So vegans will be familiar with the definition of veganism as originated from Donald Watson in 1944 as “… a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
But what exactly does ‘possible and practical’ mean?
I have seen many different people with differing views on what it means to be vegan – for them at least. And whilst it is commonly agreed that a vegan is not someone who eats meat ‘only every now and then’ or someone who is 80,90 or 95% ‘vegan’ – what about the less than half a percent of the time?
The vegans who use a mobile phone which contains animal products, or money notes which can contain tallow, or drive cars on roads all of which may contain animal products – or at some point use materials which may have been tested on animals. Or drive a car with leather seats, buy a new car with leather seats?
Now I know some of you will be shouting out how obvious it is that a ‘real vegan’ can’t buy/use some of these things, and there are probably others which you say are ‘ok because the definition is possible and practical’. But who is to say that where one person draws that imaginary line, can or should ever be the same for anyone else?
So where does it stop, when is a vegan not really vegan because of their choice in line? Or should we all just be able to call ourselves what we want if its what we believe we are?
There is a lot of vegan bashing, yes from the meat eaters but also sadly from within our own community too. The online forums are full of people who seem to put themselves in a position of vegan-er than others.
I have wondered many times over the years, who is more vegan – the newbie who converted a couple of weeks ago and is fastidiously checking every label and mouthful – filling their brains with all this new information about eggs, milk products, where palm oil comes from and how coconuts are harvested….. or the vegan with decades of experience behind them of living a vegan life but who occasionally will eat bread which may contain some milk or drink wine which may have used fish/egg in the processing, or have the chips which they don’t know how they were cooked, even when you do ask first?
In truth, I don’t believe there is a clear cut answer, no right or wrong, when we are dealing at the margins of ‘may contain’. For me, life is about balance and sustainability – for the odd occasions when I may have eaten some limited animal products, there will be many other times when I have unknowingly eaten something or been given much worse in my veggie meal in a restaurant ….we have probably all been there!.
Ultimately we are vegans living (for now at least) in a non-vegan world and whilst we advocate change, we are doing it in the real world.
For me this is about a way of living, that is kind to the animals, environment and myself – and whilst that doesn’t mean I will tuck into any animal products – I accept that I am not ‘perfect’ and that making the right and sensible choice in a given situation, is the right thing to do. And that is what I believe possible and practical means.
What does it mean to you?