Are you doing vegan wrong? It depends on who you’re asking.
Sometimes, if you ask the wrong person, you get painted with the brush of Wrongness. It doesn’t wash off easily.
In our little vegan cult– er, community, the Wrongness rears its ugly head early and often. Even if you’re a 10-year vegan veteran like I am, consuming no animal products, there’s always somebody poised to tell you that you’re doing “vegan” wrong. Your tires aren’t vegan, your iPhone isn’t vegan, that little thing that hangs down your throat is a uvula and if meaty air accidentally touches it because you were breathing again, you are doing it wrong.
The tiny problem with “You’re doing it wrong” is that wrong is not always black and white. For example, what if the cheerleader is holding that sign for a lady hanging upside down on monkey bars? It could happen. So there needs to be context involved in the accusations of Wrongness.
However, if the ink on that sign is derived from monkeys in bars, she would be wrong. Maybe. We’ll get into that another time.
With veganism, our approach is always to educate and let people make their own choices. We rate “trying to be vegan” pretty high, because it’s at least taking steps toward being more conscious. Everyone isn’t equally successful, but you get bonus points for moving in that direction.
But all vegans aren’t, shall we say, tolerant. Some are downright militant. And scary.
Around the time we first went vegan, we went to a kid’s birthday party. The family wasn’t vegan, but they knew there would be vegans coming so they provided a pizza with soy cheese on it. Wasn’t that nice? We thought so.
Enter the militant vegan. Host confrontation in 3…2…
“Hey. You know this has casein in it, don’t you?”
If you don’t already know (and how dare you not know), casein (KASE-ee-ehn) is an element found in dairy. It does something like bind together the whats-it molecules with the enzymes in the… whatever. It makes cheese work. Some fake soy-type cheese products use the stuff, but it’s not truly vegan. Now you know.
However, our militant vegan -ahem- friend didn’t stop at educating the host. Nopity-nopity-no. She went full-on vegan rant monster to everyone in earshot. Message sent?
You’re doing it wrong.
You’re wrong. I’m right. You are being a bad vegan and I’m here to stop these evil proceedings. And don’t get me started on those goddamned balloons.
It’s Not the Message, It’s the Delivery
In this world, there are certain things you could truly be doing wrong. Jumping out of a plane without a parachute, for example. There’s not much wiggle room on that rule (try to trust me there). However, when it comes to things that aren’t particularly life-threatening, like starting a business or going vegan, there’s enough wiggle room to samba with Harry Belafonte.
That said, there are some widely accepted standards for what makes a vegan. I would say the overwhelming majority of vegans don’t consume any animal products whatsoever. If you eat eggs or fish, you may be trying to be vegan, but you’re not technically a vegan by widely accepted cult–er, community standards. But are you doing it wrong?
We don’t wear leather or fur, but Bill Clinton does (well, hopefully not the fur). Yet he’s still a vegan in our book, because he doesn’t eat food that comes from animal sources. His reasoning? His health. Do we care? Nope.
Some people would care very much about that distinction and say he’s doing it wrong – or for the wrong reasons. All we care about is that he’s going in a good direction for his health, animals, the environment, and his appearance – which benefits us all when we have to see him in the media. If we took our time and energy to focus on the negative aspects in his Wrongness of Reasons, we would lose any momentum in our cause. People would be afraid to approach us to ask any questions about being vegan, because they would be afraid of our Mighty Vegan judgment.
With our militant vegan acquaintance, we know she’s passionate about her vegan beliefs (so are we). We can respect that passion, but passion alone doesn’t change the world.
You Probably Aren’t Doing It Wrong, but What If You Are?
If someone calls you out on doing vegan wrong, hang up and then dial your operator. Seriously, do some research, call a friendly vegan friend, gather as much information as you can. Then make your choices. Your choices will vary from our choices. That’s what makes us individuals. If your choices come from being fully conscious and educated in what you’re choosing, then you can’t be doing it wrong.