Joan and Cliff are a couple in their late fifties/early sixties that were introduced to me last spring when a coworker told them about my blog. They were interested in veganism because their daughter, Beth, had recently made the switch from being a vegetarian to vegan and was returning home for an extended visit during the summer. Joan told me that Beth had gone vegetarian her first year in college and now after learning to make vegetarian meals for her, she wanted to be able to cook vegan. What an awesome mom, right?
When Beth came to town I had the opportunity to meet her and she thanked me for helping with her parent’s education on veganism. She told me it was awesome to come home to a stocked kitchen and the fact that they knew about nutritional yeast, as well as where they could go out to eat was far more than she could have anticipated.
This visit had a few other twist which ultimately brought their family closer together. Days after returning home, Cliff suffered a minor heart attack, which lead Beth to extending her stay. Beth had some big news to share, but wanted to make sure her dad was back on his feet before doing so. Beth was coming out to her parents and telling them that she had been dating the same woman for the past three years. She was hoping to bring her home for the holidays. Joan and Cliff later told me that the vegan thing was more of a shock than Beth being gay, but Beth had felt the need to ease them into it.
Before Beth left, she had her parents watch Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, which lead them to eating a plant-based diet. It was fun getting to hear about their new adventures eating out. Though Joan would act stressed, Cliff said she seemed to really enjoy learning to cook all over again, and would gleam with each new creation, saying “Can you believe it’s vegan?”
Beth and her girlfriend were coming to celebrate Christmas and I helped Joan put together her menu. She was most excited about making her first vegan cheesecake, because that was their families traditional dessert. I couldn’t wait to hear about their extra special Christmas.
I saw Joan a couple of days ago and finally had the opportunity to ask her how the Christmas visit went. She became flush and told me it could have gone better. She said until Christmas day, everything was great and they adored Beth’s girlfriend. Then things took a turn.
To start with, Beth’s favorite candy has always been Jelly Belly’s, so as was the norm , there was a box waiting for in her stocking on Christmas morning. Beth’s girlfriend quickly had to announce that they weren’t vegan because they had confectioner’s glaze. She then took the package from Beth and dumped them into the trash.
Joan told me that the remainder of day was a little tense between Beth and her girlfriend. They got through dinner with rave reviews and then it was time to serve cheesecake. As they have done every other year, great grandma’s fine china was pulled out to serve Christmas dessert on. The cheesecake was a success. Beth then began to tell her girlfriend about the china they were eating on and how whenever she had a bad day growing up her mom would pull the plates out, so they could have dessert on them, even if it was just a few cookies. Magically, the plates would make everything better.
Beth’s girlfriend then picked up the plate to admire the detail. She flipped it over to look at the back, to find that the stamp said “bone china.” She stood up and told Joan that she couldn’t believe she had the nerve to serve her on plates made of bones. The girlfriend then stormed out of the house, and called a couple of hours later to break up with Beth over the phone.
Joan said that Beth later admitted that things had been bad for awhile and this was just the girlfriends excuse to escape. Beth has confessed to her mom and dad that she is happier now than she has been in a long time and will be moving home after she completes her masters in the spring. They are all still vegan and Beth sends an email a week about animal rights issues, which is forcing Joan and Cliff to see things they never realized were going on. They also decided collectively, that they would continue to eat on the china. In fact, they ate cheesecake on the magical plates the morning after Christmas, to help Beth’s wounds from her harsh break up heal.
The reason I felt the need to share this story with you is because I never thought about things like non-vegan heirlooms until Joan shared this with me. In my storage unit I have two sets of fine china, one from my grandma, that I grew up eating holiday dinners on, and one that was my great grandparent’s wedding china. I am willing to bet that one is made of bones.
If they are in fact bone china, is it wrong for me to keep them? Will other vegans look down on me and question my ethics or my commitment to the cause? Do you have any heirlooms that mean something to you because of the memories or the person that left them to you, that don’t really fit your vegan lifestyle? How would you react if someone served you on bone china? I would love to hear what you have to say about it all.
