Vegan Salt –the blog











{January 31, 2010}   Tyler Durden vs. The Vegan Police

Tyler Durden once said of Project Mayhem, “You decide your own level of involvement.” Though he said it as an accusation, I find it holds a lot of truth, and that this perspective carries over to many, if not most things in life, from citizenship to parenting.  Yet, when it comes to veganism, everything is suddenly black-and-white.  Either you are a vegan or you aren’t. For example, a “vegan who occasionally eats eggs from backyard chickens” is not a vegan.  It’s all or nothing.  After all, everything in existence either contains animal parts (or secretions) or it doesn’t, right?  Simple.

But then there’s sugar, which sometimes is and sometimes isn’t bleached with animal bones, and isn’t labeled either way.  (Oreos) And what about those items that don’t themselves contain animal products, but that come from a company that uses gelatin in all their other products and tests on animals(Crazy Cores Skittles, owned by Mars) Or items that have been bought out by a company that tests products on animals? (Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, now owned by Colgate Palmolive) Even organically produced veggies probably resulted in masses of killed insects and rodents.  It’s enough to make a vegan’s head want to explode, particularly when more experienced, more knowledgeable vegans give them that look.  The look you might get if you show up to an animal-rights demonstration in the dead of winter wearing a wool coat.  So you say you’re vegan, but that’s a leather-bound book on your bookshelf?!  Someone call the Vegan Police!!  We have an imposter!

I think I understand the source of the infighting.  Vegans tend to have one thing in common: we have questioned the ethical state of our society and found it lacking.  We push ourselves to be better people, more conscious and more accountable for the effects of our actions.  Perhaps it’s only natural that we take that mentality a bit further and push ourselves, and those around us, to constantly be better, purer, more vegan…  But there is a point at which the quest for vegan purity runs the risk of becoming a “more vegan than thou” contest, rather than stemming from true concern about animals.  Self-righteousness masked as righteous indignation is as unattractive in vegans as it is in religious zealots, and as off-putting to those considering that lifestyle.

Being vegan is a lot like being environmentally friendly or avoiding slave and sweatshop labor, in that no matter how hard you try, the goal will probably remain over the horizon.  Even if every item you put in your body or your home has no animal byproduct, was not tested on animals, and isn’t produced by a company which once used an ingredient formerly tested on an animal… the truck that delivered it to the store where you bought it may have run over a squirrel.  Am I getting ridiculous?  Yes. This argument nearly always ends with ridiculousness, because we live in a non-vegan world and we interact with non-vegan manufacturers and sellers and people.  For now, perfection, vegan purity, is essentially impossible.  All vegans are people working toward an ideal world.  The critical question is not: How vegan are you?  It is this: Are we on the right path, and are we moving in the right direction?

As with any effort toward an ideal, such as environmentalism, or even just being a good person, some basic rules are good to keep in mind:

  1. You’re going to make mistakes, especially in the beginning.  Don’t give up the first (or 41st) time this happens.  Learn from your mistakes and continue forward.
  2. Take the easy and the big steps first (meat, dairy), then work on improving the little areas that are lacking at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm you.
  3. When it comes to the behavior of others, don’t nitpick and condemn.  Share information honestly and openly, but keep in mind that not everyone has reached that “aha” moment yet. (And I’ve never yet encountered a vegan whose “aha” moment consisted of being shouted at and compared to a rapist.)

It’s better to stop eating animals than to continue to eat meat.  It’s better still to consume no dairy or eggs, only plants.  We’re all at different points along the road to a world in which animals are not treated as objects, but as beings.  Yes, you determine your level of involvement on that road.  We should never be content with causing harm.  But we have to accept our own fallibility, and the fallibility of those around us, and allow ourselves (and others) to progress in stages, as our comprehension grows.  Rather than attack our fellow travelers, let’s reach out (with kindness and understanding) to those who haven’t yet found the path, and let’s work to make sure we’re all heading in the same direction.



Raeschel says:

Brilliant!



Absolutely brilliant. I just adore you more and more each week. :) I’m so glad to have found you in the online community. Smart lady, you are…and this was an outstanding article.



Krys says:

Mrs. Nix, you’re making me blush! I’m thrilled to have found you as well. Your blog is like a smooth cup of tea. =)



Kaden M says:

That was an absolutely glorious blog.



I think it’s unfortunate when people are constantly saying “you’re not vegan” if their opinion is that something you have/ eat is not vegan (in their opinion). People make mistakes… however, if you know what you’re doing is causing animal suffering (eating Skittles for example) is DIRECTLY contributing to animal testing, that warrants someone being informed. Many people don’t know and I don’t think any vegan would want to continue supporting a company who is causing animal suffering… that is NOT vegan. Not everyone cares about sugar because the bone char is a biproduct (I only use vegan sugar in MY bakery)… I don’t think everything is as black and white as people who are being outright jerks about it, but there are choices that should be easier than others for people who are vegan for ethical reasons to make…



I work for a company that has been publishing vegan cookbooks and alternative health books since 1974. In the course of my work, I speak with many people who are involved in one way or another with the vegetarian and vegan movement. I have noticed lately that several of the more experienced vegans with whom I come in contact have been making points that are very similar to yours, and which, perhaps, go even further. One of the authors whom we publish, John McDougall, MD, for instance, has gone so far as to say that he eats one ounce of turkey every Thanksgiving so that people will not brand him as a vegan or vegetarian.

