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 tenets 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
Thank you for another great video clip.
The main reason for animal slaughter is to produce food for humans. The way I see it, if the majority of the human population became vegan the source of cheap animal byproducts (for medication, leather, food for companion animals etc.) will diminish and manufacturers will look for other, plant-based or synthetic, alternatives.
That is the reason why activism such as yours and Gary’s is so important.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
this is very true- the source is the food industry and we ned to cut it off at the source. thanks for the comment and for watching :)
I stand by last comment post.
It’s best to tell the truth and define what veganism is. Then it’s up to the non-vegan to decide where to go from there in striving to get rid of as much animal products as possible from their lives.
I see nothing wrong with striving to be as close to being perfect as possible, heck we do with other things in our lives, like striving to the best parent you can be, the best at what you do in your occupation–so why should veganism be any different?
You seem to want to focus on allowing animal products in your life and still be called vegan. You have the wrong mindset. You (or anyone else) should be focusing on how you can get rid of animal products as much as possible.
Is deliberately eating honey once a year doing the best one can? Is keeping a strip of fur on a coat doing the best one can? And regarding being poor, you can get almost new to new coats under 10 dollars at resale shops.
If there’s a will there’s a way. If you want to you can find plenty of excuses not to give up on having animal items that you really don’t need.
And I’m not even mentioning cars, planes, etc. I agree with Gary there; some things would make it hard to impossible to live especially if you live out in the country…But animal items like clothing, sorry but there are even places that GIVE away clothing, coats, shoes for FREE if you are that poor. Churches for one give free clothing away, gloves, hats, scarves, canned vegan foods and a lot more. My church does. You can find plenty of vegan items there and they are not even deliberately giving *vegan* items away; it’s just that cruelty-free clothing/accessories are so common. Absolutely NO EXCUSE to still have animal clothing in this day and age. There is a TON of “accidentally vegan” clothing around. So much so, that I’m personally looking to buy foods and clothing owned by vegans–taking another step; obviously just buying vegan items is being vegan regardless who the owner is, by the truth definition of the word, but I seek to challenge myself and go further in supporting all these vegan own and operated places. And there are other vegans going towards lessening more and more things they buy that is owned by non-vegans.
Anyway, I know you have your opinion and will most likely stick to it no matter what. This is the last time I will be commenting on this subject. As I said, the problem is watering down the definition of veganism–which IS politicking to make veganism more popular (which Gary is totally against), and simply not being truthful. You can define veganism any way you want but that doesn’t make it true. Like I can say the sky is jet black but that doesn’t make it true. It’s confusion by calling veganism what it is not that will be the downfall of animal rights/liberation, not the truth.
There are ways to talk to non-vegans without overwhelming them, but still always speaking truth. There should be more animal rights workshops to help vegans to know how to talk to non-vegans. Talk to them in truth and love, not in watering down the definition to make people feel all fuzzy and warm inside. People should be disgusted in keeping animal products. Absolutely disgusted. And that being disgusted is what will drive people to getting rid of everything they can that is cruel–some even making huge sacrifices. But so do people when fighting for human rights….
Veganism can be a challenge but this is a matter of life and death. There should be way more animal rights/liberationists in this world but with watering down animal rights, now we have this movement where people think being vegan is some sort of happy club when it’s really a serious social justice movement.
Focus on the positive in concentrate on eliminating as much animal products as possible as that makes the best representation of a vegan–for the animals’ sake. It’s not good to focus on trying to find ways to keep some animal products; that is very dangerous and many people will start to easily rationalize/ justify keeping animal products if they concentrate on trying to keep it.
I also strongly believe that in order for animal rights to succeed, we need other social justice groups to get involved. The deal is they also promote animal liberation and we also promote their cause as well, like GLBTQ rights, womens’ rights, etc. There is power in numbers and some groups are just better in social cause activism and can teach us better in animal activism as we can teach them how to go vegan. For more information on this, check out animal rights activist Dr. Steve Best blog. https://drstevebest.wordpress.com That’s another thing AR people need to start discussing.
