Flash Point: Veganism Can’t Become a Popularity Contest

We all want everyone to become vegan, right? Of course that’s the goal….but do we achieve that goal if we compromise what veganism stands for?

Historically, veganism came about in 1944 because the movement to speak up for animals, vegetarianism, was losing credibility and substance with tolerances for dairy, eggs, and other animal products. The founders of the Vegan Society saw the need for a consistent ethically-based movement to speak up for animals.

Unsurprisingly not long after veganism was defined some felt the need to dilute the definition. This is almost always as a means to making veganism more ‘popular’.

Honey was one of the first topics to come up. It was a short controversy in the early years of veganism, but of course it was obvious to side with bees, and explicitly highlight that honey is not vegan.

Even today, there’s mock ‘confusion’ about honey, with statements like ‘well some vegans eat honey’. The answer to that is no. No vegan eats honey. Don’t be afraid to express it that way as well.

Intersecting approaches have been proposed as well. Some time in the early 2000’s one of the founders of Vegan Outreach presented a slightly less vegan version of veganism, I believe the term they decided on was ‘vegitan’. If memory serves, it was a vegan diet, but also allowed honey and leather jackets. (Anyone else remember this or have any more details? Please leave a note in the Comments section!)

More recently bivalves (clams, scallops, oysters, etc) have been a focus, with some claiming that a supposed lack of sentience makes them okay to slowly suffocate and eat. (Makes me wonder if bivalve sentience is proven, if those same people will admit their own dearth of sentience?)

These efforts really only reflect a profound misunderstanding of veganism. (And their own thinly veiled desire to exploit animals. Funny they’re using the ‘tastes good – me want eat’ argument that’s supposed to be the exclusive realm of non-vegans when it comes to rationalizing foods.)

But where does this get us? Are we to believe that there are larges groups of people that are willing to advance their philosophies and fully agree that animals are not ours to exploit….if only we could eat honey or bivalves…??!

It’s as if it’s just this one thing that’s holding people back…. But the reality is I’ve never heard anyone say ‘I’d go vegan if I could eat clams’. If someone actually believed that, they’d be eating that way already. So it’s just an excuse.

Decades ago I came up with a joke that everyone in the world is vegetarian – they’re all lacto-ovo-pesco-polo-porcine-bovine-equine-vegetarians.

Veganism doesn’t have prefixes, because that’s not how veganism works. There aren’t ‘exceptions’, and that’s what makes it a consistent and ethically sound movement. Anything else dilutes it, and renders it meaningless.

We also don’t need to allow for animal tested foods, and there’s already a movement that’s tolerant of animal exploitation: a plant based diet. (Which seems like a more trendy Flexitarian 2.0.)

We can win minds and hearts with what veganism stands for. I believe that on a fundamental level nearly all have a natural aversion to harming others, but an exploitative mindset is endemic in our society. It’s just a matter of tapping into what people already intrinsically believe, and then taking steps to reflect this and manifest their true beliefs.

Reducing veganism into some kind of popularity contest means compromising what veganism stands for, and if it happens, we’ll only see another group of people essentially reinvent veganism. We don’t need a Veganism 2.0, we just need people to actually agree with Veganism 1.0 which has stood strong on it’s own merits for 3/4 of a century.

Thanks for sharing!

Dave Shishkoff

Just check out the About page. =)

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3 Responses

  1. Here is the archived version of an article from 2002 about the “vegitan” diet. (The article is no longer available on Vegsource’s actual website.) Needless to say, I don’t support “vegitan” diets. Veganism is the only ethical way forward.


    • Hey Carolyn, thanks so much for this!! I love the people finding this blog, and adding to it.

      Ahh yes, VegSource.. This leaves me with so many questions!! Like, why isn’t ‘vegetarian’ the term of choice? To me that’s always been someone that they’re describing..

      And that was in 2002, can’t believe I actually remembered the spelling too. Thanks again, really appreciate this!

  2. Matt says:

    I like you comment about honey, “Even today, there’s mock ‘confusion’ about honey, with statements like ‘well some vegans eat honey’. The answer to that is no. No vegan eats honey.” Anytime someone finds out I’m vegan they always ask if I eat honey, and if I say no they’re like “but bees make more than they need”, like that makes it okay to steal from them.
    I suspect that replying to the statement “some vegans eat honey” with “no, if they eat honey they’re not vegan” will end up being called gatekeeping or something. Clearly it’s not. Gatekeeping would say I’m not Canadian cause I don’t like poutine, the reality is I’m not Canadian because I was born, raised, and still live in the US with a US citizenship.

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