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're always honest!
- don't have ulterior motives
- don't hold grudges
- make it clear whether they want you around or not
- are honest about their intentions at all times
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 up 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 from the wider society comes from this small group of people creating a super 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 loop hole or a workaround?
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 somebody feel awful
- remove the parsnips and state that I can't eat them, because… honey? Again, probably making somebody feel awful
- say nothing, eat it, feel guilty about it and question whether I'm still allowed to badge myself 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 100% vegetarian and vegan where I can. I still buy soya based stuff and have milk alternatives on my cereal.
Not a lot has changed except I no longer:
- call myself a vegan
- beat myself up about it when I don't get it perfect
Empathy is not always black and white. Label or no label, I'm trying. And, if we all tried a little harder, maybe the militant vegans wouldn't need to be so militant!