The Problem with Veganism

I’ve been advocating for animals for more than 20 years. During that time, I’ve learned many valuable lessons. I feel obligated to share those lessons with others even though honest people may disagree. I didn’t always hold these beliefs. Over time, my views have evolved. In fact, I still find myself frequently questioning long-held positions and learning new ways to consider and resolve challenges to improve my advocacy. In the end, I make every decision to serve the best interests of animals. I am still wrong often and err frequently.

Not Cruelty-Free
It will serve the animal protection movement well if people who eat plant-based food and abstain from buying products made of animals or tested on animals and refuse to pay to see animals exploited concede that our lifestyle is not cruelty-free. It may also serve the cause of promoting freedom for animals well if we avoid a debate over who causes more harm to animals, human health, and the environment and shift the focus to inspiring people to show more compassion for animals which in turn achieves desired outcomes. We need to pit ourselves against our friends, family, and neighbors less, eliminate their reasons to feel defensive and resist change, and work smarter to find common ground to benefit animals. The psychology of persuasion is an art and we should heed its lessons.

Our Carbon Footprint
People who don’t eat animals still have a carbon footprint that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and we still bear responsibility for cruelty to animals. Examples abound. Our wood furniture came from a tree that was cut down and disrupted animals’ habitat, the gasoline we use came from an oil company that caused harm to marine and wildlife, plastic we use often winds up in our waterways polluting our marine ecosystem, and most alarming, millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey. While we can logically argue that the life of an animal on a factory farm involves confinement and a longer period of suffering before death and that factory farming contributes to even more killing of animals to grow crops to feed the animals people eat, it is unlikely an argument that will make inroads with naysayers.

Meat substitutes are also highly processed which requires considerable land and energy to produce. Many beers and wines contain dried fish bladder and gelatin made from pig and cow hooves, candy contains cochineal extract made from crushed beetles, and many refined sugars contain bone char. I’m personally responsible for approximately 18 tons of CO2 per year. While less than the 27 tons of CO2 emitted by the average American per year, it is still much higher than the worldwide average of 5.5 tons of CO2 per year.

Instead of using an inaccurate term such as cruelty-free to describe our lifestyle, we should advocate for the freedom of all animals and the significant reduction of confinement, abuse, and killing in as many ways as possible. This more welcoming approach would put more of us on the same team. The idea that we live a perfect life because we don’t eat animals or buy products tested on them or pay to see them exploited is flawed, turns people off from the movement because they don’t believe they can live up to such unrealistic standards, and doesn’t hold up against scrutiny. We support many industries that cause harm to our health, environment, and animals, including our cell phone, car, cable, airplane, and electricity companies, to name a few. As we say to people who eat animals, denying reality doesn’t make it any less real.

The Importance of Imperfection
The good news is that we don’t need to be perfect to advocate for animals; only thoughtful in our actions and reflective in our thinking. This is yet another reason why it’s counterproductive to be so fanatical about a drop of fish oil, for example, winding up in our food. When we make such a hullabaloo about something minuscule in comparison to our overall negative impact, the lifestyle does not appear attractive to someone who may wish to try it. It seems like a nuisance. Most people don’t want to live a complicated life; however, given the choice to live a relaxed life while doing right in the world, many people will seize the opportunity.

By expressing outrage over a drop of fish oil in our food and returning the dish in the presence of people who consume animals, we paint an unflattering picture of our lifestyle. We will successfully save the drop of fish oil (or not because it will simply be discarded) but potentially fail at the opportunity to save thousands of animals by alienating others. Our conduct may make us feel good because we think we’re passing our own personal purity test but it’s not in the best interest of animals. If we instead inspire someone at the table to stop eating animals, we will save hundreds of animals per year and potentially thousands of drops of fish oil.

