. I probably eat a 90% vegan diet – I’ve never really liked eggs very much, but once in a blue moon (every 3-6 months probably) I’ll get a very serious craving for an omelet, so I’ll eat a small one from eggs collected from a farmer I interact with at my local farmer’s market (very important to me!). I’m also lactose intolerant, so I usually avoid all dairy products. Every once in a great while, again, I might have a slice of pizza though. Usually I prefer my own homemade daiya pizza when I have these cravings though!

    In addition, for the sake of practicality, at large gatherings from my large, intolerant Italian family I’ll have some non-vegan cake or other desserts with “hidden eggs.” I live a couple states away from my family though, so again, this only happens a couple times a year (if it happens at all).

    So, basically, I’m pretty close to vegan, but I really try not to put the focus on the labels. Both ethically and from a health perspective, I legitimately believe that these minor “slip ups” a few times a year is a part of human error (albeit consciously done).

    I don’t see it as a “splurge,” because I think that indicates that a vegan lifestyle is depriving in some way. I’m more than satisfied with my vegan desserts and other relatively unhealthy “splurges” every once in a while, but my non-vegan experiences a few times a year are for practicality and occasional slip ups. It’s just not worth it to kill myself over it.

    • In addition, as someone who’s worked for beekeepers, and is a “flexivegan” for primarily environmental and health reasons, I still consume honey on occasion. But I guess I’ll save that debate for another day…

  36. Holy comments! Took me forever to read through them all. Love the debate…

    I find it so interesting that people get really upset about these types of debates. Sure, what we eat and where we are on our “food journey” is incredibly personal and no one can/should tell you what to do. And no, I don’t think a mostly 90% or 99.95% vegan should feel bad if they’re doing the best they can or if they have some kind of dietary issue or whatever it might be. Clearly the way to increasing awareness of the awesome vegan life is NOT to freak if someone is partially vegan. I consider it a win when my in-laws even go to a restaurant that serves vegan food. They won’t eat vegan food (unless I make them pasta), but they know it exists and it’s not something just for crazy hippies (of which they think I’m a card carrying member). I consider this baby steps, and I suppose it’s better than nothing.

    All of that said, I do feel pretty uncomfortable when I hear about people who are 95% vegan and then because it’s too difficult, eat whatever they want at restaurants, even if the restaurant is farm-to-table, organic, all local whatever. As you’ve so beautifully articulated, being a vegan can be annoying, but it’s a choice and it’s something I fully believe in. So in that way, cheating is not an option. EVER. Even if that means going a bit hungry or being annoying and asking the waiter to ask the chef a million questions. It’s worth repeating that animals don’t really have that luxury of questioning where they’re raised or how they’re killed, so I try to remember that and do my best.

    It’s also worth noting that I’m not perfect and I don’t think there is such a thing as “perfect vegan.” Sometimes I’m an “unhealthy” vegan; I eat daiya, coconut ice cream, chocolate, bread, gluten, soy milk, LOTS of coffee, and on and on. Super healthy eating is something I try to do, but don’t always succeed. In that regard, I’m 95%.

    It’s all about doing the best you can with what you have. And really, if you’re not doing that, then maybe you could feel “guilty.” But as I’ve said before, my favorite aspect of veganism is the compassionate life that comes with, and that compassion is for animals AND humans, even the part-time ones.

  37. If I had to put a label on my eating style, I guess that I would fall under the “mostly vegan” category. But, I prefer not to attach a label to myself. A few years ago, after attending a 5-day yoga training event, I moved to a vegan diet. For about a year, I considered myself vegan and I felt great. I have a history of IBS and most of my symptoms disappeared once I adapted these new eating habits. Unfortuinately, I am also intolerant to gluten and before long, I began to feel very restricted in my food choices. This was especially true when travelling and it began to make eating a stressful time for me and my husband, who will always be a “meat and potatoes” guy. As someone who has dealt with disordered eating for most of my life, I like my meals to be as stress-free as possible. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that a vegan diet was not going to work for me. As I added eggs, fish and the occasional serving of dairy back into my diet, I was also shoving down the guilt with each bite. (This feeling was often magnified by reading blogs.) It has taken me more than a year, but I have settled at a happy place for me where I feel comfortable with my food choices. I am happy to be a thoughtful consumer who is conscious of the choices that I making when I purchase food. While this may appear to be a cop out to some, it is what works best for me.

  38. Great food for thought, as always–and I wish I had time to follow all the comments too.

    I think that you laid out the difference between the ethical-moral basis for diet and the health basis very well and clearly: it can cause a lot of confusion. I also think that it would be helpful for everyone if there was another word besides ‘vegan’ that people who _do_ make exceptions on occasion: the term ‘Vegan’ is maybe the only diet designation in common use that has such strong ethical overtones that it doesn’t admit of ‘90%’ (or similar) designations.

    I struggle with the ethics when there’s a 1% casinate derivative as an additive in a product, and it might have been synthetically produced. If it’s not making me sick, I might let it by. But at the other end of the issue, I have absolutely no doubt that I would be strictly vegan if I lived in a city. I eat vegan now, out in the boonies, but at times in the past, living with goats and chickens, have experienced eating eggs and goat dairy and felt ok about it because the relationship seemed more symbiotic than exploitative. Of course, I recognize the huge presumptions on my part in making that judgment, but that was how it seemed to me then.

    Just a few thoughts…

  39. Oops! I didn’t mean to post that anonymously! This is Kate, your sometimes commenter and constant follower from Arizona!

  40. Lovely post, as always Gena. A few thoughts come to mind, more in response to the comments about irritation with people who are not 100% vegan than to your careful post.

    First, the cigarette comparison is unfortunate if you follow big tobacco labor practices: http://www.laborrights.org/stop-child-labor/news/11349. Child labor, terrible health exposures-it is all the norm. The reason I mention that is NOT to attack you for smoking, nor to send a message that you should be just as committed to child labor as you are to animal rights. Not at all! It was you who reminded me in an email once that we each have our own ethical priorities.

    My point, instead, is just that sometimes I think we can get so focused on one set of ethical issues that we play fast and loose with others. I am very guilty of this with regards to my diet. The work I do in my professional life is committed to issues of environmental exposure and chemically-induced illness and poverty; and sometimes I commit myself so fully to that I forget that my diet could really use some moral work. It is something I am not proud of and am slowly transitioning into vegetarianism.

    So, I think we can all be a little more careful about assuming that others have fewer values or less commitment than we find in our own ethical community. Non-vegans or mostly vegans may be more committed to and more knowledgeable about immigrant wage theft, or water scarcity, or racial inequities, for instance. So while we should all shout about our causes, we may also want to handle our tendencies to dismiss those who are less committed to our particular cause as less ethical. If we did that, we could probably all learn a lot from each other, and do a much better job bringing together seemingly disparate activist groups.

    • I really like your perspective on this Kate. So very true.

      And as always Gena, I absolutely love your style of writing because it feels so non-judgmental. That’s why we continue to be constant followers and sometimes commenters even though we are not even “mostly vegans.” 🙂

  41. I have yet to find a blog so thoughtfully written with a close-knit community of intelligent readers that are willing to share honest insight into very personal issues. So thank you all so very much. Being an expat in Italy, I deeply miss my local health-centered community.

    I started to type a comment into this little box and a whole mountain of thought started to flow, so instead I dedicated a blog post to the topic. Vegan or nonvegan, its about awareness and intention. Thanks again for inspiring me-I learn so much from you all.

    xo

    Kate

  42. I have yet to find a blog so thoughtfully written with a close-knit community of intelligent readers that are willing to share honest insight into very personal issues. So thank you all so very much. Being an expat in Italy, I deeply miss my local health-centered community.

    On to veganism. There are so many layers to veganism it seems almost impossible to come to any one, universal conclusion on the subject. I have been vegetarian for 5 years and if I am forced to put a label on my eating habits, I often say I’m a vegetarian with vegan tendencies. At times, I have called myself a vegan and other times a pescatarin or an ovo-vegetarian. When I took on the vegan label and lifestyle, I did so seriously and abstained from all animal products, choosing consciously not to partake in the suffering of animals. I dismissed claims that you can’t be healthy on a vegan lifestyle and still believe this is true for some, but certainty not for everybody. It felt good to be part of a bigger community, to have my values so easily explained to a stranger with one word-vegan. I quietly attacked anyone who dismissed the vegan label, seeing them as close-minded or misinterpreting the true meaning of veganism. I devoured every book on the subject from John Robbins to Peter Singer. Then I started to delve deeper, going beyond dogma and determining what I was trying to accomplish with this lifestyle.

