Friday Mail Day: Thoughts on Being Vegan Enough

Friday Mail DayI’m starting a new series on my blog called Friday Mail Day!  As you may know, I love mail.  I get lots of interesting questions from readers and friends with questions about food, ethics, or other things related to veganism.  They’re often thought-provoking and/or involve something that I’m sure other people are wondering about too.  In the spirit of continuing these discussions, I’m dedicating Fridays to answering some of them.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

We’re beginning with a question from a reader named Robyn who asked this in the comments section of my post on vegan options at the Denver Airport.  (I’ve edited the question just slightly for space.)

mangoRobin writes…

I’ve read a lot of your posts in the last 8 months or so since I’ve discovered your blog. I know that you are really good at putting into words how vegans feel about some of the criticism we get from non-vegans or total vegan haters. Like the posts you did about vegan “burgers” and other “meats” and meat like textures

Anyways.  Sometimes I don’t know exactly how to verbalize my thoughts when someone tries to “attack” me and tell me that there is no such thing as a vegan because that plastic, that paint, that drywall, that rubber, that glue/adhesive, that blah blah blah has some sort of animal derived ingredient in it.  I don’t know if there is an animal derived ingredient in my cell phone case or computer monitor or the paint on the walls of my house.

I do know that I can control a lot of what I buy and food is the main thing that I can guarantee is vegan, next would be my clothes. I do not buy leather, fur, silk, wool, etc…. and I try to buy clothes/shoes that mention the word vegan in the description. Again I do not know if the plastic that my deodorant stick is housed in has animal ingredient or the rubber soles of my running shoes. But I try my best. If I know there is a guaranteed vegan option I always buy it. But not everything a person needs in life has a vegan company making it…

I’ve heard other vegans say that it’s not about striving for perfection, but for progress. I feel like that is what I/we are doing. Hopefully the more we continue to insist on plant based items, the more companies will start purchasing plant based ingredients to make whatever it is they are making… from paint to plastics to glue to rubber to WHATEVER!!!  Hopefully the more we DON’T eat meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc. the less dead animals there will be to be making all the gross animal derived ingredients, and hopefully there will be a lot more vegetable by-products to make everything we could ever want and need in life.

I’m sure I have rambled enough, and hopefully I worded myself so it makes sense to read…  I’ve been a vegan for 2 years now and I’m never going back for any reason, but like I said, it’s hard to live a normal life on a small budget and have an absolute guarantee that all my plastic devices and containers and whatever else don’t have animal ingredients in them. I’m trying… believe me!! What are your thoughts on this???

-Robyn

vegan bootsHi Robyn,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!   
I can totally hear the frustration in your tone. It makes me wish that I could reach out through cyberspace and give you a hug.

I really think you said it all! Being vegan is not about trying to gain some kind of personal purity. It’s about doing what we can to make the most compassionate choices possible. Doing the things you are already doing – not eating animals and their secretions, not buying products with wool, silk, feathers, or leather, not supporting companies that test on animals… Those are all concrete things that we can do to put our money where our values are and show companies that there is a demand for compassionate products.

Billions of animals are killed every year for meat. To subsidize that meat and make it even cheaper, companies sell the byproducts of the meat industry. That’s the very reason why it can make it difficult to avoid animal byproducts. They’re so omnipresent and cheap that businesses that are trying to lower costs use them.  Like you said, it would be difficult to know whether there is anything animal-based in the sealant in a book or rubber in the soles of shoes. Hopefully as the demand for meat decreases and demand for compassionate products increases, companies will move to plant-based ingredients instead.

I don’t think it helps the animals to spend the time we could be using volunteering at animal sanctuaries, leafleting, writing to congress people, or baking vegan cupcakes for the office party, to instead be researching the ingredients in our computer monitors. Making someone who is already vegan .0000005% more vegan is considerably less useful than using that time to encourage someone who is 100% not vegan to consider the compassion in their choices.

