I never thought I’d be writing an article about the definition of veganism—but recently I’ve felt compelled to reconnect and clarify what it means to be vegan.
My transition into veganism happened overnight, and I haven’t looked back since. However, the longer I’m vegan, the more I see how the philosophy is being compromised.
Before I go on, I should make it clear that I’ve long been a supporter of “any progress is good progress”—if that means eating plant-based a couple of times a week, then sure, more animals are saved, and I’m all for that!
However, if we claim to be vegan, and our actions don’t match our values, that’s where I take some issue. It’s not to put people down. No, that’s not compassionate at all. It’s about the confusion it creates to others about what it means to be vegan.
Examples of confusing actions include consuming backyard eggs, alcohol made using animal products, honey with their oats, buying leather shoes, supporting animal-based entertainment etc. This is not to mention the recent flurry of online influencers who abandoned veganism for health reasons.
All of these actions, combined with the title of “I’m vegan” is incredibly confusing for the non-vegan community.
The impact of confusing the definition of veganism
I had an interaction recently when ordering food at a cafe where the assistant had to clarify whether I don’t want eggs or honey, despite me saying I’m vegan.
The poor girl was genuinely confused—as she’s served people that claim to be vegan and then proceed order animal products. Her definition of veganism is based on these interactions, which gives her the wrong perception of what it means to commit to the practice of compassion.
This is just one of many examples where the message of veganism is being watered down. And that’s not okay—because it means so much more than that.
At the end of the day, veganism is a choice. Either you’re committed to it, or you’re not vegan. And it’s okay not to be a vegan—I mean, I’d prefer you to be vegan, but again, it’s a choice.
I’m increasingly passionate about this definition because I believe veganism has some serious weight behind it.
People are trying to devalue veganism
Mass media portrays veganism as a fad, or a trend—that’s based on individuals, and what they want—not the impact of their actions. Each year seems to be “the rise of veganism”.
Startups and major corporations alike are seeing veganism as an emerging market with billions of dollars up for grabs.
Then there’s a bunch of people promoting plant-based as this all-encompassing lifestyle that can transform your health. While there’s some truth to the benefits of a whole-food plant-based diet, it’s not fundamentally the point of veganism.
Veganism is a philosophy ingrained in the idea of compassion towards animals. I find it hard to believe that a philosophy with such an altruistic view of the world, is a trend. I’m not buying it!
I know this to be true because I see it in vegans who understand what it means to be vegan.
Their transition into a vegan lifestyle seemed straightforward to them. Challenging at times, sure, but pretty simple to execute.
I find them to be naturally curious about the world. And they practice selflessness even if it means acting against their introverted nature. People who get veganism, move, talk, and more importantly act in line with their values.
Read more: Why Do People Hate Vegans? 3 Reasons + What You Can Do About It
There’s a different level of conviction in how they operate. There’s no hesitation to explain why they make the choices that they make—as they know it’s not about them.
If you’re interested in becoming vegan, or have been vegan in the past, or are vegan and want validation, then hang tight—because, in this article, I’m going to break down the origin and definition of veganism, to hopefully extend and refocus the message and what it means in our society.
It starts with vegetarianism
To understand how veganism came to be, we need to start with vegetarianism.
I should also say that since the beginning of humankind, it’s safe to assume that there have always been people who chose not to consume animals—at least, that was their preference.
Then came along Donald Watson who in 1924, at the age of 14, became vegetarian because he was horrified at what he saw on his uncle’s small farm. One day he would see a pig that he loved, then the next day the pig would be gone.
Donald became increasingly frustrated with the philosophy of vegetarianism which was initially intended to embrace freedom from all exploitative animal products but came to include eggs, cows milk and honey.
So he officially became vegan, which at the time was called a non-dairy vegetarian, in 1942, at 32 years old.
He later formed The Vegan Society in 1944. Good man!
Where did the word vegan originate from?
Donald wanted a more concise way to describe a non-dairy vegetarian. At the time, he individually wrote and edited a vegetarian news publication.
He wrote a piece with a call to action for his readers to brainstorm some ideas for a concise definition of a non-dairy vegetarian.
Some interesting submissions came rolling through, including; vitan, dairyban, and benevore. I wonder what names we would think up in this generation? Very interesting!
But understandably Donald wasn’t a fan of the submissions and ended up taking the first three letters and last two letters of vegetarian and coining the term vegan.
His reasoning was he felt that veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its next logical conclusion.
Read more: 12 Types of Vegans and Vegetarians Explained
The definition of veganism
Between the inception of The Vegan Society and today, there have been multiple iterations on the definition of veganism.
According to the Vegan Society, veganism is:
A philosophy and 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; 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.
For the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the section I’ve bolded above. Here’s my simplified version:
Veganism is seeking to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
As a vegan, I think this definition does a fantastic job in encapsulating the philosophy of compassionate living. But I’m about to take this post in perhaps a different direction than what you expected—because buried in this definition of veganism we can derive even more meaning.
What is an animal?
Okay, if you’re like me, you probably quickly answered this question in your head based on your intuition and your domain knowledge on what you think an animal is.