Emily you hit the nail on the head when you said: “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”
I saw a GREAT cartoon about this, I’ll try to find it…it’s a vegan take on “don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good” and shows two people in a boat as one says, “let’s help those people drowning over there!”
The other person in the boat says, “oh but there are too many, we can’t fit/help ALL of them” and the first one says “you’re right, so let’s give up” and they turn around the boat..
The heading or caption says something like “this is how it sounds to us vegans” when non-vegans complain that we can’t solve everything as an argument “against” veganism..
But I find your wording very poweful Emily, including about inadvertant harm not being avoidable, is not an excuse or does not validate deliberate harm..powerful words preach on sister!
LorriePage’s comment I’m not sure but her opening line about standing by eariler comment, and the content, makes me think she may be replying to comments I made elsewhere (which I can’t find those posts of mine right now)
My focus, briefly as possible, was certainly not, “wanting to focus on allowing animal products in your life and still be called vegan.”
As I said several times, we can and should respectfully and lovingly encourage diet-vegans to also stop buying other animal products.
I just don’t think tactically it is useful to say: 1) “you’re NOT a vegan!” before we suggest they animal products.
I think it’s more helpful to say something like2) “it’s great your DIET is vegan!” and then open a conversation about non-leather belts etc alterantives to animal products outside the diet.
It’s true the sky is the same color no matter what we call it. Therefore, so long as we are reducing suffering, I don’t care what the person calls themselves on-the-path-to eliminating animal products from not just diet but from other parts; no matter what they call it, when they make this transition, the animals win, thanks to this transition. I’ll let the contrast between 1) and 2) above speak for itself as far as my view of what’s more likely to win others over. Peace to all :-)
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
thank you for this thoughtful comment :) and i’m glad my words resonated with you. and i love that image of the people in the boat- it is so true that any effort at all is totally abandoned due to the unlikelihood that it will reach perfection.
Mike Cronin says
I’m glad that you tackled this topic; I get my vegan lifestyle “challenged” with the idea that I can never be fully vegan on a consistent basis. I guess in this post I’ll talk about an example of where I draw the line and why.
One of the biggest things that my friends and naysayers like to bring up is the fact that I am a HUGE sports fan. I have been since I was a kid. People say that because I buy tickets to football and baseball games, I am contributing to the exploitation of animals through the use of animal hides found in the baseballs and footballs. I understand this argument and my defense is multifaceted:
a) I wish that sports did not use animal products, and I no longer purchase any baseballs or footballs (i opt for Nerf options instead)
b) If we patrol entertainment to this level, being vegan would mean that you could do anything, really. For example, every time I see a movie, my money goes in part to the movie theater, which uses my funds to keep a concession stand running that sells meat. Additionally, the part of my ticket that goes to the production of a movie in part funds actors to wear nonvegan wardrobes and even to eat meat on camera.
c) I am an advocate of animal product alternatives, and hope their use replaces animal products in the sports world. For example, synthetic leather gloves and vegan shoes are being utilized more and more by athletes and that gives me hope of a change one day.
Sorry for the long winded post, but, my point is: veganism is not a perfect science. It’s not a perfect ideology. We all contribute in one way or another to the exploitation and abuse of innocent lives and my personal goal is to try to limit that suffering. To me, like Gary says, it means keeping those animals off my plate and doing my best to advocate for their lives.
For the time being, I will continue to enjoy things like having a phone, catching a ball game with my friends, and going to the movies every once in a while. However, I hope we as a society can move toward a more compassionate way of living that relies less and less on the use of animal products so I can stop worrying about defending myself to my omnivore friends from the first pitch until the bottom of the ninth.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to write this. this is an interesting aspect of veganism that i hadn’t considered- animal products in sports. maybe a potential nugget? ;) and i so agree with you- we can do our best and strive to improve and that, to me, is being 100% vegan. thank you again so very much for your thoughts!