Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eating Our Own

      I am not a vegan, and I don't claim to be.  I am not even a vegetarian.  And I don't claim to be.  Most of the time the meals I prepare are vegan or at least vegetarian, but I myself can claim neither of those labels.  And there are reasons for that.  Reasons that have become even more clear to me in the last few days.

      I practice Ethical Eating.  Like veganism or vegetarianism, Ethical Eating is a lifestyle.  But Ethical Eating is unlike veg'anism (that's the either/or term for vegan or vegetarianism) in the same way the Unitarian Universalism (which largely spawned the Ethical Eating movement) is different than most other religions:  It isn't about hard and fast rules.  The focus is on a continuing pursuit.  It is about education, it is about constant steps forward.  It is about striving.

      Sadly veg'anism has become very much about rules.  It has become a "religion" from which one can be summarily excommunicated for failing to meet the self-righteous standards of other self proclaimed veg'ans.  A couple days ago my friend Lindsay Nixon, author of Happy Herbivore, one of my very favorite cookbooks, wrote a post on her blog questioning whether or not Honey could be used by vegans.  A simple enough topic, and grounds (in my opinion) for a lively discussion.

     Well, let's just say that "lively" isn't exactly the word I would use for what ensued from there.

      As a result, the next day she renounced her V card.  Lindsay no longer claims to be vegan.  Score one for the self-righteous vegan fundamentalists?  I think not.  Because what sort of backward-ass movement strives to shrink it's membership?  How exactly does chasing away the author of an awesome and well known cookbook further your cause?  In short,

      I think Lindsay put it quite well in her post: "why are these vegans taking the time to run around and tell people trying to be vegan they're not vegan enough, instead of using that time and energy helping someone who isn't vegan at all? Is veganism some cool club that I'm not worthy to get into? Do we really want to make it about exclusivity rather than inclusivity? Someone said to me once, and I think this is painfully true, for cruelty-free dieters, vegans sure are cannibalistic!"

      I never have and never will understand backbiting idiots who turn on their own (remember Catty B*tches?  If you missed it, it's worth the read).  It seems to me that they're kind of loosing sight of the goal here.  I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the ultimate aim to have an overall positive impact?  To reduce the amount of cruelty caused by our consumption?  And to improve our collective and individual health while we're at it?

      At the very least, that's MY goal.  For some people, apparently, the point is to prove how much better they are at "being vegan."  Whatever.  Have fun.  But please keep the hell away from me.  I'm trying NOT to make Ethical Eating look like the niche of crazy extremists.  As Lindsay said, "As plant-based eaters, we are a minority. We need to stick together and support each other."

      And THAT, my dear friends is what Ethical Eating is all about.  Sticking together, and moving forward.  Whether you're taking big steps or little steps, every step counts.  My current struggles to cut out all foods containing inhumane eggs and cheese are no more or less significant that the person trying out Meatless Mondays (or, like us, Meatless weekdays!  You'd be absolutely shocked by how easy and satisfying it is).

      Whether you are a vegan or a vegetarian.  Whether you call yourself one or not.  Whether you claim to pursue the goals of Ethical Eating or you just want to make the best health choices for yourself and your family.  Whatever your reasons, and whatever steps you take.

      Because every step is a step.

      And lets not lose sight of that.

      What steps have you taken?  Which were the hardest?  Which were your biggest triumphs?  What are you struggling with now.  THIS is a safe place for any step on your journey (unless you promote cruelty, then you're just a jackass, obviously).  Tell us where you stand.


Diandra said...

I read a few of the comments (I am not a vegan and not interested in becoming one, but your post spiked my curiosity), and there was one thing I found really odd - many people against the use of honey said the arguments in the post were not arguments, but "excuses" - uhm, hello? I didn't realize people have to make excuses for the stuff they eat nowadays. People making informed decisions and doing what they think is right, what is an "excuse" about that? Of course there will always be the debate on ethics, and it is good that people do have different opinions, but the righteous tone of some of these comments was really, really strange.

MiMi said...

For some reason the name of the post made me think of eating your babies. Like eating your young. That sounds yucky, right? LOL

Emmy said...

Great post!! I must admit I am very far from an ethical eater- but your post made me feel like I want to be and can do at least some small things to make a difference.

Karen Peterson said...

I'm not vegan and have no interest in going that route, though I don't eat nearly as much meat as I used to and it's purely personal. As long as people aren't condemning me for my choices, I'm not going to condemn them for theirs. In fact, I applaud the efforts of those who manage to cut all animal products out of their lives. Ours is not a society that makes it easy to do.

But you bring up some good points that go to the heart of why there are some negative views toward veganism and it's not about health. It's about the fact that many that I know seem to do it because they think it's the cool thing to do. Like they really ARE part of this exclusive club and they are somehow more special and interesting because of it.

And it really does seem like that goes against the very reason the movement? lifestyle? choice? started in the first place.

Anonymous said...

You probably remember when I went on a month-long vegan experiment a bit ago. It's something that I've been wanting to do again, if only for the health benefits when I ate a vegan diet. The change was absolutely incredible!

However, even if I wanted to go to an entirely animal-free diet, I don't think I'd ever call myself vegan. As inclusive as diehard vegans claim vegetarianism is, vegans have damn near tried their best to make veganism exclusive, haven't they? A diet that promotes good health, good food, and good intentions should be readily available to everyone, not a super seekrit and speshul "membership" that requires strict adherence or FACE THE CONSEQUENCES.

Thanks for this post and for pointing everything out. Methinks this is something I need to blog about as well, considering my own recent thoughts on the matter... :)

Anonymous said...

I am troubled by the sweeping generalizations your post suggests and those it has incited in some of your readers. I have not knowingly eaten animal products or their derivatives for just about five years. That, by definition, makes me a vegan. In that time, I've helped others connect with their values and have always encouraged a peaceable approach. I believe the negativity from some vegans results from lack of education on the topic. If one is acting purely from emotion, then s/he must constantly attempt to justify her/his lifestyle with emotional (not rational) arguments. I believe the negativity from some non-vegans is the emotional response that results from any perceived attack to one's paradigm. Change is difficult, and it always begins with vehement argument against the need for it. Let's just be careful not to make assumptions about arbitrary groups of people so as not to lose sight of each of them as individuals.

Colleen said...

Dear "Anonymous,"

While I agree with your assertions about lack of education and people acting purely out of emotion, I believe you made a few emotion driven assumptions yourself about me and this post.

My focus was on individual names versus “rules” and labels. I say darn good for you if you are able to claim the title vegan and not have people attacking you for it. Heaven knows we could use more people following paths similar to yours.

But this post was very obviously not about what it means to be vegan or whether or the value of that path. It was about the pointlessness of infighting and negativity. To respond to it with negativity is somewhat reinforcing, no?

Also, you don’t get to use pretentious phrases like “Let's just be careful not to make assumptions . . .” when you’re not even willing to attach your name to your own comments and are doing so as a “no-reply blogger.”

Most of what you said is correct, but the spirit of this comment completely misses the point of this post. I’d be happy to discuss further if you become brave enough to reveal who you are.