I don’t want to start this blog post by saying “I have been vegan for 3 months”. I ate almost a whole bag of prawn crackers that came free with an (otherwise vegan) Chinese takeaway in a moment of madness during my October time-of-the-month. That is just one of a few slip-ups. Although I am researching and investing in cruelty-free products, I am still using the make-up I own from Benefit Cosmetics (who test on animals, click here to check whether your brands do too) and wearing old, woollen jumpers (although not ‘harmed’ in the shearing process, sheep are bred and enslaved to provide products for humans and then sent to the slaughter). There are some ridiculous ingredients like Acetylated Lanolin Ricinoleate, Desamidocollagen and many more that come from animals and mean nothing to me when I check the back of food packages (I’ve just googled them to make my point). Who knows how close I actually am to actually achieving veganism.
As I explained in a previous blog post, I chose the vegan lifestyle for health reasons first, the social and environmental implications of the meat & dairy industries second, and for the support of animal rights third. The more that I read and learn, the more these intertwine in my head in to one, impenetrable reason to continue with this change. If anyone would like me to write in more detail about these 3 reasons to go vegan, please let me know. I understand that the majority of people that choose these lifestyles are doing so to support animal rights beyond anything else, which I totally support and am starting to open up to more over time. Anyway, back to my point.
My god, it’s tiring. And do you know what makes the whole thing so much more difficult? People casting their judgement on you and your lifestyle and making you feel like you aren’t a ‘real’ [insert lifestyle choice here]. This is something that I am massively guilty of in the past. There was a girl I used to be friends with before I decided to ‘go vegan’ who called herself a vegetarian in that she chose not to eat meat or fish. She was extremely educated and passionate about her lifestyle and would get quite riled up when expressing her point if we were to ever talk about animal rights. However, she openly admitted to eating gelatine (found in lots of sweets and cakes) despite being aware that it is a protein obtained through the boiling of skin, tendons, ligaments or bones from cattle. She had no argument for this and expressed her admiration for the vegan lifestyle often, explaining that it would be “too difficult” for her to give up dairy products such as cheese and milk, regardless of what the farm animals were put through to produce it. In an unrelated argument that ended our friendship, I sent an awful text to this girl telling her that she was a hypocrite who couldn’t possibly stand for animal rights, and was simply trying to come across as compassionate in order to boost her ego.
I regret that text for so many reasons, but mainly because I have realised that a change in lifestyle is about intention rather than perfection. If a person wants to make a stand for animal rights based on their own values and beliefs, a change in diet for example is a step in the right direction for them. At least this girl was doing something, you know? And that is admirable, I realise this now. It is very difficult to give up meat in a western society where it is constantly promoted. So kudos to her, and all the other vegetarians that I have most likely offended in the past. You are all making positive change. It’s very similar to the pacifism or communism argument people have. “Well it’s a nice idea in theory, but it won’t actually happen and I can’t make a difference“. If we all have the attitude that our contribution to change, however small, won’t mean anything, then of course we won’t move forward as a society! Anyone that has made an active choice to change something about their lifestyle, be it choosing not to purchase products from Nestlé (click here to read why) or having a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones (click here to read why) is making a positive change. If you want to stand for what is right for you, do something, ANYTHING to take action! (This does not mean that I condone Hitler’s fascism and mass-murder, father. Honestly, the shit I get).
I suppose this blog post is a sort of tail-between-my-legs apology. The girl I mentioned isn’t the only person who I have attacked for their beliefs. I remember being steaming drunk one night recently and lecturing a random vegetarian guy I had met about 10 minutes before with something along the lines of: “I don’t get vegetarians. If you care about animals, why would you consume dairy products that are produced by putting animals through absolute torture? An animal being slaughtered and served in a supermarket isn’t the only way it can be exploited. You’re just as bad as a meat-eater…” blah blah blah, drink a-sloshing and digging a continuously deeper hole for myself. The poor guy was actually very nice about the whole thing; clearly he was in a place where he was comfortable in his choice.
My opinion has changed so drastically in the last few weeks and I think it’s important for me to share this in the hope that it will give people something to think about – especially those like me who have been quick to critique others who are contributing in any way towards making the world a better place. Could it have been denial? Jealousy? I don’t know. The girl I mentioned before is doing a great thing in her vegetarianism, but she, myself and all the others in whatever lifestyle they lead, have to stop judging and comparing others. To me, in that situation a few months ago, the vegetarian girl wasn’t doing ‘enough’. To an elderly vegan who hasn’t been near an animal product in food or otherwise since the womb, I might not be doing ‘enough’. 100% vegan is almost like the holy grail of lifestyle choices to me. It is so pure and so intense that it is very difficult to achieve, especially if you have been brought up in a family of meat and dairy eaters and are surrounded by ambiguous products containing these 6-syllable ingredients that make no sense.
Am I a vegan, or am I ‘transitioning’ to the vegan lifestyle? Is it right for me to call myself a vegan when I knowingly am still using my leftover non-vegan beauty products, or when I had that minor blip and ate the prawn crackers? Can anyone and does anyone ever avoid all animal products in a Western society? Definitely something to think about.
Any person who is doing whatever they can to move towards change should be applauded, and that is something I am working on. Any person who has the right intentions, be it veganism, another lifestyle choice or just generally, is a good person in my eyes. The key thing for me and my readers to take away from this is the focus on INTENTION, not perfection. There are no perfect people in the world and everyone has their own shit going on that we’ll never understand. As an all-or-nothing person, I went from cheeseburger-loving, milk-guzzling maniac to upholding quite a strict vegan diet. 6 months ago I would have bowed down to the holy entities that managed to have enough self-control to give up bacon butties on hangover day. I have made a huge step forward and I should feel proud of myself. I shouldn’t be made to feel embarrassed or struggle with whether to use the label ‘vegan’ or not in case I’m not good enough. And I shouldn’t be inflicting any of that on anyone else, either.
For me, veganism is the attempt to move away from as many animal-derived products as possible. I will take a medicine prescribed to me to help me survive whether it contains animal ingredients or not. I’m not going to walk around in wooden-soled shoes or never use a computer again (rubber and plastics potentially contain animal by-products) but in accepting that maybe it isn’t possible to be ‘100% vegan’ I’m not going to let that get me down. The less of a product we purchase, the less it will be produced – that is simple supply and demand. I truly believe that I and many others are making a difference towards the end of cruel and systematic factory-farming and disgusting animal testing practices in the purchasing of cruelty-free alternatives.
I don’t eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy products 99.9% of the time, and to my knowledge. One day I hope to be there 100%. I own items that include animal products or have used animal testing, but am replacing everything with cruelty-free substitutions at my own pace and with the limited budget I have. Sometimes I sit and have intense and almost sexual thoughts about eating a massive bowl of spaghetti carbonara. I consider myself to be a vegan and I feel a million times better than I ever have before. We should all support one another in the positive lifestyle choices we make, and I am sorry to anyone that I have made to feel like their journey is not important.