Vegan means: only eating / using stuff that had roots and no mother.
Good principles are invaluable, but they should not override the ideal of taking well care of your health. We must guard our health. And since any good thing into the extreme may become absurd and self-defeating, we should watch out for a form of veganism that would maim or kill us. Yes, plant-based food in itself is much healthier than animal-based food, but that doesn’t mean that vegans don’t need to think about their diet.
To be vegan doesn’t have to be a matter of all-or-nothing. Just don’t keep vegan on the level of vague intentions. And don’t make it just a phase – though a trial period is OK. Build, try not to withdraw. If you can’t progress, at least stay steady at a for you good level.
There seem four main reasons why vegans become ex-vegans. Use this knowledge to prevent falling back! And if you still can’t keep it up, become partly-vegan. No need to say goodbye to all of it!
- Longing for certain favorite animal-based foods. Some use fake-meat, fake-milk, fake-whatever and are helped by it. I use my memory. I remember the taste of things I liked very much. I can enjoy those tastes without eating them again. This doesn’t work without eating, but while I’m eating well, all the amazing tastes I ever had, I can remember fondly. You might want to take some time, to say goodbye to certain foods. Real therapy time to mourn separating from them.
- You can’t get satisfied. Check your diet. Vegan doesn’t mean that you get all you need. Cola and white bread are vegan but will leave you starving. You need to get your protein, fibers, vitamins, etc. I’ve written about this earlier (on suplements, on vitamin D). Ask your GP (also when you do feel satisfied) to check if your ignorance is not hurting your health. Search for foods that help you feel satisfied. In the beginning, I had a long time in which I was only satisfied when I added an avocado to my food which on paper should have sufficed me without it.
- The company you’re in. You’re sick of being an exception. Or you get a partner who is not a vegan and works on you becoming “normal.” The slippery slope may mean that you end up a pure carnivore. Try to set realistic limits and don’t move the beacons all the time.
- Shame. You forgot why vegan is better. Reread how you save your money, health and planet by eating vegan and why you don’t need the charade of fake foods. Build some pride.
It’s not true that a good vegan must go all the way in everything. Every step counts when in the direction of healthier eating, less distress for animals, less hurting the environment, more respect for all life, etc. I myself am pretty extreme in my vegan lifestyle but I don’t expect everyone to follow that.
Vegetarians are partial vegans. One-day-a-week vegetarians are too. To be part-time or most-of-the-time vegan is praiseworthy too.
It’s important to have respect for others’ choices. No one forced you to become vegan, I may hope. Grant others the same freedom of choice. You may ask others about their eating habits but don’t lecture at them.
Byproducts Many leathers come from animals killed for their meat. It’s not certain that by buying those hides you’d support the meat industry. If the best belt you can find is leather, that doesn’t mean you hate animals. (I found one of elastic synthetics. Does feel better.)
Second-hand Some vegans would say: If I get animal produce as a present, I did not buy it or help sustain a market for it. I could be that you still did, because if you had said that you only accept vegan food or things, they would not have acquired animal stuff. Yet, if it was not purchased for you specifically, that problem night not exist, like: leftovers from a meal, or objects that you find in the garbage. However, when others see you have a leather coat or shoes, you still promote the vision as if that is OK (for you). You also may get used to them and when they are worn out be tempted to purchase them new; or get used to the taste of such foods and when you have none, be tempted to buy them. However, you may be poor enough to use second-hand non-vegan stuff.
No animal killed Certain animal produce is harvested without killing animals. Gelatin made from Indian (holy) cows who were never kept and who died a natural death. You might still not eat that to draw a clear line and show that we can live well without any animal stuff. Honey from bees, but are they not robbed? Milk, but if it comes from a commercial farm, chances are that these cows even have less of a good life than “meat cows” who at least are allowed to walk around to grow more meat. They are probably also artificially impregnated once a year to boost their milk production whereby the newborns are removed upon birth – seems hurtful to me. Wool – the sheep are happy to get rid of their coat in summer, but that doesn’t guarantee that they are well-cared for.
