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I've been a strict vegan for ages in all respects but one: a prescription medicine. If I don't take this medication, I am unable to function normally. So I continue to take it even though I know it contains animal products. I'm not quite sure what to do about this. I really don't want to consume any animal products, but practically speaking, I really can't stop taking my medication. Do you have any advice?
Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle of compassion and reverence for life. However, it does not require vegans to be heroes or martyrs and sacrifice our mental or physical health for our beliefs. We each are part of the larger circle of life, and if we exclude ourselves, the circle is incomplete. In fact, if we are incapable of finding compassion for ourselves, we will have a difficult time showing compassion for others, because if our "love buckets" are empty, we won't have anything to give away.
Although there are vegan alternatives for most animal products, a few remain lacking. One of these is pharmaceutical drugs, which are required by law to be tested on animals and frequently contain small amounts of animal byproducts, usually in the form of pill coatings or gelatin capsules. Occasionally there are options available, such as a liquid form of a drug instead of a pill, but more often than not we are compelled to take nonvegan medications or else compromise our health.
It is futile to strive to be a "model vegan" when our world cannot yet accommodate us in all areas of life. Therefore, it is pointless to chastise ourselves or feel guilty about using products that are essential for our well-being and without which we would suffer greatly. Demonstrating compassion toward ourselves and taking care of our health is an intrinsic aspect of "reverence for life." Use the medication that has been prescribed for your condition with a clear conscience and a peaceful heart, knowing that as a vegan you are able to relieve the plight of others because you are wise enough to first take care of yourself.
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