Can anyone be “fully” vegan? What about driving cars or accidentally stepping on insects? Does the harm vegans unintentionally cause animals invalidate the vegan argument as a whole?
If you are alive, you will cause other beings harm–even death. This inevitable fact is often used against vegans as proof that the core of veganism is hypocritical and flawed. Is our inability to avoid inadvertent harm truly a weakness in the tenants of veganism? Can anyone be “fully” vegan? I brought this controversial question to vegan activist Gary Yourofsky for his take on the matter.
For Gary’s full answer, be sure to watch the video above, but here is a choice nugget:
“Being a ‘food vegan’ is 100 percent achievable. This is the main issue that we need to focus on—not the extraneous issues. I get tired of people focusing on 2 percent of the problem; 98 percent of animals on this planet who are tortured, abused, and killed, are tortured, abused, and killed by the meat, dairy, and egg industries. This is where we have to focus on right now.
From there, we need to get rid of hunting and fur and leather and silk and wool. We need to get rid of a lot of things—circuses, zoos, and vivisection—but we have a bad habit in our society of focusing on 2 percent of the problem, with all issues. We never want to get to the core of the issue, to the root of the problem.”
I’ll just add briefly that our ability to achieve 100 percent vegan status really depends on our definition of vegan. If being vegan means striving to commit the least amount of harm possible, then one can be fully vegan. Unfortunately, as long as we are living, we will inadvertently cause harm to other living beings. But we can consistently strive to reduce this harm to the best of our abilities.
Just because we can never reach perfection does not devalue our efforts. Unintentional and unavoidable harm does not justify intentional and malicious acts of cruelty.
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Do you think 100 percent vegan is achievable? If you are vegan, where do you draw the line for yourself? If you’re not vegan, do you find the idea of trying to reach 100 percent overly intimidating? Let me know in the comments!
And stay tuned for more installations of Gary’s interview series.
— Emily Moran Barwick