This week a prominent ‘plant-based ‘ blogger, ‘Deliciously Ella’, decided not just to declare she wasn’t vegan, but to say she actually ‘hated’ the word vegan, that it was ‘unappetising’ and the group ‘exclusive and critical’. Oh the irony. This got me thinking though, about what I see as the demonisation of vegan people, the bullying and the need some people feel to attack us for reasons I find difficult to understand.
The word vegan describes an ethical, moral decision not to use animals or any part of them as far as is practically possible. For most vegans, we consider animals as equals, as an intrinsic part of nature which deserve our respect and compassion like anything or anyone else. The word vegan does not mean, nor has it ever meant, ‘must hate, judge and discriminate against non-vegans’. Let’s just clear that bit up right now. Do we think animal lovers who eat meat are hypocritical? Do we find environmentalists who eat animal products to be missing the big picture? Yes and yes. But extending those opinions, we all have opinions, to mean that vegans are ‘exclusive and critical’ is a considerable leap indeed. It is just not accurate.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been attacked, yes verbally attacked, for being vegetarian and then vegan. It occurs so often I have the answers well prepared for every single stupid comment that gets thrown at me. You might think vegans provoke this sort of ‘response’. Not so. I would absolutely dearly love just to eat my meal without someone dissecting it and my choices, without asking me where I get my protein ( oh dear god please stop asking that ), without the relentless boring assertions about why we must eat meat. If someone offers me food and I politely decline, why is that followed with a nutritional lecture? If people like ‘Deliciously Ella’ feel like vegans are exclusive, that is not by choice. That is because of preconceptions about what a vegan is. We are the ones excluded, not the ones doing the excluding. I liken this whole thing to the ridiculous notion that feminists are man-haters. This has lead to an increasing amount of women distancing themselves from the word feminist, like it is something to be ashamed of. Let me say this. There are critical, rude, aggressive PEOPLE in this world. Some are vegan, some are feminists, some are white, some are black and some are a little bit of all those groups. Making blanket statements about peoples intentions or opinions based on their colour, faith, ethnicity, sex or ideals is just wrong. It is judgemental and unacceptable.
Deliciously Ella hates the word vegan. Yet, take a look at her blog and instagram account and you will see the word used repeatedly. You will see when she started, the hashtags #vegan #vegansofig #veganfood and more. Apparently she was upset that ‘vegans’ judged her for using honey. Well, perhaps that is because honey is not vegan? If you market yourself to vegans, in order to gain popularity, then that is why you will be pulled up for using non-vegan ingredients. If you then clarify you are plant-based and not vegan, then fine. But why then not just say you aren’t vegan, but that you ‘hate’ it. Her answer to me was: ‘ I want to create a community that’s open to everyone’. How wonderful. Except for vegans right? Her success is owed in no small part to the support and following from the vegan community, and I am sure she and her team must know this. So I find the lack of gratitude towards vegans to be quite disgraceful. I wish I could just put it down to age, she is only 23, but this is a well oiled marketing machine, a brand that has been carefully planned. That much is obvious. Before this week I thought it was wonderful yet another plant based blogger was sharing the message and helping people eat healthier, however her motivations are now unclear to me and I am uncomfortable supporting someone who hates the vegan community so much.
One final thought I would share on the subject of judgement. As a society we discuss and debate many topics, some of those are so we can form boundaries, rules and laws about what hopefully the majority feels are acceptable ways to behave. The topic of how we eat, how our food system is put together and how we treat the workers of that system and the animals within it, is something we are ALL allowed to comment on. It is crucial we continue to do this. In addition, I would like to point out something that is often overlooked. The external costs of eating meat, that is costs not borne by the industry or by the consumer, are borne by all of us, vegans and omnivores alike. I am talking about health, I am talking about the kind of costs you don’t see or think about, most important being farm subsidies. The true cost of your hamburger, of your carton of eggs, would actually be quite unaffordable for almost everyone if it wasn’t subsidised through our taxes. So when you accuse vegans of being judgemental and critical, what you are actually forgetting is we are currently paying for your choices. This is something we are entitled to question and discuss.
I have experienced nothing but support, encouragement and love from the vegan community, both before and after becoming vegan myself. So my message to ‘Deliciously Ella’ is very simple. Practice what you preach my dear, embrace those who have supported you even if they have different ideals to you. A little tolerance goes a long, long way.