By the way, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to all of you that have taken the time to vote for me on the Circle of Mom’s contest. I know many of you have voted more than once and have shared with your friends. These acts of kindness have been greatly appreciated. I know at the end of the day it seems rather silly, but I put a lot of time into this blog, and it has meant the world to me to know that I have touch some enough to make an extra effort on my behalf. It was exciting to have ridden in the first place spot for a bit, and with only two days left, I believe my spot in the top 25 is secured, which is all I was really hoping for! XO Steffi
I can’t believe that person would act like that. Thus the perpetual stereotypes of harsh, socially inept vegan jerks continue… Denying that one’s familial or one’s personal past (and treasured traditions) have non-vegan attachment is silly, and I think that throwing those things out for the sake of “purity” is even silier. From my limited knowledge bone china is very expensive and thus not very common. If someone went to the trouble to make me a vegan meal and welcome me into their home I would eat it out of their hand if they asked me to. I hope Beth found someone more worthy of her seemingly pretty amazing family. I have a pair of Doc Martens that traveled around with my godmother and the Pogues in the late ’80’s. They are the only leather I own and I’ll be darned if I’m going to give them up.
The Doc Martens sound awesome!
I went vegan last summer. I have leather shoes and a down comforter from before I was vegan. I wouldn’t buy them now but I think nothing is gained by tossing them now. I am going to use them until they wear out and then replace with vegan items. That being said, those things are not heirlooms. But in the same vein, is anything gained by tossing out grandma’s china? I don’t really think so. I wouldn’t be offended if I was served on bone china. Nice post 🙂
Yeah, when I went vegan there was no way I could afford to replace everything. My sister received quite a collection of shoes. Glad you liked the post.
I’ve been thinking about this lately. We have two leather sofas and two leather chairs which I would (obviously) not buy now. We bought them over ten years ago, when I was omnivorous, with money left buy my great aunt, then grandmother, then grandfather. They’ve seen ten years service, including many memories of our babies, and they’re still very serviceable, if in no state to pass on or sell to anyone else. I can’t imagine that anything concretely positive would come from getting rid of them- I couldn’t give them to someone and so stop them buying new leather for example. I would be sad to lose the memories and I can’t afford to replace them…. But at the same time it feels a bit weird to have a living room full of leather! Maybe I’m a bad vegan 🙂
Not a bad vegan. It is easy if you go vegan with limited processions to rid yourself of all animal products at once, but when you have a houseful and aren’t independently wealthy it’s not always possible.
gosh, that girlfriend doesnt sound like a nice person. i agree with the discussion on your fb page. no use filling up the landfill and using more resources. we have a bunch of things that are slowly getting replaced by vegan options when they live out their life. some inexpensive stuff is easy to replace. most of my shoe collection was given out to my friends, but i cant give them our 7 year old car.
Veganism is more of a journey than a destination, in my opinion. It is absolutely impossible to keep all animal derivatives out of your life, so we do our best to cause the least harm. I firmly believe that what matters is how I feel about the decisions I make in regards to my possessions and purchases, and I don’t care how anyone else feels about it. Veganism isn’t some exclusive club that has strict initiation requirements or something, As long as we know that our intentions are to save animals and prevent suffering, we are clearly qualified to call ourselves vegan.
Clearly Beth’s girlfriend has some other agenda. But, this issue is one that I tackle and continue to ponder. My grandmother bought me Minton Bone Chine for my “starter marriage”- the one that only lasted 4 years. My style was different in 1974 and although I like the pattern I won’t and haven’t used it for more than 10 years. I tried to sell it to no avail and now it is stored in a closet. I would never walk out on a dinner served on bone china, or not sit in a friend’s or family’s leather chair or car-my dad has leather seats in his car. My friends and family know that I would never purchase these items today, but what a slap in the face to them if I did something like that.
I’ve given away ALL of my leather belts, shoes, silk blouses, camisoles and other items, but honestly I’ve kept the first anniversary gift my present husband gave me in 1982. It’s a beautiful crimson red blouse with beautiful buttons. I can’t seem to wear it again, but I have kept it.
Yes, I agree that there is no way I would behave the way the girlfriend did. We encounter non-vegan things in our daily life all the time. Half my daughters friends get driven around in cars with leather seats. I am not about to say she can’t have rides, especially when the parents that own these cars have gone out of their way to learn about her diet and make sure that she is never left out at snack time.
