I have two trains of thought on this topic. One is about perfectionism in the vegan community and the other is my personal experience. Perfectionism is extremely visible in the vegan community and maybe it’s more intensified because of the internet. I am not discussing this to minimize veganism, because I consider myself a part of the vegan community. However, criticism can sometimes open the discussion and we should continue to question and challenge our beliefs.
The definition of veganism I follow is “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. This definition is widely accepted as it describes veganism as more than a diet, but also recognizes that what is possible and practicable might differ from person to person. Did you know that even on organic or ethical farms, mice and rabbits might accidentally be killed when harvesting grains and vegetables? Is it feasible to avoid almost all produce because of the possibility that an animal might have been harmed? Some people might be in a place where they can have a vegetable garden. However, a majority of people and a majority of vegans cannot practically do this. This idea can be extended to nearly any product.
In my position, it is possible to avoid all animal products and to buy about 90% cruelty-free skin and hair care. I don’t own leather, fur, or wool. I feel like I do a lot, but some people do even more. They live in eco-friendly houses and buy 100% vegan furniture. They only buy clothing from vegan brands. Some of these things are impossible in my current situation. But I am only in control of my life and I don’t know what other people do or what struggles they may have. I can share what I do and I can encourage people. But, I have no interest in competing with people. A big theme I see among social media vegans is this idea that there is a right and wrong way of doing veganism. If you are not living on an island eating strictly whole foods and never using plastic or never eating mock meats, then you are apparently doing it wrong. This is the impression some might get when they come to the vegan movement. Even with the purest vegans, there is still harm to animals. All humans cause harm to ecosystems just by simply existing. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be better. We should do our part. I’m just exhausted by social media vegans (I’m one of them and I need to consistently check myself).
I don’t like how veganism has turned into a competition between who is the best vegan. This has taken the focus away from animal welfare and has made the focus on individual perfection. It’s now about “I” and “me”. When it actually should be about the abuse and suffering of farm animals and about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. If we want more people to become vegan, then the policing and extreme judgment needs to stop. I’m not going to tear someone apart because they accidentally ate something with palm oil or did not use raw cane sugar in a recipe. I’m not going to tear apart anyone because I’m over here trying to be a positive example. If blame is going to be handed down, it should be directed at companies and systems that abuse power.
I have personally struggled with perfection. About a year ago, I persistently tried to be the purest vegan possible. I thought I was eating the cleanest plant-based diet and I shrank the number of products I used to nearly zero. I was trying to be the healthiest and the most ethical (to an extreme). Living like this was stressful. I was putting so much pressure on myself and I completely freaked out. I reached a point where I got so upset at the thought of doing something wrong. When I was like this, being vegan was miserable. I was concerned about me and not concerned about the message behind veganism. When I decided to stop crying over everything, I enjoyed being vegan again and was able to be inspired by food and ethical lifestyle. I can’t stress this enough, stop getting upset because you messed up. Apologize, give yourself grace, and continue to move forward. I constantly see people give up because they think they have failed. You don’t have to live one way just because you are vegan. You can be the vegan that is a hippie living in a van. But you can also work a 9-5 and be vegan and still be ethical. There isn’t a right or wrong way as long as you are avoiding animal products as far as practicable for your lifestyle.
Discouraged vegans, this article is dedicated to you! The perfectionism needs to end. Stop comparing and stop idolizing others. If you are thinking, “I don’t think I’m doing this right”. I am telling you-you are doing it right.
This post is not intended to offend anyone. I am simply opening the discussion. There is the definition for a reason, but I wanted to point out the gray areas. Thanks for reading! Leave your thoughts in the comment section if you want. I am currently in the process of updating some older posts, keep that in mind if you are reading previous content. I want to do another post about perfection, but this one would be about health. If that is something you are interested in let me know!