Diluting the word vegan.

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, someone has come up with a new way to be Vegan. We have 30 day challenges, Oprah recently did a 7 day one, you can be vegan Monday to Friday and before 6pm. I wouldn’t be surprised if before too long we soon see a seasonal vegan. A person that goes ‘vegan’ for a particular season for whatever reason.

Now, I realise I am probably being a little bit of an extremist here, though can someone/anyone please explain to me how avoiding animal products whilst still wearing them is vegan?

As is usually the case when a new diet related vegan craze comes out, there is usually a general critiquing of it by however many vegan bloggers feel like discussing the issue. Most of the posts are usually not in favour of the new fad and often give reasons as to why whatever they may be.

As a whole, I usually don’t have a problem with this apart from one aspect of it.

Every time that they mention the whole vegan fad in their own blogs, they are for all intents and purposes giving credence to the fad.

Then there are those who are vegan and are supportive of these fads.

There is no such thing as a vegan diet, whether it is for 7 days, a monday to friday thing, or done before 6:00pm.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice, it is more than just food.

Animals are being killed for almost every aspect of human life not just food.

So, let’s get serious about it and call a spade a spade. If future fads, are only diet related, then they aren’t vegan, and we should call them by what they are. Vegetarian.

The most that we stand by and allow the enemy to water down what we stand for, the easier it is for them negate our position in the future.

Vegan is the only option.

11 thoughts on “Diluting the word vegan.”

  1. However – folks can be on a vegan diet – and not follow the constructs/strictures you are laying out here. They just don’t want to ‘intake’ animal products. They wouldn’t see wearing wool as a harmful thing – nor, perhaps keep bees.

    • There is no such thing as a vegan diet. Veganism is a lifestyle choice.
      Consuming a diet without animal products whilst still wearing them is what vegetarians do. I have not been able to find one definition of the term vegan where it says that this is ok.

  2. I agree, being vegan means not using animals in any way possible. Not eating animal products but still wearing them is a “plant based diet”

  3. When a previously marginal label starts to enter the mainstream consciousness it inevitable loses its tight definition. Language changes, and the more widespread a term becomes the broader its meaning will inevitably become.

    If we want more people to gravitate towards veganism we will have to accept this. When we try to maintain too tight a control over the word we may be retarding its acceptance by the majority. If we insist on an ultra strict definition we may inadvertently reinforce the current mainstream impression that veganism is some kind of cultish fad.

    Human nature being what it is, most people would be willing to try veganism only after it has become accepted by a wider population, so IMO that should be our goal. But when that happens we will lose control over the word. It will be listed in dictionaries with several alternative meanings.

    I think it’s a tactical error to fuss about the misuse of the word by interested and possibly sympathetic omnivores. If they are willing to take the first baby steps towards non-exploitation, that is not the time to start nit-picking about proper terminology. That is the time to applaud.

    • Monique,
      Veganism is about avoiding ALL animal products, not just the ones that are used for food consumption.
      A strict vegetarian diet is one that avoids the consumption of animal products, yet still allows the person to wear/use what they want.
      If the term vegan is allowed to be diluted and watered down under the guise of acceptance or flexibility, then for all intents and purposes it would become interchangeable with vegetarian. This is clearly not possible as there are vast differences between the two.

  4. Maybe you can help me. I completely understand why you wouldn’t want just anyone going around saying they’re “Vegan” because they drink soy milk when Veganism stands for so much more. However, there are people like me who don’t consume animal products because it benefits their health, and not for the sake of the animals. Is there a term to use that will not offend the Vegan community, while still differentiating themselves from vegetarians?

    • Jamianne,
      If it is only your diet that avoids animal products, and you want to avoid the term vegetarian you could say, as Heidi says, that you have adopted a plant based diet.
      Do you still purchase/use animal products?

  5. Hey there!

    I am a 16-year vegetarian, a 3-year vegan, and a 2-year high raw foodist. I am also a health coach, specializing in plant-based diets, with a degree in the Sustainability of Living Systems. I share this with you (and your readers) as an attempt to encourage confidence in my authority on these topics.

    I don’t want to take up a lot of your time or a lot of your page, so I will attempt to keep this as brief as possible, without getting on my “high horse.”