Less animal suffering Watch out for hidden suffering. Fish are often left to die slowly or are beaten to death. I don’t know if it’s true that they feel no pain, but at least it seems that it takes a cruel person to kill fish – these are not plants. Silk is harvested by throwing the live silkworms in boiling water. Even eggs from a farm where laying hens would have a heavenly existence, half of the hatched out chicks (the males) are often left to die, suffocated or minced alive. (There is a new idea to prevent the incubation of the male chicks, but that’s still on the drawing board.) Stuff that comes into contact with our skin or gums (toothpaste, shampoo, crèmes) is often experimentally put on animals to test for allergies. Enough stuff is tested like that and more of such experiments are unnecessary. Look for a sign or words like “free from animal testing.” If it says nothing, it’s probably less nice to use.
Hidden and trace animal produce Some vitamins come from animals. If you need them, you must buy them. Sometimes plant alternatives are available. You buy them if they are equally good and if you can afford them.
Religious obligations The obligation for Jews to eat meat and fish on Shabbat and the Festival is only for those who enjoy it. For me now it would spoil my holy(-)day. Yet, you can’t be a total vegan if you are an Orthodox Jew. Torah readings must be from scrolls made of animal hide and tefilin to wear have lots of animal stuff. The hides must be from kosher animals but they don’t have to be slaughtered in a kosher fashion – which would have been the least painful, most humane way – so this really hurts me. The dye techelet comes in animal and in non-animal form. A Priest must eat meat in the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily and in our days, but those are tiny amounts and only a few days a year.
Economy The propaganda is that if you have little money for food, buy meat, eggs and milk. The opposite is true. If you have little money to spend, buy legumes, veggies and grains. Also whole wheat pasta and breads are cheaper. Per weight they cost two to three times more but they satisfy so you’ll eat much less from it – and you’ll eat real food.
Health If you need a pig heart valve, don’t say that you’d rather die than have the pig die for you. If your GP says: eat liver or you need to be hospitalized, eat liver. (Do ask if there is a vegan alternative.) We should live by our principles, not die for them.
Taste Try to move away from food that is vegan but is supposed to taste like animal foods. Meals without animal produce are tasty already. You don’t need those old tastes. Fake eggs and fake non-animals synthetic lab-grown cultured meat are too expensive and awful for environment). Fake hamburgers for some people may save them from eating meat again or much more, but in the end of the day it’s junk food too, with too much salt and flavors. Look for wholesome tasty vegan recipes.
Privately One could start eating more vegan quietly, at home, no activism, not making others uncomfortable. Also, take parents, hosts, party organizers, vacation company into account. Behave in such a way that they grow to respect your principles. Refuse to discuss them over a meat meal. Often then they throw away the meat on their plates, which is worse than eating animals that were killed for you.
Others Your principles should not force, stress or hurt your children, spouse or carnivore animals. To hurt your loved ones instead of farm animals is not the right priority. You must be such a good vegan that they will ask you why you act and think like you do and want to follow you – on their own terms and in their own speed. Fish, dogs and cats, other than humans, must have animal feeds. Try to find those that were produced with the least amount of animal suffering. And ask yourself if you don’t keep too many animals; there are other things to collect.
Relational Try to eat less animal produce to show that you think for yourself, won’t follow others without thinking. If you must, be (more of) a vegan to show that you are a non-conformist or because it’s a trend. But then you need to learn why to be vegan if you want to stay with it.
Ecological You want to lower your carbon footprint dramatically: cut down on plane rides, cut down on animal produce and grow and sun expose chlorophyll in your skin (just kidding).
Simplicity Try to enjoy what you eat. Why should your food have endless amounts of flavorings – unless it is tasteless like: meat, white rice, white pasta. Eat stuff that has a taste of their own. Combine foods for a fuller taste. Good food doesn’t need onions, garlic, pepper, herbs, etc. Try not to be at the top of a long food chain by not eating carnivores or even vegetarian animals (who commercially are often fed animal produce – mad cow disease!).
Randomly It is better not to follow your moods but to set yourself principles. Don’t be too stringent too quickly, or it will backfire.
Disproportionate Do not overeat on animal produce and do not throw away food that animals suffered for. Sadder than having animals killed or robbed for one’s food is having it done for the waste basket.
One doesn’t have to go all or nothing. But it can have its advantages. In my experience, my intestines are not so liberal. When I eat: a. no animal produce at all, b. nothing that irritates my intestines and c. enough whole wheat stuff, my bowel movement does not stink at all (just like a diaper from baby who only is breastfed) and it comes out in one smooth piece without any need to wipe! (Sorry if this is gross.)
So: be as vegan as you can and don’t go more extreme than you want.
My earlier blog posts on (partial) veganism: