I've stopped calling myself vegan
My new years resolution for 2017 was to move on from vegetarian and to become a legitimate vegan. Now, 12 months later, my new years resolution for 2018 is to no longer call myself a vegan at all.
I was never a preachy vegan. I would never try and force my beliefs onto others. But if people asked me about it, I'd explain why I was.
My empathy for animals runs deep. If I'm honest, sometimes I'd rather hang out with animals than people. There's a certain innocence you get with animals. They don't have ulterior motives. They don't hold grudges. They're honest about their intentions at all times. Whether they want you around or they don't, they make it clear.
Having been vegetarian for several years, I began to realise that I wasn't doing enough. I was still consuming a lot of dairy and meat substitutes like Quorn, which often contains egg. So, it seemed like by not consuming meat was I actually doing very little to reduce any suffering at all.
So, on 1 January 2017 I gave myself the title of vegan and went about trying a little harder.
In my 12 months of being vegan, I've learned that many things trip you up. Looking through the ingredients, it's not always obvious what is vegan. E numbers are a bit of a minefield. For example, E120 is carmine, and that it's actually made from ground insects.
I've also learned that I don't like militant vegans. These are people that take great pleasure in shaming people who aren't. They even give other vegans a hard time if they get it wrong. A lot of the flack vegans get comes from this small group of people creating a negative stereotype.
Then, there is the blurred lines. What are the rules exactly? I have two cats, which are now 6, and I'm a firm believer that adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment. Cats are obligatory carnivores. If they don't eat meat they go blind and die from renal failure. So, my cats still eat fish based foods. I don't consume it, but I buy it. Does that mean I'm not a vegan? If my partner bought the cat food out of her wages, is that a work around?
Another thing I've found hard, is that empathy for people and animals can pull in both directions at once. For example, I visited a relative I hadn't seen for a while. They had went to a lot of trouble to create a separate vegetarian dish for me. This will have meant almost double the effort. Preparing some things twice, and keeping everything separated. So, imagine the choice I had to make when I sat down to eat and noticed the honey-roasted parsnips.
- Refuse to eat the meal and keep my 100% vegan badge and make sombody feel awful.
- Remove the parsnips and state that I can't eat them. Again, probably making somebody feel awful.
- Say nothing, eat it, feel guilty about it and question whether I'm still a vegan or not.
- Say nothing. Appreciate all the effort they have went to and accept that nothing will be perfect 100% of the time.
The militant vegans would argue that number 1 is the only option. But you can't put the honey back in the hive. The exploitation is already done and the profits are already made.
I'd like to say I chose number 4, but in most cases it was number 3. I wouldn't want to upset somebody who has tried their best. So instead, I would feel like a fraud. A fake vegan. Because there is a guilt that comes with the label when you slip up.
So, I don't know if I have a label now. But that doesn't matter. I still eat vegan. I still buy soya based stuff and have rice milk on my cereal. Nothing has really changed except I no longer call myself a vegan and no longer beat myself up about it I don't get it perfect.
Empathy is not always black and white. Label or no label, I'm doing my best. And thats all I can do.