The Vigil-ant Vegan: The Fallacy of Perfection

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Let’s get something out of the way. No vegan is 100% vegan.

Even the best vegan in the world is imperfect. She could have been raised as a vegan, never worn fur, refuses to sit on leather couches and doesn’t even look at film photos (because film contains gelatin, an animal derivative). Even this vegan is imperfect.

This person cannot avoid stepping on ants when she walks outside, or killing dust mites when she sleeps on her mattress. The lettuce she eats may have been sprayed with pesticides, making that lettuce a product of cruelty.

Perfection doesn’t exist, but good intentions do. Veganism is about limiting the amount of harm we do to others, specifically other species. There’s an intimidation in the online vegan community that in order to “earn” the vegan label, one has to be perfect. This is not only elitist, but impossible.

Veganism shouldn’t be praised for its exclusivity. It is not a hip, new nightclub that only lets in those with the best (faux) leather shoes and coolest hair. The opposite is true. The goal of veganism is to minimize harm and this goal can only be realized if we encourage everyone to get involved and do our part.

If we vegans stop shaming each other for slipping up on our lifestyle (intentionally or otherwise), meat eaters might feel safer and more comfortable trying it our way. Instead of yelling at “fake vegans” who eat a bag of hot cheetos every few months or berating those who aren’t ready to give up their leather goods, we should be praising people for the steps they do take in the right direction.

There are people in my life who don’t eat meat, but still consume dairy. I understand the cruelty and suffering that comes from the dairy industry. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting. But so is the meat industry. And isn’t it great that these people stopped eating meat? Sure, they could go a step further and cut out dairy, and I hope they eventually do, but they are imperfect human beings. As am I. As are you.

I fear that many people don’t try veganism because they think that if they can’t do it right on the first try, there is no point. However, there are alternatives to being a “full-time” vegan.

One can limit their meat intake to a certain number of days per week. “Meatless Monday” is a global movement launched in 2003 that encourages people to omit meat from their diet for one day a week. The organization, in collaboration with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, promotes going meatless because of the health benefits and reduction in one’s carbon footprint, according the Meatless Monday’s website.

Alternatively, someone considering veganism can commit to eating vegan breakfasts and lunches, leaving dinner open to include meat and animal products.

The idea is that a person will customize veganism in a way that best increases their chances of sticking to it. Ideally, once this person feels confident in his ability to pledge to this new lifestyle, he will transition to eating vegan all the time, thus contributing the least amount of cruelty to animals.

Not a single one of us is a perfect vegan. We are just people who have seen cruelty in the world and are trying our best not to contribute to it.