I also don’t think it makes the vegan lifestyle more attractive to someone considering veganism to say, “Hey, go vegan.  It’s really gratifying and easy.  You just have to take up a small side job as Sherlock Holmes, so that you can research all of the components of your welcome mat.”

I know how defeating it can feel to do your best, only to have others minimize your efforts as “not enough.” Luckily, I am not vegan for the naysayers. I am vegan for the animals. I’m vegan because it feels good to live a lifestyle that is in line with my own ethics and values of compassion and non-violence. Whether or not someone thinks I’m “vegan enough” is none of my business. I’m not doing it for them.

Thanks again for the thoughtful question, Robyn.

All the best,
 Cadry

P.S.  Eric Marcus also wrote a post several years ago debunking the meme There Is No Such Thing as a Vegan, which occasionally makes its rounds across the internet.  It may be something you’d like to check out!

Do you have a question you’d like me to cover in this series?  Leave a note in the comments or email me at cadryskitchen@gmail.com.   

44 thoughts on “Friday Mail Day: Thoughts on Being Vegan Enough

  1. As inspired, thoughtful and beautifully written a post as I’ve read, with all the usual compassion and eloquence I’ve come to expect from Cadry’s Kitchen! (No pressure, though. LOL) Thank you, Cadry – and thanks also to Robyn for her thoughtful and impassioned question! Happy World Vegan Day!

  2. This post is so wonderful! Robyn was absolutely correct. You have a true gift for being able to clearly express thoughts about vegan criticisms. I argue that anyone who “attacks” a vegan for not being truly vegan is just in defense-mode. By finding a “loophole”, it validates to the person that being vegan is impossible, so why try.

    I do think we are just doing the very best we can within whatever limitations we have such as income, location, etc. And progress not perfection is the perfect motto. It means that we are in a constant state of evolution and learning which is a good thing!

    • That’s a really interesting point, Ketty, about people criticizing another person’s vegan purity as a way of distraction. If they put veganism to an impossible, unattainable standard, it legitimizes their own inaction.

    • Thanks, Ashley! That’s really nice to hear. I’m already loving the discussions that are happening with this post, and I’m looking forward to more of them!

  3. Great post Cadry. I’ve struggled with not feeling “vegan enough” before as well. As said above, people find loopholes, like telling me that vegetables are alive too. Or making vegan jokes that I’ve heard 100 times before, they’re not funny. Dreena wrote a post a while back that was very similar to yours that I really like as well.

    I love the idea of Mail Day, how fun!

    • Yeah, the argument that vegetables are alive can be really annoying. It’s hard not to opt out of the discussion altogether. It makes me want to say, “You can’t be serious” and end it with that.

      Dreena has a wonderful way with words! I’ll have to go and check out her post. There’s certainly a lot to think about on the subject.

  4. I agree with everything expressed above. This is an ageless “vegan” argument and unfortunately, many of the people who need to read posts like this have no interest in actually hearing it. There are the “extreme” vegans that give the more compassionate vegans a bad rap, but then there are those that don’t understand veganism and rip on it with bacon and meat jokes. You get it from both sides and in the end, compassion is compassion. You do the best you can do–and not just with how you eat.

  5. Great post on both ends. My friends and I often discuss similar issues when fellow vegans pull the not-vegan-enough crap on other vegans. They are the ones who give veganism a bad name, and as you point out, that’s hindering the cause, not helping it!
    And holy hell, where are those boots from? They are fantastic.

  6. Those boots are ridiculously awesome! I heard a guy at World Fest last year arguing with a cruelty-free beauty booth about how the glue on their labels wasn’t vegan. I mean, come on! Why do people feel the need to tear us down, even fellow vegans! It’s silly and petty. Most of us are just trying to live as compassionately as possible and don’t need people always trying to find a flaw in our lifestyle.

    I love this Friday feature too!

    • Thanks, Kylie! The boots are from the Madden Girl line of Steve Madden in the fabric-style. If you’re ever in Pasadena, they also have them for sale at Alternative Outfitters!