Disarming Advocacy
People who don’t eat animals have the best intentions but we do not serve our cause well if we elevate ourselves to a status that fails to represent reality. We need more humility, pragmatism, and grace and less grandstanding and amnesia about our lives prior to departing from cultural norms. For those who find transparent inconsistencies in our advocacy, we lose credibility. Think of how differently we might be received by the billions of people who eat animals if we presented our plea as follows:

We support freedom for all animals. We try to avoid causing harm to any and all animals but we are not perfect. We try to make decisions every day that spare animals from confinement, abuse, and death. Sometimes it’s easy — for example, not attending the circus, zoo, or a seaquarium, buying products that haven’t been tested on animals, not wearing fur, leather, or wool, and not ordering or making food made from animals or their byproducts such as steak, hamburgers, eggs, and cheese.

At the same time, we realize the wood we buy, the plastic we use, and even the vegetables we eat all contribute to some form of disruption of our ecosystem, suffering, and death. For us, it’s not about being perfect but about trying to make the world a more humane place by reducing our harmful impact. If you care about your health, animals, and our environment, perhaps you will try as well. We will not judge you for falling short because we all fall short of our goal but rather we will aim to provide you accurate information and inspire and support you as you learn the truth about the impact of the decisions we make.

The Psychology of a Word
Ask people the following questions and listen to their answers:
1. Do you care about animals?
2. Do you care about our environment?
3. Do you care about your health?
4. Do you want to be a vegan?

You will likely receive an affirmative answer to the first three questions and a negative response to the final question even though an affirmative answer to the first three questions embodies the label in the final question. Why? Psychology. Word association. People don’t want to be labeled or cornered into a commitment. Set aside how you feel. Assuming others will feel or do as you do is faulty thinking. If you only eat plant-based food and live in the United States, your selfless actions for animals represent a small percentage of the population. To advocate effectively, you must think like those who don’t think like you. Focus on acts of kindness in your advocacy rather than a label that may be viewed as extreme. I don’t own any t-shirts with the word “vegan” on them. Instead, my shirts have a message that appeals to people’s desire to do right or to eat more healthful food. For example: “Animals are my friends. I don’t eat my friends.” Another shirt I wear reads: “Animals are here with us, not for us.” Some of my shirts are simple and straightforward: “Eat More Kale.” These are common sense, non-threatening, and compassionate pleas that appeal to people’s most fundamental sense of decency and pique their curiosity.

I avoid using the word “vegan” because I believe it has a negative connotation with many people who view it as fanatical and too difficult. Dissenting opinions welcome. I respect people’s right to embrace the word, tattoo it on their body, and scream it from their rooftop. I understand the arguments in favor of it. I prefer to describe the way I live my life in a friendly way without any labels that may repel people. I don’t need to call myself a “vegan” to stop eating animals, to not wear leather, or to refuse to go to a zoo. I care about my health, our environment, and the well-being of animals and I try to live up to my own standards. I grew up loving dogs, goldfish, and a few other animals and learned to extend my compassion to all animals. I’m constantly learning and trying to do better.

A Vegan World
I often hear people say that they want a “Vegan World.” I have even seen people debate its arrival time, with predictions as soon as 2015. Unfortunately, many people who call themselves “vegans” live in places where there are high concentrations of “vegans” in comparison to other parts of the world. These good-hearted, dedicated, and optimistic people seem to be removed from the reality of the world’s eating habits and use and exploitation of animals for other purposes.

There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Millions of those people take pleasure in causing animals pain. They don’t care about animals and it’s possible many never will. The idea that somehow billions of people will adopt “veganism” in a few years is unrealistic. Confined, abused, and slaughtered animals are omnipresent in the world. Short of a catastrophic environmental disaster that necessitates changes in animal agriculture or a sustainability issue of some other magnitude, we are engaged in a decades long battle to inspire the masses to choose compassion over cruelty. Our goal should be to make the world more humane, not to make it perfect because the former goal is achievable and will engage more people in the process.

Although polls vary, approximately 1 million of more than 300 million Americans state they only eat plant-based food. The population of people who make thoughtful decisions that benefit animals is growing and we should take great pride and satisfaction in that fact knowing that it contributes to less suffering but we should also keep expectations realistic and avoid hyperbole if we expect to be taken seriously. I’m proud of people who follow “Meatless Monday” or have expressed that they have reduced their consumption and exploitation of animals. Even though there is no label for them, I still praise their progress. They are part of a growing community of people who show a degree of concern about animals and whose actions reflect their interest in doing better. I no longer focus on a so-called “vegan world” but rather take direct action every day to help reduce the suffering of all animals through grassroots advocacy.

