To go vegan is to make a bold, open statement about your moral beliefs, what you’re willing to put into your body, and ultimately what you want the world to look like – it’s a line in the sand.
And as people progress in their efforts to reduce animal harm, there is a whack of judgment that gets thrown at those whose ideas might differ. Some common statements you can read repeatedly in vegan forums go along the following lines:
People who eat plant-based don’t get to call themselves vegan. People who are flexitarians or reducetarian are just lazy and not much better than a “regular” omnivore. People who are vegetarian are hypocrites since they see the harm in meat but not in milk or dairy. Pescetarians? Fish have feelings, too!
Us vs. them
While some these arguments might have some merit, they often have the effect of chastising those who genuinely want to help the cause at their own pace, and with their own abilities. They create an ‘us vs them’ mentality, which feeds the common stereotypes many people have of vegans being militant, sanctimonious and generally annoying. There is a reason why there are so many vegan jokes and memes.
And in the end, it is counterproductive. It creates the idea that you can only join the illustrious vegan club if you’re 100% perfect. If you slip up, you’ll be shamed.
Vegan for the animals?
Criticism also extends to why people go vegan in the first place. Many vegans insist that by definition, veganism is for the animals. If you’re in it for any other reason you should call yourself plant-based. Their definition emerged in the late seventies, and for all it’s worth, that was the main focus back then:
“Veganism is 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 40 years later, we now have science telling us that global meat and dairy production isn’t just cruel – it’s killing our planet. And in reaction, many people are turning to veganism today ‘for the planet’.
Plant-based and other alternatives
While people on a plant-based diet, as the name suggest, eat only food derived from plants, they can still wear leather and use beauty products tested on animals. Flexitarians still eat meat and dairy products but make some meals plant-based. Reducetarians are committed to eating less meat as well as less dairy and fewer eggs, regardless of the degree or motivation.
While these groups are not initially vegan, they are clearly open towards new ideas and changing their habits. Instead of shaming and belittling them, vegans should be at the forefront of welcoming and encouraging them to go a step further.
Supporting vegan products
Many people also struggle with certain ethical dilemmas and the answers to them are often as debatable as they are personal.
How do you deal with dairy companies that replace their dairy production with plant-based milk like the one in New York? Should they be punished and boycotted because they have been part of a cruel industry for almost 100 years? Or should they be supported by the people that their products are intended for and show the world that it can be quite profitable to replace dairy?
What about a dairy company that doesn’t really change their ways but just adds some dairy-free milk to their portfolio? Are they just jumping on the dairy-free train to make money? Should they be boycotted? Or would a successful non-dairy line convince them to replace more animal-based products in the long term?
Waste not, want not?
What about an old leather jacket or leather shoes people have at home? Should they just be thrown out? Isn’t that even more of a disgrace to the animal that had to die for it? And if you’re vegan ‘for the planet’, does it make sense to throw out the old leather belt and buy a new one made from synthetic materials derived from petrochemicals?
Ultimately, everybody has to come up with their own answers to these questions. And people should not be judged for choosing one over the other. There is no one right way to live. That is unless you join a cult or a strict religion.
What we stand for at FAIR/SQUARE
At FAIR/SQUARE, we have consciously decided to set up a business where none of the products sold cause any harm to animals. The food we sell is plant-based, the beauty products are plant-based and cruelty-free and the home decor items do not contain leather, wool or silk.
Our line in the sand is drawn very clearly. And we think that sand, and the beaches, and forests, and the entire planet is equally important. That’s why we sell only local Canadian products, use recycled packaging materials and offset our shipping related CO2 emissions. We give 1% of our annual sales to environmental organizations that help us in the fight to make this planet a little greener again.
Most importantly though, we are inclusive. No matter what you call yourself, we appreciate and support any step taken towards a world where we use and consume fewer animal products.
Happy people. Happy pigs. Happy planet.