What Level Vegan Are You? A Response To Beyonce’s Announcement

Much to her fans disappointment, Beyonce revealed last week that the plant-based (vegan) diet was responsible for her recent weight loss. She later went on to promote her new vegan meal service.

This was great news! With her reach, I’m sure she has influenced millions of people to look at their lifestyles and consume less animal products. From where I’m sitting, this is a win.

However, as expected, her announcement came with some backlash. First from her fans, who quite frankly, most of them couldn’t care less about her diet and were more interested to hear about an upcoming tour or new album. And then you have the vegan community, who think she is a fraud and is not a “true vegan”.

I can see the frustration for both claims. In this post, I want to look at what it means to celebrate the progress of veganism.

I came across this interesting article on Medium Beyoncé: This “vegan” wears furs. Carole is a talented writer and definitely made a strong case against the celebration of Beyonce’s announcement.

“Beyoncé is a business woman callously draped in dead foxes, minks and lynxes, expanding her and her husband’s billion-dollar empire by masquerading as a vegan.”

And then she goes on to say;

“Are we supposed to celebrate anybody who claims to be vegan just because they’re famous? What if Isis gave up meat and dairy? Are we supposed to be thrilled? They’re famous and have a lot of influence with millions of people. They could do some real good for animals, right? If they switched to Beyoncé’s “power-snacks” between beheadings.”

Which brings me to the next point.

What level vegan are you?

Whether we like it or not, there seems to be an invisible vegan rating system amongst the community. Some vegans see the decision as an all or nothing approach. Whilst others try to gradually educate themselves on the vegan lifestyle. If we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, the rating system would look something like this:

Level 1 vegan

The level 1 vegans are typically vegan for the health benefits, but are not interested in the ethical and environment benefits of veganism (or currently unaware). These vegans are passionate about green smoothies, kale salads and buddha bowls. Having said that, they might eat animal products on the rare occasion, making them vegan 95% of the time. They claim to have great balance and to not put too much pressure on being strict with their diet.

Level 2 vegan

This is the person who was shocked into change after watching Earthlings, Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives. They have mixed emotions, immense social pressure and the challenge of finding and cooking tasty plant-based food. They are passionate about animal liberation and simply cannot support animal agriculture. They may still wear non-vegan clothes.

Level 3 vegan

This person is the hardcore advocate that is fully committed to veganism. They have a lot of experience living a plant-based lifestyle and make a point of encouraging others to do the same. They care deeply about the treatment of animals and the environment. Many of these vegans have no problem calling out others how they consume animals and their bi-products.

What level vegan is Beyonce?

After looking at the levels, it’s clear that Beyonce is a level 1 vegan as she made the switch purely for health benefits. As Carole clearly articulates, Beyonce can still be seen wearing animal skin. Other reports suggest that she still eats red meat every now and then.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t celebrate her announcement?

Of course not.

We need to stop being so hard on each other and start celebrating progress.

Let’s be happy for progress

Sure Beyonce’s diet could merely be a trend, and sure, she hasn’t showed much evidence of having compassion for animals. BUT, did her announcement save more animals? You bet it did.

So why not celebrate the progress?

I think it’s great that people are making better choices through plant-based living, regardless of what level they are. I understand how difficult it can be to give up animal consumption after doing it for a lifetime. So any progress is worth celebrating.

Don’t put pressure on yourself or others to be a level 3 vegan. Be open, continue to educate yourself, and connect with people who are on a similar path. More importantly, celebrate any progress you make. Whether that’s giving up cheese or selling your leather clothes. Pat yourself on the back and move onto the next step.

On that note, regardless of Beyonce’s motivation, let’s celebrate the announcement as I’m sure many animals around the world are.

What about you? Do you think Beyonce’s announcement was worth celebrating?