Many people take absolute positions in their advocacy and voice enormous frustration if people don’t commit to full-fledged allegiance to the “vegan” lifestyle. These advocates miss the importance of the impact of gradual change and individual acts of kindness performed by people every day in a myriad of ways. When people tell me they gave up eating cheese, I embrace their decision. I don’t berate them for still eating cows because I understand it’s a beginning and given that the vast majority of people still eat and drink everything animal, they have now put themselves in the company of a small group of people relative to the world’s population who are not “vegan” but are thinking about decisions they’re making every day to show more compassion for animals, their health, and our environment. That’s a giant step forward that will likely lead to more realizations and progress. We should embrace every step that benefits animals rather than demonizing people who fail to attain a cruelty-free perfection that doesn’t exist. We can suggest that we cause less suffering but if we pretend we cause no suffering, the movement suffers.

Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is a volunteer grassroots animal rights advocate and the organizer of the 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals. He writes a zero-profit blog, Kirschner’s Korner, to help raise awareness about issues affecting the global community to make the world a more humane place. To receive Dr. Kirschner’s new articles via email, enter your email in the “Follow Blog Via Email” link at the top right of the blog.

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33 Responses to The Problem with Veganism

  1. averill says:

    Thank you so much for that! No matter how much we read, or how old we are, there is still room for learning something new ! Very though provoking piece! Look forward to your next one !

  2. mestopinan says:

    This is by far one of the best blog entries I have read at Andrew’s Corner. I totally agree with this position. The term vegan has become something to the connotation if a cult and fanaticism and finds quiet often opposition the though of it because people don’t want to be associated with those extremes with negative social repercussions. No matter how many animal products we avoid we are still responsible for the indirect harm we cause, as Andrew say, when using gas, or the wood in our furniture, or our boat ride… We also engage in activities that impact for that matter people. Many of us struggle to make ends meet, and we need to go for the cheapest choices in the market. Cheap choices sometimes are the result of modern slavery, child labor, unfair trade, sweatshop working conditions, low wages, so on and so forth. I love Zoe Weil’s (author and founder if Institute for Humane Education) MOGO philosophy, Try to Do THE MOST GOOD AND THE LEAST HARM to people, animals, and the environment whenever we have to make choices on our daily lives. This philosophy leaves room for imperfection, and for those things we have no control of. Great article Andrew. Thank you!

  3. Alexandra says:

    An excellent post and so important for everyone to understand. The self- righteousness that is so common among vegans is doing so much harm and creating unneccessary rifts. I live almost vegan but would, even if entirely vegan, never ever want to label myself as such.

  4. Patricia says:

    I agree but sometimes it´s difficult don´t become a fanatic. However I try to.
    Thank you for these words! :)

  5. Very well put, Andrew. I agree with you, and my years of trial and error have confirmed what you write. If we are to effectively participate in the animal protection movement, we need to put the animals’ best interests first and keep that in mind as we go forward with our advocacy. Thank you for your contributions.

  6. MadEyes2@aol.com says:

    Loved your article. I no longer say Vegan … just, “I do not eat meat,” and SMILE. Some people ask me questions and I answer with a smile. I do not accuse nor try to change. A bit of information is enough … and a few people have changed. But not many. I live in a heavily meat place … Texas BB is everywhere along with their BBQ cook offs. I am turned off with nasty vegans. Thanks for the article.

  7. I’d enjoy talking with you at the right time perhaps, but I just want to point this one statement out “…and most alarming, millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey.” While growing grain crops does kill and number of individuals from other species, most grains by a wide margin, are grown to feed farmed species. Consider inverting the statement, a vegan diet will reduce the number of individuals from other species killed in growing plant crops for aniamal agriculture in the United States: by 80 percent (corn), 22 percent (wheat), and 75 percent (soybean) crops. Corn and soybean crops occupy a combined 145.2 million acres of U.S. habitat.

