Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Veganism: Just a Diet, or is it a Philosophy?

I have a new column in VegNews magazine, and will be discussing controversial issues that face vegans.  There are actually quite a few (including a recent blog topic I posted – on whether to speak up or not when others are eating meat) and I’m bracing myself for a potential onslaught of criticism.  While I’m very excited for this opportunity, I don’t like having my feelings hurt!  But I suppose I’ll consider any tough criticism a growing experience in the hopes of opening some hearts and minds.

My next topic for the column will be on whether veganism is just a diet, or is it a philosophy?  Not only is this question controversial, it also will define why many people do what they do.  For example, a person who is a vegan only in their diet may still wear leather and fur, yet be calling themselves vegan.  This will outrage many philosophical vegans!  Some are calling for a change in terminology – “vegan” is used for those people who philosophically believe it’s not right to harm animals for any use, and “plant based dieters” for those who only eat plant foods, but otherwise don’t worry about their use of non-food animal products.

And what about those people who say they are vegan, yet aren’t 100% vegan?  They are, for example, 90% vegan, occasionally eating cheese or even a little meat here and there.  Again, a philosophical vegan might argue that you can’t be “kind of” vegan – just like you can’t be “kind of” Christian.  You either believe it’s not right to harm animals or you don’t, and act accordingly.  Semantically, it’s important to some people that these “kind-of” vegans clarify: “I’m working toward eating a 100% vegan diet, and do so most of the time.”

It seems rather important how you define veganism.  I believe that – even for those of us who have been vegan for years – this topic can really get you thinking. 

What are your thoughts?  Do you think that being a vegan only defines what you eat, or does it define your approach to life in some way?  I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Hi Sarah,

    I also have a blog called Almost Vegan that I have been posting to since 2004. I had been vegan for a couple of years before that so it has been a long time. I call myself vegan, though now the almost really applies since I have fallen off the wagon with dairy and fish a number of times in the last few years. I actually was very vegan in the days I was doing a lot of work on my blog, I slacked off in 2008 when I purchased a new house and spent most of my time and resources rehabbing it.

    I called my blog almost vegan because I ate products with casein in them, which I knew was an element from milk. I was that pure of a vegan back then. But, I am so glad now for the "almost", because when I got busy with my house, distracted and run down, I did not fall off the wagon completely. After years of being a pretty good vegan, I found I had built my eating life around it, even though my family and most everyone around me, except a few really cool friends, are hard core carnivores. I mean, I sit at my family's table looking at thick steaks, ribs, pork roasts, ham, etc., etc and I feel lucky if there is anything there for me to eat at all.

    I cannot give up my family. I need them, I have known my sisters my whole life. I love them and their husbands and their kids and I could preach and preach until we were all enemies and it would never change their lifestyles.

    I feel the hard line vegans are a good thing. There for a reason. Those are the people who push vegan-ism forward because they do not allow themselves to eat anything else so they are constantly looking to make eating vegan better. They have to, they will not go another direction so they go forward. I have been there and felt that and it is a great thing.

    BUT, and this is a big but, if you make it too hard for people on the other side I feel you are going against purpose, at least my purpose... to make it easier on the animals. If people eat less meat, less dairy, it would take a great load off them. If you drive people away from vegan-ism, from looking at the alternatives to meat and dairy, and make it something that sets just you apart and makes you special, that's a great feeling, but in my view counter productive.