      Wow, I feel bad for the people at the cruelty-free beauty booth! In the non-vegan world that we live in, it would be impossible to rule out every infinitesimally small amount of animal products in any material we might come into contact with. We do so much more by staying positive and thinking about what we CAN do than by focusing on things that are outside of our control.

  7. I loved hearing your thoughts on this topic. I’m not sure we’ll ever hear the end of it, but you made some great points. We can only do so much. Unfortunately, we live in a society that uses animals for EVERYTHING. But yes, we can make the most compassionate decisions available to us. I always tell “new vegans” not to go throwing out their belts, shoes, wallets, etc. just because they’ve gone vegan. In fact, I still own things made from leather myself. Of course, when they wear out I’ll be replacing them with animal-friendly products. I suppose we could all go live in naturally constructed huts on a tropical island somewhere (in fact, I’d love that), but it’s best to stay here and spread the word about animal-cruelty and help non-vegans to learn some new choices. And I thank you for doing your part and sharing this email :)

    • Thanks for your insights! It would certainly be an expensive process if a person felt she/he had to replace every belonging after going vegan. Eventually I gave my leather and wool items to charity, but it wasn’t something I did right away.

      I like your tropical island scenario. You’re right, if we want to make veganism an attractive/attainable solution to the problem of animal cruelty, we have to let people know that they can go vegan wherever they live, even if it’s not a tropical island hut. :)

  8. Great idea and great answer/post, Cadry! I’ve been talking about this very topic w/ vegan friends of mine. I know I won’t do everything “right.” I just try to live causing the least amount of harm, knowing perfection is impossible.

  9. What great points you bring up, Cadry! I totally agree with what you’re saying. Robyn is clearly so dedicated to making vegan choices, and doing a great job at it, despite the everyday challenges. She, and anyone following a plant-based diet should feel good about their progress, and the fact that they’re truly making a difference in the world – not worrying about the minutiae beyond our control. Thanks for addressing these important questions and issues!

    • Yes, it’s like that saying, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” If we focus on the things we can’t do, we miss out on seeing all of the change we can affect.

  10. Nice Cadry! Grreat feature as well. I believe in progress not perfection, and acting out of love and compassion first. The other day I was shopping in my closet, I enjoy recycling clothing and the concept of flow. it is getting chillier here and I decided to try on a coat I love but I don’t wear often. It was a score and a beautifully made garment when I purchased it about a decade ago right as I was becoming vegan. It is funky functional and classic. I don’t wear leather silk suede wool etc. and I always check fabrics when purchasing, I checked the label and realized it had a silk lining. My inner vegan critic (although I wouldn’t pass judgement on someone else) said you are going against your conscience why do you have this coat. blah blah. And isn’t that the same critic that can say I just don’t measure up anyway…bottom line is a day at a time I will make the best choices and do the least harm to myself as well. Thanx, Cadry.

  11. Hey Cadry, well said! You are doing it for the animals – right on! I have felt confused myself, am I on a high horse because I tell people I am vegan? Do I offend people and make it seem like an unwelcoming lifestyle? I don’t want to behave that way. I’m not 100% vegan anyway. I too am doing it for the animals, not for me or my health, so I just need to be a positive example and do what I can to help. I still have some leather clothes, should I wear them? So far I am b/c they exist in my wardrobe, I’ll just get pleather when the time comes.I have had a little honey recently, am I a fraud? NO! Just working to be a real helper and fighter for animals in a realistic way. Thank you for the post and the suggestions on what we can do with our time to HELP!

    • I suppose it depends on how it’s said, but I can’t imagine it seeming unwelcoming if you tell people you’re vegan. You’re sharing a part of yourself and who you are. It wouldn’t offend me if someone told me about their life-view. The way we connect with others is by sharing ourselves. It’s the way we make discoveries and find commonalities. I’m glad this post was useful for you!