I think what we are seeing is the gradual maturing of the vegan community. As we become older and more experienced, we realize that the world is not going to change overnight. I think this is leading us to recognize that it is more important to reach out to people who still have no concept of why it is important to become vegan than it is for us to debate amongst ourselves over issues that are far less important in the long run.

I appreciate your posting very much. It is the most articulate statement of this position that I have seen to date. I am also glad to see that many other people feel the same way.

I look forward to following your future posts.

Rick Diamond, Marketing Dept.
Book Publishing Company
Summertown, Tennessee



Krys says:

Rick,

I’m flattered that someone in your line of work took the time to read and to comment on my burgeoning blog.

I simply want to clarify that I do NOT endorse the occasional eating of animal flesh (even yearly) for the sake of not being labeled a vegan or vegetarian. I see that as being headed in the wrong direction.

I agree that a welcoming, mature, and understanding approach is important. I disagree that we ever need to compromise the ideals we believe in to achieve this. Setting a positive example is one of the best ways we can encourage others. I think it is absolutely vital to adhere to what we think is right.

Vegans may be a minority, but we have nothing to be ashamed of. Dr. McDougall’s approach saddens me. I hope he chooses to join us in moving forward on the path, by which I mean each of us doing our best to live a compassionate life.

I hope you continue to read and discuss vegan theory with me, Rick. Thanks for the work you do in bringing vegan-related books to the public!



Ginny says:

Wonderful post. Thank you so much!



Steve says:

Interesting article. In a similar vein, you may be interested in reading this.

http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/path.html#veganexample

You’re probably aware of it already.

The link enters part way down the article to the parts most relevant to your post. I’m nothing to do with them btw — I’m just a new, stumbling vegan. I didn’t actually get an aha moment. I watched a video which condemned exploitation of animals for trivial purposes. That kind of stuck in my mind. Where I drew the line defining triviality moved very quickly until I finished up here.



bwvalentine says:

Not to miss the point of the article or anything, but I kinda take issue with the “backyard chickens” statement at the beginning of the article. If the chickens are friends of yours and have been since before you decided to become vegan, have a FANTASTIC living situation and you have no roosters to fertilize the eggs anyway so you’re not taking anything away from them, it seems more like a waste to not use what they have to contribute to the world when they’re clearly not interested in sitting on them anyway, you know? Idk, I just don’t feel like everything is that cut and dry. Which I guess is the point of the article anyway, haha :)

~ bwvalentine, the baby vegan who mostly just doesn’t want to hurt anybody in order to feed herself



Krys says:

I know it’s been a while since you posted this comment, bwvalentine, but I recently wrote a blog about some backyard chickens I met, and my thoughts on that whole issue and thought you might be interested. =)
It’s here: http://vegansalt.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/the-chick-and-the-egg/



Christy says:

It’s ridiculous that we fight with each other and continue to judge. That is the one personality trait that could be left behind. Vegans tend not only to judge the people around them for their lifestyle choices, but judge others that call themselves “vegan.” Yes action speaks louder than words, but what matters most is peoples’ hearts and their intentions. If your intention is be a compassionate conscious human being, and you slip up, it’s OK. This isn’t religion. We don’t need to feel judged and guilty if we accidentally eat something, etc. Just try to be the best you can be and have your intention be strong. If your heart is in the right place you are less likely to mess up anyways.



Mel says:

Excellent post! I think that people some times get so swept up in the purism angle, when it’s really about doing what we can, bit by bit, to REDUCE SUFFERING.

Matt Ball wrote great article called “Activism and Veganism Reconsidered” that I fell in love with when I was just becoming vegan 10 years ago and stumbling across the notorious vegan police. There’s a sub-section on there you might like called, “Busting the Vegan Police”: http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/path.html



Thank you for this wonderful article. I have always believed the vegan ethic but never became a vegan till 2 years ago because I have met so many annoying self righteous vegans and I didn’t want to be associated with them. (I have been vegetarian since 1995 though) It looks like the vegan movement is maturing. Thank you for your wonderful blog. Nice to see more vegans in Utah (I live in Orem.)



vegandeb says:

Love the post, and the replies! For me I try to do my best but the other day went to dinner with non-vegan friends and the waitress didn’t know if the wine was vegan. Did I drink a glass? Yes, two actually. I’m still vegan and the people I had dinner with were very supportive of my vegan life. If I had refused the wine we all shared because the wine might not have been vegan, would my friends still have felt as supportive? I’m thinking probably not.

Another article on the vegan police: http://www.nocompromise.org/issues/05vpolice.html



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