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The trouble with the word Vegan

Most if not all of the recipes posted on this site are suitable for vegans, but I tend not to use the word vegan that much and you might be wondering why.

While I have massive respect for anyone committed to a vegan lifestyle, there are a couple of issues that I have with the word itself that mean that I prefer not to use it too much in my own life.


1. It is Black and White

The word vegan means “A person who does not eat or use animal products”.  This is great, but it is very specific in stating that you do not eat or use ANY animal products.

I agree that broadly speaking, a vegan lifestyle is about as healthy, eco-friendly and compassionate is it comes, but the strictness of the word itself means that it rules out any people who eat or use almost no animal products, or who are trying to eat and use less animal products.  This is a huge number of people, and they are people who deserve to be encouraged.

The danger in implying that something good is all or nothing, is that the majority of people will see it as unachievable and give up.  Whereas if we focus on encouraging each individual to be the best that they can be (and this applies to all aspects of life), then we will all actually achieve a lot more.  If you’re reading between the lines, you’ll see that I am one of those people!

2. There is stigma attached

It is a very sad fact that there is a lot of prejudice against vegans in society and I don’t think that it is too strong to say that in many cases it is a form of racism.  I hear some of the things that people say about vegans behind their backs, and sometimes to their faces and it is often both ignorant and appalling.  This is prejudice against people who fundamentally care about the welfare of themselves, their families, animals and the planet – my god, what a scary bunch!!

Perhaps people can’t handle the fact that it challenges the way they think about themselves, or maybe they are just opposed to anything that isn’t normal in their little world.

The truth is that I don’t have the confidence at this point in my life to face the social reaction (yes, call me a coward!) but it has presented me with the opportunity of infiltrating conversations about vegetarian and vegan diets that people wouldn’t have in front of people that they knew were vegan.  I get to hear what people say, understand what they think, and then join in with these conversations to stealthily steer them in a more positive direction.  I think that this actually can play a genuinely useful role in transforming attitudes in society when combined with the more vocal approach of those who are openly vegan.

Today I will be mostly eating… plants

I like the term plant based foods because “plant” is very factual and inoffensive.  After all, who doesn’t eat plants?  And “based” implies that it is not religiously strict (even if you choose it to be).  The idea of someone mainly eating plants is pretty easy to swallow for most people, and generally doesn’t mean that you need to get into details of exactly what you do/don’t, can/can’t, will/won’t eat because it implies flexibility.

It isn’t perfect.  People naturally try to box each other and the idea of a plant base diet can also be a bit annoying for people who insist on putting you in a box that you refuse to go into.  Are you a vegetarian? No.  Are you a vegan? No.  Are you a fruitarian? No.  Are you a carnivore? No.  Are you a buddhist? No.

It might irritate a minority of people, but it leaves me free to make informed choices about what I eat in any given situation and helps me to avoid awkward situations that I don’t have the desire to face at this point in my life.

And in that way, I want others to feel that they have that same freedom.

Bon appetit!

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