    I respectfully disagree with your unilateral definition of veganism. Confining the term veganism strictly to an animal-free lifestyle eliminates a great many people who can do a world of good by adopting a vegan diet. Just like the sciences (social vs physical) and politics (dem vs rep), vegans and vegetarians have attempted to form elite and exclusive clubs, as though we are “better” than the “others.” We’re not. We may be more knowledgeable, we may have stronger resolve, we may be more passionate about certain social issues, and we most certainly have better health, but we are not better than anyone. And the fastest way to stall a movement is by excluding people who are willing to give it a shot (or even a thought).

    The majority of our animal use is, in fact, for food. Of course leather is cruel. No one can justify the use of animals for fashion. And a vegan lifestyle would, by definition, forbid the wearing of animal products. In a perfectly ideal world, we wouldn’t have leather shoes, leather seats in our cars, fur coats, or lucky rabbits’ feet (do those still exist?), but this isn’t a perfect world and it will never be. It is unrealistic to expect to, or believe that we will wake up, one day, in a vegan world. The world has never been vegan. That being said, I am always thrilled when I speak to an omnivorous client who is taking the plunge to vegetarianism, or the vegetarian who wants to go vegan, or the vegan who wants to go raw. Every step away from a meat-based diet is the right step. And if you find strength in calling yourself a vegetarian when you consume animal products like milk, cheese, and eggs, then more power to you! Do whatever it takes to commit to this lifestyle choice (which, by the way, diet is). People need a cohort, a support group, a “title.” People like to belong, because there is strength and safety in numbers. Why must we exclude the people who aren’t exactly like us? Isn’t it better to embrace them and encourage their efforts and hope that, in time, the decision to follow a vegan diet will lead to a commitment to a cruelty-free life?

    After all, if we’re honest with ourselves, very few vegans wrote of all animal products over night. Most people have undergone a long and sometimes laborious transition from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan to cruelty-free and sometimes to raw. This is not an easy process for the average human being. Because although not moral, eating meat is, in fact, natural. And while that’s not a valid excuse to continue doing it, it does make abstaining from it difficult for most people.

    I think it’s very important to be supportive to anyone who is willing to decrease their use of animal products or eliminate them completely from their lives. Every little bit helps the environment. Every little bit helps their health. And every little bit helps the animals. EVERY LITTLE BIT is acutally a BIG bit. In fact, by adopting a vegetarian diet just once a week, the average person saves the equivalent of one year’s worth of showers in water consumption, and 52 animal lives. Imagine if the whole world did that.

    When I meet someone who is taking on this challenge and making positive changes in their lives, I am always quick to express my delight and encouragement. So yes, you can be a vegetarian, who doesn’t eat meat. You can follow a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products. Or you can adhere to a vegan lifestyle, which eliminates all animal-derived products from your general consumption. The latter is an honorable and worthwhile commitment, that requires a lot of changes, sometimes including selling your car and replacing it with a new one, or changing jobs, or getting rid of a vast majority of your wardrobe. And frankly, these things just aren’t viable options for a good majority of the world, who doesn’t have the same life choices as those with financial stability and flexibility.

    Many people choose to abstain from animals products for purely environmental reasons. What good would it do for them to get rid of a perfectly functional vehicle and buy a new one? What good would it do to toss your perfectly good shoes and replace them? After all, someone is going to end up wearing them and, in the meantime, you’ve just needlessly used more valuable, dwindling resources.

    Some people adopt a vegan diet strictly for health reasons, because animals products kill you. There is no argument here; that’s what they do. If one of my clients is trying to lower their blood pressure, cholesterol, or BMI, I tell them to quit meat. If they want to fight arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, allergies, digestive problems, I tell them to quit meat. If they are battling cancer, MS, depression or ADD, I tell them to quit meat. And it works. Is it my job or even my right to sit there and judge them, because they have leather shoes on, or because they’re going about it the wrong way for the wrong reasons? Absolutely not. I don’t care WHY you’re doing it, as long as you’re doing it. Save yourself, save the planet, save the animals. Every bite counts.

  6. I missed my point, in all that rambling.

    What I wanted to conclude with is that, in my field of work and study, a vegetarian is (loosely) someone who doesn’t eat animal flesh, including fish. An ethical vegan is someone who abstains from the consumption of all animal products for reasons of environmental concern and/or animal welfare, a lifestyle vegan is someone who abstains from all animal products, in all areas of his/her life, for a number of reasons, usually related to animal rights (such as the abolitionis vegan movement, which is probably a better “title” for a lifestyle vegan – an abolitionist vegan), and a plant-based diet is, by definition, any diet that is centered around plants, and can include meat in small, occasional quantities.


What are your thoughts?