30 comments… add one
  • Anne E. McGuigan 16/06/2015 Reply

    Hi Michael,
    Let me begin by saying that I enjoy your website and commend you on your commitment to those beings who suffer daily in all of our death for profit industries. I agree with you that diatribe and invective have no place in nonhuman animal advocacy. But I think we are on a very slippery slope when we confuse clarity with condemnation. Veganism is about an ethical choice not to exploit other species wherever practicable and possible. There is way too much at stake to consider that it is okay to place these ethics on a sliding scale, to rate them in terms of levels. Beings suffer and die when we say it is okay to take our time. It is important to encourage people for their efforts, but it is equally important to protect and clarify the definition of veganism, so that people do not get the idea that veganism is about us or for us. We do benefit from being vegan, but if we allow ourselves to be “veganish” because we are on a journey, then we are complicit in the death of beings to whom their own lives matter. If Beyoncé is wearing fur and petting captive exotic species in foreign lands, then she is not vegan. This is not a condemnation. It is merely a clarification and one that needs to be made if we are to save lives and free nonhumans from bondage. I have written a post on my website about this very subject. Typing Beyoncé in the Search bar should bring it up.
    Respectfully,
    Anne

    • Hi Anne, as always, thank you for your contribution.
      I admit that a rating system may not do justice for animal liberation and perhaps a more accurate description would be plant-based living versus veganism. I felt the need to write about levels because I know there are people out there with positive intent to become what we define as a level 3 vegan,but in their journey they feel social pressure or judgement from others because they are not “vegan enough”. I just think we could all be more supportive of each other and ultimately positive reinforcement will get progressive results.

  • Steffi Émilie 16/06/2015 Reply

    This reminds me when Bill Clinton went vegan… he did it for health reasons and then he changed his mind and switched to the paleo diet… I was what you call a level 1 vegan when I started so I understand it’s good to encourage people but I can’t be fully positive with Beyonce going vegan because I’m afraid she will change her mind and then criticize veganism. I hope I’m wrong but if I’m not I don’t think it will be a good thing for the animals in the long run.

    • Hi Steffi, I absolutely agree. It’s hard to predict what celebrities will do in the future. Having said that, what we do know for sure, is that Beyonce is heading in the right direction and her announcement has saved lot’s of animals. So I’ll take it!

  • Jo 16/06/2015 Reply

    I think this is where it’s useful to bring in the term ‘plant-based’. For me, being vegan means being what you refer to as level 3. Otherwise you’re plant-based to one degree or another. People who call themselves a vegetarian but still eat fish, for example, are fooling themselves but no one else and the same applies here. It’s like being ‘a little bit pregnant’…not possible. The word vegan has a meaning, and while I totally applaud the efforts of Beyonce and her like who bring plant-based living into the spotlight, they are not vegan. Nor am I. I fit your level 2 description but refer to myself as 99% plant-based. With aspirations : )

    • Anne E. McGuigan 16/06/2015 Reply

      Hi Jo,
      I agree with you. All vegans are plant based eaters, but not all plant based eaters are vegan. What we eat as vegans is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce/

    • Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts Jo. After reflecting on these comments, I tend to agree with your definitions. I positioned the levels to support those like yourself who have positive intent, rather than putting them down because they are not “vegan enough”. I love this, “99% plant-based. With aspirations”

  • Guy Rittger 16/06/2015 Reply

    Fundamentally in agreement with Anne McGuigan’s perspective and would like to make an additional observation. There’s a pretty straightforward litmus test for determining whether one’s commitment to animal rights is ethically and morally consistent. When it comes to establishing whether or not a particular behavior is “vegan” – i.e., is commited to the moral and ethical principles that animals’ lives matter – we should ask ourselves: “If this behavior pertained to some other ethical or moral issue involving humans – e.g., human trafficking, child abuse, slavery, rape, domestic violence, etc. – would we be willing to celebrate or otherwise applaud those who simply announced their intention to mitigate that behavior, rather than abandon it altogether?”

    I submit that we would not celebrate the person who declared that he would only beat his children 3 times a week, rather than 5, or the person who announced that she would only maker her workers labor 14 hours a day instead of 16 hours, 7 days a week, for subsistence wages. When it comes to animals, people seem more than willing to relax their moral/ ethical standards, if not adopt a double standard altogether. And the message that comes from this is: animals’ lives don’t really matter that much. Indeed, what really matters is how we human beings feel about ourselves – i.e., our health, our consciences, our environment, etc. With respect to Beyoncé, it’s about her health, her body, her business success, etc. It’s never about the animals. And her inconsistent behavior speaks loud and clear about where her priorities are.