I agree with the sustainable aspect also. I will post the Facebook comments on here later.
We had a great conversation going on Facebook, so I decided to share the thread.
Katia: I would not knowingly eat off bone china. Animals are not ours to use. Ethics have to come before sentimental attachments to family heirlooms. It’s really no sacrifice to do the right thing for the animals.
Tuesday at 3:25am
Dottie: Couldn’t agree more with Katia. It is the same to me as an “heirloom” leather handbag that has been in someone’s family for years. I could not use either one.
Tuesday at 3:38am via mobile ·
Kristen: I would never throw my mom’s wedding china away if it were bone (it’s not). I never eat from it, mainly because I’m clumsy and I’m afraid I’d break it and I like having it. Undoubtedly many other vegans would consider me a poseur or half-assed for that but at some point, the human memories matter more to me than taking a stand by throwing something away that is over 60 years old. What ethical point, exactly, is achieved by putting something in a landfill?
Tuesday at 4:11am
Susan: I consider throwing away a useful item to be unethical. The extraction of raw materials most usually results in the destruction of habitat and pollution of the environment. Reduce reuse recycle and live ethically. Rare habitats will not be destroyed because I want my new item. Just because I go vegan does not mean I will throw away my down jacket and,replace it with something that destroyed habitat (kapok or cotton) or was made from fossil fuels (highly polluting processes). So now I know I cannot be a vegan, purely a vegetarian. In your story I found the girlfriend’s behaviour to be quite offensive. You know if a plate is likely to be bone china, a simple ‘no thank-you, this is likely to contain bone, I cannot eat from it’ would suffice.
Tuesday at 4:38am via mobile ·
Kristen: I found her actions to be offensive as well. What saddens me about many vegans is that they are much more concerned with preserving their own sense of self-righteousness, rather than showing concern for other human animals. The jelly beans could have been donated to a charity or put in compost, for example. What would have been wrong with quietly explaining why confectioner’s glaze isn’t vegan?
Tuesday at 4:46am ·
Lauren Ann: Wow. The word overboard comes to mind. A lack of grace & human compassion is exhibited. I am a full-fledged vegan. There are ways to approach these situations without being an a*hole. Personally, I would re-gift the Jelly Bellys and have no problem being served off bone china, as it is decades old, doing no harm now. It’s not like it’s transferring anything or contaminating the food! I know that my own grandmother has a china collection that will one day be handed down. I would simply arrange for another granddaughter (i.e. one of my cousins) to receive that heirloom. And then they can serve me with it … and I won’t freak out.
Tuesday at 6:00am ·
Helen: As a vegan and small business owner re-selling fashion and accessories, we had to decide what we were comfortable with. We feel that our lives cannot be ‘all about the animals’ that the environment and the earth are also important, so we found a middle ground where all our items are secondhand so as not to aid the meat industry and we sell (reduce, reuse, recycled) leather, wool, shell, etc. but not fur. There is never an reason to justify fur! At some point we will veer towards pushing and carrying more vegan secondhand as it comes available but right now we could not make enough money to continue supporting all the charities that we do. It’s a balancing act.
Tuesday at 6:38am ·
Magdalena: Good words Susan, that’s what I am thinking.
Tuesday at 6:55am via mobile ·
Kate: I would be honored to be served off of plates that held such beautiful memories. I think it also dishonors animals by just throwing something like that out. It may not be ideal, but that’s how many things were made. They used everything.
I like what Lauren said about re-gifting. I do that all the time, and just feel grateful someone thought of me enough to give me a gift.
Tuesday at 8:50am ·
AnnaMay: Good point Helen, it can’t be just about the animals. It needs to be about our whole planet, and living more ecologically sound. Throwing away a useful item carries several hazards for the planet…first off, it has to be replaced (most of the time, or wouldn’t be considered useful) which just adds to using up more raw materials, creating more pollution in the manufacturing and shipping practices, etc… Second, where exactly is this “away” that we throw things? A open sore on the planet festering with refuse and useable items we no longer want because they don’t meet our personal definition of animal-friendly? No thanks, I won’t be part of that. I use what I have, buy second hand, recycle everything I can, and don’t by disposable convenience items. (IE paper napkins, paper towels, disposable baby diapers, etc.) A good rule of thumb…if your grandparents survived without this “convenient” disposable product, then you can too.
