I know what you’re thinking.
“How can she run a vegan blog when she’s not even vegan? What a hypocrite! She’s been eating cheeseburgers all this time!”
Hold up! Just hear me out.
If you’re involved in the vegan community, you may already be familiar with this topic.
Kalel is the first big vegan influencer to speak out about it, and after watching both of her videos (here and here) I gained even more respect for her. I could relate to a lot of what she was saying, and it’s like a lightbulb went off in my head.
I knew I had to share my experience.
So here’s the thing. I am not a perfect vegan. I have consumed animal products more than once during the last three years.
It’s a little scary to write this, as a lot of my identity is wrapped up in being a vegan.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I don’t intentionally seek out animal products. I’m not secretly dining at steakhouses and frequenting chicken shops!
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m head-over-heels in love with Japan. I make sure to visit every year and entirely immerse myself in the culture.
My one complaint? It’s not a particularly vegan-friendly country.
Each time I visit, I get better at finding plant-based options. I’ve even written a whole blog post about where to eat as a vegan!
But sometimes there simply isn’t that choice. I always venture outside of Tokyo and into more rural areas of Japan, where veganism is pretty much unheard of.
In these situations, it’s a choice between eating something non-vegan or eating nothing at all. It’s my firm belief that the unhealthy option (for me, personally) would be to skip a meal.
When I don’t eat I get tired, weak and cranky. Not the best combination!
I’m not about to drag my partner to multiple places in search of vegan food, disrupting our holiday and causing stress. I’m trying to show him that being vegan is fun, not complicated! If I’m militantly strict everywhere I go to the point that I restrict my own or others enjoyment, I can’t help but think that it will turn them off the idea of veganism.
I make sure to prepare as much as possible and try to research potential restaurants, but it doesn’t always work out. Whether I’m rushing to catch a bullet train or spontaneously exploring a new part of Tokyo, even the best-laid plans can fall by the wayside. In these situations, I will eat a meal that contains animal products if there is no way to make it vegan.
I’m not fluent in Japanese (yet!) so I can’t always read labels or menus, and it can be difficult to communicate with the servers if they don’t speak English. I always do my best to order a vegetarian meal at the very least, and will never knowingly consume any type of meat.
A funny thing about Japan is that they seem to equate the term ‘no meat’ to ‘pork and fish are okay.’ So it can be impossible to be sure! I’m not going to get hung up on those details and cause myself and my partner unnecessary stress.
I fully believe that meat and dairy are unhealthy, which is why I try my best not to include them in my diet. Fries aren’t particularly healthy either, but I still eat them sometimes!
Focusing too much on ensuring that everything going into your body is super healthy and nutritious can be a slippery slope to orthorexia. In my opinion, it’s what you do most of the time that counts, not some of the time. If you eat a predominantly healthy vegan diet 90% of the time, the other 10% really isn’t going to make much of a difference to your health.
To me, veganism is about striving to cause as little harm as possible to the planet, the animals and my own health. It’s about doing my best – not being perfect.
What I’ve gathered from reading social media comments and talking to friends and family is that many people shy away from going vegan as it seems intimidating and full of rules. There’s also a lot of judgement from both vegans and non-vegans if you fall off the bandwagon.
I don’t believe it’s healthy to feel as though you need to stick to any label rigidly. We’re humans! We’re flawed, fluid and imperfect.
At times it feels as though all the importance is being placed on the definition of the word ‘vegan.’ All around me, well-meaning vegetarians and flexible vegans are being attacked for ‘not doing more’ rather than being celebrated for the many ways that they are helping the planet and animals by cutting out as much meat and dairy as possible. We should be looking at the 90%, not the 10%.
I will continue to call myself vegan, as most of the time I am! I personally like having an easily-recognisable term to describe my diet and lifestyle, and I enjoy being part of the vegan community. I just don’t worry about rigidly sticking to the rules in the rare situations when it will negatively impact my life.
But it’s time we recognised that vegans are just humans, living in a predominantly non-vegan world. People seem to hold us up to unrealistic standards, forgetting that we’re just like everyone else – that is, not perfect.
If we were a little more accepting towards people who want to dabble in the vegan lifestyle while still occasionally consuming animal products, I think veganism would explode. Take away the intimidating label and judging eyes, and it’s a fun lifestyle that pretty much anyone can follow!
Say you have 10,000 perfect vegans. What a wonderful thing for the planet! Now, imagine 100,000 people who are consistently trying their best to eat as few animal products as possible. In my eyes, that’s much more achievable. Suddenly, veganism doesn’t look like an uphill battle. And isn’t that what we all really want?
What are your thoughts on this topic? If you’re vegan, are there ever any situations in which you would eat animal products? If you’re not vegan, what do you think about the community and lifestyle in general? Share your comments down below – I’d love to know!