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I'm not vegan anymore. I'm a happy herbivore.
This is a post and a statement I've been thinking about writing for a while, and after the events of yesterday (both those on this blog and on the Facebook wall), I feel compelled to finally say it: you win, I'm out.
For the past five years that I've been "vegan" I've been told, repeatedly, I'm not vegan enough.
No matter how hard I tried, no matter how perfectly I thought I was living, something I did was always wrong. The vegan police were always ready to jump in and take away my vegan card. Now, mind you, it wasn't like I went an ate a burger or something... it was more acute than that.
For example, I once tweeted I'd eaten cotton candy at a baseball game. Big mistake. I received a wave of angry texts and tweets about how I wasn't vegan if I ate cotton candy, and how unresponsible it was of me not to source the sugar in the cotton candy first. I think my reaction was R-rated but in the retelling of this story, let's just say I shouted "good grief!"
What I don't understand, and what I've written about before, is why are these vegans taking the time to run around and tell people trying to be vegan they're not vegan enough, instead of using that time and energy helping someone who isn't vegan at all?
Is veganism some cool club that I'm not worthy to get into? Do we really want to make it about exclusivity rather than inclusivity?
Someone said to me once, and I think this is painfully true, for cruelty-free dieters, vegans sure are cannibalistic!
I'm sure the 'vegan police' will jump up hooting and hollering with great pride that I've decided to renounce my vegan title (after all, thats what they asked me to do yesterday) -- like they've accomplished some great thing -- a "poser" is no-longer infringing on their turf, but the rest of us will see how sad this really is.
As plant-based eaters, we are a minority. We need to stick together and support each other. We need to spend our time helping others eat more plants and less animals, not deciding or judging who is or who is not vegan enough for their standards.
I'm eating plants, not animals, don't worry about me.
To the vegan police: Know that if you continue down this road, you are only hurting your cause, not helping it. I'm pretty set in my ways, but had I been newly vegan, or more unsure, the events of yesterday would have made me run for the hills screaming "vegans are crazy extremists!" and then you've accomplished the exact opposite of your goal: you'd have made me eat more animal products, not less...
Over a dozen people left comments like this one yesterday, and I think it speaks volumes to how harmful - not helpful - drawing lines in the sand within our community can be:
"The comments here have made me re-think the way I describe myself. Even though I am a "vegan" by the strictest definition this is not a group I want to be a part of. I no longer consider myself a vegan."
I have always tried to make Happy Herbivore a safe space where anyone can feel welcome and not judged. I've learned that if you want people to make a change you must show them kindness and compassion. You must build them up rather than tear them down.
I always make a point to applaud the steps someone has taken rather than belittle them where they fall short.
and perhaps thats why I'm the happy herbivore and not the happy vegan.
I don't know how much luck these others have had 'converting' people with their methods and attitudes but from where I'm standing they've just lost me, so that's a -1. Maybe I was never "vegan" anyway, and now I don't ever want to be.
I'm simply, a happy herbivore.
To anyone who reads about this drama and thinks "ack! vegans are crazy extremists! get me out of here!" know that it's not reflective of the entire community. There are many wonderful vegans out there and I'm lucky to call a lot of them my friend... but as with any group, you'll find people who are fanatical and mean.
If you're looking for a place where people embrace each other, love each other, respect each other and come together over a big bowl of vegetables, join Happy Herbivore on Facebook.
Vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, omnivores and people who don't know what they are, ALL are welcome. We all come together with the same purpose: to eat more plants, to eat more "vegan" meals, to be healthier and of course, to call each other friends.
This is my promise, my commitment, to you. I will never judge you, you are all perfect. Keep up the good work!
Update: 2:30 p.m. Between the blog and Facebook, this post today has received over 600 "likes", over 300 comments, over 100 tweets, and I've personally received over 2 dozen emails. Words cannot express how touched I am (I'm crying!). Thank you, THANK YOU for your support and THANK YOU for being you.
Update: (next day): Over 1,000 total likes...over 500 comments... wow. Thank you for the overwhelming support. I this means my message has rang loudly... hopefully now, real change can be made... with compassion, kindness and no judgment.
Final Update: I'm closing comments on this post -- over 350 have poured in on the blog alone. I have loved reading your stories and I'm so touched by all the kind, supportive comments! Sadly, I'm no-longer able to keep up, so Let me just say "thanks!"
We stand together!