    Ultimately, veganism is about animals. It’s not about us except to the extent that we have a moral / ethical responsibility to behave towards other sentient creatures in a manner that befits their status as fellow travelers in a world that belongs to everyone. I’m happy that people take steps to minimize their impact on the environment or seek to improve their health by adopting a plant-based diet. Kudos to them. But they are not vegans and we need not try to spin their choices as “vegan”. Rather, we should encourage them to think beyond themselves and focus seriously on the specifically vegan issue of animal rights. Not in an aggressive, abusive or dismissive fashion, but in the same way we would encourage them to consider child abuse, sweat shops, rape, or any other serious moral/ethical issue facing us today. We would not compromise our values on those issues, neither should we compromise them on vegan issues (which, of course, are intimately related to the aforementioned issues, as well – i.e., we demand the same respect for the rights of humans as we do for the rights of animals).

    Consistency is not the same as perfection. We can strive for consistency even as we admit that we will all, ultimately, fall short of that goal. But the proper response is not to abandon the struggle but to apply ourselves with greater conviction, in the confidence that it will one day make the difference we desire.

    Peace.

    Guy

    • Guy, what a comment! Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts, it’s much appreciated.

      I agree, that veganism is not about us but the animals. For this reason, I’m quite happy to use whatever tools are at our disposal to inspire change in consumer behaviour. So fundamentally, whilst I agree with you comparisons of veganism to other ethical issues, we still need to consider the context. Beyonce’s announcement without question, would drive change in demand of animal based foods (on a smaller scale), which will save more animals. So the point I was trying to make, was rather than focusing on whether Beyonce is vegan or not (as per the article on medium), let’s focus on the positive impact of her announcement and encourage her to keep pushing her message.

      Kris Carr is a prime example of this. She has successfully spread the message of plant-based living to combat cancer to millions of people. As a result of her reach, she has saved thousands of animals. To me, this is worth celebrating and encouraging.

    • Anne E. McGuigan 22/06/2015 Reply

      Hello Guy,
      Thanks for expanding upon my views. Solidarity and clarity are great friends to advocacy for non human animals.
      Anne

  • Anni 16/06/2015 Reply

    “Although the vegan diet was defined early on in the Society’s beginnings in 1944, it was as late as 1949 before Leslie J. Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism. He suggested “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”. This is later clarified as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.” — http://www.vegansociety.com

    If you’re not doing it for animals then you’re simply eating a plant-based diet. Which still is a win for some animals, and I hope is a transition for those on this diet towards veganism as they further educate themselves about leather, wool, honey, circuses, zoos, fur, etc.

    • Well said Anni. Sure, plant-based living is not the same as veganism, but it’s a start.

  • Andrea 16/06/2015 Reply

    Another great blog post!

    I am happy for every animal that doesn’t have to suffer or is being killed. But worth celebrating? No, not exactly. For me being vegan means living as animal-friendly as possible and practical, which Beyonce is not. While nobody is perfect, for her it’s not about the animals but about money. And oh, what good could she do for animals with all her money and fame. Maybe she’ll get to that point some day. And, then I’ll celebrate!

    • Fair call Andrea, I can definitely appreciate why you would feel that way. Whilst Beyonce’s intent may not veganism, she has large reach, and hopefully her message has opened up doors for many people move past their own health and educate themselves on animal liberation.

  • Tracy Sage 16/06/2015 Reply

    I know this is a touchy subject for lots of people. From my point of view I am a level 3 vegan and believe that this is the true meaning of the word vegan. Anything else is not vegan and should therefore be called plant based eating. That said, I applaud any effort people make to reduce animal consumption and animal cruelty so we should celebrate others acheivements but give them the correct terminology.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment Tracey. Yes, after seeing these responses, I agree with you. I’m glad that you appreciated any efforts to reduce animal consumption.

  • Kathy Sturr 17/06/2015 Reply

    I like to celebrate all veganism. Even if someone agrees to only be vegan one day a week. It is still change for the better! After reading this I would say I am a vegan on all levels. I am vegan for health but ate a grouper sandwich in FL – it wasn’t as good as I imagined and I don’t think I’ll do it again, but I did. I am a strong advocate for the freedom of animals and opening the eyes of others to their incredible suffering. I ponder how we could ever make enough “meat” to feed everyone’s appetite and how everyone can be so callous and willfully blind. I no longer buy leather, wool, silk, etc. I am not perfect nor is anyone. I wish that every restaurant and convenience store had vegan options. Let’s celebrate an influential force in putting veganism out there!

    • Well said Kathy, love your positive attitude! Being plant-based for health purposes could be a great stepping stone to learning more about the ethical and environmental impacts of animal consumption.

