Blurring The Definition Of Veganism

It’s very common for people to get defensive when presented with the truth about what we do to animals. They say that sort of thing doesn’t happen in their country, that they only buy from small family farms where the animals are treated well, that activists only release the most extreme footage. It sometimes seems as if people will bend over backwards to justify what’s on their plate.

Here’s the thing: the problem isn’t just that we’re mistreating animals, it’s that we’re using them in the first place. The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society is, ‘A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose’.

In other words, veganism is about recognising that exploiting animals for our own benefit is wrong. It doesn’t matter how nicely they’re treated – humane slaughter is an oxymoron, and it can never be ethical to take what isn’t ours.

But there’s still a lot of confusion about this, even within the vegan community. For example, one Facebook group dedicated to debates about veganism includes in its description, “Maybe you’re a vegan who eats eggs if they’re completely cruelty-free”. This bothered me, partially because there are very few situations where eggs are completely cruelty-free, but mainly because the author clearly didn’t understand what veganism was. Keeping chickens in your back garden so you can take their eggs is still a form of exploitation, even if they are rescued. Similarly, eating honey will always be exploitative.

My hope is that we’ll soon see a collective shift in consciousness, away from the mindset that animals are essentially objects to be used as we please. Instead, I hope we will recognise them as sentient beings with a right not to be exploited. That’s why I think it’s so important to understand what veganism truly is.

What are your thoughts on this?


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4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I think people should opt for terms like “mostly vegan” or “plant based” if they’re going to be eating animal products or protein. I also think there’s some general mass confusion on what actually constitutes a vegan, and some say there’s many types of vegans. My feelings are truly mixed because being vegan is a journey and I used to say I was mostly vegan/vegan until I could commit and cut out all animal products and it nice to have an identity when people ask how you eat… I completely agree that sentient beings should not be exploited and used for our pleasure. Every step towards vegan is a step towards a more compassionate world, a healthier Earth and people living in it. The problem with letting the line of veganism get blurred is that when we allow ourselves to redefine words like vegan, we lose the value of committing completely.

    <3 Jessa

    1. I agree. I’m not going to police anyone by telling them they can’t call themselves vegan, but at the same time it’s important that people understand what veganism really is.

  2. This comment is not directed at the post but at the comment about “policing” others.

    Why is it “policing” people to call them out when they aren’t vegan but are calling themselves vegan? As a white, straight, cisgender, able bodied woman, I’d sure as heck get “policed” if I were to go around calling myself a black, gay, trans, disabled man. The word vegan has a meaning. If you eat eggs, you aren’t vegan. If you eat fish, or honey, or if you ride horses or breed dogs, you aren’t vegan. That’s not “policing”. That’s using the word vegan properly and consistently. We should not say things like “mostly vegan”–one is either vegan or not.

    And veganism isn’t a “journey”. It’s a starting point. If you think using animals is wrong, you stop. Not in five years, or ten, but now. And you trip up and make mistakes, absolutely, but your intent is to be vegan NOW.

    This attitude is not “militant”, it’s just consistent. If you believe it’s wrong to exploit animals, you stop doing it, and you do that consistently. You don’t just be vegan when no one else is around, when it’s convenient. You do it consistently, at work, at home, with friends and family. Consistently.

    I agree that we need to be crystal clear at all times as to what veganism is. That’s not “policing”. That is being clear and consistent about what the word means so we don’t have people eating honey and riding horses while calling themselves vegans, because those people confuse everyone as to what veganism actually is. I don’t understand why people want to be called vegan but don’t actually want to be vegan, but it’s not acceptable.

    Just my thoughts.

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