    I continue this thought in the blog post I dedicated to this conversation. Thank you all again for giving me the space to share my thoughts, learn from your insights and find support for my beliefs.

    xo

    Kate

  43. I have been a vegan for about a year, and while it is definitely what I consider an “ethical decision”, I know that for me, I do need to allow myself a little leeway. Unfortunately, I can’t eat vegan 100% of the time and still feel 100% my best. So, I do what I can WHEN I can.

    I’ve also noticed that with my recent turn towards veganism, a few of my ED tendencies have resurfaced, much to my dismay. In a way, being vegan, for me, is reminiscent of my past restriction — even though I know that it isn’t! It’s so much more! (Obviously.)

    Therefore, I’ve been allowing myself the opportunity to eat a little dairy (like cheese on pizza I share w/ friends) every so often, almost as a way of continual recovery from my past eating habits. I just don’t want to get sucked back into a label that defines who I am ALL of the time.

    Perhaps I am a weak vegan, but I am not a weak person! 🙂 I need to beat my disordered eating, but in order to do that, I need to give myself a little elbow room in regards to health & diet!

    So, I think that I am PROUD to say that I am 90% VEGAN. There is no shame here, baby 🙂 Just doing what I can in all realms of life.

  44. To me, my diet is a way to make choices that make me feel like I am functioning at my best. This includes the way I feel after I consume the food and the way after I feel about the choices I make. For that reason, most of my food choices are vegan. However, in some situations, the food that is going to make me feel my best comes in the form of a craving for a non-vegan food, yet I make sure that I choose it responsibly, such as eggs from a local farm that I know from visiting treats its chickens humanely. If a container of Greek yogurt is going to make me feel my best and function the best, then that is what I’m going to give my body. However, I do know that my body generally feels its best without animal products, and I try to abide by that. Like other commenters are saying, it’s complicated to explain!

  45. I find it really difficult to classify how I eat. I am gluten free- always. Vegetarian- during the day. SAD- at night and most weekends.

    That gets all kinds of complicated to explain, so I simply say I eat appealing gluten free food. I do what I can, but I refuse to feel bad about it.

  46. I completely whole heartedly agree with you! I always get that question, “Don’t you ever feel tempted to ‘cheat’ or ‘splurge’?”, “How do you have the will power?”

    Simple: It’s a morality concern. If you do it for the right reasons, it’s easy. It’s easy b/c it doesn’t even cross my mind to do anything but be vegan. There’s no appeal. My friend and I were talking about this the other day (she’s a veggie) and we were saying how we just both couldn’t even bring ourselves to eat meat. It makes me sick to my stomach to do so b/c I picture said animal happy & alive. I know this is not how everyone feels nor should it be. It is just how I know I feel. I can honestly say that I don’t ever see myself eating meat again, for the rest of my life (and i’m almost 24). If you become a vegan for PURELY diet or weight loss reasons then I think it’s much more possible to fall back into that way of eating. However, if you start eating vegan for the sake of animals then it not only becomes a way of eating, but also a way of eating. It’s more then just the health benefits. It’s to benefit an even greater cause, the preservation of life.
    Thank you addressing this! As always a well written and presented post!

  47. I find this so difficult. I am ok with the humane killing of animals that were raised very well, but very very few sources meet that standard. So, I eat eggs from my own backyard chickens and meat from one particular family farm that I have visited that I was satisfied with the animals living conditions.

    Thus, while I am not technically vegan, in most social situations I might as well be because the animal products served never meet that standard. So, I can either tell my hosts (or, co-workers) that I am vegan and they will serve me something vegan, or I can try to describe my standards in detail which usually results in them buying “organic” meat from Walmart thinking it will suffice. (Bless their heart for trying.) In the first scenario, I am technically lying but no animals are harmed. In the second, I am totally accurate, but extra meat is being prepared and served. So, I have to make the choice between my convictions against animal torture and my convictions against lying. That is a crappy place to be.

    When the term “vegan” was coined it meant “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”. It has been changed to mean not eating or using animal products. To some, that is the same thing, but it is not precisely the same. I wish we could go back to what it originally meant.

    • Labels are only useful in that they allow us to communicate our needs and desires to others, so I agree that you should just go with “vegan” when you are ordering at a restaurant or describing your dietary needs to your hosts! You’re doing a lot of good by both preventing the sale of that Wal-Mart meat and raising the issue of animal welfare into people’s consciousness.

      However, I disagree about your interpretation of the original definition of “vegan.” In vegan philosophy, using animals for human purposes – and ESPECIALLY killing animals for human purposes – is by its very nature exploitative. In other words, it is not possible to raise, kill and eat an animal in a non-exploitative way, regardless of how humane the conditions in your backyard are. It’s the difference between believing in animal welfare (that we, as stewards of animals, must treat them humanely and with a minimum of cruelty while we farm and slaughter them) and animal rights (that we are not stewards of animals, that animals have a right to their own lives, and that we have no business making use of them in any way, regardless of how nice we think we’re being). Based on this philosophy, the only way to not exploit animals is to not eat or use animal products.

  48. I guess I am considered mostly-vegan in relation to your article. I of course found myself eating vegan because of health reasons, and the implications of animals and environment didn’t occur to me until much later. I would say I eat 99.9% of the time as vegan with a “cheat” here and there. My weakness: wedding cake. Weddings are such a special occasion and rarely are there vegan options for dessert. I am a dessert girl and I always find myself chowing down on a piece of wedding cake. Knowing this…I should make concessions and have a vegan cupcake awaiting me at home for motivation to stay away from the egg and butter laden treat. But I operate on grace and allow myself to slip up occasionally. I admire your dedication and have been motivated to really consider any “cheat” even more after reading your thoughts…thanks!

  49. I’m vegan for moral/ethical reasons as well (and its health benefits are a major bonus), and I believe this is why veganism has been amazingly easy for me. I thought that giving up cheese and my beloved poached eggs would be so difficult, but because I believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s been surprisingly easy to turn down these foods that I once ate and loved. Even when something nonvegan looks yummy, I’m really not even tempted. It’s just not an option in mind, not something I WANT.

    With that said, I’m not yet on board with veganizing my wardrobe. And I’m sure I’m ready to do so. I certainly don’t want to (and can’t afford to) throw away my non-vegan attire. And it’s an industry I don’t know much about, to be quite honest. I plan to learn more. I know you’ve written about this before, but I would love to see a post on this topic if it’s something you’d want to cover…

    Great post 🙂

  50. I just want to add that I am no longer describing myself as “mostly vegan,” one, because even if it describes my diet, it certainly doesn’t describe my wardrobe, and two, because I recognize that veganism is a moral stance (one is vegan, or not), and as it’s a moral stance I don’t happen share, I don’t want to muddy the ethical waters, so to speak. So I am now describing my diet, and my lifestyle, as “plant-centric, planet-friendly.” It’s a mouthful, but it’s got some nice alliteration going on, and the more I say it, the more I like it. While it doesn’t come close to summing up all of my ethical commitments, it is more honest than “mostly vegan,” which makes it seem as if veganism is something I aspire to when that is not the case.

    • “Plant-centric, planet-friendly!” I LOVE IT!!! I am so using that from now on Elizabeth! Thanks. Too many people get offended (or quite the opposite, think I’m just plain stupid) when I mention the word “vegan,” so it will no longer be in my vocabulary.

      I love the post Gena! Definitely tons of food for thought. Wish I had more time to read all the comments, the ones I read are all very interesting.

  51. I unequivocably hate labels. I don’t comment often here but had to throw in my two cents. I am allergic to soy. I am a natural female bodybuilder. I do have protein needs that exceed what I can get from non-soy plants. And I also recognize that this is a unique situation but so is everyone else’s, isn’t it?

    So all of my shoes, cosmetics, homegoods, etc are vegan. I do not eat beef or poultry of any kind (or lamb or anything weird like that). But I do eat 1 serving of fish per day, and 2 eggs per day (ONLY 2 eggs, no egg whites or eggs in any other products I consume.) This is, for me, as close as I am going to get to veganism until I give up on my sport. And I think it’s a whole lot better for the earth, for the animals, and for me, than getting 50% of my calories from meat — as I used to.

  52. Great post! I am constantly making explanations to non-vegans about why veganism ISN’T a “personal diet choice”; unlike almost every other dietary style, veganism is an ethical stance, and food is only one avenue (albeit the primary one) through which that ethic is enacted. People who eat only plant foods for health reasons, but do not exclude animal products in other areas of their lives, are not vegans.

