Category: Thoughts and Opinions

Perfectionism in the Vegan Movement

police car with flashing lights

source site In the vegan movement, there has been a rising pressure to be the “perfect vegan”. Many
vegans will attack other vegans for not being 100 percent cruelty-free; for example, wearing a
pair of leather shoes that they bought before they went vegan, eating honey, or buying makeup
from a brand owned by a company that tests on animals. Often called the ‘vegan police’, these
people often criticize their fellow animal activists and tell them that they cannot call themselves
a vegan if they aren’t a perfect. Although their intent is to help animals as much as they can, this
vegan policing is actually detrimental to the movement and results in veganism feeling, to many,
like an exclusive club that one may only join if they follow a complex set of rules and guidelines.
As a result, many feel like the goal of being vegan is unattainable, and people who would have
otherwise taken steps to help animals feel discouraged and give up. This problem of the pressure to be perfect in the vegan movement is also based on
privilege and discredits many who do not have as many resources. For example, many people in
poverty live in food deserts or low-income areas where there are few supermarkets and fresh
fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food is difficult to access. Although there are some vegan
options, for people living in these areas, it is nearly impossible to live a completely vegan
lifestyle. More often than not the vegan police are comprised of upper-middle class, white
vegans, living in urban areas with access to countless vegan restaurants and ten different Whole
Foods within a five-mile radius. Telling low-income people with far fewer resources that they
can’t call themselves a vegan unless they are perfect is classist and perpetuates the idea of
veganism as an elite club that only the privileged may join.

Veganism should not be an all-or nothing-thing. For some people, going completely
vegan overnight may work for them, but for most it is something that happens in steps. Animal
products are often a huge part of culture and tradition for people, so finding alternatives is a
process. Everyone is at a different place in their vegan journey, and those who may be farther
along should not shame and discredit those who maybe haven’t completely cut out dairy yet or
are still figuring out what brands are cruelty-free and which aren’t. Veganism is about doing the
best you can, in your current situation, to reduce animal suffering. Being perfect is not the goal;
helping animals to the best of your ability is. To truly help animals, we must welcome and
encourage people taking even the smallest steps, like participating in Meatless Mondays, getting
soy milk in their Starbucks latte, or choosing to buy a shampoo from a company that doesn’t test
on animals instead of one that does.

Awareness Eases Suffering

girl posing outside

I stopped eating meat when I became aware of the vast environmental harm that was a direct result of animal agriculture. Through educating myself about climate change, I was offered many solutions, but none were satisfactory. I would see alarming statistics about climate change and the terrible consequences of it, but the solutions presented were seemingly negligent things like, “Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth” and “Take shorter showers”. They did not seem to match the magnitude of this threat to our very existence.

As I dug deeper, I wondered why no one was talking about how animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. Some things are taught to us from an early age, like that eating meat is good. The more I learned, the weaker those justifications became. I decided that a personal commitment I could make to combat climate change was to stop eating meat. Originally, I thought of it as a sacrifice, but it hasn’t been. I don’t miss meat.

The health of the environment was the main reason I became vegetarian, but it was not the only one. Factory farms keep animals in cruel conditions. It is a life of suffering for these animals, until they are killed for profit. I did not want to play a part in that, and it shocks me when people learn about these things and still consume meat without a care.

I think one of the ways people justify eating the flesh of animals stems from an anthropocentric idea that animals are there to benefit us. That way of thinking strips animals of their personalities and the complex relationships they can form. The sooner we shift away from the belief that nothing has value outside of its relationship to us as humans, the sooner we will collectively stop eating dead animals.