“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” — Margaret Mead

I think some may not understand that “vegan” describes the general concept of life without exploitation of animals. Without reliance on animal agriculture. Most vegan groups describe being vegan as attempting to realize an ideal thru practical actions. The idea of compromising to live in the real universe has always been a defining part of being vegan. It’s the reason for the phrase “as far as is possible and practical”, not a technicality.

The word “veganism”denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

That doesn’t mean the end decision is any different, as The Vegan Lightbulb pointed out.

Abolishing animal killing and slavery (known as abolitionism) requires a steady, committed hand. Luckily, that’s how human minds actually like to work, as it lets us form these things called “habits” that we spend the vast majority of our life doing. The process lets humans be both committed to a line of action and on autopilot without thinking “omgwtffbqq must be vegan” 24/7. It lets us do things like drive, get ready in the morning before fully awake, keep pets alive, take medications daily, eat at similar times every day… the list just goes on to describe much of what we do. Basically, we can be vegan because we are human. But frankly, a few weeks of being vegan pretty much means one is a vegan & can treat it as “normal” or habitual.

I know points when I will compromise. I don’t ask if my injections were grown in chicken eggs, or refuse them if tested on animals, or any other medical choice when there is no vegan alternative. Most vegans I’ve met seem to feel very similarly and none have condemned anyone for making use of any medical products. In my mind this is not even compromising, as it’s implied by the definition of “vegan” being those things which are practical. The point is to prove that many, many non-vegan things can be done in a vegan but practical way. The trappings of cults are conspicuously absent.

But what about the leftovers? Not just the family turkey dinner (“don’t make so much next time, then”), but also things like the leather jacket or even hotpants, the shoes, the leather trim and upholstery that people seem to like against their own bodies (ew, that’s just nasty in a bad way), the wool sweaters, the 20-yo coat with “fur” trim that might not be real… the list goes on as long as any evangelical anti-vegan can stand to talk. There’s no list in the mind of a vegan, so it’s not exactly an exercise in how consistently a vegan thinks. A vegan is human, and therefore must be inconsistent at some point. We’re in the habit of eating meat, but it’s a habit and not a requirement. We are not slaves.

It simply blows minds, apparently, to conceive of an ethical systems that intentionally has guidelines with individual interpretations rather than strict rules. The differences are intentional and might stir useful debate, not something to divisively fight over. Just as much as it blows minds that an ethical framework won’t answer other questions & even cooperates with other frameworks (like religion or social politics). Again, this is another source of compromise when it comes to being vegan.

To me, I’ll sacrifice (indirectly) the well-being of another animal when it’s required to avoid permanent harm to another human being. I will not forget my vegan ethics for something that I feel would personally be purely an issue of convenince for me. I will try new vegan products that I don’t need or like, simply to be an authority if anyone asks me about them.

So I came up with a list of “compromises” I make, when most people might think I’m not being the Best Vegan Possible.

always compromise:

  • medical care
  • elections
  • gray (situational):

  • pets (mine aren’t vegan)
  • tobacco
  • refined sugar
  • old non-vegan clothing
  • dyes
  • places I won’t settle (I’ll reliably send these back to the producer):

  • honey
  • basic meals
  • restaurants
  • zoos
  • seafood
  • insects
  • new clothing, even gifts
  • luxury goods
  • upholstery (even rented, where possible)
  • I do have guiding principles that help me to define my preferences and frame situations inside a vegan ethic.

    As for which animals are on & off limits… basically most things in the animal kingdom. I don’t need to split hairs about which are “ok”, so I won’t. Life’s too short to be that complex. In practice that means no products from seafood or insects.

    I’ll always choose vegan when there’s a choice presented as a matter of taste or preference. After seeing videos of sheep shearing and animal slaughter and a billion other instances of animal agriculture in video and in-person, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want non-vegan things. Interestingly, most non-vegans agree with me on this point. The vast majority don’t like being reminded of that agreement.

    I will not sacrifice my immediate, acute health for the sake of a vegan ethic. I am an animal, too. I have a right to self-defense that is above judgment from others who do not fully understand my viewpoint. Only a very few, rare individuals can’t relate and say similarly.

    I will base my choices on reality, not obscure and irrelevant hypothetical situations designed to see what’s vegan… in obscure and irrelevant situations unrelated to meaningful science or ethics. No one really knows if they’d eat an already-dead wild boar if absolutely required to survive on a barren desert island. I’ve never heard of a child beginning to support animal rights because of a zoo, or supported their propaganda. I don’t have a choice between cancer treatments designed from animal tests and those designed from statistical analysis (which is actually scientific). I’ve never pretended to be better. I’m not better. That’s part of the point. I wouldn’t voluntarily face the choice, anyway. But I do voluntarily go to restaurants.

    I accept that any system or even body of rules has limits which require common sense and practical experience above dogma, a point where things break down at the edge. Somehow many anti-vegans find this stance more offensive than making a dish creamier by killing someone smarter than any family pet that they’ve taken care of. Apparently this rationale for killing is acceptable when planned in advance of the animal’s birth.

    Friday ~ October 14, 2011 by b

    Posted in advocacy,veg | Comments Off on compromises |

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