    And Gena, if it helps you stay away from cigarettes, smoking is also an issue of animal ethics, not just your health: tobacco and cigarettes are tested extensively and cruelly on all kinds of animals, including dogs, monkeys, and mice (see http://news.change.org/stories/nih-funded-nicotine-testing-on-animals). So if you avoid, say, shampoos or cosmetics that have been tested on animals – as I believe you do, based on your posts – then you should consider cigarettes in the same category.

    Just a helpful thought! 🙂 Love the blog!

    • Good point about animal testing and cigarettes. Never thought about it that way. Also, I want to point out that smoking not only hurts your own health, but can cause harm to others through second hand smoke.

      And I agree, great post and love the blog. The conversation going on here is awesome!

  53. GREAT post! I am, for the most part, vegan. I say this after I just ate a greek yogurt for a snack. I definitely feel convicted after eating animal products though. When I am in a situation where there is meat/dairy involved though, I will pass and do my own thing.

  54. I have yet to find a blog so thoughtfully written with a close-knit community of intelligent readers that are willing to share honest insight into very personal issues. So thank you all so very much. Being an expat in Italy, I deeply miss my local health-centered community.

    On to veganism. There are so many layers to veganism it seems almost impossible to come to any one, universal conclusion on the subject. I have been vegetarian for 5 years and if I am forced to put a label on my eating habits, I often say I’m a vegetarian with vegan tendencies. At times, I have called myself a vegan and other times a pescatarin or an ovo-vegetarian. When I took on the vegan label and lifestyle, I did so seriously and abstained from all animal products, choosing consciously not to partake in the suffering of animals. I dismissed claims that you can’t be healthy on a vegan lifestyle and still believe this is true for some, but certainty not for everybody. It felt good to be part of a bigger community, to have my values so easily explained to a stranger with one word-vegan. I quietly attacked anyone who dismissed the vegan label, seeing them as close-minded or misinterpreting the true meaning of veganism. I devoured every book on the subject from John Robbins to Peter Singer. Then I started to delve deeper, going beyond dogma and determining what I was trying to accomplish with this lifestyle. You see a label is just that, a label. Gena did an excellent post on labels a while back and I think its important to remember that vegan is just a name. I don’t say this dismissively, the word vegan has strong connotations to me-a vigilant defender of animal rights, a caring soul who sees beyond themselves, a strong being who stands up proudly for what they believe in-and yet these are all just narratives to get lost in. The difference is not in whether 100% of the foods you consumed today were free of animal suffering or if it was only 95% and you are aware you ate something that contained 5% of animal suffering. Do you see the absurdity in it? It’s about awareness and intention.

    I wrote a whole post dedicated to this topic today because I feel very passionately about it, so I won’t paste the whole thing here, but I will include my closing thoughts:

    So for all you passionate vegans out there who happily maintain a life free of animal products, thank you. And be grateful that you are in a place where you can stand powerfully in your values, but don’t rest on your laurels and please don’t judge others on their struggle to get to where you are. If we start to say that in order to call yourself a vegan, you can’t ever have a bite of cheese or a cookie made with egg we all miss the point. It’s not that suddenly your vegan card will be revoked and you will be stamped a failure. We are not the result of one action, but the summary of our experiences guided by our intentions. I ask “die-hard” vegans to practice the same compassion they do for animals towards their fellow humans. No one is perfect, no phrase is perfect, no word is perfect. If you need to use the word vegan to connect with people or easily explain some of your values or know that something you are doing is lessening suffering in the world, I join you. And for some it is a helpful mask to wear in the path towards their own truth. Wear it until it you find your way and then leave it behind. Evolving into a compassionate lifestyle is a process with no set end goal. Finding grace in uncertainty, standing up for those who don’t have a voice and living truthfully are what make up my compassionate lifestyle. Thank you again for giving me the space to share my thoughts, learn from your insights and find support for my beliefs.

  55. I am strict about working out. I am not a “sometimes” worker outer, I always do. It is a part of my day I am not willing to give up. Maybe that is selfish of me, but we all need some ME time. And I am with you, sticking to something especially like veganism is important. If you are doing it half way, you really aren’t doing it.

  56. I really enjoyed this post. Since becoming a vegetarian, I’m often compared to vegans. I am not a vegan, not because I don’t respect them, but because I don’t feel like it is right for me. However, I am still a vegetarian because I believe it is 100% right. For me.

    I am an ethical vegetarian. Yes, I did it for health reasons, but if I face facts, it’d be much easier to be a runner if I ate meat. I did it because I believe it is the best way to help the environment and fight world hunger. As such, I choose to completely abstain from meat – and meat substitutes (i.e. vegetarian sausage). If I were choosing to eat a meat product, I would eat the real thing – since I am not, I don’t eat a fake product either. I don’t expect my vegetarian diet to resemble my carnivorous one – it is a sacrifice that I was willing to make (and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all).

    It’s amazing to me how much food affects our bodies beyond the physical. As a vegetarian, I am happier, healthier, and I even sleep better – things that go beyond how my runs and life is fueled!

  57. I have to say that I do understand many of the voices here, both the argument for only pure vegans using the term, and for the appropriate way to express to others a preference without going into a thorough description of eating habit. I have never been the kind of vegan who thinks it wrong to use the term when it is the most appropriate. The arguments that a lot of readers have are the same that many vegetarians had before the term Pescatarian and others were coined.

    Another point to keep in mind, which I think is important, is that veganism, in its foundation and as a result of it being implemented, embraces compassion to living things. This compassion, I always thought, should also be geared toward our fellow people and part of that is support. Especially when people are looking to increasingly implement the vegan lifestyle and choices into their life, we should celebrate that, and offer as much support as we can, not criticize and downplay their attempts and steps because they are not “pure” and are using the term. Many of us understand that with an increasing population of vegans, whether for moral reasons, health, or otherwise, there will be an increasingly positive, or less negative, impact on our planet and the animals. Therefore, if someone uses the term “mostly vegan,” then I support them, especially if that will help more people to understand the lifestyle choice, and help this individual more fully embrace veganism.

    • I totally agree, Lia, although one thing I have noticed is that there aren’t too many voices in the food blog world that exclaim, “let me encourage you to stick with veganism, even when it’s hard!”

      See where I’m going? I do think that every step forward is to be celebrated, since every step helps animals and probably the person stepping. But in our effort not to put pressure on each other or be overly simplistic in our thinking, we may forget that it can be every bit as helpful to hear a voice that celebrates veganism from top to bottom, rather than voices that celebrate the piecemeal steps. Just a thought. I do love all animal food reduction and I cheer for it, but I’m also not sorry to put out a message that cheers for the whole vegan leap, either.

  58. I really love this post. I use the “mostly vegan” label because I will eat eggs from my local CSA and plan to eat the eggs of the happy chickens that I will one day raise. When I’m outside of my home, however, I am as vegan as possible. My reasons for veganism are animal cruelty and not health, because I think almost any diet can be healthy if done right (though being vegan certainly makes me feel great!). There are times when the vegan option is not the healthiest, but I am lucky that I generally have access to good, quality vegan food, and the choice to eat a crappy vegan meal instead of a healthier meat meal is a luxury I can afford. I think it’s really important to recognize that veganism is a privilege which requires education and resources that not everyone has access to.

    I would prefer to steer away from labels entirely and instead take each moment as a chance to do what is best for the animals, the environment and myself. However, we live in a world that demands labels, explanations and reasons for our actions – especially when we turn down a piece of cake at the office or a steak dinner. In those cases, saying I am vegan is just easier than explaining the ins and outs of my personal moral code.

    And so: I am mostly vegan and proud. And that is just fine with me. 🙂

  59. I have been vegan for about 14 months now, and GF for almost as long. GF is because my body disagrees with gluten in a terrible way, vegan because I think it’s healthy. So what normally happens is I go a few months being very gentle and careful with my diet, sticking to veganism and GF. But I am not creative or adventurous enough in the kitchen, so I get bored and spend a week or two (or three or four) splurging on dairy and gluten. (I draw the line at meat; I haven’t eaten any in four and a half years and I can’t stomach the thought of putting a dead animal in my mouth.) I know I’m shaming the name “vegan” when I eat dairy, and I’m shaming my body when I eat gluten. I feel awful while I’m doing it, not from the guilt, but because of the way cheese and gluten affect my body after going so long without it. Every time I say “Duh, self, this is why you don’t do this!”
    But instead of beating myself up with shame and guilt and “those poor cows!”, I just get back on the bandwagon. I came to this blog hoping to find some new recipes and tricks to rekindle my love of vegan and raw foods. If I, and many other vegetarians/vegans, can keep it exciting then I probably won’t have cravings.
    And I LOVE what you said about “fake” and “not real” substitutes. Really, the pizza (my biggest temptation) is the fake stuff. Hello! It comes out of a box most of the time!!