    • Anne E. McGuigan 22/06/2015 Reply

      Hi Kathy,
      Heartiest congratulations on your kind and compassionate life. I too am vegan and always work to bring my daily life in line with my ethics. I do take issue with the vegan for a day concept. By definition veganism is about not exploiting non human animals wherever practicable and possible. If we say that it is okay to be vegan for a day that we are diluting the message. I made mistakes along the way and I called myself vegan when I was still wearing leather shoes, having the occasionally bit of cow’s milk in my coffee when I did not have soy milk with me and the list goes on. I wish someone had told me that I should research what it really means to be vegan. My “journey” would have been a lot shorter and caused less suffering to the beings for whom I advocate.
      Respectfully.
      Anne

  • Rosanna 17/06/2015 Reply

    I hope your post makes it to mainstream media! You and all the comments above are completely right! What I like at least is that the words “vegan” & “plant-based” have been in the mouth of media outlets more now than I’ve ever seen before and I want to think that people are going to start listening.. The ignorance around how food gets in our plate is ginormous.. People don’t realize the struggle that chickens, pigs, cows, goats, turkeys, have to go thru for them to eat.. (I was one of them, but once I opened my eyes and learned that, it was a different world altogether!). It will take years and I mean years before it will all change.. thank God for Mercy for Animals and their undercover investigations! For now, every little bit helps, even if it comes from Beyonce (not a fan of her music or her husband’s).. We need to continue to strive and encourage other people to make the move.. This weekend we have the Vegan/Vegetarian Festival in my home town and I’m taking a couple of friends to it.. Let’s make the vegan movement larger and larger!

    • Love this Rosanna! You’re absolutely right. There is a huge disconnect between what people consume and where it comes from.

      Whether we like Beyonce or not, she has built up influence and trust over the decades, and for now, she is using her power to help people make better health decisions, which subsequently will save more animals. Regardless of her intent, I think it’s positive.

  • Cate Berry 17/06/2015 Reply

    This world would be a much better place is everyone would stop “hating” and be kind. I think being human is a journey: we are all on an adventure of discovery. I am vegan, am a vocal advocate of ridding the world of GMOs and other very harmful practices, believe that animals are our friends not food etc. yet I have friends at different places than I am. We talk a lot about my journey and their journey, and I am happy to say I have been successful in helping many of them think and eat differently. Are they all vegan? No, but again this is a journey. Let’s make kindness the priority and help each other. Most people respond to new ideas (at least new to them) when they are presented with kindness in mind.

    • Anne E. McGuigan 17/06/2015 Reply

      Hi Cate,
      I agree with you. It is possible to be kind when speaking the truth. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says that if we use kindness and compassion to speak the truth about the plight of all those beings caught in our death for profit industries, then we need not feel responsible for how it is received. But the truth does need to be told.

    • Chanelle Danylowich 18/03/2017 Reply

      Well said 🙂

      Agree!!
      Kindness & understanding will evoke more change than anger & judgement ever could!!

      Cheers to this journey of Life with Love & Understanding!! 💓🙏🏼 Namaste

  • m.prest 19/06/2015 Reply

    What about people (starving artists) on welfare who take whatever they dish out which is usually 2 cans of tuna a month as far as meat goes, unless you go to the mission for supper…then you may get a meatball in your spagetti occassionally…Should we keep harping on veganism on facebook etc, or just mention it once in a while because you would be defriended by even your family…(which i also accept food from)…?

    • Anne E. McGuigan 22/06/2015 Reply

      Hello there,
      I have a great deal of compassion for those who struggle financially in a world which can be so inequitable.
      The definition of veganism eschews the exploitation of other species wherever practicable and possible. Veganism is about intention, not perfection. Sometimes things are just not possible, no matter hard we try.
      Wishing you the best.
      Anne

