I’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.)
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???
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.