    I don’t apologize for the terms vegan and veganism any more than I do carnist and carnism, or catholic and Catholicism, etc.) They are important, useful, and necessary. Stating I’m a Democrat or Republican can be problematic but we adapt. The admonition to not talk politics at the dinner table is a principle I apply to dietary choices in “mixed” company. Other means of expression as you exampled are fine, but so is vegan. We tailor our messaging as best we can to the individual audiences we dialogue with, but not at the expense of agreeing animal agriculture is humane, just, or environmentally sustainable. It can come later in the conversation, but not denied.

    When nonvegans see a person who looks “normal and respectful” wearing a tee with the word vegan, it helps to reduce the stereotype of “this is a threat” that we too easily internalize and then end up becoming apologetic for what we are trying to share. Internalized homophobia by a person who is gay was seen as a serious problem during the movement for our human rights. It was important that we talked about and helped people with that self-defeating behavior. Yes, these are different movements in many respects and I think you are correct in identifying that our behavior is critical to creating change. However, I wouldn’t categorically charge that we should internalize an “apologistic” psychology and refuse to wear our Vegan identity, however humbly. See Karen Davis’ article at upc.org (United Poultry Concerns) about the issue of apologizing for what we seek.

    I find referring people to documentaries that they can experience in the comfort of their own homes to be effective. One of the bright lights is the number of these tools that are becoming available.

    As to the number of vegans, statistical data can be a problem for us to present. Polling for the veg count has changed over time (the way they are worded especially) as you know. Determining how many vegans and vegetarians there are is confounded by survey margins of error, the sample size, and the tendency of survey respondents to define themselves as vegetarian when they are not. Some survey respondents call themselves vegetarian because they do not eat red meat but do eat chicken, duck, or fish. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) corrected this self-identification problem in their 2006 third-party professional poll that now lists animal-origin products by name. VRG began asking respondents if they ever ate a disqualifying item like red meat, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs, and fish. Under the more precise polling questions, their 2011 poll found that about 2.5 percent are vegetarian and another 2.5 percent are vegan. The 2010 U.S. census revealed there are over 312 million people (including children) in the United States. Still. we are millions strong in the U.S. alone, and growing. The 2012 poll, (http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/05/18/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian/) does state a 1% figure for the number of vegans. However the VRG goes on to state these important considerations:

    “In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points [which would explain the difference in polls between the years—Will]. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys, including refusals to be interviewed (i.e., non-response), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

    Four percent of U.S. adults were found to be vegetarian. With U.S. adults 18 and over numbering about 230 million, we can estimate the number of vegetarians in the U.S. adult population, based on this poll, to be approximately nine million adults. Vegans included in the vegetarian figures would be around 2 million people. If you take into account the margin of sampling error of the poll, we can estimate the number of vegetarians in the U.S. population to range from approximately 5 million to about 14 million adults. With margin of sampling error, vegans could range as high as 6.9 million.

    - See more at: http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/05/18/how-often-do-americans-eat-vegetarian-meals-and-how-many-adults-in-the-u-s-are-vegetarian/#sthash.McDab94g.dpuf

    Many of us are troubled by the turnover rate of veg*ns who revert to carnism. Bit that’s another blog. Your post was excellent and gave me a lot to think about. And thank you for the all important Florida march. We in the NW U.S. know Lolita, who is imprisoned at the horrific Miami Seaquarium, will be represented in the event. .

  8. Gita Devi says:

    Another great, thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Andrew.

  9. amygwalsh says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  10. al jackson says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth Andrew. The word “vegan” is taken about as seriously as Hare Krishna, Jehova’s Witness and Amish. Vegans live in our own bubble and forget that we’re only talking to ourselves. If we want to recruit new vegans, we must no longer use that word. Saying “Go Vegan” to a stranger is about as effective as saying “Will you marry me?” the first time you meet them. It doesn’t work, and it seems insane. To get someone to commit to a marriage, take them out a few times, ease them into getting to know you… don’t just say, “Hey miss, excuse me, you don’t know me, but will you marry me?” Or how many of us have become Jehova’s Witnesses when they knock on our door? I bet zero. I bet it’s never happened. And if you saw a billboard that said “Go Amish,” would you go Amish? Of course not.

