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, potato chips with BBQ taste and plant-based ‘chicken soup’ (put a little oil in your soup and it’s ‘like’ that) 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 all the way.
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 or bothered 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” that 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.
Animal suffering Animal farmers are often commercially forced to take shortcuts on animal welfare or else … close shop. 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 to take a cruel person to kill fish – these are not plants. Pearls grow in some shell fish naturally or after being injured on purpose (sometimes with an irritating core planted in them) which over a half to many years will grow out to be (cultured) pearls, which are then cut out of the animal. Mother of pearl is harvested from the inside surface of mollusks’ shells. Silk is won by throwing the live silkworms into 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 for gum or skin care (crèmes, toothpaste, shampoo) is often experimentally put on animals to test for allergies. Enough stuff has been tested like that and more of such experiments are unnecessary. Look for a sign for or words like “free from animal testing.” If it says nothing, it’s probably/possibly less nice to use. Trained dogs and female pigs are used to find wild truffles (and stopped from eating them; in Israel truffle cultivation is about to start). Are fish in fish tanks, locked-up domesticated (castrated) animals (cats) and wild animals at people’s homes, in zoos and in circuses really so happy?
Hidden and trace animal produce A friend of mine doesn’t eat anything prepared in the vicinity of eggs (allergy information) – not because he’s allergic to eggs but because he doesn’t want to buy from (give profit to) factories that also produce stuff with eggs. He probably also doesn’t eat an untypical vegan meal in a non-vegan restaurant; while other vegans could argue exactly the opposite, that we should promote this option in mainstream eateries (both are right). Eggs are sometimes spread on the top of breads, cookies and apples for glazing (also: E 901, beeswax on sweets – and in cosmetics, shoe and furniture polish, as main ingredient of some candles and more) and/or to make sesame or poppy seeds stick. (Frivolous egg as last ingredient of 20 in cookies to prove that they’re high-end has stopped in Israel as this was costing bakers many vegan customers.) There are over 50 E-numbers that are or could be from animal origin. Pig’s fat may be used to grease bread baking tins while not appearing on the ingredients’ list. Some vitamins come from animals. If you need them, you must buy them. Sometimes plant-harvested alternatives are available. You buy them if they are equally good (you might need to take more of them) and if you can afford them. I cannot imagine vegans who would not eat commercially grown mushrooms, although they are grown in horse manure. Unless you eat strictly kosher, you’re bound to eat insects with leafy veggies and even fruits. It costs time and knowledge to inspect them well. In muesli you may find microscopic rests of all the insects of creation, like wings, wing cases, legs, etc. A non-oleoresin animal food colorant is the beautiful Natural Red 4, E 120, carmine, cooked from shells of the Cochineal insect.
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. What about the Chassidic idea that animals get elevated by a Jews eating them properly? That is true for kosher animals, but non-kosher animals get elevated by us not eating them. If you feel you should eat an animal but that it’s wrong for you, not eating it, might elevate it. And by happily singing about eating them (singing instead of eating) in the table hymns. Yet, in any case you can’t be a total vegan if you are an Orthodox Jew. Torah must be read publicly from scrolls made of animal hide. Tefilin 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; some say that only the animal variant counts; most don’t use it at all. 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 for each Kohen. If religious law forces some animal produce unto you, that does not mean that if you’re really principled and honest, you should either abandon all of this religion or become a total carnivore.
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 heart valve replaced and the only one available is from a pig, 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 or endanger ourselves for them in extremely rare situations. Eating spoiled animal protein is more dangerous than vegan amino acids that went off, because bacteria that love animal meat also like human flesh.
Taste Slowly try to move away from foods that are vegan but are supposed to taste like animal-based foods. Wholesome 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, meat, fish for some people may save them from eating animal meat again or much more, but in the end of the day it’s junk food too, with too much salt and flavors (because also imitation non-vegan food is tasteless from itself). Most plant-based “milks” that I found hardly contain any of the plants (rice, almonds, oat , soy) they are supposedly based on, are expensive junk foods. Look for and try wholesome tasty vegan meals and recipes. There are people who find drinking water repulsive. They don’t need to add disgusting things like tea or coffee that need milk to neutralize their revolting tastes. Add a little apple vinegar and the water gets very tasty.
There are people who put so much tasteless white-flour and animal produce in their diet, which need to be given a taste, that they even go on and put salt on perfectly taste cucumbers or pour sauces (with salt, sugar, herbs, onion, garlic, spices, artificial flavors) on perfectly tasty lattice. Is that because they no longer appreciate anything but favoring for meat tastes, because they got addicted to all these over-the-top flavors or because they forgot that these foods are tasty of themselves? Even the plants we get offered for food have been degraded, as for instance the variety of corn was reduced to one (yellow) because it was the sweetest.
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, not fight, your principles. Refuse to discuss them over a meat meal. Often then they throw away the meat on their plates, which may be 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 (partly) – 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 made with the least amount of animal suffering. And ask yourself if you don’t keep too many animals; there are other things to collect. Maybe start liking humans more so that you could find human company.
Relational Try to eat less animal produce to show that you think for yourself, don’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 in order 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 inside your skin (last item: 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 flour pasta and white bread. Eat stuff that has a taste of its own. Combine foods for a fuller taste. Good food doesn’t need salt, onion, garlic, chili, herbs, dressings, sandwich fillings, sugar, etc. (Breads and pastas, even from whole wheat, taste better with a little salt, but add any other taste and there is no need for that.) 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 may be having it done for the waste basket.
Replace It will be easier to move towards more vegan food if one knows what plant-based substitutes there are. The binding of eggs can be done by techinah. Some gelatin gelling can be done by agar agar (sea weed).
One doesn’t have to go all or nothing. But it can have its advantages. In my experience, my intestines are not liberal. When I ate: a. no animal produce at all, b. nothing that irritates my intestines, c. enough whole wheat stuff or other fibers (fruits, veggies) and d. I didn’t overeat, my flatulations and 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.)
And even when you do all the above in the most extreme way, you still will not be the most extreme vegan, as there still are: raw vegans (no foods heated above 48 °C / 118 °F), low-fat raw vegans and fruitarians (who each can also be more or less strict / more flexible).
So: be as vegan as you can and don’t go more extreme than you want.
My earlier blog posts on (partial) veganism:
This blog post is almost double the length of an earlier version.