Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Labels and other ramblings

Last week a friend compared vegans to Hezbollah. His joke was about how militant and extreme vegans are. I defended vegans at the time. Though the joking comparison is still too harsh, recent comments instantly reminded me of it.....let me explain...

When I first started this blog (in Feb 2010) it was to talk about my journey as a vegan. The more and more information I read, the more I was motivated to cut remaining animals products from my life. I would say over the past 9 months I’ve been 99% vegan. Mainly a trip to the UK where I had to eat catered food at a business trip caused me to eat non-vegan items.

It was surprising to me that the blog entry that received the most feedback is one where I discussed eating fish last month. Even more surprising is the overwhelming feedback that I can no longer call myself a vegan because of one month out of 9. I guess this is a demonstration of the extreme militant characteristics my friend was talking about. It made me think of all other words/identity/label that people all over the world wouldn’t be able to use if the same thing applied…..What about someone from a certain religion who generally believes but has one month of doubt? Who decides if that person can or cannot call themselves Christian/Buddhist/Muslim/Jew/Baha'i etc?....I'm a Baha'i. Baha'i law says not to drink alcohol. However, if I ever found out a Baha'i friend was drinking I would never tell that person they can't call themselves a Baha'i.

I understand that vegans/vegetarians do not eat fish. I understand the arguments against the eating/killing of fish. What I do not understand is the intense response about me and my struggle as a vegan. If you do not want me to call myself vegan because 1 out of 9 months I ate fish, don’t call me a vegan. However, I can call myself whatever I choose. If you disagree, don’t read my blog. If you do want to read my thoughts on vegan foods, running and trying to lead a pure life then by all means continue to read.


  1. KCW - I certainly wasn't trying to vilify you - apologies if this refers to me and my response came off that way. I don't consider my views very militant, though I will admit I have strong opinions. As I stated, I don't judge you for eating fish. I don't judge you for having struggles. I personally haven't had any issue with relapsing because I read so much about the issues now that the information is constantly in front of me and I just don't want to have anything to do with meat of any kind anymore. But I realize that everyone's paths are different, and some people may have cravings, some people may waver, etc. I'm glad you have been vegan for the majority of 9 months. That's great! I only wanted to express that the label holds greater value for some of us. It is how we identify ourselves at the most root level. I hope that makes sense. By all means please keep making the effort you have been making. While I would prefer that no one eat fish, it is a good thing that you are avoiding animal products as much as you do and I hope you will continue to.

  2. JBhumitra - thanks for sharing the rendering article.

  3. Hi KCW, I am sorry if my comments came across as militant. I actually hate the militancy of veganism because I do think it discourages potential vegans and does nothing to further a cause that I champion. No one is wholly vegan - from animal products in car tires to trace amounts of animal products in the food we eat. I truly believe in the phrase that Colleen Patrick-Goudrea (whose podcast I would recommend to anyone trying to reduce the amount of animal products in their life) says "Just because you can't do everything, don't do nothing." If fish is where you are struggling right now, I personally would much rather you continue to eat fish while doing your best to eliminate other non-vegan foods. The struggle I have with the label vegan is that I personally have struggled to be taken seriously by others when I say I am vegan. Surely, I make exceptions for (fill in the blank), is the reaction I get. I personally do not make exceptions (although there is an excellent point about this in Mason & Singer's book "The Way We Eat" another recommendation!). I think my strong reaction was partially due to a sense that if someone were to use the label vegan and then eat fish, that I as someone who doesn't eat fish would lose credibility in my food choices. I understand too that this reaction has far more to do with me and my own experiences, than you. I do appreciate your honesty in your blog and I will continue to read as a fellow vegan runner. Funny enough, I haven't run in about a month due to an injury...I guess I should begin to question labeling myself as a runner? Haha.

  4. Queerveganrunner - I loved you response. My husband and I were just discussing how car tires and some water filters have animal products in them. And thank you for understanding. I guess only time will tell if I can kick the fish habit for long term. Good luck with the running, the winter weather does make it quite difficult,

  5. Great post! It is tough to transition your way of life and thinking, whether it be to become vegetarian/vegan, change religions, or heck, even change shampoos! It's depressing when you visit places that haven't gotten with the times to realizes the veggie/vegan culture is fast growing and we're hungry! I'm planning a trip to Ireland next year and am also worried that I won't be able to eat well there.

    Thank you for reminding us we are all human, and that no road is perfectly smooth!

  6. Hey there! Was going to post this on the other entry, but it actually fits more here :)

    Dietary labels can be quite useful, especially when my husband and I tell our neighbors here in meat-centered Cairo that we are vegetarian so they know not to invite us over for kebab (and if we decline food it's certainly not a personal affront). But at times such labels are used to demand conformity from their adherents, irregardless of personal conditions or reasons behind dietary choices. This is when such labels become divisive rather than providing an opportunity to examine our lifestyles and choices and encourage each other toward healthier and more responsible living.

    The diversity of the human body is beyond my own comprehension, and because of that I am very willing to accept that each individual will have a particular diet that may or may not fit within the bounds of commonly used labels. As we become more in tune with our higher natures and more conscious of the effects of our choices on our bodies, our choices naturally become healthier and more responsible to the environment. Personally knowing KCV as a spiritually and responsibly minded woman, I know that her decisions are made with thought and care and with regards to the needs of her body - and I fully trust them.

    As a society, there is certainly a lot of soul searching and questioning we've got to do with regards to how our food (meat, veggies and all) is grown, processed, and brought to our plates. But as with many things, it is not through polarization and blame that real lasting change occurs on the individual level, but through moderation, encouragement and love.