As it turns out, if you google, “what is an animal?”, depending on the source, there are a variety of studies and definitions.
But the reason why I ask this question is less about the definition of an animal, and more about whether we think humans are animals.
Personally, based on schooling, watching, reading and listening to collective opinions, and of course, my own logical conclusions, I believe humans are animals.
If we stay in this position for a moment, and we agree that humans are animals, the definition of veganism just got a whole lot more interesting!
Incorporating humans into the definition of veganism
I hear it all the time—“Vegans should prioritise human rights over animal rights.” This statement always makes me quiver.
Even if we decided to define humans and animals separately, I find it hard to see how it’s not possible to be vegan and still prioritise human rights? Why should one preclude the other?
Anyway, I digress.
If humans are animals, then the definition of veganism extends to humans.
The way I see it; exploitation and cruelty to any sentient being is not a good thing. Wouldn’t you agree? For example:
- In some countries, men are considered to be the masters of women.
- Male chickens are being slaughtered at birth because they are not considered to be a valuable asset.
- Newly discovered land has been taken away from the native people by force since the beginning of time.
- Same-sex marriage is not legal in many parts of the world.
- Kangaroos in Australia are being culled at scale.
- Civil war breaks out over centuries due to a conflict of religious beliefs resulting in billions of deaths.
These are just a few horrific examples of many. I think it would be depressing to list all of the ways we exploit and abuse each other.
But what do you see as a common thread in these examples? Superiority. Ones desire to rule over the other.
I intentionally lumped human and non-human examples together—because if we remove the idea that we’re superior to animals, why wouldn’t we consider these examples at the same level?
This is what it means to embrace the vegan philosophy.
The superiority complex is real. Animals want to dominate other animals. But veganism is arguing that we have a choice to do things differently—to set a compassionate tone, which brings me to the next point.
Veganism is a choice
When you’re vegan, and you engage with non-vegans, you start seeing a pattern. People think that vegans are living with extreme restriction and deprivation.
It’s always, “can you have this? You can’t have that, can you? Sorry, I forgot you can’t have that!”
Just because we can technically do something doesn’t mean we should.
Human, or non-human, we have the choice to show mercy and compassion to others.
We all have a choice.
Yes, you. If you’re reading this article, you have enough resources available to you that make veganism a choice, not a necessity.
Most of us choose not to kill each other. It’s a choice.
Similarly, there’s a growing population that chooses not to consume animals. Again a choice.
But it all comes from the same philosophy of compassion. Why compartmentalise, scrutinise and argue an ideal that is so kind and considerate to everyone?
What would a world look like if we didn’t think we were superior to another culture, race, sex, country or animal?
It’s almost impossible to believe, isn’t it? And that’s what we’re up against — a whole history of wanting to gain an advantage over one another.
What it means to be vegan
So when I say I’m vegan, it’s way beyond eating plant-based, with the occasional organic honey or backyard egg.
No, when I say I’m vegan, I’m seeking to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
We talk about equality. But what does that mean really? Equality for a segment of our population that’s only relevant to the pain-points of your specific situation? Or equality for all living animals, human or non-human?
This really matters to me. I don’t want to harm other animals. It’s a choice that I can make, and I act on it. It’s not nice to do bad things, period!
I hope after reading this, you can find the courage, vulnerability and humility to put every animal on a level playing field. Then act on it. Show others what it means to feel, think, and be compassionate. That’s what it means to be vegan.
Special mention to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau for providing inspiration and education about the definition of veganism.
I like it. That said I can’t help feeling you have it backwards. That’s not to say I think you are wrong but it’s a “vegan-centric” perspective which in my view is back to front.
As I see it, veganism isn’t a thing, rather it’s an idea about ethics. And that idea is simply that we extend our already established ethics (developed over thousands of years) to include other species whenever we can. Articles 3-5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the principles we can expect to apply to other animals under veganism.
On that view, veganism IS how we treat other people and it CAN BE how we treat other species – no new ethics need be developed. In terms of the definition of veganism, well I guess that can be whatever it is, but underneath that is – I believe so, anyway – what I’ve described above.
In the end, veganism is a personal stance and it’s up to us to decide what that means. I object to the notion there are actual vegans. It’s not a club, it’s ethics. Everyone is vegan, it’s just that most haven’t worked out how far they can go with that or if they even want to do so.
Thank you so much for such a well thought out article. I was vegetarian for 30 years, and have been vegan for 8 years. This lifestyle has become more popular over the last few years, so I guess it’s not surprising that the definition has become somewhat more diluted. My MD once asked me about what foods I eat. I told him I was vegan, and he asked me, “yes, but how often do you eat red meat?”. If a highly educated person is confused about veganism, we have a long way to go.
Unfortunately, those who are not truly vegan haven’t coined a one-word way of identifying themselves. It is also unfortunate how disturbing this issue has been for so many years. I’m not vegan and I never say that I am and even correct those who have called me one. I often refer to a percentage of my diet that is plant based. I also am very concerned about all animals, the impact of my purchases have on the environment and my care towards both of them, but I won’t ever use the word vegan. I’m afraid being human and prone to making errors or being ignorant would not qualify me. Love your website. 💕
“it’s okay not to be a vegan” is like saying: “it’s okay to rape children”.
