Although we obviously think that becoming vegan is a great thing to do, there are already many, many people out there giving sound advice on how and why to make that change. The fine folks at VegNews, for example, have an excellent vegan starter kit (PDF), as does Vegetarian Times (PDF). For Christ’s sake, even Oprah‘s got a vegan starter kit. Oprah!
No, our goal here is a little bit different.
Vegetarian Times estimates that there are currently one million vegans in the United States today. Assuming this is more or less correct, our own estimate is that there must therefore be at least a zillion ex-vegans. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration. But, it’s an undeniable fact that a hell of a lot of people who become vegan don’t stay vegan. That’s not good nor acceptable.
So why do so many people who try veganism eventually give it up? The easiest answer is that a large proportion of people who are drawn to veganism in the first place happen to be the type that aren’t going to stick with anything for very long. For example: twelve-year-old girls. They love animals so they decide to stop eating them; however, they also love Justin Bieber– and you can ask David Cassidy and the New Kids on the Block how that usually ends up.
Unfortunately, though, many people who aren’t preadolescents also eventually give up on veganism. Some of them have found the “rules” overly restrictive and the quest for perfection exhausting. Some have have grown tired of the stigma that’s still attached to the lifestyle and find it easier just to be “normal.” Some may have looked to the vegan community for support and understanding yet found it judgemental and cannibalistic instead. Some have even dealt with legitimate health concerns.
These and other causes of the vegan movement’s unacceptable attrition rate are what we intend to address. We want to help people stay vegan and be completely comfortable with it even when it isn’t up to the standards of what some vegans think being a real vegan should be.
How do we plan to do this?
We propose a more sensible and realistic definition of veganism that takes into account:
- The impossibility of perfection
- The law of diminishing returns
If you think you’ve fully eliminated all animal products from your life, you are naïve. You haven’t. You never will. It’s impossible unless you go the route of living as a strict Jain, and even then, you will still fail.
If someone smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, they’re clearly a smoker; but if, once or twice a year, they get drunk at a party and smoke a cigar, then they’re a non-smoker who smokes every once in a while. We propose a similar way of thinking for veganism: if 95%’ish of the time you’re vegan, you’re vegan or veganish.
Do you see Catholics kicking members out for using birth control? Do you see Mormons 86’ing members who drink beer or coffee? How about public shaming of Jews who don’t eat kosher? And, these are effin religions! Hell, veganism isn’t even supposed to be a religion but we set far stricter criteria and far higher standards to live by. And we don’t offer an after-life, heaven, or any other nifty parting goods for participating.
And, by the way, what is the real difference between someone who eats 100% vegan vs someone whose dietary intake is 95% vegan? Does the difference really mean less animal suffering? Depends, but if the difference is just lots of misc ingredients in various meals during a given year, that is probably not the case.
In a world that is so crazy, so cruel, and so barbaric, why is it that so many vegans are hardest on fellow vegans who don’t meet the mythical standards of strict vegan? And how can we not see that so many people stop being vegan is because they feel like a fraud still calling themselves vegan when they slip up on occasion? And, who doesn’t slip up on occasion? Isn’t that what being human is all about? So, let us all stop giving other people a hard time over the relatively tiny areas of their own lives in which they may fall short.
Veganism is an ethical ideal, not an absolute fixed and defined lifestyle that can be described in zero-sum ways as 100% VEGAN versus everyone else is an accessory to murder. Life is filled with many shades of gray, and vegans need to understand that just as well as everyone else does. No one is the great moral arbiter of vegan correctness, and we reserve the right to go after knuckleheads who proclaim they are. The higher the monkey climbs, the more you see his ass.
Vegan is not a political party or an overarching philosophy of life. Vegans should heartily welcome different political, social, religious and cultural views– and that means perspectives you may not like or maybe even oppose. Ideally, veganism would be only a part of your identity and you would be happy to see a wide range of people making it a part of theirs; if you find veganism taking over your entire identity, that is probably not a healthy and balanced mindset in life and for interacting with others in the world. For example:
On your Facebook page, you should probably list your name as your name. Unless your middle name actually is “Vegan,” you really should not be doing that kind of thing. Please do not list veganism as your political affiliation and, whatever you do, please do not list it under religion. Be an actual person. Cultivate numerous interests. We understand that you’re just trying to raise awareness, but you need to understand that the perception of vegans as one-dimensional zealots is one that many would-be (and soon-to-be ex-) vegans find embarrassing and off-putting. We intend to do our part to change that perception, by welcoming vegans from a variety of backgrounds into our community and encouraging the discussion of things other than veganism. It really is okay not to think and talk about your food choices twenty-four hours a day.
Most of us have adopted a vegan diet as a response to what we see as terrible cruelty and injustice, and that’s something that should make us feel good about ourselves. So, feel good. Celebrate. If we want to reward ourselves with good food and tremendous quantities of alcohol, there’s nothing wrong with that.
At CarpeVegan we want to advocate for a more tolerant, more life-affirming, and more inclusive veganism that focuses on someone’s positive actions that they make 95% of the time versus those other relatively small areas where they may fall short.
And thus, all birthday cake and alcohol is vegan! Not really, but life is short, so we should have some fun as we try to make this a better world for the animals, ourselves and the earth.
Eat. Drink. Enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
Thanks for reading. Now, play nice.
FYI: This credo was never meant to be our argument for veganish, this is: Let’s Kill Vegetarian! Why Vegetarianism Must Go and VeganISH Should Ascend