Monday, November 7, 2011

Reuniting the vegan population

Division of the vegan population
As time goes on, it seems that the vegan population is getting divided - mainly into 2 groups. One that go by the being as vegan as possible and not to worry about trace, imperceptible animal products and one more towards abolitionist style.

Until recently, I have been seeing some articles mentioned Vegan Outreach or PETA bashing veganism. I was pretty surprise as these were some of the groups which articles supported my switch to veganism and I believed, had helped many people switch to a vegan diet.

These are the some of the arguments that both groups of vegans present.
More towards as vegan as possible 1
More towards as vegan as possible 2
More towards as vegan as possible 3
More towards abolitionist 1
More towards abolitionist 2
More towards abolitionist 3

If you are a vegan where do you stand?  

My own experiences
I once went to a dessert stall with my friends and wanted to order a bowl of dessert. Not knowing what is in the dessert, I started to ask the waitress about the ingredients used. Her tone was like I was trying to steal their recipe or something! I learnt a lot from this experience and other similar experiences. You can ask them about one or two main ingredients like eggs, milk, honey etc. but if you start to question more deeply - is there xxxx in the gravy? what is your mock meat made of, does it contain xxxx. A few more questions you can be sure to get the look.

I once told a vegan lady that her preserved olives were soaked in a preservative medium consisting "lactose", which may not be vegan, and she said I am a vegan police. I laugh it off, even though I will not buy that product myself. She still calls herself a vegan, and I didn't myself bothered with that. Why? Because if you have been a vegan for some time, you will know that the place to draw the line may not always be clear.  

Grey areas
Things are not always black and white, many things are grey. And even within grey, there are many shades of grey. Where do you draw the line?

For example, if you have everything vegan in your house, except for your pleather shoes made with animal glue, will you still be a vegan? What about everything being vegan except for a bottle of non-vegan shampoo? As to food, what about eating dishes which you thought was vegan but actually contain traces of animal product?

My personal take on this is that being vegan is not about forcing yourself to be 100% perfect when you are in a situation which does not allow you to. Doing so will remove "vegans" by the batches. For example, if you are going to live in Singapore and insist on getting non-bone char derived sugar, you can say that it is impossible unless you buy your own sugar and avoid eating out. Most of our food are imported, it is insane to go questioning every single vegetarian outlet and ask them to trace their sugar sources, they will not be bothered with you. If because of this, you avoid eating out, and every other vegan do the same thing, the vegetarian food outlets will also lose their business and in the end, it will only prevent more people from wanting to go vegetarian and vegan.

I am in support of the spirit of abolitionist veganism. Yet at the same time, I do not disagree with some of Vegan Outreach's approach, because this approach of promoting vegetarianism first can help people who are not ready to plunge directly into veganism. From my own experience, just telling the people I know about what I have to avoid - meat, eggs, dairy, gelatin etc. are already making them think this is near impossible. So to promote the abolitionist approach will not work for these people, whom I classify as having a more easy-going nature. For those people who have a stronger, indomitable nature, the abolitionist approach may appeal to them more.  

Being vegan is about doing the best within our own ability, and "best" is a different shade of grey for everyone. We all have the same ultimate goal and that is white and everyone will have different methods to reach that white square. Throw away all those fighting, and classifying who's right and who's wrong. Give your heart some peace.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, every vegan should read this!

This post is 100% perfect!

BGO Ecoshop said...

Thanks for this post and links. I agree with you - do our best to move towards the white box. All those time and energy spent on classifying, debating on what vegans should be and not should just be spent on embracing healthy and compassionate living.

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