  60. Another fantastic post.

    I try to eat vegan as much as possible, but I am not vegan and sometimes I make non-vegan choices (being a vegetarian on the other hand is NOT something I would ever purposely abandon) because I am doing the best I can for myself. I never want to feel deprived, and I think that doing anything at all in terms of making conscious vegan choices is better than doing nothing at all. Every small thing helps.

  61. Really well written. Super enjoyed the wisdom in your view. I do vegan for energy not for ethics. Same with raw. I was hyper strict for the first couple years on 100% raw vegan so that I could detox and heal completely. But maturity has happened, and I find myself okay now with a cooked item at social gatherings, to use your example. Another example: I’ve been loving to make raw desserts from Sweet Gratitude, and many recipes include lecithin (not raw) and I’m okay with this! And I’m so happy that I’m free! xo

  62. What a wonderful post! I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I’m inspired by posts like yours do eat more and more animal-free meals. This post is perfectly written. I especially love “how astute”. 😉

  63. I don’t think it’s important to be so black and white when describing our eating habits. In fact, I don’t think we even need to describe our eating habits! We should feel free to eat in ways that make ourselves feel good, without feeling bad about straying from any set guidelines or justifying why we’re eating a certain food. I eat a primarily vegan diet, plus fish, minus dairy and eggs, but if you put eggs in my wedding cake, yes I’m still going to eat it. So what does that make me…a vegan-pesca-cake-itarian? No. It’s crazy! I eat what I like, what makes me feel good, and I don’t eat the things that don’t. Food is SO personal and intimate. Glad your post brings some of this to light Gina.

    • I completely agree with everything you put into words – it’s about filling our bodies with what makes us feel good…and that “good feeling” comes from not only wholesome food but confidence that our food choices are what’s right for our bodies…whatever those choices may be!

  64. Back when I frist started becoming vegan, I would let some things slide here and there, but now, for me, eating a non-vegan food is comparable to ingesting poison to me. Not really in my own health sense so to speak, but rather the health of the animals and the planet. I wouldn’t even think of it. Yes, many family members and friends ask my why I’m vegan, and I simply answer for ethical reasons, because it is a large moral I stand on and hold true to. As for raw, I’m with you on the feeling I gedt afterward, but I don’t berate myself if I new non-raw. I absolutely love this post and I think it is a wonderful message to send out. Also, the non-vegan immitation foods aren’t meant to be exactly like the “real thing” as you said, they’re meant to capture the essence. I think that’s the idea that some people are missing.

  65. what a poignant post! I am beginning my transition into veganism, but I am afraid to stick to that label. I would have no objection to local, free-range, organic eggs, for example. I prefer to think of it as Karma-free. i will not ingest “evil” foods. I also was discussing with a friend that I am a vegetarian for both ethical AND health reasons, not just one or the other. He, a typical steak-loving american college boy, admitted that there were valid arguments for both reasons, so it’s legitimate if I stand by both reasons why.

    • Emma,

      While I disagree about the ethical soundness of organic and free range eggs, I do *so* appreciate that you are honestly sharing with us your thoughts about inching toward veganism, which I know is in some ways fraught for you, given the history.

      Gena

  66. Negotiating my commitments to human rights, the environment, animal welfare, the local economy, my health, etc., is not easy, but I do my best. It so happens that I eat a “mostly vegan” diet, as I am opposed to the commodification and exploitation of animals. I do not, however, believe humans and animals share ontological status, so my decision not to meat or dairy from factory farms is based on what I perceive as a moral obligation rooted in a superior ontological status – very similar to the obligation I feel humans have to protect the environment – and not on any presumption of equality among species. I can’t say any of my commitments are “unwavering” as I am also opposed to the commodification and exploitation of farm workers, but it does not stop me from eating so-called “industrial organic” when I can’t get local produce. Perhaps the one non-negotiable for me is pleasure. That doesn’t mean I’d eat a burger from who knows where just because I’m craving one. I could hardly derive “pleasure” from such an experience, which would leave me feeling uneasy on many counts.

    • Thank you for bringing up the environment and labor, Elizabeth. I hoped someone would, because of course those add more layers of ethical debate (I find those particular issues hard to navigate myself, seeing as I too support some big organic labels).

      Thanks, too, for distilling the belief (whether or not one does or does not consider animals our equals) on which most of my thoughts about veganism are founded. We may not agree philosophically, but it’s nice to see an opposing view that is articulated so relevantly and so wisely. Still owe you a response to your reposted comment!

  67. Gena, as always, your posts are so thoughtful and thought provoking! This is an issue I have been struggling with as well. When I make it a moral issue, there is NO way that I would eat any other way than vegan. But, when I start thinking more “selfishly”…am i getting too thin, do i need animal protein, do i want that sushi with the kids…then I stray. I am always sorry I made that choice in the end and have come to the same conclusion. I am a vegan because it makes me feel better both physically but also morally.
    Katherine

    • Thanks, Katherine. If you ever have health concerns, it’s worth exploring vegan solutions: for instance, weight loss can be met by eating a denser diet, or the sushi issue is solved with brown rice and veggie rolls. Not simple, I know, but I believe there are vegan answers that do not entail animal foods. What a great comment.

  68. Loved reading this!! I no longer eat Vegan, but I think I feel the way about eating meat the way you feel about eating dairy. I won’t do it. I won’t compromise it. It feels so wrong to me. So it means my friends make fun of me and I bring veggie options to every cook out and get together. It’s not that I necessarily don’t want meat; its just I couldn’t live with myself if I ate it.
    About Vegan substitutes, I never got that either. I finally got my boyfriend drinking almond milk, and now he won’t go back. And now, not being vegan, I don’t stray too much into dairyland. A little bit of ice cream now feels like a stomachache and I still prefer banana soft serve.

  69. Yes I love this post!
    Like you, I’m not vegan for heath reasons, but vegan for ethical and moral reasons (although again – like you! – I do feel a vegan lifestyle is the healthier choice). People have asked me ‘don’t you crave Ben and Jerry’s or x or y?’. Yeah, I would like some Ben and Jerry’s sometimes – but the morals behind it stop me; the dairy industry, calves being taken from mothers, veal…I just don’t want to have any part in supporting it, and try not to, to the best of my ability. It’s nothing to do with calories or anything like that (I’ve recently found a replacement vegan ice cream, made from cashew nuts, which is the bomb!), it’s about my morals.
    I’d rather be a bit awkward sometimes, or cause mild annoyance in someone if it means I can contribute to NOT supporting a cause I believe in. As an extreme analogy, I don’t believe in murdering humans – but even if I get angry with someone, I’m not going the stab them a little bit to release my frustration! Just as I’m not going to eat a lump of meat for whatever reason.

  70. I totally agree! I’m also semi-raw but always vegan, since the former is about health and the latter is a moral/ethical stance. Great post, as usual.

  71. I don’t find it hard to stick to a vegan diet. I was a vegetarian for many years, and I started to lean towards veganism a couple of years ago. Between reading and finding tons of resources on the web (like Choosing Raw), I was able to make the transition easily. The last thing I gave up was Greek yogurt, but since I really only ate that in breakfast parfaits, I found the Coconut Kefir was a fine substitute.

    I don’t publicly announce my dietary choices, but I will discuss them if it comes up. Otherwise, like you, I am always prepared with a snack!

  72. Such an excellent post – I’m trying to adopt a vegan lifestyle but understand that its going to take some time for me to adjust – not so much on the diet side but on the lifestyle side. I often forget about animal products in clothing for example. I am finding this thing with labels very difficult, as at the moment I am still eating a few things that contain trace amounts of dairy (chocolate for example) – I want to be able to call myself a vegan – especially to communicate to others my dietary preferences when eating out for example, but then I feel bad calling myself a vegan when I know that techincally I am not one! I think it could also become too easy to simply get caught up in trying to be a ‘perfect’ vegan of which I think is almost impossible in this day and age. Thanks for giving me so much to think about – all the comments have been very insiteful too!

