Throughout my vegan journey, I’ve continuously sought out support from others either more experienced than me or who are at a similar place in comparison- much like I do with any lifestyle change I decide to make, new project or activity I want to try. I’m a strong believer in learning from those who have gone before you, determining the most appropriate and realistic way to apply things you learn to your own life, and not falling victim to pigeonholes.
One way I’ve looked for support is through Facebook groups – anything from groups for new vegans to groups for vegan parents raising kids and groups specifically for sharing vegan recipes.
These have been both amazing and horrible, some communities much better than others. Perhaps you can relate to this through some of your own experiences with these types of groups, joined in attempt to find your people.
Last year, I had the realization that some vegan parenting groups could actually be dangerous to public health, in a time where we get the majority of our information from the Internet and word of mouth, and form opinions very quickly… which we share very quickly. And the cycle continues.
More recently, I’m finding that the term “mommy shaming” can also be applied to the vegan community – but of course, the appropriate term would then be “vegan shaming”. Which really makes no sense to me at all reading that.
Questions come up in my current groups every day from new members putting themselves out there, asking if they are “vegan enough” or “still vegan” after using honey or eating something that they didn’t realize contained whey protein beforehand.
Wait. Is there an official vegan rulebook that I’m missing, that determines whether or not your efforts to do good things are indeed good enough?
Many of these groups appear to have been created specifically to help people just starting their vegan journey, and who may not necessarily be 100% plant-based yet, which I think is great. But ironically, it’s not uncommon to see these individuals introduce themselves and mention something similar to the above, and be reprimanded by other members for not ditching the animal products in their entirety or not taking the appropriate steps to make sure something was vegan before they ate it.
How dare you not know everything before you know everything.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the original posters feel put off by this and decide that veganism is not for them after all, simply due to that one community response.
The other day, the page administrator of one group posted a poorly-written article that angrily differentiated between the terms “vegan” and “plant-based”, telling community members that they were either vegan or not.
While I agree that the technically there are differences between the two often-interchanged terms (one being moreso a dietary style and one being a philosophy of eating and living), I disagree that there is any relevance in arguing over semantics. People decide to eat more plants and less animal products for a variety of reasons and, when it comes down to it, any reason becomes a positive one, because the outcome is the same:
-Less environmental destruction
-Fewer animals killed
-Lowered risk for many preventable lifestyle-related chronic diseases
-Improved public health
To name a few.
The Vegan Society defines “vegan” as ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.’ But, Wikipedia defines a “vegan” as someone who refrains from eating animal products, and then goes into the many types of veganism (environmental vegan, ethical vegan, dietary vegan). The Eat by Chloe blog examines the differences between plant-based eating and veganism here.
But. Well. Who the &@*% cares?!**
Vegans have enough of a challenge defending their choices to omnivores. Why argue amongst each other?
**I realize that I may not hold the popular opinion among vegans.
In my mind, going plant-based or vegan can (and should) look different for everyone, and any step toward a life less centered around eating/using animals, and replacing them with plants, is a positive one. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, plant-based, a Meatless Monday warrior, an amateur vegan chef on the weekend, or you dress up as a radish sometimes and drink hemp milk instead of dairy – I dig it.
Do I preach well-intentioned veganism and advocate for a vegan world? Yes (and I’m probably guilty of interchanging the terminologies). But, as a once-omnivore, I know that I can relate to where people are as they just begin navigating their journey. Vegans are a passionate bunch; we often get so emotional about the information that we know, and the behaviors we live and breathe, that we forget that most of us we were once in very different shoes.
So what’s my point here?
Going vegan doesn’t mean that you fall into a box of rules with all the other vegans.
It means you’re working toward something that is important to you, and shaping your life to be more reflective of the personal core values you have discovered. You are evolving.
We are all evolving.
As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Don’t ever stop learning, or practicing your craft, whether it’s plant-based cooking, creating more sustainable and cruelty-free recipes, volunteering at an animal rescue or farm sanctuary, donating money to environmental protection organizations, participating in community events to raise awareness about veganism and chronic disease prevention, reading books and watching documentaries about the connection between our food system and the planet, or talking to others that seek your guidance and example.
Don’t ever pigeonhole yourself, let someone else label or put you in a certain type of box, or make you feel ashamed for where you are in your plant-based journey.
Everyone has a story and yours is unique to you, as it should be. What’s yours?
We’re all on the same team.