Vegans Say What? Defining Vegan

The little vegan is out-of-town which means Hubby and I have had the opportunity for some extra date nights. As I was grabbing a jacket to wear last night I saw a jacket that I have owned for twenty years. It was vintage when I bought it and at one point in my life I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. I no longer wear it because it is leather but for some reason I haven’t given it up yet which got me thinking about why.

This morning as I was checking out Facebook I came across a link to an article called Am I Vegan? Clearly defining who is vegan and who is not vegan  on The Vegan Truth. Reading this article reminded me of the feelings I had listening to a sermon at church as a child being reminded of all the things I was doing right but also the things I needed to change or could do better. I wasn’t offended by any of the things mentioned. Much of the article let me pat myself on the back realizing how far I have come on my personal vegan journey but on the other hand it reminded me of why it is often still difficult for me to embrace the term vegan.

Why would I not embrace the label Vegan? Have I gone out and eaten non vegan things? No, don’t worry, I hesitate because I have this fear that someone more vegan than me will analyze me and call me out for still owning my leather jacket despite the fact that I don’t wear it, or for not punishing my child when she knowingly ate a piece of candy with gelatin in it. The sad part is that I think we as vegans are all responsible for this behavior. I know I am guilty of seeing someone who is vegan buying something that I consider to be clearly non-vegan and wondering why they would do that or feeling disappointed.

After reading the above mentioned article I also read the comments which were pretty harsh and made it clear that people don’t want Veganism defined for them. I feel that a lot of questions answered in the article are things that people new to Veganism often wonder and that it is probably a good resource. I also feel that for language to work, words need to be clearly defined. If every word we used could be loosely interpreted by the user our communication would be flawed. Also, I have learned over the years in various managerial positions that the majority of people need clearly defined expectations in order to accomplish anything. It is no wonder that so many people on the outside of the community looking in are confused about Vegans. Inside the community it seems that many are confused and have different interpretations.  Many have started down this path for their passion and love for all living things and due to this it is hard to be harsh or judgmental for the fear of hurting or alienating someone.

With that said, I have looked at multiple dictionary definitions which all state the same thing: vegan – a vegetarian who omits all animal products from the diet. There is no mention of wearing or using animal products or bi-products or the harming of animals which I believe we can all agree is a huge part of being vegan. Vegan needs to be defined better than this.

When becoming Vegan what resources did you use? Who defined Vegan for you? When people come to you trying to go down this path what advice do you give? As Vegans who want to convert is there an all-knowing Vegan book that can be given out? Do you have a link to a place that may be helpful? Please share your thoughts.

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4 Responses to Vegans Say What? Defining Vegan

  1. Butterflies says:

    Hi there. I am the author of above mentioned article. The comments, by the way, got a lot better after the first few, I just wanted to mention.

    Here is a link that is the results of a facebook survey. 850 vegans, many prominent vegan activists, voted and came up with this definition of veganism: http://thevegantruth.blogspot.com/search/label/Definition%20of%20Veganism

    Hope that helps. Bye for now.
    Butterflies

  2. chelsea says:

    I was inspired to become vegan by a friend who is a vegan baker. She answered all of my questions from her point of view with patience and humor. My mother in law sent me books, primarily Becoming Vegan by Davis and Melina, which I go back to constantly. I am a baby vegan myself. Not even a year old. I still have a pair of hand me down leather boots that I wear in the winter and have yet to get rid of my father’s goose down coat. I sort of think of veganism along the line of many religions. Not all Christians, for example, believe the same way. Different sects have different morals. Some vegans seem okay with wearing second hand leather or eating honey. I tend to think of veganism as a deeply personal issue for myself. I am an environmentalist as well. Sometimes I have difficulty seeing how my second hand leather boots are worse than my man made material (which causes much pollutants) ballet flats. Sometimes I am torn, which is the nature of being human, I think. I did not become a vegan to fit into a group or to play by someone else’s rules.

    • Hi Chelsea:)
      Thanks for responding! I love getting different perspectives so people that are attempting to jump into veganism or those that are struggling no that there isn’t an exact mold. Also to remind people that even if they mess up according to their own set of standards that they should continue to try!
      Steffi

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