    • Great comment, on all counts. And let me tell you, as a chocaholic, that I find some of the vegan dark chocolate brands to be the best on the market 🙂

  73. Thank you Gena for this. Although I’m not in the same place as you I completely respect you. Right now I’m transitioning to a vegan diet for my health not for any moral reasons. However that train of thought is starting to change in me as well as I begin to think more about what I put into my body. I come from a family of hunters and fishers and have some deeply engrained pro-hunting thoughts that are taking awhile to figure out.

    I love your comments on the vegan substitutes. Yes it doesn’t taste exactly like it but it fills the void and serves it’s purpose. This is a thought I’m going to use daily.

    • Oh, wow, I’d love to know more about the hunting/fishing thing. I think hunting today is basically wrong but then people say that the deer etc. will become a threat to cars and stuff. So confusing. And my dad really loves fishing. It would be hard to disdain a hobby he loves so much (for being with nature, etc). And then there’s the whole thing about our ancestors having to hunt and fish to survive. But of course we DON’T have to today. I have to learn more about this…

      • May I add, regardless I’m still staying 100% vegan. I’m just not sure how to defend my choices when family members bring up these things.

        • Well I grew up in Northern Canada. We live very close to nature and wildlife. It’s a very delicate balance. Everyone in my family is a naturalist/environmentalist from birth but none are vegetarians. Animal populations are very carefully monitored. We live in such a harsh climate (-40 in the winter) that if there is an overpopulation the animals suffer immensely. The cycles of animal populations are very easy to track and incredibly interesting.

          It’s a pretty complicated issue. People in the North need to hunt and fish to survive still. I don’t think it’s possible for them to live without hunting or factory farming and I think hunting is much more humane.

  74. For the record, Coconut Bliss ice cream is delish and 100% vegan. The full name is Luna and Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss and at least in SF, you can find it in most health food stores. I love the Naked Coconut flavor, which is just coconut, agave, and vanilla.

  75. For me, having just becoming a vegetarian in the last month, I look at Veganism as an evolutionary step. Much like I can’t go out and run a marathon today, I can’t go straight Vegan today. It’s a progress and struggle within my spirit and mind. On the one hand you have my moral convictions that animals are being tortured and hurt and it’s all so very wrong, but on the other hand you have my sin nature, addictions and lack of knowledge on what eating options I have with my new values. It’s hard for someone raised on meat to know what to eat. Which is why blogs like this with recipes and hints are so very valuable. Real people, eating do-able recipes, that are tasty and good for you. I find that everyday I’m giving up more and more old foods and adding more and more new recipes to my repertoire. Do I wish that I could just be Vegan tomorrow?…Sure. I also wish I were fit enough to just run a marathon tomorrow. But, I’m happy to take it all in stride and really LIVE the journey.

    • Kathy, I agree about the evolution for some people. I started eating vegetarian about nine years ago — it was just over a year ago that I suddenly realized I was an egg away from eating vegan. I made the leap and it was *then* that I delved into the ethics of my eating. I haven’t looked back because the journey just made sense.

  76. To be a vegan encompasses much more than your dietary choices. It is also an ethical and moral decision. I think there is no half way point – you are a vegan or you are not. If you are simply minimising animal products you are not a vegan. Just as when I was a vegetarian (and would never, ever eat meat) now that I have made a decision to be vegan, I will not eat animal products. I feel too strongly about it.

    Great post Gena!

  77. This is an excellent post. However, I must take issue with the attitude it provokes in people. That of veganism being the holy grail and anyone that doesn’t eat 100% that way is just “doing their best” to strive toward some level of perfection. Veganism isn’t the best diet for everyone, and it certainly shouldn’t make one feel inadequate for not eating that way. While I love vegetables and plant foods, eating vegan made me extremely sick despite following this blog and others so that I could do it the “right” way. People shouldn’t be made to feel guilty if their bodies are craving something that’s not vegan. Just my opinion.

    • Ellen, Hollie, Bitt:

      Just weighing in on this whole train.

      Bitt, first of all, thanks for a great response.

      Ellen, my own feeling on that one is that guilt is usually self-generated, though I do understand that there are environmental influences that can augment and decrease it. Personally, I never blame the media for my anorexia, though of course I know it was there and played an ancillary role: my eating disorder was far more the product of my own psychology, personal history, and innate tendencies than the fact that there were images of rail thin models in magazines to greet me.

      Ellen and Hollie: I think it’s fair to say that there are certain unique health cases in which veganism does seem to be a challenge, though being supportive in those cases doesn’t mean conceding that they’re the majority. I met a man last summer who actually cannot digest any animal protein (not his choice, simply a fact), and while I found it interesting, I don’t think it’s the general rule. I think most of us can survive on either a vegan or omnivore’s diet, depending on the approach, and so our choices are dictated by personal conviction. I’d also say that most people do find themselves thriving particularly well as vegans, even if there’s a little learning curve.

      This isn’t to invalidate your health situation, but rather to draw a distinction between particular cases and what’s true for most people. I’m well aware of stories like yours, and I think they should be told, but I do also feel sometimes that former vegans for whom the diet did not work develop a zeal about shooting the diet down for everyone, which is just as unfair as the scenario you seem to object, which intolerance and black and white thinking among vegans.

      I really appreciate that you are sharing your story on my blog, and on this post. That takes guts and honesty. But I don’t feel that vegans should tamp down or qualify their conviction about either the health advantages or the ethics of veganism to make other people comfortable: we celebrate our lifestyle because it matters to us, and because we’re trying to set a positive example to others. This doesn’t mean drowning out the voices of those who have had different stories–I’m glad you, for example, are sharing–but it does mean that we have a right to articulate our passion without worrying whom we might offend or rub the wrong way. We’re all grown ups, and we all have a right to speak our minds. Just my two cents.

      Gena

    • I too feel that for me, toting a label led me into a deeper pattern of disordered eating. Although I now continue to follow a vegan centric diet, I prefer not to refer to myself by any label or be bound by any restrictions. I believe in listening to my body.

      • Hollie,

        I don’t tend to agree that listening to one’s body and being vegan are at odds. To me, the essence of disordered eating was arbitrary rules about food groups (no fat, no sugar, etc.) paired with anxiety about dining out, eating in front of people, etc. Veganism gives me no reason to indulge in any of those behaviors, and I don’t believe that it’s ethical boundaries are the same as the rules and restrictions of my ED. Just speaking from my own vantage point as a former ED sufferer.

        G

      • Exactly. It’s a slippery slope when Veganism is the “ideal” because if it’s not working for someone, they feel like they’re just failing or something when it really could just be they’re missing something on such a limited diet.

        • No one can “make” you feel guilty, it’s self-imposed. If knowing that something harms animals makes someone feel guilty, then they care. If it’s pointed out to them that animals are harmed by their food choices, they still have a choice to feel the guilt or not.

          I don’t feel it’s fair to call veganism a limited diet. It’s limited in the realm of processed and prepared foods, yes. But in the realm of making your own foods, no way! There are way more choices of beans and veggies than animal products. Overall I see people who eat a SAD have a more limited diet than those who eat vegan.

          • Also, the fact that the reader wrote in asking about this demonstrates the power that this community can have over a person. I find it striking that she is essentially asking for permission and reassurance about her personal diet. I think it is irresponsible and naive to think that “they still have a choice to feel the guilt or not” when blogs, the media, etc. exist. To me, that is like saying that someone has a choice over whether they have an eating disorder because their favorite blogger does and they strive to be thinner.

          • It is limited in the sense that my body could not absorb the vitamin A/vitamin D/vitamin B/etc. from plant sources. It was too limited in terms of the *types* of specific nutrients. I healed myself from autoimmune conditions, food allergies, fatigue, depression, etc. by adding nutrient dense animal foods back into my diet. Beta carotene, for example, is not the same as the Vitamin A your body uses because it has to be converted, and if you’re ill, your body needs food that will be readily assimilated and not require more “work”. For healthy individuals, a vegan diet may be great, but for me it caused and worsened many conditions.

            And guilt doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If one has surrounded themselves with a culture of veganism, it is absolutely not self imposed, but influenced by what’s around them.

  78. I like this post, because I am in the same sort of position. I gave up eating chicken 4 years ago (never really ate anything besides that) because it felt natural, I just didn’t want to eat it anymore. I’ve been drawn to vegan food more and more in the past year or so, and I never buy milk or eggs anymore. I love experimenting with vegan cooking/baking and trying new food. Although I try to avoid dairy products, I’m not going to beat myself up over occasionally consuming them. I think I’m basically following your policy Gena of add more, subtract later.

