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I Still A Vegan?
Can I still call myself vegan if: I
take vitamins that contain gelatin? A pair of my dressy
work shoes are leather? My hiking boots have some suede
on them? My diet is vegan except for the vitamins. I
just can't justify throwing away my shoes, since they
are already bought and paid for. Plus, I have a hard
time finding shoes and these were bought before I became
vegan. I am vegan for ethical purposes and of course
I won't buy any future leather or suede shoes.
According to the most concise definitions
set forth by The Vegan Society (in England), the American
Vegan Society, and the Oxford English Dictionaries,
the word "vegan" refers to "a person who does not eat
or use animal products." Gelatin and leather shoes are
animal-derived commodities. Therefore, ingesting products
containing gelatin and wearing leather footwear are
acts which do not comply with the accepted definition
An individual can still practice many
of the basic tenets of veganism even though total compliance
has not yet been met. However, technically speaking,
this person would not be vegan. She or he might be "transitioning
to veganism" or be a "total vegetarian," but the term
"vegan" would not be precise. Because "vegan" is a descriptive
term that is neither positive nor negative, interpreting
"vegan" as something good or bad is a personal judgement.
The word itself is neutral. "Vegan" does not connote
partialities; therefore, none are implicit to its meaning.
Some people who aspire to be vegan or
vegetarian may label themselves as such even though
they do not explicitly observe the principal criteria
of these practices. Take, for instance, the chicken-eating,
fish-eating, just-no-red-meat-eating "vegetarian." Regrettably,
this has created confusion regarding the definition
of "vegetarian" and has led to misuse of the word by
the media, healthcare practitioners, and the public.
Such deviation renders the term meaningless.
Why would people identify with a designation
that does not accurately describe their behavior? Perhaps
it makes them feel like "one of the group" or reinforces
their opinion that they embody the beneficial qualities
they ascribe to it. It's also possible that they believe
they are deserving of the title simply because they
are "partway there." In order to retain the integrity
of our defining terminology, however, a line must be
drawn between what is and isn't permissible.
"Vegan" is not a rank nor a badge of
excellence. It is merely a word that precisely describes
individuals who are committed to revering all life through
conforming to a clearly delineated code of ethical behavior.
Its significance lies in its accuracy. If the term "vegan"
is employed erroneously, it becomes diluted and hollow.
When used correctly, it retains its original purpose
of identifying and describing a group of people who
subscribe to an established body of values and moral
principles that steer their life choices and conduct.
Despite your minor "transgressions,"
most vegans would likely say that indeed, by all respects,
you are vegan. However, I imagine they would also recommend
that you eliminate the remaining animal-derived commodities
from your life as soon as possible. This is because
there are readily available, affordable vegan alternatives
to these items, and because describing yourself as vegan
while still using products that are conspicuously animal-based
could easily and logically contribute to the corruption
of the term.
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