When is a Vegan not a Vegan?

Whilst working in a hostel in Melbourne, I had the pleasure to meet someone who opened my eyes and changed my life forever.¬†He helped educate me about the environmental impacts of the mass-production of meat, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t ‘do it’ anymore.

I didn’t eat another animal product until I left Australia.

The main thing that I personally take away from being a vegan, and claiming to be vegan is that I intend to do the least harm possible. I don’t just avoid eating animal products, but I check out the things that I use and buy and do to make sure that what I am doing is in the best interests of everybody involved in the making and production of it.

I envision a world where people are paid fairly, live well, and are happy. I try to buy fair trade products where I can, and shop in charity stores, I try to buy local, I consider the impacts of my decisions. It’s not easy, but I find a sense of victory in knowing that¬†even if I am only one person – my actions over a length of time will do *something* to impact on the bigger picture.

Since changing my views, I’ve started following others who think the same way. There are Facebook groups and blogs of plenty of people with plenty of ideas but very often there are very clear, polar opposite opinions between them.

Understanding the strong feelings of the vegan who is strict enough in their beliefs that they refuse to eat somewhere that sells animal products is to me, just as important as the vegan who says that they ‘are vegan except for cheese’. I’m pretty sure that publicly these two people come across very different, but the main point is that they are both trying in some way to make a difference.

In this day and age when there is so much hate that it feels like pouring water on the fire of it will only make it burn stronger we really need to take a step back and think about why we let our differences separate us so much.

In the case of the vegan who eats cheese – I can only think that a backlash of hate from others telling them that they cannot claim to be ‘vegan’ whilst they consciously choose to eat cheese is only going to be detrimental to their overall choice. I know I personally cannot afford to buy ‘vegan certified’ trainers, and I certainly don’t know whether the ones I have been wearing the last six months contain animal glue or not – but I personally feel it doesn’t make me any less vegan.

It’s about doing the least harm possible. Causing the least damage to our world by supporting a belief that many people hold.

Personally, I know a few people who have lived on, or grown up on farms where the animals they care for are well-treated and looked after – and ultimately live a long life. Unfortunately, whether it be the explosion of our population or the huge demand for animal products, we live in a world where to sustain ‘our’ habits as a populous that there’s a need for factory farming and other practices that make me want to *cry*.

There are of course extreme ends of all scales.

Here in the UK, I have the freedom to choose from a huge array of shops that offer a range of products to fulfil all my dietary needs. Whilst I was living with my Mum & Step Dad on the peninsula of Alaska I didn’t really have much choice about what I was going to eat – so to be able to go out fishing and catch my dinner was actually a pretty rewarding feeling.

Due to my own nature, and my perception of how vegans I know would react to this – it’s not usually something I talk about. When people ask me ‘How long have you been vegan?’ I actually struggle with the answer. For three months of my life was I not vegan? Did I just work out how many months it had been since I first went vegan and take three away? Do I add up the days and take away that day when I was nearly sick from hunger and ate a cheese sandwich to make sure I didn’t faint?

I still believed in my cause. I feel incredibly difficult emotions over it, and thanks to ‘the way my brain likes to work’ I could even let myself feel so upset about my decisions in those moments that I could abandon all hope of ever being the person I ‘want’ to be and take an extremely different path to the future.

Saying yes, I have been vegan for almost two years is far from a lie as far as I’m concerned. During the entirety of those two years I will have always consciously thought about the things I buy, and because I am human like everyone else who will read this – it’s safe to say that occasionally mistakes will be made. It’s just important not to feel overwhelmed when you do, consciously or subconsciously.

 

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