I wrote these two brief blogs because a friend of mine 'liked' an article on FB entitled 'The case for imperfect veganism'.
The article was written by an individual who was not actually vegan, but was experimenting with a month of it. I didn't think it was a very well written article. It was muddled and crossed over between several different points it was trying to make. One moment it seemed to be justifying pseudo-veganism, rationalising why it was OK not to be vegan, or lapse from being vegan when it took your fancy. The next, it was suggesting that the reason people don't go vegan is because of vegan hardliners who put poeple off by the their use of aggressive influencing techniques.
The article produced a lot of responses and commentary. Naturally, it drew praise from those who favour a 'softly, softly' approach; and it suited those who haven't yet been able to completely abandon their reliance upon animal products for foodstuffs.
Here's my take on the issues, dealt with separately, as I believe is warranted:
The Cases For And Against 'Imperfect Veganism'
People struggle with becoming vegan. It's a fact, pure and simple. For some, availability of alternatives to dairy is an almost insurmountable issue. For others, the challenges presented by having partners who are not prepared to abandon their lifetime habits makes the whole vegan thing a 'bridge too far' because of the stress and grief they bring upon themselves when they attempt to make personal change. Still others may have medical issues that mean that however much they desire to give up certain aspects of their diet, they can't. Any one of these issues is a valid reason for the struggle with being vegan, unfortunate though it may be for those who aspire to give up being complicit in causing harm. However, there are perhaps a greater number of people who would notionally like to be vegan, but just aren't prepared to give up some item(s) in their habituated food intake. They might describe themselves as 'imperfect vegans', or claim that they are 'trying to be vegan'. That’s OK, but they deceive themselves. They just haven't decided to be vegan. There can be no doubt that attempts at veganism (almost there, but not really) are WAY better than being an out and out carnivore. Anybody who is trying is making more of a difference than somebody who isn't. That's to be applauded. But in the final analysis, our actions, including what we eat, are based upon our choices, irrespective of whether or not we're conscious of those choices. 'Imperfect veganism' which stems from ‘trying’, is a tacit acceptance that animal lives matter to us sometimes, but not others. Those times when they don't, tend to be when it's convenient for us for animal lives not to matter so much: When we can't get over our addictions to certain foods; when we aren't prepared to go the distance to make a difference. For us, half measures are OK. For animals, it's a total commitment. Their lives are at stake. Only when we fully commit to veganism do we maximise the impact each and every one of us can make to saving lives.
If 'imperfect veganism' allows us to dodge that point, we're missing out on a major piece of learning.
A Common Approach To Influencing Non-vegans?
A great deal of fuss is made by vegans about the so called ‘split in the ranks’.
Frequently, it is asserted that vegans will not influence others to give up reliance upon animals products unless a tactic for doing so is agreed upon.
Most frequently, there seems to be an assertion that vegan militancy or strongly expressed feelings cause those considering veganism to be deterred from committing.
This is a red herring. To assume that everyone would choose to alter their lifetime habits as a result of a single influencing technique is folly. Somewhere en route we have forgotten that people are different. Any adult learning or influencing technique model will indicate that there is a scale for intervention. In this particular arena, it can incorporate and embrace a range of techniques that would allow for anything from gentle persuasion, to aggressive advocacy, and still be within the parameters of effectiveness. Vegans who feel comfortable with mild suggestion should be encouraged to pursue this method as their contribution to saving lives. Vegans who want to shove the truths of their purpose in people's faces should be encouraged to pursue this method as their contribution to saving lives. Both will work on some. Neither will work on all. Vegans are not dis-unified just because they express themselves differently. Disagreement is not only natural, it is necessary. No common approach is needed. All approaches are needed. The only things vegans need share in common, if they are to make a difference, is clarity in their own individual purpose, and wholehearted commitment to it.