Tuesday at 12:48pm via mobile ·
Ryan: I guess I’d consider how much effort my girlfriend’s family was making before I threw their hospitality right back in their face.
Tuesday at 3:34pm ·
Dusti: The girlfriend sounds like a horrible person. Sweet Jesus. And I also believe that no help comes from throwing things in landfills.
Tuesday at 4:30pm via mobile ·
Amy: The girlfriend was a rude jackass, good riddance to her. The parents have done everything to welcome their daughter and who she is and did not deserve to be treated so rudely. As for the heirloom issue – When I was a little girl there was an elderly woman in my life who I really liked, she was not a relative but someone who I connected to in a special way. She had a beaver coat that I used to love to pet. When she died she actually left me that coat and I still have it. I have never worn it and never would. It is extremely old and may have some $ value. What it represents to me though is this sweet friend i had for a short time in my young life and how much it meant to me when she told her family to gift it to me when she died. It is packed away, I dont look at it often, but I will not get rid of it. Those poor beavers died for that coat probably 80 years ago or more, what purpose would throwing it out serve? Only the loss of a precious memory.
Tuesday at 8:27pm ·
Susan: I am lactose intolerant. Had to give up all dairy, so why not meat also. Never did like eating it anyway. So, I just pray I am strong enough to do this.
Yesterday at 1:41am ·
Donna: Hi Amy , not sure if you know about this, but there are organizations that use fur to help rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals. I thought it was an excellent use of fur rather than it being thrown away. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you get rid of the coat, just letting you know that there are options.
What to do with Unwanted Fur? Donate It to Help Orphaned Wildlife : The Humane Society of the United
Don't know what to do with that old fur coat? Give it back to the animals. Here's how.
Yesterday at 2:05am ·
Jade: I'm not vegan or vegetarian so some of the things I'm reading seem silly to me. I love animals and I'm not for animal abuse of any kind and honestly wouldn't mind being vegan or vegetarian myself I just live with people who are against the thought. However I have to say that I don't feel that an animals life is more important than a fellow human being so reading things that people say about people who do not live this particular lifestyle are often offensive. I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion I will just never ever hold the life of an animal above our fellow man and I feel that many vegan and vegetarians do exactly that.
Yesterday at 2:18am via mobile ·
Brigetta: Jade, why are you reading vegan pages if you find them offensive? No snarkiness intended, I ask sincerely.
Yesterday at 4:37am via mobile ·
Ivey: The rude EX girlfriend is a good example of why the word "vegan" has a negative connotation. You will never be a positive influence by shaming someone. As for the heirloom china, sounds like a beautiful family tradition and no animals will benefit from throwing it out!!! (Yes, I am vegan.)
Yesterday at 5:38am via mobile ·
Donna: Jade, I am vegan because I do not hold any life above another. All animals, humans included, deserve the opportunity to live their lives without being exploited, tortured, or killed. I find it offensive when people claim to be superior to animals and therefore have the right to consume them. Perhaps the reason you feel that vegans and vegetarians hold the life of animals above our fellow man is because vegans are the voice for the animals, those who do not have a voice. There are no laws to protect farm animals and the horrors they are forced to endure are beyond what any being should have to suffer. I will never stop advocating for animals…
Yesterday at 9:42am ·
Don't Fear The Vegan: This story really had me thinking. It is nice to hear so many thoughts on the subject. Thanks for sharing! Good luck Susan! Jade , I am personally compassionate for the rights of all living things, and that means that if a human is doing something harmful to another living thing, whether it be a human or animal, I am going to side with the victim. As far as this story goes, I think Joan had done so much to make their stay comfortable. I wouldn't have it in me to react the way the girlfriend reacted. We are raising our daughter to be understanding of others lifestyles that don't fit into our vegan lifestyle. I can't tell you how many times she has gotten into friends cars with leather seats. The first time she saw one she didn't want to sit, but that is not always possible. Donna thanks for the link, I am going to share it on the blog.