  12. I’m not even vegetarian, let alone vegan, but it’s clear that people who chide vegans for “not being vegan enough” are feeling threatened one way or another. Either they fear vegans because they’re afraid of being judged for eating/using animal products themselves, or they feel a need to feel superior which they express by being “more vegan than thou” in a sort of vegan fundamentalism. Either way, it’s bull. They’re attempting to shame people in order to feel better about their own choices. I love this blog because it celebrates the deliciousness and diversity of vegan cooking, rather than trying to shame people into becoming vegan. Because it makes me excited about the recipes, I’ve added some of them into my diet.

  13. I think you and Robyn have both made excellent points about choosing compassionate living to the best of our abilities. I was once told that vegan shoes contributed to pollution and global warming because they involved petroleum products. There’s really no end to what people will confront us with to belittle our choice to be vegan.

    • Yes, I’ve heard similar complaints about synthetic materials in shoes. Those people seem to forget that leather is also treated and that the chemicals used are far from natural or environmentally friendly. If leather was truly “natural,” it would decompose.

  14. i agree with everyone, you do have a way with words and putting everything in simple and clear thoughts. Most of the people who get into these kind of attacking arguments are definitely not interested in changing or even listening to anything really. I leave the argument at that and use my time doing something else. I also do think that sometimes they get threatened or subconsciously feel something and go on attack.

    • I’m sure you save your sanity by opting out of these arguments altogether! When people want to argue for the sake of arguing, it’s not something I’m interested in at all. I’m always open for a discussion with people who are genuinely interested or curious, but when people are only trying to be aggressive, there’s no use in continuing with it.

  15. I think Andrea sums it up well with choosing “compassionate living to the best of our abilities”. I buy as much as I can labelled explicitly vegan, and I’m sure as more and more people go vegan, labelling will get better, so we can keep making choices that benefit us, animals, and the environment at large. The only thing that winds me up about levels of veganism are people that say ‘oh, I’m vegan, but I drink milk’!

    • That’s funny, Joey. Yes, there’s a name for vegans who drink cow’s milk… They’re called vegetarians. :) I remember having a similar experience at a restaurant once with a server who told me she was vegan. I asked her for a dinner recommendation, and she suggested the salmon! She said she was a vegan who ate fish! I was so dumbfounded, I didn’t know what to say.

  16. First of all, I love this new series! :) (And your picture for it – is that a London post box?) You articulated the response to a common question vegans get asked so well, Cadry – I’m sure lots of vegans will find your response useful when faced with this kind of questioning from non-vegans!

    • Yes, that’s a London post box! It is just down the street from the London Eye. Being a fan of both London & mail, I had to take a picture of myself with a post box the last time we were there. Thanks for the kind words, Caitlin!

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  18. Thank you so much Cadry for posting my comment as one of your posts. It made me very happy to read your thoughts on the situation as well as the readers comments. It is true that some people are always looking for a loophole to make me feel like my efforts and ethics are pointless and impossible. Slowly but surely we will make it so vegetable byproducts are in abundance and the cheapest way for companies to go… :) Also…I thought it was funny you posted a link to another post with the meme of a cow and the saying “There is no such thing as a vegan” because my brother had texted me that stupid cartoon and that was what ticked me off and made me write to you! (my brother doesn’t criticize my choices in life, but he is smart ass…) Anyways, thanks again for answering. Your comments and the readers comments made me feel better!!!!!!!

  19. I love receiving mails, too, when I came back few days ago, the first thing I did was to peruse my mails, Cadry, what an inspiring response! You should run your own advice column, I’m impressed!

  20. I feel that people who claim that there is no such thing as a true vegan are just looking for a justification of their own actions. It’s like some unspoken loophole for them not to have to think about or change the thing they do. If there was one thing I could make clear to a new vegan, it’s that perfection is not the goal. Everyone’s situation is different and we all just try to do the best we can. I find that as vegans we are constantly learning and growing, we learn from our mistakes and move on.

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