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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Vegan Enough?

Is it enough to simply call yourself a vegan? Can others just not be vegan enough?

We don't eat meat, fish, egg, or dairy because factory farming is so cruel to the animals and to the earth. But what about honey -- do we care about the plight of the bees? And then there's white sugar, which doesn't contain animal products, but about 50% of the time we know that bone char was used to process it. And then, what about products that may have been processed in a plant that uses cow milk, that may have "traces of milk"? Do we shun these items too? Or how about the mono- and diglycerides? And then organic vs inorganic.

For full disclosure, I'll tell you what I do: I do not consume egg or dairy. Every so often, I'll eat something with honey in it, though I try to avoid it. I do have some regular sugar in my house, though I usually purchase organic sugar, and I regularly purchase and eat food with white sugar. And the "traces of milk" really doesn't bother me. I purchase organic produce when it is reasonably priced and available. My reason for being vegan is my abhorrence of factory farming -- I try not to get too caught up in the minutia, or I'll make myself crazy and the message is lost.

Also, I do not wear leather. This is a real pain because I wear a size 12 shoe, preferably in a narrow, and places like Mooshoes don't carry a lot of size 12s. I certainly don't wear fur (though when I was 10 I did own an alpaca fur jacket, but I had no idea back then). I don't buy merino wool any more since being educated by PETA's campaign of the cruelty of that industry. However, there are a few wool and silk items in my closet, but I now try to avoid buying these things.

When I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I used to absolutely freak out if I found out that there was chicken broth or gelatin in something that I ate. Now as a vegan, I realize how ubiquitous animal products are, and I do my best to avoid them. If I slip and find out something I ate wasn't totally vegan, I remind myself that I do more than most to eat a cruelty-free diet and I don't do it again.

My brother is a lacto-ovo and has been one since age 10 (he's now 27). He lives in LA and has the luxury of being able to eat in only (or mostly) vegetarian restaurants and will not go anywhere that serves veal or lobster. I wish I lived somewhere where I could do that.

Am I a real vegan? I'm not perfect, but I do my best. I commend anyone who realizes the cruelty of factory farming and the unnecessity of animal products in a human diet. Anyone who avoids beef, or chicken, or whatever -- more power to them, they're doing better than most.

So whatever you do, for the farm animals, for your health, and for the planet, keep doing it, and resolve to do more.


Danielle said...

It's absolutely impossible to be a perfect vegan. The idea is to reduce as much as possible animal exploitation and suffering. I haven't always been good about making sure there's no egg or dairy in the bread at restaurants, but I'm working on that. I buy products made on shared machinery. I hope that if I buy enough vegan products from companies that use both, maybe they'll be able to have dedicated dairy-free machinery. For the most part I don't sweat the screwy ingredients that one needs a chemistry degree to deciper; I worry about the bee products, the gelatin, the carmine, the obvious products of suffering and hope that if more people become veg*an, there will be fewer products containing ingredients of animal exploitation in them. I do what I can and don't beat myself up if I accidentally consume something that is not vegan.

The few times I've consumed honey since going vegan, I've done so when I was ill. One time, when I was laid out by a migraine, my boyfriend got me ginger ale that had honey in it (he's ovo-lacto and not as strict at label-reading). I drank that because it was better, in my view, than getting something with high fructose corn syrup. And because, well, I needed something to ease the nausea.

stella said...

I can't imagine being vegan, but was vegetarian for a long time, and now as a returned to animal products carnivore I always endeavour to buy products that have ethical sources. I never buy meat or fish from supermarkets for e.g. and I won't buy fish species that are on the endangered lists. I love food. I love meat. Ironically, the meat & fish I eat now is probably far better than most people get to eat because I'm picky about where it's come from. In fact, I try and avoid supermarkets at all costs and use local markets & stores for most produce. I hope that I can help to oppose factory farming, and other cruel and barbarous practices by making sensible shopping and sourcing choices.

(please still be my blog pal, doc, please...)

lonna said...

I agree that it's impossible to be the perfect vegan. I try to do whatever I can for me in order to reduce suffering. I don't eat honey, but I never really did before I went vegan anyway. I'm also torn on the preservatives like mono- and diglycerides because you get such mixed messages about their sources. I avoid all of the definitely and probably not vegan ingredients.

I also don't have any leather, silk, or wool, but when I first went vegan 9 years ago, I decided then that I would use what I had, but I wouldn't buy any more. Then I hit a point where I realized that I wasn't using the leather shoes that I had anyway because eventually I just couldn't bring myself to use them. So I donated them all to charity.

I also buy things that are not made on strictly vegan machinery. The way I see it if a company is honest enough to admit (although it's probably a liability issue for allergic reactions) that there might be a trace of something in there that at least they are trying and are probably not sneaking nonvegan ingredients into the product.

mark said...

Thanks for writing about this. I've been a lacto-ovo for five years and flirt with veganism (and read blogs about it often...). I've never been tempted to go back to eating meat (although I'm often tempted by the meat itself -- I would love to get to the point where it grosses me out, but I don't expect I will), but sometimes I wonder whether if I still eat eggs and dairy it makes any difference that I've changed my diet (although I've certainly cut down on these things considerably). Anyway, it's an interesting topic.

Isil S. said...

I have been vegan for about 2 years. I rarely consumed honey, but I stopped that,too. I also avoid every kind of rafinated food or food with preservatives or artificial flavours.
I try to be my best but sometimes when you're invited to someone's house, if the food contains dairy products I rarely do eat. You know I'm sick of speaking all about the veganism issue with non-vegan or non-veg. people.
Otherwise we never buy home dairy or egg.
As for other products like shoes etc, it's almost impossible to find vegan shoes. There are so few vegans living here, so there aren't any vegan products yet. I have a leather jacket from old days of course,and I would never ever buy another one.

Michelle said...

i agree, you can never be 100% vegan. i was vegetarian for 11 years, now i'm a brand new vegan for about 3 weeks now.. so, i'm starting off slow, getting rid of all milk/eggs in my diet. i also don't use honey.. never have.. all agave nectar and organic maple syrup here :) i also don't wear leather or silk or wool.

however, i don't special order all vegan shoes yet (like the cool ones from Mooshoes), because shipping to canada can be very expensive. but i might someday.

i also don't care if there are 'traces of milk' on the machinery.. same reasons already listed.

i will do my best to avoid animal products, but if i happen to consume some by accident, i won't beat myself up (although i might barf if i eat meat YUCK!)

Starla said...

I've been a vegan for 9 years now and it wasn't all that hard moving from being vegetarian to vegan. My experience has been that now cow's milk, cheese and eggs just gross me out. When you think about it, we are the only species that drinks another species milk. The taste is also offensive if I happen to get some by mistake, so a person's taste will adapt to whatever you decide to eat. I feel much better - none of that icky animal product in my body. I, too, buy products made on shared machinery. Some companies can't afford to have two sets of machines so I want to support the fact that they are making animal-free products.