Yesterday at 1:46pm ·
Judy: What a rude Person! It is rare to get people to accept a plant-based diet and it is extraordinary to have family members go to such lengths to adjust to demands that they consider peculiar. To walk into a situation where every effort was made to accommodate and and behave the way this guest did is unconscionable. I eat a plant-based diet: absolutely no meat, but if a host makes extraordinary effort to please me and there is a pecan pie at the end of the meal, I will probably have some!
5 hours ago ·
Dante: I personally have many things which I had before I was vegan. If I were to throw these away and buy new, am I not playing into the consumer culture which created our current colossal injustices towards animals? Rejecting resources which are already made is irrational. We need to respect what we already have. Sending it to a landfill and rejecting sentimental attachment highlights many missing fundamental philosophies within veganism.
4 hours ago ·
Alyssa: Ugh…that ex-girlfriend is the kind of rude, uptight snob that gives vegans a bad name. If the parents hasn't already been vegan, I could see a display like that pushing people even farther away from a vegan lifestyle. When there are such beautiful memories attached to an heirloom like that, no animals or people would benefit from throwing it out.
I own a second hand store, and sometimes I deal with old leather items or bone china. Maybe something with feathers even. I figure some of the money I make from these items will go to vegan causes so I don’t worry about it. 🙂
For me, it’s not a matter of whether I “should” give away or throw away non-vegan items from my past. It’s not about purity or being a good enough vegan. I just feel incredibly uncomfortable touching or even being around items that I know came from such extreme violence and misery. If I found out I’d been eating off of bones, I probably would be very nauseated. I’d be more likely to want to cry than rage, but that’s just me. I have a very vivid imagination and strong empathy and coming into contact with something that is a product of animal slavery disturbs me. I don’t think it makes any sense for me to decide whether other people “should” get rid of their non-vegan things, or whether other vegans “should” feel intense disgust or anger about it, though. I used to think I needed to figure out the correct universal morality! I guess it just comes down to we feel what we feel. We’re all where we’re at on our journeys and can only do what feels best and right for us. Light and Love! ❤
Well said Jude However Namaste!!! ❤ ❤ ❤
I understand your compassion. I actually dislike wearing man-made shoes that resemble leather because I would hate for someone to see me in them and mistake them for leather, and possibly think that I condone the actions that lead to leather. I think that if I was at a persons house and they tried has hard as Beth’s parents had, I would not look to see what the plates were made of, especially if I had already eaten off them. I feel I have come to be vegan due to my compassion for all living beings and I would never want to hurt a person that has been a very caring host. Thanks for sharing! ❤
Hey Jude, (LOL) I respect your profound sensitivity about this issue and have similar feelings. I wish I could cry, but I am one who used to rage. Now, I try to educate.
What an interesting story! Thanks for sharing.
I think vegans can be their own worst enemies which is so sad. There are far too few of us vegans out there to be judging, criticizing and policing each others actions. Fine Beth’s girlfriend doesn’t want to eat on bone plates, but she should not take it as offense since those plates were special to Beth, and she should not expect Beth to give them up if she doesn’t want to. Live and let live and love. We all just have to do the best we can and support and encourage each other no matter where we are in the vegan path. Until the day comes we live in a vegan world it is pretty much impossible to be 100% vegan in every action of everyday–it is just a reality. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying to do the best we can, to be as vegan as we each desire to be, but in a loving supportive way. Beth’s girlfriend could have said, “I’m sorry, but I find it too disturbing to eat off bone plates, though I appreciate these plates are special to your family, would you please not serve me on them when I am with you?”. Ask for what she wants and give Beth an opportunity to honor her wishes or not instead of just getting so outraged, leaving and then breaking up with her…how sad!!!!
Congrats on being number #3 in the Top 25 Vegan blogs! Well deserved.
Thanks! I owe my placement to my readers! 🙂
Also can I just add, what I wouldn’t give to have my family be so open-minded and learn to and even be excited to cook vegan and go out to vegan restaurants like Joan and Cliff. My Mom came to visit me a few months ago and she didn’t make it even one day being vegan. She didn’t even try…and this was after she told me she was going to eat vegan the entire 16 days she was in town. She didn’t make it one day. It was so disappointing for me. I don’t think she will ever be able to even be vegetarian let alone vegan. My Dad ate vegan when he was here visiting but only when I cooked, whenever we went out he always went back to his old foods. I don’t think he even made it one whole day either. Their hearts just weren’t in it, and no matter how I try to educate them, they just don’t get it. 😦 My Mom has some serious health problems (like Type II diabetes) that could be reversed with a healthier diet, but she just won’t do it. 😛 It is so hard to see her decline and refuse to change but I feel so helpless to help someone who isn’t interested in helping herself. Anyway….Beth is one lucky lady! I truly envy her and am SO happy for her to have vegan parents!