    I like Averie’s comment: “And although some may think that 95% is not good enough, for me, it’s my path and I am doing the best I can.” I don’t think anyone attempting to follow a vegan diet should ever feel guilty or discouraged if they can’t give something up right anyway, you already trying so hard, and you should feel good about the choices you make. That’s the way I feel about it anyway.

  79. Great post, Gena. And I love your attitude about it all, too. I eat a vegan diet because that’s my preferred way to eat, and I’m constantly feeling more and more of the moral impetus as well. But I am not perfect and I have certainly “slipped” in the past. As with anything else, I think we all do the best we can at the time. I well remember your post about older shoes or purses that were purchased before you became 100% vegan and slowly phasing them out. I know that there are many people out there who believe that anything less than 100 percent is as good as 0 per cent, but I’m not one of them. If my hubby eats vegan 60% of the time now instead of never, that’s still better for him, the animals, the world.
    Oh, and about the “real thing” vs vegan “seconds”–I recently wrote a post about carob, and how people are always down on it because it’s not as good a chocolate. But I think if we look at carob as what it IS and what it offers us, we will love it on its own merits. I feel the same way about vegan food. I LOVE vegan food!! (actually, much more than I ever liked meat-based foods). I never worry about whether my vegan tofu dish tastes like ground meat, or whatever–it is meant to be appreciated, savored and enjoyed for exactly what it is: a vegan dish. 🙂

  80. I really love this post. I adopted a vegan diet about a year and half ago and I really try to avoid animal products including personal care, and clothing products. But, yes, once in a while, I do knowingly eat things with eggs and dairy (desserts). I would say this has happened about 3-4 times in the last 18 months. I chose to become vegan for reasons other than animal welfare, but the longer I live this way, the more I realize that I am doing this for moral reasons. It is definitely a journey and I don’t know if I will keep doing the egg and dairy “slip-ups” – not just because it really does give me a stomach ache when I eat dairy, but because ultimately I don’t need it and it isn’t worth it.

    I do think, however, that it’s really important to meet people where they are, and if they are at a place where they don’t want to give up all animal products 100%, but are “mostly” there, that’s still admirable MUCH better than a large portion of the population who don’t give animal product consumption a second thought. It doesn’t annoy me when people say they are “mostly vegan” – I guess because that’s me but also because this is one of the few areas where people are expected to either be A or B. And there is no grey area. Jonathan Safran Foer made this point in “Eating Animals” – comparing veganism/vegetarianisn to environmentalism and I think this is a very valid point.

  81. I totally agree with you Gina. I think it all comes down to why you are vegan in the first place. I feel that the rights of animals to have their lives outweighs my right to indulge in foods I once enjoyed or may miss being a vegan. For me, I just accepted that there was no replacing cheese, and made up new meals that were new and exciting and vegan, that did not need a replication. I think when if comes to cravings for non-vegan food when you are not willing to compromise, is to just accept that there are some foods that you will never eat again. And that is OK because there are a world of new foods that you probably would never have tried if you weren’t vegan. It is about creating new favorites, and once you make up your mind that you are not going to stray from veganism, it makes it allot easier, as opposed to always debating with yourself.

    • Thank you for this comment. I agree. I really miss some foods a lot. I think it’s because I am allergic to dairy so it’s actually an addiction because my body reacts so quickly to it, it’s like a drug. I need to just shift my thinking to veganism and just stay there. Temptation is always there though because my family is vegetarian, so I have to be strong or suffer the consequences.

      Gena, thank you for this post and the commenters for the discussion that has ensued! Love it.

  82. I agree with you wholeheartedly. But I also think this is one of the biggest issues that veganism, as a lifestyle, is going to have to grapple with as more people go vegan or think about going vegan. The reason being that I believe that the vegan label must mean something, which is why things like “I am 95% vegan” just seem plain wrong, but it also can’t mean 100% if we want a large number of people to follow the lifestyle. So how to we allow veganism to continue to mean something without making it mean everything? I really don’t know the answer to that question.

    I know there will be people who would strongly disagree with me that asking people to be 100% vegan is a barrier. It’s EASY once you get the hang of it, you say. Sure. For many people it it. But for many, many others this way of thinking doesn’t work for them. All or nothing leads to failure. And they ‘fail’ at veganism (as I believe the view that vegans must avoid all animal products to the best of their ability is the dominant view) so they may just quite entirely, or not even get started. I’ve noticed in the healthy living blogosphere, however, that there are more and more people calling themselves ‘mostly vegan’ and ‘semi-vegan’ and I have to admit that I don’t like it. I don’t believe that you can be, because then veganism doesn’t mean anything. If you eat ‘mostly vegan’ foods but then eat eggs every few months, then you’re not vegan. You are just a vegetarian who prefers vegan foods.

    Do you see where I am going with this? I am not expressing myself very well, but my point is this: Veganism is defined as the avoidance of all animal products. There are many reasons to be vegan, and if you are not vegan for ethical reasons, then you may not feel the moral imperative to avoid all animal products all of the time. So you may indulge in them occasionally. Under the definition of vegan, this means you aren’t one anymore. However, I strongly believe that we need to find a way to better accommodate all reasons for going vegan, whether they are spiritual, health-related, environmental, etc. This may require more flexibility in the use of the term vegan, but then we get into some really slippery territory. At what point does the term vegan become meaningless? At what point do we become so focused on the label that we forget what we are fighting for? At what point do we have so many caveats that the simple beauty that the word ‘vegan’ is meant to capture completely disappears?

    I don’t have the answers, but as you see I do have plenty of questions. This goes back to my interest in the psychology of behaviour change. Affecting social norms and removing barriers are two of the biggest tasks to be completed if veganism is to truly go mainstream. As it stands now, the barriers of ‘all or nothing’ are being removed, but the label is becoming more and more meaningless. It’s not that hard to be mostly vegan. Most people can do that without thinking about it. By asking that those who are ‘mostly vegan’ not use the vegan label, am I just placing another barrier in front of people? Am I just being elitist because I want people to challenge themselves to go all the way? And most importantly, am I saying ‘mostly vegan’ just isn’t good enough?

    I’ll stop now. Great post, as usual 🙂

    • Hi Sarah I think this is SUCH an intelligent comment. I have to say I do believe that people who are “95% vegan” should just say vegetarian because otherwise there is so much confusion about what veganism is which for me is taking my beliefs about animal rights one step further than the dietary elimination involved in vegetarianism to the holistic lifestyle that is veganism.
      I am hugely uncomfortable, I try not to be judgemental but I think uncomfortable is the right word, with veganism being something “flexible”. I mean, people are generally not “flexible” in their attitudes to murder…that is always unjustifiable. Yet with animals it’s different.
      I so hope I haven’t offended anyone, let me REALLY emphasise that these are just my thoughts.
      Great post, great comments

  83. Your thoughts on being “mostly raw” are my feeling about being a vegetarian. It isn’t a moral issue for me – I just feel better when I have a plant-based diet. I couldn’t give up my eggs and greek yogurt though. I’m weak! 🙂

  84. “Being a raw eater is a defining part of who I am, but it doesn’t feel morally urgent to me: it’s something I do mostly because it makes me feel good.”–

    I really like that, Gena! And I like how steadfast you are to your vegan convinctions AND that you do not wish to sit in judgment of others who aren’t vegan.

    That would be me. For about 5 years, I was strictly vegan and strictly GF. Then, it became too limiting for me and although I would say that 95% of what I eat is vegan, the other 5% includes dairy or eggs when I bake. I don’t sit down to glasses of milk or plates of eggs, but in baking, I use them. So that makes me a very strict vegetarian, I’d surmise. But I am not hung up on labels anymore.

    And although some may think that 95% is not good enough, for me, it’s my path and I am doing the best I can. A stick of butter in a batch of brownies once every month is not something I fixate on. I just do my best 🙂

    I am sure this post will generate tons of comments and I can’t wait to read them all. You did a wonderful job expressing your point of view!

    • I agree whole-heartedly about labels—what really matters is doing the best you can, whatever that means to you.

    • Well said Averie (and Gena!)

      As always Gena, I love your insight and perspective. You’re a fantastic writer and oh-so-often I am floored by how simple yet passionate your posts are. This absolutely falls into that category.

      I went gluten free and vegan for health reasons, but over the last few years have learned more about the animal activism reasons too. As a result, I am more conscious about what I buy/use and have my veganism to thank for that.

