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Vegan Enough?

Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 in Vegan

“I’ll die before I break edge or veganism.” said the straightedge vegan I was talking to.

“I am pretty sure about being edge and pretty sure about being vegan – but I am not hardcore enough to get a tattoo. Besides, sometimes I mess up.”

“Then you aren’t really vegan.”

“No, it’s not like I purposely mess up. I just get misinformed and mistakes happened. What about the field mice?”

“Field mice?”

“Yeah, the field mice when it comes time for the grain for your bread. When they harvest it, big machines – little animal, big machine… dead mice.”

“I am sure the companies make sure that doesn’t happen.”


How many people here will believe for one minute that any bread company is looking out for the health and safety of the field mice? My bet is problem not. This draws the question: When is vegan “vegan” enough? There is no way to be 100% on anything unless you make everything yourself. I don’t know anyone who has the money, resources, and time to do that.

Am I vegan enough? I mess up sometimes. Rather, mistakes happen to me. For example, I was buying wheat tortillas a few months ago I read over the ingredients, didn’t see anything, so I bought them. I bring them home, make a bean and rice burrito, when I decided to double check the ingredients. When I re-read the label, I saw “whey” which I didn’t see the first time. So here I am with a vegan bean and rice burrito in a wheat tortilla that has whey – I am faced with the choice: eat it or throw it out. If I didn’t eat it or took it back to the store – the tortillas would go to waste. Which is the bigger wrong? Wasting food or having some whey? It would be a waste to throw away perfectly good food over a mistake so I ate it. However, I was certain never to buy those tortillas again.

Another burrito mishap: I used to get beans and rice burritos from this Mexican restaurant. Their vegetarian burrito comes with rice and beans. I asked if it was vegan, I was told yes. Next time, my dad goes, so he asks, “Is it vegan?” He was told, “Rice – yes, beans – no.” So, for a couple of weeks we didn’t go there but I told him I was certain that it was vegan. So, we went again. I asked, “Are the beans vegan? Is the rice vegan?” This time, I was told, “Beans – yes, rice – no. It’s cooked in chicken broth.” Which lead me to ask, “Why does rice come on your vegetarian burrito?” They had no answer.

A meat mishap: I was out to dinner with a group. The food was group ordered and I had no control over it. I was told they ordered some vegan options for me. A roll was brought to the table and I was told it was vegan. I asked the waitress, and her English wasn’t that great, but she said, “Yes.” Unsure, I asked everyone at my table. Everyone assured me it was vegan and ordered just for me. So, trusting the group and the waitress, I ate it. Turns out, it has chicken diced like small cubes of tofu – I ate meat. I was really upset, but what could I do about it?

It isn’t like I am trying to mess up. It just happens. I am told something is vegan and it’s not. Ingredients are misread by me or someone shopping for me. My intention is to be vegan but once in a while a mistake happens. It’s not like I am going out and ordering a steak (I know a girl who claims to be vegan and goes out and eats steaks) but maybe the rice was cooked in chicken broth without my knowledge. Does that make me not vegan for being flawed? I am only human. By our very nature, humans are destined to mess up.

I am not planning on ever breaking edge or breaking veganism. However, if I was traveling and I ended up in the middle of a starving third world country and they offered me food of mysterious origins and it was all they had – I’d eat it. I’d tell them it was the best food in the world. It would be rude, disrespectful, and shameful to do otherwise.

I was at a book reading discussion recently, and they were talking about how veganism is hypocritical. That here in America, we have a choice, where elsewhere there isn’t an option. That to expect people to be vegan is an unrealistic expectation. I voiced that because we have a choice we should chose to not take life. Besides, if everyone was on a vegan diet, there would be enough food to feed the world.

Right now, there’s what I consider to be indirect cannibalism. The western world feeds corn that could be feed to the starving nations to cows. They then eat the cows and people starve to death. If people would just eat the raw material – and stop caring about lining their pockets but common human good will and give the food to those who are in need. World hunger is gone, if you want it. People don’t talk about the wasted resources to raise their bloody dinner.

I chose life over death. Freedom from oppression and suffering for all beings. If my intention was to eat rice cooked in chicken broth – then I’d say I am not a vegan. But, I am firmly against factor farming and consuming flesh. I don’t think I instantly stop being vegan because of a mistake. Besides, no system is perfect. What about the field mice?

Bring on the comments

  1. nakedthoughts says:

    Most people I know who say being vegan is hypocritical or classist, are well off enough (at least as well off as Me when I started eating vegan) to make those choices.

    I don’t expect that we can solve a structural problem with “personal choice,” but I can’t stand it when some one uses that logic.

    they are basically saying: because THOSE people don’t have the choice It is somehow wrong to consider the choice at all when I have the resources.

    it boggles the mind

  2. Jess Five says:

    I agree. There was a survey done about veganism – of vegans and non-vegans alike. However, NO ONE thought veganism was wrong. That’s a pretty powerful statement. People might not understand it but no one thought it was immoral. I know I am given certain privileges and choices that others might not have but because I can chose how can anyone chose to cause other creatures to suffer? Then again, we live in a capitalistic society that’s mere foundation is based on the have’s and the have not’s. People in the Western World are so desensitized that people in third world countries literally die because we pick to have ipods instead of giving them food. That’s really messed up. I know I’m guilty too. Sometimes I wonder if I am a victim of circumstance or a culprit for perpetrating the system?

  3. vardaka says:

    i’m not really sure who gave you these quotes but it sounds like you were trying to set them up for this.

    it’s not about having mistakes happen to you. it’s about being a conscious consumer, not really checking your ingredients well is not an excuse. if it does have something, take it back to the store, it’s not that big of a deal.

    when you go to a restaurant, don’t expect people who are not vegan to know what being vegan is. you have to ask if the beans have lard, or if he rice is cooked with chicken broth, not if they are vegan or not. you should be able to taste the difference right away (especially in the case of lard because the texture extremely noticeable and distinct), and as soon as you notice, send it back. ask for boiled beans or something. i know you feel shitty about doing it but it comes down to what’s more important to you, being considerate to the people at the restaurant or the fact that you are eating something you believe is not your right to consume.

    being vegan is about standing up to injustices and often times these little things are what can count more. maybe that lady thought that those things were vegan. most people don’t realize what is vegan and not. for example most people don’t know that honey/beeswax isn’t vegan.
    there are many misconceptions of us and you have to be able to understand that.

    i think that none of this has to do with starving people in the 3rd world. for the record, the grain we feed the cows is not edible to humans, not saying that this is justified for feeding it to cows, since it’s not fit for cow nutrition but corporations couldn’t just send the feed over to africa or something like that. the whole structure must change, where rainforest in the amazon are not cut down for cattle production for mcdonalds.

    we all make some mistakes, but just don’t make excuses

  4. Jess Five says:

    I do ask those questions, I was simplifying. I didn’t set anyone up. That conversation inspired the blog post not the other way around.

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