My parents eat a plant based diet but don’t get the animal rights aspect which can get me so baffled, but at the same time I am thankful that I never have to worry about eating there and my mom has created some amazing vegan dishes. I also have many family that are willing to take a cabinet full of pharmaceuticals for problems that changing their diet would fix without a doubt, but swallowing medication is far easier than making a lifestyle change, especially when for the general population plant-based diets seem so radical.
I hear you. Thanks for your reply. 🙂
I’ve just recently adopted a vegan diet. I loved this post and all the comments!
I also own a 12 year old car with leather seats, a leather chair, shoes and purses. I’m in no way financially able to replace everything. I agree with several points above. These animals suffered for my possessions, yes, but it’s not going to bring them back for me to get rid of everything. I didn’t know the conditions that existed/exist, until recently. And, now that I’m conscious of the situation, I will never buy anything non vegan again.
I believe when you become vegan you gain a wealth of knowledge and as long as you make future decisions using this knew knowledge you are headed down the right path!
I agree. While you will certainly make different choices in the future, how wasteful it would be to get rid of a perfectly good car and buy one without leather seats??! I have a policy of replacing these kinds of items one-by-one. Even body products that I realize that something harmful to me, I just replace once it’s run out, so as not to be wasteful.
I can relate with so many of the comments posted here. I, too, have previously-purchsed and vintage items with leather that I do not plan to discard until they are unusable. I feel it is bad for the planet to purge everything and buy all new, rather I slowly replace. Furthermore, consider that Beth and her family are new vegans/plant-based eaters. One cannot be a guest in their home and expect them to have purified the entire house, especially when it came to items they were honestly unaware were “unpure!” My mother is vegetarian and the rest of my family omnivores. When I go home for a visit, I have to politely accept that I will be cooked food on pots and pans that have been used to cook animal products, that I may have to refuse dessert, and that I will have to nonchalantly check the labels on everything before I use it. I am just happy to be accepted for my lifestyle, and that my family tries to accommodate me at all. Such is being a polite guest!
It breaks my heart to hear about a person proliferating the stereotypes of vegans as crazy, irrational freaks! I’m saddened by how I have to be careful how I phrase my eating and living habits, fearful that people will judge me to be like this girlfriend
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Wow, what a story!! That’s too bad the woman was a jerk, but great about Beth’s parents! I also didn’t know bone china was made from bones, I thought it referred to the color or something.
I actually think perhaps we’re being a bit too hard on the girlfriend… I can appreciate why she didn’t want to eat from bone China. Having said that though, there is a better way to deal with the situation, for example; she could have looked at it beforehand or enquired politely about it, and then firmly but calmly expressed a desire for a different plate to eat from. Beth and her family sound really cool, and I bet they would’ve done that for her and respected her wishes. It’s evident to me that it wasn’t meant to be a “non-vegan sneak attack” against the girlfriend, and they possibly forgot about it, or may have even not realised there was any animal aspect to the China… As for the jelly beans; again, politeness wouldn’t have gone amiss… But let’s not get too annoyed at her, after all much like Jude, she may have just felt a strong emotional reaction, and that comes out differently in different people…
For me, I am vegan in every possible angle, but I have two leather sofas to which I also had a strong version once I went vegan, but I couldn’t replace them (both because of cost and the fact that they’ve half owned by my husband – who incidentally is not vegan but is supportive of my wishes), so instead I made my “peace” by writing a poem to the animal, praying for peace for them, and vowing that the sofas always remind why I’m vegan in the first place. Ideally, I would give them away (NOT put them in landfill), and replace with fabric sofas, but as long as I’ve halted my contribution to the leather industry, and all other aspects of animal exploitation that i possibly can, I am now at peace with it.
that was meant to read: “to which I had a strong AVERSION” 😉