      Some consider my diet too restricted (my doctor is included) but it keeps my Crohn’s in remission and that is what this is all about.

      That being said, since health is #1 on my priority list, I would have to probably list myself as 99% vegan as I do consume a fish oil supplement on a daily basis. I discussed alternatives with my naturopath recently and she said she didn’t have as much faith/ supported documentation that a vegan alternative would have the same effect on my body as the fish oil. Looking for an alternative is on my agenda, but for now this works for me. I will continue to eat vegan and thrive, and if people wish to judge me for 1 tsp of fish oil each day, so be it. Like Averie, I’m not hung up on the label and am thrilled to be thriving like I am.

  85. Do I find it hard to stick to the vegan diet?

    Yes, sometimes. My home is a vegan home. In restaurants, I am vegan. Unfortunately, I am also a sugar addict and at my workplace, there is ALWAYS sugary treats. I get sucked in, more often than not. Once that spiral starts, I can easily be swayed into a cookie made with eggs and milk or a piece of candy made with milk chocolate.

    How do I feel about exceptions?

    I’m not sure what you’re asking for here. Do you mean to ask if I prefer real cheese and ice cream? If so, I actually prefer the Turtle Mountain So Delicious coconut milk ice cream to real ice cream. As for cheese, I do my best to stay away from it because, like sugar, it is an addiction issue for me.

    Do I think the distinction between self/other is urgent?

    Again, I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking here. If it’s do I feel guilty each time I succumb to my dairy temptations, then the answer is yes. If it’s that I think each human is different and each person has different needs, then yes to that, as well.

    As for what food choices are wavering and unwavering…I am a diabetic so this is my first priority when choosing what to eat. I steer clear of things that are difficult to calculate as far as how much insulin it will take to regulate my blood sugar level. I know, for instance, that my body hates white flour and it will take me several hours (up to 24 depending on the food) to get my blood sugar back to a decent level after consuming it. A regular bagel requires a 30 minute walk and a large dose of insulin and on some days, that won’t even bring my blood sugar level back down to normal. So diabetes is my first priority and second is the animals. I am diabetic first, and vegan second. Third would be processed foods and soy. I try to avoid them as much as possible.

    • Oh, Danielle, thank you so much for posting this. I replied above to another poster’s words, and yours speak to me as well. Also an addict, I too will sway from veganism when tempted by sugary or fatty treats. I didn’t realize it was the addiction until I saw it writ in black & white here in your words. Thank you for naming it.

  86. Yet another excellent post that shows empathy for those who operate from a different ethic, but also shares your own journey to the convictions you now hold without compromise. I can resonate with this as a vegetarian, and also as someone who must eat gluten-free. Certainly my vegetarianism is more informed by my moral code than my gluten-free diet is, but regardless I won’t be “cheating” in either arena.

    I like to think of both of these seeming “restrictions” as similar to entering a new season of life — take parenthood for example. One might, at times, resent the “limitations” which this season brings. However, most parents ultimately find that with creativity and a positive attitude, this new reality and era in life is different, yes, but even more fulfilling — in thanks to the great freedoms and joys that come, I would posit, with these new responsibilities. Just as you said that it’s not typically helpful to dwell too much on the foods of yore that can’t be perfectly replicated in a vegetarian/vegan/etc. manner, one can recall emotions and experiences associated with those foods with gladness, but still relish the satisfaction, liberation, and wonderfully new perspective that this new way of living provides.

  87. Even though I’m not vegan (I eat small amounts of fish, eggs and dairy), I actually prefer a lot of vegan preparations of meals. Knowing that I feel best when the majority of my food is plant-based, I prioritize vegetables at lunch and dinner—that’s the main thing I refuse to be flexible about. I just don’t feel right if my plate’s not colorful enough.

    What you said about vegan products capturing the essence of certain foods as opposed to trying to mimic the “real thing” was such a great way of explaining that sometimes-frustrating topic. In the same vein, I hate phrases like “fake meat.” What’s wrong with calling something what it is and enjoying it as it’s own thing? When I make seitan at home, I’m making it because I want seitan, not because I want filet mignon or something.

    • I love this sentiment about the ‘fake meat’ thing. I even hear people refer to tofu as a meat replacement or ‘fake meat’. It’s not. It’s tofu, and when I am craving tofu, I make tofu. It’s not really more complicated than that.

  88. I really, really appreciated this. At this time in my life, I am not a vegan, and I don’t know when/if I will be one. I’m also, since being in recovery, trying to be as flexible with my eating and exercise habits as possible because I was so rigid for so long. But I think your relation to smoking makes sense; eating dairy or meat will ultimately effect animals. And finally, I also appreciate how you never desire to tell people what to do – It’s why I love your blog so much because you accept readers of all eating backgrounds, and you don’t look down on those who choose to not eat vegan, even if it isn’t something you agree with. Thank you 😀

    • Hannah (and Gena),
      I don’t know if you’ll check back to read this, but your post really resonated with me. I’m a struggling vegan. Also in recovery, I’m an ED survivor. Currently, I’m vegan 95% of the time, but there are dairy-ingredient junk foods that I can’t seem to resist. My counselor says it’s because I restricted myself for so long, that now my brain just goes wild when presented with foods that I’m ‘allowed’ to eat – even though I don’t want to eat them, ethically and morally. It makes me feel sick to consume these foods, but I keep doing it, hating myself every minute. It’s the ED all over again, but in some reversed, convoluted state of binge eating mixed with rebellion against the authority of veganism as a “don’t tell me what to do.”
      Sorry to be all whiny on your post, but I saw something that I could identify with and reached out. This is something I’ve been struggling with for about 3 months and it’s getting worse and worse, to the point that I can’t even really call myself a vegan anymore, maybe just a vegetarian. I don’t want to be this way, but I don’t know what to do about it.
      Thanks for listening, guys.
      -Molly

      • I can relate, Molly, and have learned through my own experiences, and the wise words of some, that “it is a process.” I had times when I was “a perfect vegan” and felt proud of myself, and when I would screw up or “cheat” I would feel the way you describe. BUT, I have learned that, if I am not following my veganism, or rebelling against it, even when I thought I had strong moral convictions etc., maybe I need to accept that I should take it a bit slower. There are more steps to be taken and more understanding to be allotted to oneself when you know you’ve got an ED mentality that you are trying to help yourself get over. If you’re ready to be vegetarian, then be vegetarian now and work on increasing the veganism back into your life when you are ready. That’s just my opinion, of course, based on how I dealt with my own mirrored situation.

  89. This will sound ridiculous and not very principled, but I’m very serious about it: I refuse to give up chocolate. I was told so many times to eliminate all sugar, go low carb, blah blah blah because I was “too big” (I wasn’t). Since that’s nonsense, I’m keeping my chocolate. And my size. So there.

  90. God I love this post Gena. Thank you for continuing to be non preachy, and for offering your insights. Your attitude of openness about your choices which provides insight, without prescription, to your readers, is the reason I savour your weekly posts every Saturday morning with a cup of tea, (as well as on a sneaky Tuesday afternoon) and will continue to do so for as long as you post.

  91. Never flexible about veganism either! I think the “95% vegan stuff” is annoying. Sure, its better than 95% animal products, but if 95% why not take a stand and go the full course? Typically “mostly vegan” is a slippery slope both ethically and in actual eats. First the newly non vegan finds the most ethical animal product ever (like Ginnifer Goodwin’s farm fresh egg), then finds themselves accepting eggs from any old source if not sitting next to Ginnifer at the local hip burger joint with a trendy bacon burger.

    I know it’s not as tolerant or compassionate to humans to make them feel bad and remind them that even that one ice cream hurt a cow, but it did. I sure am sick of people who give themselves the title of “vegan”, only to take it back when they want a taste of this or that. Just call yourselves vegetarian and accept that the title is less cool.

    • I know I’m way late on responding to this post, but I really didn’t feel like arguing (and still don’t) with people I don’t even know, but I do have one question. As an ethical vegan, wouldn’t you be more concerned with celebrating every small step a person makes towards veganism, no matter what their motivation, since that means less animals are getting hurt/killed? I’m really not trying to pick a fight, I’m not offended by your comments, I’m just genuinely interested in understanding your perspective.

      Bitt, I’m kind of asking you because I’ve seen several comments from you on several different blogs about how people shouldn’t be vegans unless it’s for ethical reasons. One example I can think of off the top of my head is Angela’s/OSG’s review of Oprah’s show on veganism a couple months ago.

