accident, arrest, birthday, birthday cake, celebration, confessions, crimes, handcuffs, hypocrite, ideals, leather, life, mislabeled, misread, perfect, police, possible, pure, shoes, Taco Bell, vegan, vegan police, veganize, Winston Churchill
Everyone who calls themselves vegan and everyone who aspires to be vegan has had a fear of the vegan police.
You know, the people who are going to call us out, maybe in front of everyone, for not being a perfect vegan all the time (as if there were such a thing).
We’re scared those vegan cops will catch us doing or eating something that isn’t purely vegan 100% of the time, and that they’ll read us our rights and toss us in jail.
I want to go out on a limb here and tell you all the reasons the vegan police could arrest me.
But here’s the thing: the vegan police haven’t arrested me. And they’re not going to arrest you.
Stick with me through my “confessions” to see why you don’t have to be perfect to be vegan.
- I have leather shoes from before I went vegan. And sometimes I wear them. It just wasn’t practical financially for me to throw away all my old shoes and replace them with vegan ones (as much as I’d like to go on a vegan shoe shopping spree!). Any time I need new shoes, I buy vegan ones. Do the vegan police show up at my door for this? No!
- Sometimes I’ll have a slice of non-vegan birthday cake. If I’m at a birthday celebration, and the cake is not vegan, I will occasionally eat a small slice. Not every time (I really don’t like the way dairy and eggs taste anymore), but sometimes – particularly if it will rain on the birthday girl or boy’s parade if I don’t, and more importantly, because the cake has already been bought, which was what I was trying to prevent in the first place. My not eating it at this point makes no difference in terms of my goal of reducing animal suffering. If my eating a slice of cake were to cause them to need to buy MORE cake, I would not. So in terms of my goal, it doesn’t hurt anything to eat a small slice (even though it’s definitely not healthy for me). And the birthday parties have never been stormed by the vegan police.
- I go to Taco Bell about once a month. I get vegan food there (Taco Bell’s food is easy to veganize), but it’s hardly something a “perfect” vegan would do. Fast food isn’t healthy or the most ethical of businesses by any means. But it’s only every once in a while and the food I get is in line with my reduce-animal-suffering-as-much-as-I-can goal, so I’m ok with it. No vegan handcuffs.
- I’ve eaten something that’s not vegan by accident on more than one occasion. There have been times when menu items have been mislabeled, or I simply misread ingredients. Did I chastise myself mercilessly? No. There’s no point. I just got right back on the vegan wagon…and no paddy wagon showed up!
If I’ve done all these things and the vegan police haven’t arrested me, they’re not coming after you.
Truly, our fear of the vegan police is our fear of being called a hypocrite.
We don’t want to have inconsistencies in our ideals and what we do, and we certainly don’t want people to see those inconsistencies if and when they do happen.
Yet I’ve just put myself out there.
I’m risking being called a hypocrite (maybe in the comments right below this post!).
I’m risking arrest from the vegan police by admitting these “crimes” to the world – but I think it’s worth it to show you that being vegan isn’t about striving for perfection; it’s about striving for your ideals.
To me, the most important thing is that we have these ideals – of animal rights, of health, and of taking care of our planet – and that WE’RE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT THEM, even at the risk of not being perfect.
Even at the risk of being called a hypocrite.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: You have critics? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something in your life. (Click here for the original quote.)
It’s just not possible to be perfect. But I’m not going to let that stop me from doing the best I can.
Remind yourself that you are brave just for striving for your ideals. It’s better to try and not be perfect than not to try at all.
To clarify, I’m not saying we should eat a giant steak every night for dinner and say “I’m vegan but not perfect” – I’m saying to try our best and be ok with the inevitable imperfections.
So go ahead, if you feel so inclined. Try!
To Handcuff-Free Hands and a Better World!
Sarah, Thanks for sharing. It’s so honest and powerful. I love the notion of striving for ideals, not perfectionism. I feel lighter and more free just from reading this.
Amy Lauren said:
I agree, you don’t have to answer to anyone for how you eat, and I think it’s important to realize despite any dietary issues (minus allergies like gluten that could be dangerous), you have to live your life. You should eat non-vegan birthday cake- if you’re at a party, just have a tiny slice and go for it. It’s only maybe a time or two a year, and it beats sitting there at the party with your arms crossed saying “well, I’m vegan, I can’t eat this”, and making people think “blah, there’s that crazy vegan girl who won’t eat cake with us!”.
