I recently got in a little tiff with someone that was taking exception to someone being called a "vegan", when they were not "fully vegan." The premise of this person was, vegan is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle. I bounced it back and forth with him, as I am totally turned off by the sanctimony of some of the veganer than thou's in our ranks (not saying this person was. He may be very genuine), but then I really got to thinking and I realized, who the hell am I to be arguing with this guy? When I really think about it, I am not a vegan. Not by the strict sense of the definition. Maybe not even by a stretch. I am a dietary vegan 99% of the time (more on this later), but I do wear wool suits, silk ties, leather shoes, and I eat honey. I am not "vegan". So, what the heck am I, pray tell? I can't say that I am vegetarian, that will confuse people that may be cooking for me (friends, family, restaurants, etc). I can say that I am a "strict vegetarian", but then "vegetarian" is so watered down anymore, that "strict vegetarian" might just be interpreted as someone that is really strict because they don't even eat chicken or fish. And so, as irritated as I get, when I hear someone say, "I'm vegetarian, but I do eat chicken and fish," I can appreciate a vegan getting irritated by me, standing there in my wool suit, silk tie, leather shoes and sticky honey fingers, proclaiming, "I am vegan." I get it, I really do. So, again, I ask you, what am I? My wife could probably roll a few labels right off the top of her head, but let's keep this to labels concerning my diet.
Many years ago, it was bounced around that there should be a new word, "vegetan", used for dietary vegans. I was opposed to it back then, because, if I put myself in the shoes of the common folk, all of these labels would just confuse the crap out of me. The only purpose I saw for "vegetan" was so that we can internally (among us veg*ns) label ourselves. I just didn't, and still don't, see it as worthy of all of the confusion it would cause externally, just to have a label that would make us feel good internally. So, what should I call myself? You vegans out there, sound off. Does it really bother you when dietary vegans call themselves vegans? I can understand if it does, I really can. If it does bother you, how would you prefer a dietary vegan like me label himself?
Moving right along, I want to also point out that I am weak and I stray. As hard as I try and as much as I promise myself, I do find myself cheating from time to time. I can go long stretches where I am rock solid and then I can fall completely apart. I can't figure it out. What does "fall apart" mean? OK, so, I can resist everything when it comes to meat, broth, cheese, eggs, dairy, gelatin or anything else in meals. What I struggle with is my MASSIVE sweet tooth. I never touch ice cream or anything so boldly non-vegan. Chocolate is the bain of my veganism. I happen to prefer dark chocolate, so milk chocolate really doesn't temp me. But, if I am dying for chocolate and there is no other option, and sitting there is a piece of dark chocolate with some milk product in it, I turn into a spineless wimp. Additionally, I sometimes will find myself being what I call "passively vegan". What the heck does that mean? To me, this is when I am sitting in some meeting and I am about to pass out from hunger (which is funny, since I have enough fat stored on my gut to last me a month if I am ever stranded without food) and there are some rolls or something that possibly could be vegan, but very possibly could not be vegan and, rather than aggressively hunting down an ingredients list, I just readily assume in my mind that it is vegan and I eat it. That's what I call "passively vegan".
Why am I going on about this? Well, I am a strong believer in the fact that shining sunlight on something has a cleansing affect, but also because, I know that other people struggle with this. It's not easy being vegan in this world where animal pieces, parts, and derivatives are being thrown at you on a constant basis. As I proof this draft, I am being presented with an ad to "Baconaise your burgers". It's a constant barrage. I know several vegans that are very convicted in their veganism, but they have confided in me that they sometimes have "moments of weakness". I am by no means justifying my spineless events by pointing out that others cheat, too. I am merely pointing out that there are many of us that struggle, so that those that are new to veganism or isolated in their veganism (not a strong support structure) do not get discouraged and give up because they struggle while "everyone else is so strong." If you are new to being vegetarian or vegan, or even if you have been vegetarian or vegan for a long time, and you find that you have moments of weakness and stray from your convictions, don't beat yourself up over it. Don't get discouraged. We are all at different stages on an evolutionary path and many of us struggle and stray from time to time. The key is to stay focused on why you have made this choice and know that you are doing the right thing.
My name is Jim. I am doing the best that I can, but I am an imperfect veg*n.