Thursday, 14 April 2011 00:00

VegNews, Portman, Go Daddy, Oliver...Is There Such Thing as a Perfect Vegan?

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April 2011 was intense as far as vegan controversy goes:

That's a lot of negativity for a group of people who aim to be compassionate, and it makes me feel very sad. Instead of taking a step towards a kinder world, it feels like we're taking a step back because of anger and frustration.
We could spend our time picking people apart, criticizing them for not doing this or doing that, but is that really worth our energy? Sure, I believe that we should speak out when someone does something that goes against general vegan "code" and I absolutely find it disappointing, but I also believe we should kindly ask them to change and give them a chance to do so before turning our backs on them. Yes, I absolutely value writers like QuarryGirl who are vocal about people and businesses who mislead or let down the vegan community (somebody has to say it!). But where do we draw the line when it comes to criticism?

Or should we be drawing lines at all? I happen to like crossing lines because I believe in being open and loving to all. Call me crazy, but I'd even be willing to give Bob Parsons of Go Daddy a chance if he apologized, vowed to stop killing animals, and did something in an attempt to make up for it. Vegans work so hard to gain acceptance in society and we don't like being picked on just because we choose not to eat or use animal products. Yet, some vegans refuse to accept others because they have different lifestyles. We might as well live on different planets in that case and lose out on people who want to learn from us, who might be open to changing.

It's very easy to point fingers, but if each of us were under the microscope I'm sure people could find our vegan flaws. Take me for example: I ate animal products for most of my life. I went from the Standard American Diet to a very healthy plant based diet because a vegan opened my eyes to it with kindness and no judgement. After I went vegan it took me a while to give up leather, and there have been multiple times when I have unknowingly consumed or used animal products. I have many friends and loved ones who eat and use animal products, but I still learn things from them and vice versa. I don't expect or pressure them to change - I share my opinion when it's asked for and always keep an open mind about their actions. Does any of this make me any less vegan? Am I a traitor to the vegan community, or enabling animal abuse?

It's also very hard to be a pure vegan when animal products are hidden all over the place. Take a look at this Staggering List Of Products Made From Cattle. Many amazing vegan companies are owned by bigger non-vegan companies. If you buy stock your money may be going towards non-vegan corporations. And when we shop in non-vegan stores like Whole Foods, some of our money is going towards the sale of meat and dairy. It seems almost impossible to escape animal products! This is absolutely not an excuse to throw up our hands and let non-vegan things slide, but I encourage us all to have some perspective. None of us are perfect and hopefully everyone is doing the best that they can.

I am confident after knowing people from VegNews that they felt very conflicted when using non-vegan photos and made the decision after exhausting all other options - I am not in the magazine business and have no idea what is involved. How can anyone judge Natalie Portman without really knowing about her lifestyle or health, especially when she has brought celebrity attention to veganism? Some may think people like Kathy Freston and Tal Ronnen are sell-outs and superficial, but why does that matter when they are bringing so much mass awareness to how fun and delicious vegan food is? Why should vegans turn their backs on people like Jamie Oliver when he's trying to teach the world to be healthier and eat less processed foods? Is a vegan truly enabling abuse if they choose not to judge or lecture non-vegans about their choices? I'm not making excuses for them, but can we give them a little credit? In a perfect world no one would be harmed - we would all be kind to each other and animals and we'd be incredibly healthy - I work towards that dream every day, but I don't believe in ostracizing anyone because they think differently than I do.

In the end, we are each entitled to our opinions and I am open to it all (including your thoughts on this article, supportive or in opposition). Our diversity as people is what makes us strong, especially in the vegan community. Whether you're a hard or soft-core vegan, vegan for health, vegan for the environment, an animal-rights vegan, vocal or quiet about your beliefs, or "veganish" like Oprah - as long as you feel that you are doing the best you can and making a difference in the world, what's the benefit in criticizing you for your flaws or mistakes? Why don't we find something more positive to do with our energy? Maybe if we're all a little more accepting we'll see the changes we want happen faster.

Phew - that was exhausting to write! I hope you get where I'm coming from - I could labor over this for much longer but I think I got it all out...

Read 2622 times Last modified on Sunday, 14 April 2013 21:38