And the Taco Bell thing or accidentally eating something- things happen. Sometimes if you’re with others or travelling, that’s the options you have, and you eat the best you can and live with it. I’m a vegetarian so dairy’s not a problem, but yeah I’ve had to eat at Wendy’s before and order salad minus meat. I’ve done the same at McDs.
Either way, I think us avoiding meat- whether it’s for a few meals a week, or all the time, is a good thing. At least we do it as the norm not the exception.
Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral said:
LOVE this post! I have experienced the same fear of hypocrisy. It’s one of the main reasons I chose a vegan lifestyle. I tend to be more anxious around non-vegans than vegans because I feel like vegans understand this concept of accidental consumption. I always feel like I’m being scrutinized more closely by non-vegans to see how I’ll handle a situation. Thanks for thinking and blogging this, and I’m right there with ya, Sister!
Thank you, Ben! I’m so glad it resonated with you.
Thanks for your input, Amy! It’s all about doing the best we can do!
Kelly @ Vegan Iowan said:
I love this post! More often than not the “Vegan Police” are the ones leaving “anonymous” blog comments – I wish they’d come right out with it!
Being a vegan in a complex food world can be challenging, and innocent mistakes happen (for example, WHY is not all hummus vegan? Why would I think to look for animal products in a mixture of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and spices?).
I, like you, am working on building a vegan wardrobe with a one-in, one-out policy. Every time I buy something new and vegan, I donate something non-vegan. I wish I could just eliminate all my wool sweaters, but I’d be pretty uncovered in an Iowa winter. And sometimes I feel like that ship has been sailed/sheep has been shorn, etc., so like the birthday cake, the purchase has unfortunately already been made.
One thing that’s saved me on multiple occasions is when appropriate, bringing my own food to family gatherings, be it a soup, side dish, or dessert to share. I just eat what I brought (and whatever else may happen to be vegan) and am able to resist settling for something that contains dairy or eggs (and my stomach is much happier for it!).
Kudos to you for speaking out on striving for our very best!
Thanks for your comments, Kelly! I feel ya on the hummus – I’ve been duped by non-vegan hummus too! Great tips about bringing vegan food with you to family gatherings or parties. I checked out your blog and it’s great! Keep up the good work!
Thanks for sharing, Kelsey! It’s nice to not be alone! Glad it resonated with you.
I love this post! Where I live in the southern suburbs there aren’t too many vegans to “police” me, but I have fallen prey to chastising myself on several occasions. I found that, in the beginning, for me to successfully transition to being vegan, I had to “veganize” fast foods so that I could still eat with my family. This includes baked potatoes at Wendy’s, French fries, bean burritos at taco bell, etc. Now I have become a pro at packing lunches for work and making quick soups and sandwiches. Nice to find this blog!
That’s awesome, Dorian! Thanks for sharing. Yeah, most of the times, we are our own worst critics. Sounds like you’ve made great strides though. Keep up the awesome work!
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Exactly! For me, I go downhill skiing, so I had to buy ski socks for that, but, sadly all ski socks (except Polartec which cost $60) are made of Marino wool. So, instead I bought “teko” socks which treat the sheep as ethnically as possible (but sadly don’t vaccinate the sheep), so the sheep aren’t mulesed. And I do believe people should take medicine and vaccines (which are animal tested) due the fact that will be ethical for humanity (and even animals!) then not treating diaseases that can be preventable, and resulting in even more severe problems.
Thank you for your comment, Margarita! How fun that you do downhill skiing! Cheering on each other’s good choices and not acting as the vegan police is so important, I think.
Thank you. I was just in a Taco Bell drive-thru and a laughing girl in the car behind me pointed at my vegan bumper sticker, took a photo, and then (I’m pretty certain) posted it online. So the vegan police are out there. It’s hard. I try to tell myself that we don’t live in a perfect world and that all I can do is try to minimize the harm (I intended to buy bean burritos, no cheese – and I don’t visit Taco Bell frequently) but it’s hard knowing that there are people out there, vegans and non-vegans alike, who are so quick to point fingers and call you a hypocrite. It’s nice to know that there are other vegans out there with the same mindset as me.
Thanks for your comment! That is wonderful that you’re vegan and that you have a vegan bumper sticker. It always makes my day when I see one of those! You’re right that there are people out there who ridicule and try to find fault, but we’re all human and we all make mistakes. But vegans like you are out there trying to reduce suffering as much as possible by making compassionate choices and that is AWESOME! 🙂 Keep up the great work, Shannon!