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Sarah Taylor

Sarah Taylor

Posted February 2, 2012

Published in Health

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Almost Vegan

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It feels like I’ve become a vegan therapist lately.  There have been a rash of people who have come to me with concerns that they are not 100% vegan … people who used to be 100% vegan but now slip up with some regularity, people who are married to vegans but only want to be vegetarian, people who have written vegan cookbooks but don’t always eat vegan, people who love animals but haven’t yet been able to give up real creamer in their coffee, etc, etc…

These people, in general, seem to feel very guilty and suffer a lot of angst because they aren’t eating a perfect vegan diet.  It always makes me sad because it seems they are only able to focus on the very small percentage of what isn’t right with their diet, and are unable to see the huge percentage that is right.

Instead of focusing on the 5% (or 0.5%!) of your diet that isn’t vegan, why not focus on the 95% (or 99.5%!) that is vegan?  With all the choices you do make that are vegan, you are saving countless animals from suffering, cruelty and death; you are helping to reduce our world’s massive carbon footprint, you are doing great things for your health, and perhaps most importantly, you are setting a great example for everyone you know and meet.  Just by saying, “I really strive to eat a vegan diet and am about 95% of the way there,” you show people that you care to do your very best and are making a big difference. 

So, today I’d just like to give a tribute those of you who aren’t 100% vegan.  Whether you’d like to be vegan, but haven’t yet made the final leap, whether you used to be vegan but have recently fallen to temptation, whether you are getting pressured to be vegan but really prefer to be vegetarian … you are still saving hundreds of animals from suffering and death.  Could you save a few more?  Perhaps.  Is it worth feeling like a failure over?  Absolutely not.  If and when the time is right for you, you will go vegan.  In the meantime, honor all the good that you are doing, and know that – even if you aren’t 100% vegan – you are still making a big difference and setting a great example.


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8 Comments | Leave a comment

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I love you! ;-)

Finally, someone who gets "the big picture". I like to think that when it comes to "eating animal food", the less the better and not that nothing less than purity will do. I live in an omnivore world. I know no other vegetarian. Not a single one, and it feels lonely sometimes. People are constantly demanding that you justify your eating habits (what? no meat? where do you get your [insert nutrient of choice here]?) and when you visit vegan websites, you feel as if you've failed because you've had a fat-free yoghurt a couple of days ago. So it's nice to finally have someone who recognises the effort.

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This is brilliant and just what I needed.
I am new to being veganism and was worried that I was doing something wrong or not enough. Food was the easy part but I worried about clothes and items in the home that I couldn't just replace due to costs.
It is easy to keep to because I just remember why but I still doubt I am not doing enough due to a low income. So I just need to focus on what I do already, as I do plan when I can to be full Vegan.

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I'll be the fly in the ointment. This issue Sarah Taylor raises in her email reflects either her misunderstanding or misuse of the term vegan. One isn't a certain percentage vegan the way is a certain percentage raw foodist either by weight or calories. Being vegan is a discrete variable, not a continuous one. Being vegan is like being pregnant. Either you are or you aren't. If you use honey or eat an egg now and then, but otherwise eat a whole food plant based diet, you are probably doing a great deal of good for the planet, yourself, and animals everywhere. No question. But are you vegan? In my opinion, no. Absolutely not. Not hung up on labels. Then don't worry about it.

Donald Watson coined the term
"The word "veganism"denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."http://www.definevegan.com/

Let's dispense with the possible and practical part since that refers to clothing or products and talk about diet, the bolded portion above. The above definition is from the British Vegan Society which is the closest thing we have from the time Watson and Shrigley wrote. If someone eats 51 percent cupcakes, nachos and ding dongs and the rest meat and cheese is that person "51 percent vegan" and there gets to say I'm a vegan??? I agree that this is argument into absurduum http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

My point is if you start talking about something that is either or in terms of percentages, then the original concept gets lost. And people who are trying to be trendy have their cake and eat it too.

If you want to be vegan, be vegan. Arms open. But don't water down the term to meet your dietary expectations. As far as I am concerned there is no such thing as vegan who takes in honey or an egg occasionally. You are or you aren't This fight will go on a long time. And I think you know what side I'm on. I won't fight with you about the good you've done for animals or the planet. Many omnivores have helped our planet far more because of number than we will ever do. Just be aware of how much better it can be and never ever lower your targets. If you eat animal products occasionally or once in a while, you are doing much better than most Americans. Why not make the commitment and go vegan! ;)

Paul

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One more comment. Just comment from the late Donald Watson who coined the term "vegan". from an interview:

[url]http://www.foodsforlife.org.uk/people/Donald-Watson-Vegan/Donald-Watson.html[/url]

Q: Do you have any message for vegetarians?
A: Accept that vegetarianism is only a stepping stone between meat eating and veganism. There may be vegans who made the change all in one leap, but I'm sure that for most people vegetarianism is a necessary staging post. I'm still a member of the Vegetarian Society to keep in touch with the movement. I was delighted to learn that at the World Vegetarian Conference in Edinburgh the diet was a vegan diet and the delegates had no choice. This little seed that I planted 60 years ago is making its presence felt.

Whatever else we may disagree about the way the term originally was conceived had a higher target, not one that was 100 percent animal product exclusive but also one that from a dietary standpoint included animal products.

My plea, do good, do your best, don't assume any label you are not entitled to.


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Hi Paul,

Sarah here. I re-read my blog, and can see why you would think that I was saying that people can be "percentage vegans," but I'd ask you to re-read it carefully. I have always sided with your complaint, and actually wrote a blog about it back in September called "Vegan-ish", (http://thevegannextdoor.blogspot.com/2011/09/vegan-ish.html) about how I really don't like it when people claim to be partially vegan. As you pointed out (and I agree,) you can't be part-vegan, as veganism is a philosophy. You can be partially eating a plant-based diet, but you can't be partially vegan.

In my recent blog, I point out that there are people who are beating themselves up because they are not 100% vegan. This, which I may not have made clear, means they are now not vegan. So, if you re-read it, knowing my intent, you'll notice several comments:

"...people who USED TO BE 100% vegan but now slip up ..."

"...Just by saying, “I really strive to eat a vegan diet and am about 95% of the way there,” ..."

"Whether you’d like to be vegan, but haven’t yet made the final leap, whether you USED TO BE vegan but have recently fallen to temptation..."

" If and when the time is right for you, you will go vegan."

I believe these comments point out that if you aren't eating a full-vegan diet, you are not technically vegan.

But I believe you missed the intent of my article. My intent, and what I hope you will see too, is that even if a person isn't 100% vegan he or she is still doing amazing work at making a difference. That is what I want people to focus on. You and I may not struggle being 100% vegan, but there are countless people who do. When they are given a hard time because they still put milk in their coffee, they are likely to get discouraged and give up completely. I'd rather take people who are almost vegan and encourage them to keep trying, than to point out their dietary imperfections and have them give up completely and go back to a standard American diet!

I appreciate your willingness to be the devil's advocate. I have a lot of respect for people willing to stand up and speak out.

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apologies, last post should have said from a dietary stand pint excluded animal products

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Makes sense.

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I also like calling myself "Plant-Based" (as it stresses what I try to include, rather than what I try to exclude). My plant-based diet is (however) 99.9% Vegan-ish (I'm sure there might have been a little milk or butter added to some bread or dish that I occasionally eat). I hate feeling like I should feel... "guilty" (I really don't feel that "evil" ) because of the.1% of "bad stuff" that might find its way into my diet.

Imagine the health benefits, ecological benefits, etc...if America became 99.9% Vegan-ish (sorry...I guess I should have said..."Plant-Based" ).

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