    Over lunch with a non vegan friend the other day, she noticed what I was eating and asked, so you’re vegan? I said, “Yeah, but I would never use that word because…” she cut me off and finished my sentence, “…because it sounds like a cult?” “Precisely,” I answered.

    We do not need to call ourselves anything other than “normal people.” We just happen to not use or eat animals and dairy. But we’re still the same old people we were, just a lot nicer and more thoughtful. But we don’t need a new name. And if you really want to have a name for “vegans,” I suggest “mainstream.” Yep, I’m “mainstream” because I don’t eat or use animals or dairy. Who gave the carcass munchers the right to be called mainstream? They’re anything but normal. We’re the ones living normally, as nature meant it to be. So I refuse to call myself something other than a “normal human being.” The word “vegan” implies carcass munchers are normal and we’re the weirdos.

    Why is that important? Because the goal is to recruit more and more people who don’t use or eat animals. And we can’t accomplish that if society sees us as weirdos.

  11. pawsitiveHeather says:

    Very interesting. I have been vegetarian for a year. Recently, I have been working more and haven’t had time to cook meals or prepare lunches. I eat boxed macaroni and cheese and eat chips and candy instead. I’m hungry all the time and I don’t have the time (or it’s not a priority in my current lifestyle) to prepare meals for myself. Oh, did I mention my husband pretty much eats ONLY meat and every meal has to have some sort of meat in it? So, I have to make 2 different dinners, pack 2 different lunches, make 2 breakfasts, and if we go out, it’s always a fight.

    So, I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to be vegetarian anymore, and I’m ‘giving up’ my conquest to become vegan. This article is helping me with the guilt.

    • Hi Heather,

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. What was the reason you decided to eat plant-based foods?

      Regards,

      Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

      • pawsitiveHeather says:

        Well, one -for my health. In short, I have a problem with factory farms, and how the animals are treated while they are alive

      • Thank you Heather. You are right that eating plant-based food is healthier. I’m also glad to learn that you care about animals. I hope you did not construe my article as a reason to justify eating animals. To the contrary, while eating plant-based food doesn’t absolve us of cruelty, it saves so many more lives, it’s healthier, and it reduces our carbon footprint. I hope you will at least consider a balance in your eating plan and an eventual return to plant-based foods. Have you tried finding any online support groups? I know many people in your situation who can provide you guidance and support.

        Regards,

        Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

      • pawsitiveHeather says:

        Well, I want to-but I work so much right now, it’s just not something that is feasible. I plan on quitting my day job this year, so it is in the plans to become vegetarian again next year, but then it will depend on finances

      • Thank you for keeping hope alive for the animals Heather. Everything we do makes a big difference. None of us are perfect but when we stop eating animals and their byproducts, we save hundreds of lives. Where there is a will, there is a way. I’ll be rooting for you. In the meantime, here is a list of other ways you can show kindness to animals. I hope you find it helpful.

        Regards,

        Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

  12. Chris Posey says:

    Heather, you said you were hungry all the time. You also said you eat boxed mac and cheese. Unfortunately Kraft can get away with adding all kinds of additives like yellow food coloring to the dry ingredience for sauce. Also GMO products have made me “hungry” all the time too, like soy. Don’t give up there are many good gurus like Foodbabe.com online who can guide sensible eating.

  13. Chris Posey says:

    “…and most alarming, millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey.”

    I’m glad you didn’t include humans in the list. Some vegans like to place humans on a continuum with other species in terms of equality. This is highly questionable, since the world’s animals have evolved with hierarchies well in place. Now if the statement would be qualified with the ability to feel pain and suffering, then that holds credence.