  • Cecilia 22/09/2015 Reply

    Hello!
    First of all I want to say that I just found your blog and I really like it. Forever following 🙂
    I really enjoyed your “level of veganism” and I think they are very true (sorry for my english, but I am italian). Both my parents went vegan a couple of years ago for health reasons and they are actually healing thanks to this diet. I am not vegan, although I try to eat vegan most of the time. Living in Italy and being a student at the same time, I find it’s not the easiest thing to do unless you want to be an antisocial and never go out with your friends (vegan options are not very frequent in restaurants). For sure, I don’t eat meat. As someone wrote in a previous comment, I think it is a journey and I am sure that I will improve with time. Anyway, the point of what I wanted to say is that I really dislike when the “true vegans”, meaning those people who went vegan for ethical reasons, criticize the ones that are following this diet for their health because at the end of the day they are doing the same thing: eating plant-based. I read some comments on this post that made me cringe and honestly I think this people are the reasons why the vegan community is often mocked in our society, at least in Italy. They are so integralist that they scare people who maybe are interested in this lifestyle, making them think “If I have to throw away my old leather jacket and only use organic non-tested on animals soap for the rest of my life, this diet is not for me”. I appreciate people that eat a plant-based diet while still buying their shampoo at the supermarket as much as I appreciate people who are fully committed to veganism. Both categories are doing something to change this world, whether if they are doing it consciously or not.
    I don’t know if I explained myself in the best way, but I hope you got my point.
    If I will ever be a vegan, I’ll do it for myself because I want to be healthy . And while doing that, I will benefit animals too (which I love, seriously).

    Ps. Can’t to try one of your recipes.

    Love,
    Cecilia.

    • Hi Cecilia!

      Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts around this topic. And kudos to you and your parents for living more consciously.

      Unfortunately this is kind of energy is apparent in any passionate community. There will always be purists, pretenders and those who are progressing at their own pace. With this division, it’s easy to get lost in what is and what isn’t the “right” way, instead of making incremental changes to demand, however we can take it.

      Let us know how you get on with our recipes!
      Ps. your english is great 🙂

  • Chanelle Danylowich 18/03/2017 Reply

    Hi!
    I want to commend you on this post as most everyone I’ve come into contact in my life wants to act as though everything can only be one way and labels emerge… but by giving each other room to grow we allow for just that… growth!!

    I fully agree and support all you have stated. Thank you for a wonderful UNJUDGEMENTAL post! I also agree with the statements Cecilia has made above! Everything in Life is a journey and it is the people that are making a bad name for vegan’s not the ethics.

    To everyone else who has posted some frustration about this post… if you actually care about animals and the earth you will try to be grateful for positive progress and choose to be understanding of others who are making positive changes for the betterment of animals & earth alike 💓
    Otherwise our reasons for judgement are purely selfish and conformist and I for One believe veganism is about the opposite… Selflessness & Breaking traditional beliefs to allow for Growth 🙂

    Thank you 😊

    P.S. if you think about it this way…
    What if (insert name) were to say “I’ve stopped eating animal by products” instead of calling themselves vegan ….. would we be more accepting then?
    If your answer is yes then I think you need to question your reasons for being mad at people who say they are vegan but aren’t “””as vegan””” as you!

  • Jane 27/08/2017 Reply

    As someone who has only recently become vegan, I personally believe that the levels actually are a more productive way to look at it simply because there is NO way, regardless of how fabulous you are, that you are immediately going to know every last thing that has an animal product in it – especially considering the vast number of chemicals that you would never even consider would be an animal product, like E920, when you’re first starting out. Not knowing is NOT the same as not being morally and ethically “all in”, as some vegans I’ve run into seem to believe. Every lifestyle change, no matter what it is, has a steep learning curve and veganism is no different.

    Now, obviously, in the case of Beyonce, who is clearly not worried about animal welfare when she’s walking around draped in the dead skin of innocent animals as a matter of “fashion”…that’s something else entirely.

    However, telling someone who does not yet know every last food product that does or does not have an animal product in it that they are not truly vegan, but rather are “on a plant-based diet” is down right dismissive and arrogant in the extreme and will actually, in the long run, hurt the vegan cause. NO ONE likes being made to feel inferior and the number of vegans I’ve met who seem to believe they are superior for choosing veganism, is utterly ridiculous. If you truly care about animals, then you should be doing everything possible for their welfare, and NOT turning people away from veganism by being rude, arrogant and self-righteous would be a great place to start. I also find it not only hard to believe, but likely a massive lie, that these people were magically 100% perfect at veganism when they first became vegan like they seem to expect everyone else to be.

    Sorry for the little rant, and it wasn’t directed at you guys – so far your blog seems great – I’ve just been getting really frustrated in my vegan journey with the number of vegan people out there that are so dismissive of those vegans who are not yet “level 3”.

    I’m vegan, I’m NOT on a “plant-based diet”, this is a lifestyle CHOICE, and one I’ve made for ethical, and moral reasons based on my love of animals – NO ONE has the right to tell me that I am not vegan enough because I’m not a “perfect” vegan yet, and I don’t think that anyone should be encouraging ANY vegan to take that attitude with any new vegans at all.

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