The Vegan Police And Not Being ‘Vegan Enough’
We’ve all encountered the ‘Vegan Police’ at one time or another.
The first time the ‘Vegan Police’ tried to arrest me for not being vegan enough was in 2007.
I was brand new in the Pacific Northwest, and my punk house was having a housewarming party. Bands were playing, we had lots of dumpstered Naked Juice, and I’d baked dozens of Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cupcakes to share (recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, which was my favorite thing ever just then). Life was amazing, exciting, and just the previous night, I’d shared kisses with a cute vegan. He was at the party, so of course, I was stoked to offer him a cupcake.
He devoured it and then asked me, “So, those were Newman-O’s mashed up in the frosting, right?” I told him they were Tuxedos, the cheap, store-brand sandwich cookies, and he lost it: “Excuse me everyone: THE CUPCAKES AREN’T VEGAN! If you’re vegan and thought you were eating vegan cupcakes, YOU’RE WRONG!”
Why did this cute guy embarrass me in front of my new community? Because Tuxedos have processed sugar in them, and sometimes sugar is bleached using charcoal made from bones. And because he fancied himself to be the Vegan Police.
That was over 10 years ago.
I’m still vegan, and I’m still upset about it. Do we all have a story like this, where we thought we were just living our awesome lives, doing our best, when someone felt the need to be the Vegan Police, to try to catch us for not being “vegan enough”?
These overzealous vegans can hurt our feelings, but they also hurt the image of veganism, making it look harder than it is, unattainable (when it’s actually pretty easy once you’ve got the hang of it). The Vegan Police is vocal enough to be the stereotype for all vegans. We all know the joke, “How can you tell if someone is vegan? Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.” Does this ring true to you? Because in my experience, defensive omnivores way outnumber rude vegans. (How many grocery cashiers have quipped, “You know, plants have feelings too,” when they notice you buying produce and tofu?) Neither the defensive omnivores nor the rude vegans are going to change my commitment to veganism.
But I wish the Vegan Police would know that, while we don’t need to compromise on our principles, we can be aware of how we come off, and how we treat others, vegan or not. What if that guy at my house party had just talked to me instead? Maybe listened to my perspective? Maybe instead of his announcement, we could’ve put a little label on the cupcakes that mentioned what brand of cookies were in them, that we didn’t know whether the sugar was processed with bone char. Cars are one example of how 100% vegan purity is impossible. The steel and rubber in cars (and bikes!) are made with animal fats. So let’s acknowledge that no one is 100%, but that’s not a reason to give up.
We can do the best we can while realizing that an obsession with purity (especially when directed at others) reads as classist. Maybe some vegans can afford new shoes, while other vegans will keep wearing the leather shoes they owned before going vegan. I’ve heard people say, “If you can get turned off of veganism because someone was rude to you, then you weren’t cut out for it anyway.” I see it now on Facebook, vegans telling aspiring vegans that they should just give up. Here’s an idea: let’s not tell any aspiring vegans to quit trying. Veganism is for anyone who wants it. And while, of course, one rude vegan isn’t a good reason to eat animals, veganism’s awesomeness also isn’t a reason to be rude to someone who’s trying.
Some longtime vegans might forget that, in the beginning, it can be tough. Some people transition to a vegan life overnight, but others need time to ease into it, to learn more, to practice. Let’s not increase the chance that people are going to give up. Let’s not be the Vegan Police. Let’s not tell other vegans they’re not vegan, or “not vegan enough” (because they keep their old leather shoes, or eat processed sugar, or even ate their great grandma’s vegetable soup that one time without double-checking what kind of broth she used).
We’re all on our journeys. Let’s couple our compassion for non-human animals with compassion for each other.
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Tags: becoming a vegan, being vegan, parties, plant based, Vegan News, vegan police, vegetarian, Why Vegan