      Gena, I know you have a lot on your plate right now so I understand if you don’t respond, but if you have a spare second I’d love to hear your view on this too! Or any other ethical vegan for that matter!

      I can definitely understand being proud of your achievement and feeling a sense of entitlement, and I understand the importance of the moral issue to really stay fully committed to a vegan lifestyle, but I guess I just really don’t understand why being “mostly vegan” is so offensive and upsetting. As a commenter stated below she is now referring to her diet as “plant-centric.” Maybe the solution is as simple as coming up with more words to describe different levels of plant-based foods in one’s diet!

      • Thanks for the thoughtful comment Tina!

        Yes, I do think all steps should be celebrated. All steps reduce suffering and do the world and our bodies good. I said as much below: “I do think that every step is to be celebrated, since every step helps animals and probably the person stepping.”

        But the thing is that I also don’t see that position as being at odds with another position I feel strongly about, which is that it’s OK to encourage people to take the 100% vegan leap by setting a personal example. Not preaching, and not ignoring the value of being mostly vegan–because there is a ton of inherent value in it–but simply saying “that’s great, but if you do feel even tempted to adopt veganism as a wholesale lifestyle, I’m here to show you that it’s both possible and pleasurable.”

        There are tons of messages on blogs about listening to one’s body and taking baby steps–and sometimes I send out those messages, too–so I don’t really mind if once in a while my message is a little more passionately in favor of a fully vegan lifestyle. Again, I don’t think that such a message ever disrupts my capacity to cheer on small dietary changes, so as long as that’s true, I’m comfortable saying “here, let me show you how rewarding it can be to commit to veganism in a deep way!”

        🙂

        • Thanks Gena for replying so quickly! I can definitely understand being very passionate in your beliefs and therefore every now and then wanting to encourage others to join you! I can’t say I haven’t done that with the Blood Type Diets since they were my godsend and immediately healed my body in ways I never thought possible 🙂 I highly admire and respect your ability to make veganism seem so effortless and pleasurable, as well as your ability to be so non-judgemental about how others choose to nourish their bodies. I’m 100% sure no one’s ever felt attacked by you and I definitely understand your perspective and where you’re coming from. Thanks again!

          Hope your move went well yesterday. Have fun unpacking 🙂

    • I am guilty of being a “mostly vegan,” but I would NEVER eat meat, no matter how hip or trendy it is! I use the mostly vegan label because when I’m out I’m 100% vegan – it’s easier for others to understand than trying to explain the ins and outs of my personal and complicated moral system. It’s only in my own home when I have access to eggs from my own chickens or my CSA farm that I feel comfortable breaking my veganism.

    • I think the problem that you have noticed (the 95% vegan folks, which I am myself a part of) is that there isn’t a widely understood name for people who would rather never eat anything from an animal for health reasons, but for practical reasons sometimes do. A few names are emerging, Nutritarian and Plant-strong, but even those require a tremendous amount of description if you throw them out there. So people revert to calling themselves a Vegan when in fact that is NOT what they are. A true Vegan would not eat anything from an animal source or wear anything or purchase anything . . . The Vegan label right now has been misused in mass almost to the point where it is becomming not trademarkable (ie Kleenex, Escalator, Coke).

      • Yes, well said Wendy! Thank you for such eloquence. I did not enjoy being “judged” by Bitt – she has no understanding of my heart. Yet, because her convictions are not mine she placed herself above me.

        I will likely never be 100% animal-product free. I don’t believe that is a moral issue – and I don’t share her point of view. As an animal lover and a lover of the gorgeous earth we are entrusted with, I exercise intentional care to purchase products (animal or not) from sources who treat the process with care and responsibility.

        However, I do aspire to live and eat in a holistic synergistic way… and be quick to love and slow to judge those with differing convictions from mine. After all, it’s about living well, isn’t it??

      • SO many great comments here. I am also in the category of someone who eats a 95% vegan diet, with the occasional source of animal protein (usually eggs from a local and allegedly ethical source, which I eat at home, occasionally some fish, though my cravings for that are finally disappearing). At restaurants, while traveling, etc I eat a 100% vegan diet. And I really wish there was a label to explain that.

        At one point, I ate a completely vegan diet for health reasons only, and even then felt very torn about using the vegan label because to me veganism is an ethical lifestyle first, and a diet second. Even when I ate a 100% vegan diet, I was not living the lifestyle, and did not want to offend anyone who was by taking on a label that was not true.

        Sadly, as noted above, the label has been misused on so many levels, and then there is the slippery slope thing too – I was pretty shocked by how Ginnifer Goodwin went from eating a couple of ethically raised eggs to eating burgers at restaurants. Yes, eating animal protein is eating animal protein, and many people do not draw an ethical distinction between eggs from a supposedly ethical source and factory meat, but I do. To me there remains a distinction between eggs bought at a farmer’s market where I have spent time asking the farmer about the chicken and ducks and where they live and how they live versus a hamburger at a restaurant that is assuredly a product of a factory farm.

        I think we all have to find what is right for us ethically and health-wise and, frankly, be honest about it to oneself. I made a decision to not be part of the factory farm system, and slaughterhouses in general, and my goal is to keep my animal protein consumption aligned with that decision – which means the eggs I buy are the best option for that. I have a lot of ambivalence about eating those to begin with, but have noticed that they have helped me conquer my occasional fish cravings, which I would far more like to leave behind than the eggs at this point. I also am experimenting with coconut oil to attempt to raise my cholesterol, and go back to eating a 100% vegan diet.

        Gena, thank you for addressing this topic so eloquently and without judgment. I so appreciate the forum you provide and everyone’s comments.

        • Ooops, sorry, just realized I had not explicitly answered your question. I am not willing to be flexible about eating animal products outside my home. That one is a non-negotiable. I am also not willing to support factory farming practices in any way, including farmed fish. Also, while I own products made with leather, I have not bought any new ones and do not plan to ever buy a leather purse ever again.

          Things I am more flexible on: eggs bought directly from a farmer (see above), some medications, wool. A few months ago, I would have put wild-caught fish in the more flexible category, but I am working hard to phase that one out completely and put it in the non-negotiable category. Once I finish my current supply of sardines and salmon, I do not plan to repurchase.

    • I must add also that banana ice cream is pretty tasty but does not hold a candle to vegan coconut based ice creams. Sorry!

      • Yes, I was wondering if she had tried coconut ice cream! Soooo good! I love the banana ice cream too, but I’m a little afraid of how many bananas I will end up eating if I indulge too often. I am still very much in love with desert!

        • I agree. I consider myself vegan but can’t get worked up about honey. I think the lifestyle takes time to adjust to. There are so many choices that need to be made as you learn of them and each person needs to decide for themselves where they draw the line. I have no interest in judging anyone elses choices but I feel that I have sacrificed for the sake of ethics, my health and the environment and I give myself credit for all the choices I’ve made.

        • Bitt-
          I’m sorry, but I find your comment a little offensive. I eat almost entirely vegan, but from time to time I will eat farm-fresh eggs from an organic, ethical supplier. I never eat eggs out, and I only eat eggs from this farm. I don’t eat dairy, meat, or any other animal product. Simply because I chose to eat these eggs does not mean I’m going to fall down some slippery slope- I’ve been eating this way for a few years and I have never experienced the downfall you seem to assume will inevitably happen. The part I have the biggest issue with, however, is your statement that being vegetarian is “less cool”. To simplify veganism to being “cool” goes against so much that it stands for, and basing health and nutrition decisions on their “cool” factor is a far more slippery slope than choosing to eat an egg every once in a while. There are so many great reasons to eat a vegan diet, but focussing on a “cool title” both drives people away and makes a legitimate, ethical choice seem childish

          • i completely agree. and i think it’s actually “less cool” to point out that you find yourself to be “cooler” than someone else.

          • I agree. Vegetarian myself, I have been trying to transition to veganism for a long time now. Very occasionally, I will have ice cream, and even more rarely, food that contains eggs. However, I have never had any sort of meat cravings, and, just because I eat a bite of soft serve certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to run out and buy a hamburger. The idea alone sickens me.
            We all have different reasons for our diet choices. They are personal, unique, and based on so many different factors. While I believe labels can serve the purpose of creating identity and fellowship, they can also be alienating. For me, getting mad at someone or calling a person “less cool” for identifying with the vegan community when they are trying to live the lifestyle and empathize with “true” vegans is discouraging and counter-productive.