Veganism: What’s in a word?

My primary reason for going ‘vegan’ has been that I found, after a two week trial period two years ago, how much a plant based diet suited me.  I ate better, I felt more energised, I liked the food more, and it really wasn’t hard at all.  I found that you didn’t need to pay a weekly visit to the health food shop to buy vegan mayonnaise or cheese, or that there was any need to seek out meat and dairy free specialist alternatives…aside from dairy free margarine and soya milk I rarely buy any specialist food at all.  My family eats what I cook, but I am not deaf to the occasional plea for a spag bol made with ‘real meat,’ and my husband still eats cheese like it’s going out of fashion.


I did initially struggle with the ‘whole hog’, and by this, I’m not just talking about eggs, honey, wool and leather.  I’m talking animal based ingredients used for filtering wine and beer, and, for example, that lemons waxed with shellac are often used in some brands of hummus. After some careful thought I made some decisions about what was important to me, and what my priorities were in relation to living a complementary life given the state of the world that we are living in.  So I feel at ease with my decisions about wool and leather (yes over plastics and synthetics), honey and eggs (I’m not going to be a stickler, but I’d rather not if possible), hummus and alcohol (yes please, on both counts).  However, over the last few months, I have begun to feel increasingly uneasy about calling myself a vegan.

The Vegan Society makes it clear on their website what veganism is:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

Now, you might argue that as far as is possible and practicable I do all these things, but I don’t think I do – if I tried harder I could go totally vegan if I wanted to, easily.  I’ve been using the term ‘vegan’ out of pure laziness, because it’s been a quick easy way to convey the basis of my diet – and this is what I struggle with, because veganism is more than just a plant based diet.  I know many might say ‘it’s just a word, what does it matter?’, but for many vegans it does matter.  Being vegan is so much more than just a word, it is a way of life, and I don’t think I’ve got a right to hijack something that conveys so much just to make my life a bit easier.

So from now on when anyone asks I’m going to take the long-way round and tell them I eat a plant-based diet, and if that means more questions, then so be it.



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