The pink elephant: Post-, pre- and vegan
So, it seems as I’ve been busy rounding up advertisers and pestering contributors with deadlines for the new magazine a few things have happened in the vegan world that warrant poking my head out of my little cave. I’ve been meaning to post something on it, but I’ve been so unsure how to do it that the days have gone by and the blog has been silent.
Now, with the magazine coming together in a semi-auto-pilot sort of fashion, I’m going to poke the pink elephant in the room. Here goes.
A Vegan No More (voraciouseats.com)
I never followed Tasha before this post, but I’m sure I knew the name Voracious Vegan in passing. I’m assuming most, if not all, of you have already read it and thought about it yourself, so I’m not going to get into the details. However, if you have not read it, then I suggest you do.
It may come as a surprise to some, but hopefully not all, that I found quite a few things in Tasha’s post to be similar to thoughts and writings of mine in the past. Granted, I also found some similarities in her writing to Lierre Kieth and a few others who are obviously no longer anywhere near the vegan camp. So, while others have taken to threatening Tasha and those around her, trying to help her do veganism “right” or admitting their current faux vegan status (probably the most concerning part of the post for me was this revelation!), I’ve been trying to determine whether or not I could understand how she came to no longer be vegan. At this point, I have to say that I do.
Trying to do what is right
Dropping the mantle of something you have been a part of for any amount of time is always hard to do, assuming you still have some sort of connection to the beliefs and values that led you to it in the first place. However, we can all find evidence in our past that shows how fluid and dynamic our lives can be. From the moment we are able to understand right and wrong we are on a constant journey to try and figure out just what that means to how we live our lives. Some of us take the simplest route and go with what works best for us personally, while others can spend their lifetime trying to do what they feel is best for the whole world.
I feel/hope that most of us are somewhere in the middle.
Personally, I have my reasons for being vegan, but they do not trump every other concern I have in my life. Currently, I am vegan because it seems like one of the best and most conscious choices to make in my environment. My veganism is merely a part of who I am, and I question it almost everyday like so many other things I identify with.
My diet currently determines where I live
One of the reasons I question being vegan is how it determines where I place myself in the world. Although being vegan has become easier as time goes on, and it can certainly be done in more places now than ever before, I’m not convinced it could be done well around the world. Personally, this doubt comes from an experience soon after I became vegan. Several years ago I traveled to Thailand with a youth group to partake in the third annual Gross National Happiness Conference. We spent two weeks in various parts of the country meeting people and sharing in an amazing experience. It was probably one of the best times of my life, even though I had left Canada in the midst of some serious relationship issues. That being said, I came back in one of the poorest physical states I have been to date. After a diet of fruit and rice, along with some decent tofu while staying at a monastery, I returned to Canada with low iron and a few other deficiencies. However, my veganism remained intact, outside of the possibility of language barriers not quite getting across the idea that fish sauce is not a vegetarian.
Back in Canada I took it upon myself to learn more about vegan nutrition, and I believe it helped return me to something similar to what I was before I left. However, I still do not feel 100% to this day. I know I still have a lot more to learn and incorporate into my vegan diet to consider it a proper one, but this departure from my comfy North American city has kept me thinking about how I would do in other places. Please note, in no way am I saying veganism is not possible in Thailand as I know a few vegans there, and in some ways I feel it would be easier than here in North America. However, given my interest in non-profit work, I do feel there are some places in the world that I could find myself where a vegan diet could be risky to follow without some serious packing and dependency on care packages. Taking into account the impact on the environment that such actions would have, as well as my interest in supporting a local economy over a global one, my decision to be vegan comes into question over my interest in helping and living somewhere outside of my comfort zone. Just recently it was a factor in my decision to not apply for an internship with the same youth group to travel to Bhutan for nine months. Although the idea of living in a country that only recently started being inundated with Western culture was alluring to say the least, the idea of lacking an easy source for vegan supplements and food was scary. So, at times I find myself conflicted over whether or not I should risk the health issues (or my veganism altogether) for the experience of doing great work overseas or if I should just stay within the boundaries of those places I know could sustain my vegan diet as it is today. As it stands right now, I am choosing to do as much as I can from where I am, which allows me to be vegan and environmentally conscious at the same time.
One person’s “right” can be another person’s “wrong”
As I stated earlier, I do not agree 100% with the points Tasha makes, but I do think that her decision to move away from veganism has some merit. It is within this area that I feel more vegans should look. Too often people turn away from the mainstream and the “facts” it force feeds us only to be taken in whole by another ideology. If you are so unsure about what one group of people say, why are you so sure of what another group says? I believe there is a lot of value in going with what your heart and your gut tell you about something, but I also believe in putting a little bit of weight in someone else’s argument, even if it flies in the face of your own. There is a reason why they believe it to be true, and it rarely is as simple as them being “dumb”, “blind” or “evil”. We spend enough time hoping that our friends and others will be open to our belief in veganism, so should we not try to be open to other’s alternate beliefs as well?
Veganism is not perfect, but it seems like the best answer for me right now. For some people, such as Tasha, being vegan no longer fits. Whether or not we think she needed more spirulina in her diet, less pro-meat nutrition advice or that she ever existed at all is not really the point. How she got to the decision of ending over three years of veganism is her personal journey, and picking that process apart will probably be as productive as people trying to convince you that your decision to be vegan is full of issues. The key to me is that she did not get there lightly, just the same as how she did not simply become vegan on a whim.
The forest and the trees
Taking the time to consider your impact on the world, and how to ensure that impact is as minimal and positive as possible is a big step. It is one that not enough people take as far as I’m concerned. However, when looking at all the possible things to consider, everyone tends to put more weight in certain areas. For the simple fact that we are not perfect, this prioritizing of concerns leads to a lot of conflict. Although it’s a sticky concept, the need to view the person as a whole is very important. Whether or not the person is vegan is just one piece of the puzzle, and from my personal point of view it is not the biggest one.
Simply being vegan will not change the world, and I hope most people recognize this. There are so many issues in this world that require attention, and a large number of them are tangled around each other. So, whether or not someone is vegan is not a clear judgement of whether or not they deserve your attention or respect. It is certainly not the only characteristic one should use to decide whether or not someone should live, and I can think of no circumstances in which not being vegan or being post-vegan should warrant a death threat. Granted, such threats are typically from the more radical end of the spectrum, but I still feel like an underlying thread of anger runs through the members of any group when someone has “betrayed” them and gone to the other side. It is this feeling of betrayal and being attacked that I believe can overshadow one’s ability to step back and look at the person as an individual, not just a single belief.
In this together
So, as the dust settles and Tasha continues to live her life while we all do the same, what has changed? There are still millions, if not billions, of people eating life in either unknown or willful ignorance of what their choices mean to animals and the world at large. There are still wars, refugees, genocides, epidemics, floods, earthquakes and so many more atrocious acts that drastically alter the lives of thousands and sometimes millions of people within moments. There are still politicians and corporations doing deals behind closed doors that keep the rich getting richer and the poorer getting poorer. Luckily, there are still people who are trying to change all of this, and they’re not doing a bad job if you ask me. Some of them are on the same path as you, and some are walking just a little differently towards what just might be the same goal: a better world.
Hopefully we will all get there some day.
So, like anyone who pokes an elephant, I’m now going to step back and hope that I don’t die in the stampede out of the room or simply get shit on in large quantities.