I don't give a damn about my bad reputation
When I first had the idea of starting this site I was worried about how it would be received by the vegan community. Of course my fear assumed that someone would care about what I had to say and actually read my blog, but nevertheless it was a concern.
I’m vegan, but I’m not the right kind of vegan. I buy clothes from companies that use leather. I feed my dog meat. I haven’t tossed every animal product I own out the window. I rub traditional vegans the wrong way. Am I mislabelling myself when I say that I’m a vegan? Do I belong in a different subculture that doesn’t yet exist? It’s a strange feeling to make sacrifices for your beliefs, change your lifestyle and then become part of a community that doesn’t really accept you.
That confusion is what pushed me to finally put this site together. I knew I wasn't alone and I wanted the vegan community to have a voice that was not intimidating or preachy. I wanted people to look up the hashtag vegan and find someone with a different sense of style from the status quo. I wanted to create a space where people could express their frustrations about the vegan lifestyle and not feel like they had committed a mortal sin.
Steve-O recently took to Instagram to call out vegans who have been harassing him because his cats aren’t vegan. He had a few choice words and closed his post with this, “for animal advocates to attack others for not advocating enough only creates a self-inflicted wound for the animal rights movement, and adds to the stereotype that vegans are annoying assholes.”
I don’t stan Steve-O, but he’s right. The vegan movement is not doing itself any favours with a holier than thou attitude. We claim to want the world to go vegan but make it an elitist task that seems impossible to achieve. The list of things that we shame people for is never-ending. If you wear second hand leather, fell off the wagon and ate an egg or date a meat-eater, you aren’t good enough to call yourself a vegan. We put ourselves on this pedestal that can seem incredibly out of reach to anyone who is in the process of making a lifestyle change.
Why do we care so much about who labels themselves a vegan? By definition, if you call yourself a vegan, it means you do not use any animal products (when avoidable). If you use animal products, you aren’t a vegan. Plain and simple.
My question is, why do we need to point out people’s shortcomings? If someone was trying to lose weight and ate a cupcake, or missed a day at the gym, would we tell them they were no longer on a diet? Can’t we allow someone who has recently given up everything but cheese a tiny break and hope they soon give that up as well? Do we need to make someone who has a fully vegan diet but still wears leather feel as though they aren’t doing enough?
I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of this. My husband went from being a full blown carnivore (from France) to eating nothing but the occasional egg and piece of fish. I would always be there to remind him that he wasn’t technically a vegan. Was I technically right? Yes. But I was also technically being an annoying asshole. The only thing my black and white thinking did was make veganism seem like something that was impossible to uphold.
I can’t speak on behalf of every vegan in the world, but I did figure out why I was stuck in this loop. When I saw someone order a piece of fish or eat an egg because it was easier or they were hungry, I was reminded of all the times I didn’t take the easy road. I thought about the meals I didn’t get to enjoy, the times I went hungry or the awkward social situations I endured because I was vegan. I resented anyone who took a shortcut but wanted to bask in our vegan sun.
Here's the thing, once I stopped label shaming him and focused more on my husband’s achievements, he took it upon himself to go vegan. Pretty impressive for a guy who used to stockpile foie gras on his trips back home from France. I understand why saying "I'm vegan" is a badge of honour that we only want to award those who fully commit, but I think we would progress more as a community if we encouraged people to keep going instead of tearing them down for their shortcomings.