No. And yes.
Since I became vegan almost a year ago there is one thing I have kept thinking about that I would like to discuss with you. It seems like some people try to decide for me what I can and can not do. As a free being I decide my own values and priorities.
I have spoken to a fair amount of very different vegans up until now. I suppose one would assume that a vegan is a vegan… No animal products, end of discussion.. I find that this is where many people go wrong, both vegans and non-vegans. It is important to remember that, like everything else, people have different opinions. In veganism there is the endless discussion about honey, about fleece being worse than wool, about palm oil, about figs and even about child labour. In a strange way you could look at it as politics: So many disagree, but in a way everyone still has some interest in the core of what is being discussed. If we go back to basic, being vegan means that you have a lifestyle where you actively take distance from products derived from animals with a goal to reduce animal cruelty and exploitation. However, as we have seen, there are so many other things that are linked to animal cruelty that people also choose to take distance from.
If I use myself as an example, here are what some of my own choices as a vegan AND a human look like today:
I do not consume poultry, fish, meat, eggs or dairy.
I do not buy honey myself, but I do have it occasionally.
I avoid palm oil in my diet.
I aim to avoid additives derived from animals.
I aim to buy vegan cosmetics, but not everything I have is. However, I always use cruelty-free.
I do not buy leather or fur and try to avoid other kinds of animal-derived fabric, like wool.
I never throw rubbish on the ground.
I sometimes buy fairtrade.
I do not go to circuses.
I am yet to decide how I feel about going to a zoo.
I still use the non-vegan clothing and cosmetics I bought before I went vegan.
I recycle whenever I can.
As I said, these are just some of my personal choices and priorities. Most people think the first point is the only one that defines a vegan, but there are so many more factors that define me as a vegan. However, I think the beauty of it is that these are MY choices, in the same way that everyone else has their own. We might not agree with each other´s choices and values, but at least the goal or the root is the same.
I have found that so many people (disregarding if they are vegan or not) try to decide for me what a vegan is and what I should do, and if I do not follow it I can not really call myself vegan. I disagree. For me identifying with the term is the only important thing that makes you who you are. You decide your own choices and values and no one else can take that away from you. After all, Rome was not built in a day…
I think that if you were to look strictly at the “rules” of veganism, one can never really be a true vegan, because it is impossible to avoid all kinds of suffering in a world like this. However, it is about seeing everything in a bigger perspective and seeing the links between all life and suffering and what you choose to do to help. An example can be that the use of electricity and cars are linked to global warming, which again is linked to animal AND human suffering. In this society it is just not an option to cut out all electricity, but if you actively make sure to turn off the lights when you do not need them you are making a difference.
My identity as a vegan is always changing in the same way that everything else about my identity is never going to be constant. It is important to remember that veganism is a process. Do it in the pace you need to do it, and do not judge anyone for where they are in their own process. Even if you are not vegan at all, you can still make a difference! For instance, I have friends who are just cruelty free, but they really make an effort in that specific area to make the world a better place. I never judge people for not being vegan, I always encourage and see the bravery and maturity in the choices they are already making. Veganism is about compassion! Not just for the animals, but also for each other. It is time to start supporting each other in making a change, however big or small.
What are your thought about this topic? What kind of vegan or ethical person are you? I would love to hear from you guys!