Monday, August 15, 2011

Vegetarian, Vegan, Vegan-ish, Flexitarian, LABELS...

Warning:  possibly controversial post ahead, including personal definition of "vegan" and more!

Okay... let me just start out by saying that I consider myself to be a dietary vegan.  This means that I eat no animal products, but I am not a strict vegan outside of diet.  Meaning... there is beeswax in some of my beauty products, and I'm not sure how many of my cleaning products were tested on animals, nor am I 100% sure whether or not there is leather in my running shoes. 

As far as the diet goes, I do still occassionally eat some things with honey in the ingredients (Nature's Own light wheat bread has trace amounts, and I do eat that!) and I do eat some things that have disclaimers about being made on equipment that also processes milk, as long as there aren't any animal products in the actual ingredients.

So... many people would look at my diet and my life and tell me that I am not vegan.  And it's true, by some definitions, I am not vegan.

So why do I feel the need to label myself VEGAN...???

Mostly because it's easier than saying, "I don't eat meat (including fish), dairy, eggs, or anything derived from an animal, except for the occassional product that contains honey, which does come at the expense of bees, so I guess I'm not really vegan, but please don't serve me anything with lots of or trace amounts of meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or anything that comes directly from a mammal, bird, or fish." 

By my own definition, I am vegan, because my defintion of "animal product" doesn't include honey.  And yet I do try to avoid honey, the only exception that I make is on my favorite light wheat bread.

Anyway, my point here is that dietary labels aren't everything.  Dietary labels don't make or break any one of us.  And I'm pro-choice with most things, including diet.  If you eat mostly meat, great!  If you eat no meat, also great!  If you choose to eat only nuts and fruit, good for you!  If you eat a bit of everything, great!  If you have moral reasons for eating the way you eat, fabulous!  If you have no moral reasons behind your diet of choice, also fabulous!

We all have to do what best for ourselves, and call ourselves whatever we want to call ourselves.  I will probably say that the person who eats mostly meat shouldn't call themselves "vegetarian" but... if they really want to, is that hurting me?  No, not at all.  ;-) 

My label is "vegan".  And for whatever reason, I love having that label.  Don't try to take the label away from me, it won't work, because I own it. 

By the way, this post was inspired by a rather heated MFP forum debate that I somehow got myself into...  I hope that no one was offended by it!


Megan said...

I completely agree with this post! Labels get to be a big ridiculous, but they are sometimes necessary. Like in the example you provided.

I was recently asked if I was a vegetarian because I was eating a portobello burger instead of a hamburger than I made. I said no, but then indulged in how I would like to be, but my dad and Mr. Skinny would never take on that label, blah, blah, blah. It's a lengthy topic, that's for sure.

Cyn said...

Wow do I totally agree with this -- especially seeing how I am in this weird place of deciding if my diet choices (vegan/vegetarian) are right for me. I think everyone needs to find the balance both ethically and dietary that works for them and who cares what the rest of the planet labels that as!

BTW you ARE vegan and a damn awesome one at that who inspires SO many of us -- dont change one thing about you!

Michelle (Ramblings of a BookCrosser) said...

Great post! I've been a vegetarian for 10 years, funny how time flies. I've thought about becoming a vegan and it's still a possibility, but I have my reservations. For me, it wasn't hard to give up meat but I get overwhelmed when I think about avoiding milk/eggs/cheese ingredients in meals out and all animal byproducts. It seems to require consistent effort and vigilance. It might not be a commitment that I can keep.

I like your "pro-choice" diet concept. I have my beliefs, but I don't preach it. I'm not pushy when it comes to other people's eating habits. We all have our own and if someone wants to learn more I'm happy to share. Maybe I'm afraid to make a move toward veganism because I might not perfectly fit that vegan label either. Thanks for sharing. Your insights are really helpful.

Leah (The Kind Weight Watcher) said...

@Megan- I'm glad that you agree! I enjoy portobello burgers, YUM.

@Cyn- Thanks so much for your kind words! I'm glad that you agree, too. :-)

Leah (The Kind Weight Watcher) said...

@michelle- sounds like you are a lot like me! :-) I was scared to make that step towards veganism, too, but it's actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Thanks for the kind words, and glad that I could help.

LaOvejaRosada said...

I also agree with you!

I'd love to be the 'picture perfect vegan' in all aspects of my life, but the fact of the matter is, there is no perfect anything anyway. I've heard many people say that learning to become vegan takes a lifetime to learn because it's not just as simple as not eating meat or dairy, but to be a 'healthy' vegan, it's an entire science! And a complicated one at that. I know that's true because I'm seeing it more & more everyday!

Maybe someday I'll be able to by vegan bath products, clothes, furniture, etc., as well as food, but for where I am right now in my life, that's not an option. I simply couldn't afford to switch EVERYTHING over, nor could I find everything in my location.

I LOVE/ADORE/LIVE for animals, my kitties are my world & without them I'd have died a long time ago, but I became vegan to change my health first & foremost above anything else! That being said, I also stand up for any animal rights that I come into contact with as well, but my health is first for me, for right now. When I get me where I need to be, then I feel I'll have the experience & time to expand MY veganism to the heights I'd love it to be at!

I can only do, one thing at a time! :)

Jill said...

I agree with you! People should not judge others for their actions.Pro choice all the way! Unless people want to judge? Then yay for them??? :)
Sorry- I couldn't help myself!
Thanks for being great!

Dana Jill Love said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! Take your label and embrace it girl :)


Jennifer said...

"Don't try to take the label away from me, it won't work, because I own it."

OWN IT, girl! :)