    Nonetheless, some animals do suffer more during slaughter than others. A vegan once asked me what the difference is in eating horsemeat versus anything else on a buffet. Well, take for instance the difference between a chicken and an 1100 lb., “flight” animal, such as a horse…. The suffering is immense to a horse who cannot be stunned instantly and who over 40% of the time wakes up when being butchered.

    It is distressing that horse slaughter is on the verge of coming back to the U.S. after nearly a 7-year absence. During this time, we’ve kept a whole species out of U.S. slaughter houses, and this may now be coming back. The Bureau of Land Management also knowingly sends our wild horses to slaughter and refuses to investigate.

    A judge in New Mexico will have a decision on the opening of Valley Meats in Roswell, NM at the end of October. This decision will determine two other horse slaughterhouse openings and many more in the U.S. We need to pass the SAFE Act. HR1094 and S.541 to stop this.

    In case you’ve been wondering, I am a vegetarian for decades and don’t use dairy, eggs, leather or wool either.

  14. Great blog entry Andrew. You are so thoughtful in what you say and how you express yourself. I agree wholeheartedly with this entry . Thank you for your words of wisdom.

    • “For those who are vegan, as Andrew is, taking this position toward non-vegans is generous and noble. For those who know they ought to be vegan but still aren’t, it is just an excuse.”

      • sierrasue123 says:

        What point are you trying to make Linda besides scolding me again ! You allready posted this to me on facebook. I am only agreeing that the behavior that Andrew upholds is topnotch. I dont see anyplace here where he said that vegans only are allowed to read or comment on his blogs. He is not judgemental or finger wagging and instead is willing to help people along. You dont know me. So, quite finding ways to judge me.

  15. Veganism is about compassion and kindness to all beings. It is do no harm as much as possible! People find all kinds of excuses to not go or be vegan….eating animal products hurt us and the science shows that the amount of animal products needed for human survival is exactly ZERO!
    And you will love the great health you have after you choose vegan foods!

  16. veghappy says:

    Excellent!!!!! And so spot on. This is how I try to live and show the world. I hate the word Vegan and use it less and less because it turns people off. I am sharing this article! Thank yoiu!

  17. Rosie Falconi says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post Andrew. I am new to animal activism and wondered if you had any advice on how to deal with strained relationships with family and friends over speaking up for animals. I recently sent one of your articles to one of my best friends who had posted pictures of her foie gras dinner. I did not accuse her of anything. In fact, I mentioned what a caring person I knew she was and that I thought she might be interested in learning the truth behind this dish. She lashed out at me accusing me of being judgmental and that if I want to keep my friends, I should refrain from talking about people’s food choices.

    I have other friends who have also received very negative commentary from friends and family just by posting petitions or photos of animal abuse on FB. I realize this is part of the road. But, I find that this sometimes holds some people back from going full force with their activism. Any thoughts on dealing with loss of long-time friendships and relationships over our activism. I personally know I will never stop advocating for animals, but we all have feelings and long for companionship and sometimes it seems a very lonely road…

    • Hi Rosie,

      Thank you for your advocacy. When you talk to people about ending the abuse of animals, they are almost unanimous in their support. When it involves a decision that affects them directly, it’s common for them to become defensive and distance themselves from it so they don’t have to change their lifestyle.

      Your challenge is to disarm them and help them to understand that they can continue their lifestyle while making more humane decisions that preserve their health and our environment while showing compassion for animals. Become a student of effective advocacy. Read books on the topic, attend workshops, watch videos, read websites and blogs, and speak with like-minded people for advice.

      It is a lonely road but remember that you are advocating for the great moral imperative of our time. Followers have plenty of company. Leaders often stand alone.

      All the best –

      Andrew

      • Rosie Falconi says:

        Thank you once again for your amazing words Andrew. I agree with your advice wholeheartedly. I have been immersing myself lately in material that will fuel my passion to help animals and also keep me strong emotionally. It is a fine line we walk to advocate effectively and also act in a way that benefits the animals rather than our ego. I’ll be attending a 6 day Tony Robbins seminar next week where the focus will be on integrating ones value system with their life goals and purpose in life. I look forward to coming home with renewed strength and a drive to take more action. Thank you again for all you do!

