I just read a great article by Kara over at Vegan Rabbit about the reason your vegan diet will fail every time. As a former vegan and current vegetarian, this really got my attention.
According to Kara, the reason that people fail as vegans is because they didn’t “make the connection” that animals suffer just like people do. Vegans who go back to eating meat never got the connection – and thus weren’t vegans to begin with.
On some fronts, Vegan Rabbit is right on point. I remember when I used to work at Whole Foods and all these young hipsters would come in to buy pints of Soy Dream because going vegan was the trendy thing to do. Eventually, many of these hipsters entered the corporate world and, in the process, would lose their cool leggings, asymmetrical haircuts, and vegan diets.
For people who are true lifestyle vegans, (meaning we view veganism as a way to boost our sense of superiority), it is offensive how trendy veganism has become. Of course, there are some benefits to this trendiness, like being able to find vegan foods in Wal-Mart and soy milk in your local coffee shop.
Yet, I disagree with Kara in some aspects. I believe that you can “make the connection” and still relapse from a vegan diet. I use the word “relapse” lightly though, because I don’t believe it is possible to be 100% vegan to begin with (at least without removing yourself completely from society). For example, as Steven Davis pointed out, even plant foods are not “bloodless” because clearing land for crops kills animals. If we want to take things even further, we can say that the internet is not vegan because all of those servers and wires kill some animals.
I also know plenty of militant vegans equate “free range” chickens with slavery, but still drink coffee and eat chocolate. They conveniently overlook the fact that human slaves are harvesting their coffee and chocolate.
Being vegan isn’t just a diet. It is a lifestyle. Because people are such complex beings, it is impossible to define something as multifaceted as a lifestyle in terms of those who “get it” and “don’t get it.”
We each have to figure out how to make the vegan ethics fit in the framework of our lifestyles. That is why I don’t feel guilty about eating the eggs from my neighbor’s chickens. I do, however, feel guilty about not freeing the pit bull which is chained up at a house down the road because I’m afraid the owners will come after me with a shotgun… Does this make me a vegan or an ex-vegan?
It may be that ex-vegans never “got” the connection in the first place. And many of them who “got” and still reverted to eating meat probably are guilty of laziness and gluttony. But putting a guilt trip on ex-vegans isn’t going to help promote veganism. It will just isolate them further.
Image credit: Happy About My Plate of Meat by Anthony Easton