Am I vegan enough? The label conundrum.

I watched an episode of Odd Man Out today on YouTube. It’s my very first one of the series and admittedly, it’s got me thinking. I’ve identified myself as vegan for 2 years now and I never really thought of myself as anything but, until I read the vegan cookbook my teen gave me for my birthday this year. In the book, it defines “vegan” as someone who eats a plant-based diet and use only cruelty/animal-free products. As I read this, I became aware that by the author’s definition, I am, after all, not vegan but rather someone on a plant-based diet. This got me feeling invalidated because it’s so much effort to refrain from eating animal products when you’ve been on a predominantly meat diet for 4 decades. Does the rest of the vegan community define “vegan” as such? Admittedly, I do not specifically always choose cruelty-free products every day, though I know I should. Can I still consider myself vegan?

Today, while I watched the Odd Man Out Season 1, Episode 3 video and the participants questioned each other to identify which of the group is the vegan fraud, I was reminded again of what I read in the cookbook. The definition of “vegan” was again defined as a person that does not use any animal products whatsoever in food or any products by most of the participants. Once again, I feel doubt creeping in. Am I vegan enough?

Our society has a need to identify or classify differences.

In terms of food diet, there several types: carnivore: eat only animal products; paleotarian: eat animal products, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthy fat; vegetarians: no meat, eats plant-based food, can eat eggs and milk; fruitarian:no meat products, eats predominantly fruits, can eat nuts/seeds;  pescatarians: eats a plant-based diet with addition of seafood meat, can still eat eggs/milk; and vegan: plant-based diet. I am sure there are other classifications and sub classifications available.

So, am I vegan or not?

Because I am on a plant-based diet, by food definition, I am “Vegan”; however, by other definition variation, because I do not use only cruelty/animal-free products – I still use white granulated sugar and pre-vegan purchased leather purses – I am not considered vegan by certain stricter standards.

There are 5 vegan subcategories

Whatever the reason a person became vegan – ethics, health, and/or environment – there are subcategories to veganism to further create an exclusive world for the perfectly righteous. Some are quick to correct and exclude anyone not belonging, as I have seen in many discussion boards. It’s so very tiring!

Here’s an acceptable one I found posted online on Reddit.

  • Dietary Vegan = a person that does not eat meat, dairy, or eggs.
  • Ethical Vegan = has the same diet as a dietary vegan, but very cautious of animal-based products.
  • Green Vegan = not only looks for their diet, but also for the environment, avoiding products such as palm oil – which is a big contributor to deforestation and habitat destruction
  • Raw Vegan = follows a plant-based diet and does not eat food cooked above 105 degrees Fahreinheit.
  • Plant-based Vegan = do not eat processed food and eat only whole food.

Based on this definition, I fall under Dietary Vegan, currently. I am working on becoming more between a combination of  Ethical and Green Vegan. I’m a work in progress.

Should others’ definition matter?

Certainly, there are others that are strict in their definition and will call others out, just as the video I watched today. Is my conscious effort to continue on a plant-based diet any less of an impact in reducing my share of carbon footprint or in decreasing the demand for meat?  I must admit, I became vegan for health reasons. Regardless, what my reasons are, helping the animals and environment is a direct result of my choice, despite it not being my initial purpose.

Yes, I’d like to someday be able to use only cruelty/plant-based products. Is it affordable for me to do so now? Is it easily accessible for me now? The answer is no. Eventually, it will be. But every steps towards reduction of carbon footprint is help in the right direction, if you ask me. That should be supported. I don’t care if you are vegan only one day of the 7 days of the whole week. That one day of effort is help, maybe even open you up to trying it more days of the week.

What do vegans look like?

The video was effective in showing that there are different perspectives and images to what vegans are. It’s evident that each of the participants already had a preconceived notion of what vegans should look like: one had makeup on, one had suede shoes. Both participants were incorrectly booted out for not being vegan enough on the outside.

Vegan journeys come in different levels of achievement and shouldn’t be judge for the lack of knowledge or passion because one may appear more passionate than some. Some people are more vocal, more visually passionate, yes. Others fight simpler, quieter. It doesn’t mean their contributions are any less important.

People are more likely to change when the support is there.

Final Word

The bottom line is, you do you! If other’s don’t think you are enough but you certainly believe in your efforts, just go on right ahead with what you doing: plant-based, vegan, no label, you go on right ahead with what you are most comfortable going with because at the end of the day, it’s just you and only you that will determine your worth and happiness.

I don’t really hang around a lot of vegans, coincidentally, though there are a few in my family that are. I will admit that it’s easier when every one around me eats a plant-based diet. I don’t mind if others don’t and I’m pretty chill when there’s nothing vegan-friendly on the get-together buffet table.

I spent the majority of my life eating meat. I absolutely understand how hard it is to give up meat. Who am I to judge anyone’s personal efforts?!

I do try to make sure I bring something I can eat at get-togethers, and in doing so, I open others to the possibilities of a more plant-based diet.

Influencing people to go on a plant-based diet by introducing delicious food, it opens people’s eyes to the possibilities and helps increase the demand for alternative options in the market.

I made the choice later on in life, others are free to do the same, or not. If being around vegan means I get judge for not being enough, do I really want to be in that circle? This category exclusion happening in many discussion boards invalidates other’s efforts. It deters others from entering the vegan world. It can be all too overwhelming without support. What do you think?

Find the video here if you are interested in watching it.

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Until next time.

Mabuhay!

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