      • Outstanding Rosie. I’m rooting for you!

  18. Joanne Anand says:

    This is THE BEST blog on this topic I have ever read and I feel very passionately about Andrews words and agree with him wholeheartedly. I am always striving to reach people in the very best way I can to entice people toward trying a cruelty free lifestyle and I have always found it more effective to not use labels and yell ‘Go vegan!’ at people. I get incensed when I hear vegans saying they refuse to have friends on Facebook or in real life who aren’t vegan because that shoves us away in a little corner and prevents us from spreading the love and raising awareness to those of us who think differently and we only end up hurting the animals by preaching to the converted. What any movement needs are people who are the voice of reason. As the saying goes, anything too far left or right of any spectrum will fail and in a world with so many cultures and differing personalities moderation is the golden keep to moving forward and what will get us toward a more compassionate future a lot quicker. The ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality which a lot of vegans unfortunately possess is harmful to the cause and only pushes normal people away from the ‘group’ and makes everything seem too difficult, on the fringe and unappealing to the masses and it will never get us anywhere. The high standards a lot of vegans have will not get us anywhere either because it only makes the whole thing seem too hard for people who don’t even know where to start. Andrew your words are true words of wisdom and if people really are in it for the animals and not for themselves, they will listen and learn a lot from this wonderfully written and common sense blog. Many thanks and please keep spreading this important message. I have never labelled myself either and whilst so many vegans turned against me or disliked me for it I stood alone in my stance with no desire to change that, because all I have ever cared about is the animals I try to help and I have always wanted what is best for them. It is possible to light the way for others without bashing them over the head with the constant use of labels or by telling them what to be, and gentle guidance with clever and appealing awareness raising always gets results. The key is to knowing every day people want to try living in a kinder way and a healthier way without labelling themselves and stepping away from the masses. Sociologically that is a fact and once we realise this and show the way instead of telling people who to be and what to do all the time we will start to see real progress, really fast.

  19. jennf82 says:

    Yes to everything!! Really great article. Thank you for sharing.

  20. Reblogged this on The Paw Report and commented:
    My Reblog of The Week. This honest and well-stated post needs to be read.

    Excerpt:

    “Think of how differently we might be received by the billions of people who eat animals if we presented our plea as follows:
    We support freedom for all animals. We try to avoid causing harm to any and all animals but we are not perfect. We try to make decisions every day that spare animals from confinement, abuse, and death. Sometimes it’s easy — for example, not attending the circus, zoo, or a seaquarium, buying products that haven’t been tested on animals, not wearing fur, leather, or wool, and not ordering or making food made from animals or their byproducts such as steak, hamburgers, eggs, and cheese.
    At the same time, we realize the wood we buy, the plastic we use, and even the vegetables we eat all contribute to some form of disruption of our ecosystem, suffering, and death. For us, it’s not about being perfect but about trying to make the world a more humane place by reducing our harmful impact. If you care about your health, animals, and our environment, perhaps you will try as well. We will not judge you for falling short because we all fall short of our goal but rather we will aim to provide you accurate information and inspire and support you as you learn the truth about the impact of the decisions we make.”

  21. Catherine Burk says:

    Is there a way to ‘subscribe’ to your letters, messages and opinions re veganism (diet vs lifestyle, etc)?

  22. markgil says:

    i would have to say i disagree whole heartedly. using the term vegan implies a philosophy of non-violence and the ethics of not intentionally harming others for personal pleasure or profit. to me, without this aspect it becomes all about health and self serving interests, exactly the opposite of what is stated in this article. the fact that no one can be perfect does not mean that we should not try our utmost to do the least harm possible. quotes from some great minds in history bear this out:

    “A principle is a principle, and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.” – Gandhi

    “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” – Albert Einstein

    i find this recent article by Will Tuttle to be much more in line with what should be strived for in our advocacy:

    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/uncategorized/deep-veganism-a-movement-whose-time-has-come/

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