This type of approach and wording usually leads to welfarism.
The reason veganism came about was because a rift form in the vegetarian society. Two separate societies formed- one that allowed for the inclusion of dairy and eggs, and included other people who ate animal products and one that did not. The one that supported dairy and eggs because the more popular and more well funded group, eventually leading to Douglas’ proclamation and definition of “vegan”.
We can see the same mechanism at play in veganism today.
Because of compromised ethics and welfarism, veganism is watered down by those who’s personal ambitions do not align with the logic and reason of veganism.
Just as the vegetarian society was co-opted by eggs and dairy in the 1880s, so too has the vegan society been co-opted by rescue and adoption, ethical bee keeping, backyard hens, and holistic grazing.
The definition of veganism is based on the logic and reasoning of need. We do not need to enslave (domesticate) animals.
Since compassion is a subjective metric by which to measure veganism, it isn’t apt to apply.
Compassion is cloaked in emotion, and can produce irrational and compromising positions, directly conflicting with veganism assertions that animals are not ours to own.
Compassion has a neurological and human element- it feels good to be compassionate. So much so that it could be considered an addiction. Some people want to help to feel good about themselves, effectively chasing their own emotional gain rather than applying logic and reason to there worldview.
When compassion fails to provide us with a clear answer, invariably it is logic and reason that show us need.
Of course this creates conflict from those addicted to producing endorphins and other neurological chemicals through “compassion”.
Logic and reason shows us that when we are trying to “help”, we may just be helping ourselves.
It is easy to give a homeless person a few dollars and feel good about yourself, and to pretend that you have done your part.. it is much harder to challenge the system that allowed that person to become homeless in the first place.
I find most cases of “extending the definition of veganism” to be half measures, attempts at better function in a broken system.. essentially welfarism.
This creates even more hypocrisy and confusion.
For instance- how can a vegan tell other people not to domesticate an animal for personal gain while they domesticate a cat or dog in their home? Essentially they are saying that they can be concerned about the welfare of an animal, bit others cannot.
This encourages a welfarist approach.. if the act of enslaving an animal isn’t the problem, then it must be the treatment of the enslaved animal that matters.
Suddenly the very logical and reasonable foundation of veganism is challenged, and we are including humans- because isn’t it more compassionate to consider how human lives would be disrupted by the end of animal domestication (ownership).
Before veganism, it was the Pythagoreans… Logic and reason and their pursuit did not start in the 1940s, but I think veganism has done a good job at removing definition musical chairs, but as we can see, there is still danger with the co-option of rescue and adoption by people claiming to be vegan.
There are many grey areas when human on human activities are broached, but there is no grey area for other animals.
We are obligated to decide for our own species, but no such obligation for other species.
It would be speciesist to assume we can or should decide for other species.
Compassion is inherently flawed in this sense, playing off our emotions, clouding and compromising our ability to utilize logic and reason, making us manipulatable.
Just as the Vegetarian Society was corrupted by popularity and money when they allowed for the inclusion of animal products (dairy and eggs), so too can The Vegan Society be compromised.
“The introduction of new information is necessary to allow for dissent away from it” -cognitive paradox.
I see the first reply in this post asking for another definition of veganism, a well defined definition besides Donald’s.
I’m nearly beyond a shadow of a doubt that this person wants to define veganism as a way to break it apart, because you must first be able to identify something before you can deny it.
Logic and reason is our blessing and our curse.. which fits nicely with the paradox of subjective existence.
As our brains develope into adulthood, our ability to make the hard choice over the easy choice is what defines our species. Still, we are subject to the social pressures around us.
The pressure to conform and fit in. The pressure to not challenge the status quo. Veganism is about giving up the personal freedom to enslave other animals. Much like an adult chooses to give up alcoholism or another escape to care for their children, or societies children. The hard choice over the easy choice. Neurology. Logic and reason.
Are we destined to play musical chairs with our titles for logic and reason til it is too late?
Perhaps. tho personally, i cannot embrace it.
To be honest, I was looking for a definition of veganism beside that of Donald Watson.
But again, I did not really find helpfull hinds for an abstract description of veganism beside this. Watsons definition has the problem of his joker card “if practical” and I I am still on my search to find a general description/evaluation what is practical and not.
I feel you are searching for a definition so that you may challenge it.
The definition of veganism is based on the logic and reason of “need”.
That need is based on biological imperatives.
Your particular request often culminates in a sophist attempt to move the goal posts, and ultimately utilizes an equivocation fallacy.
Regardless of your position, would you agree that “moving the goal posts and equivocating” are tactics used by people to compartmentalize their actions?
You are mixing up two words.
“Practicable” is something that we are able to do.
“Practical” means little more than convenient.
When the subject is a nonhuman sentient species, would you act, do, say, suggest,… same way if the subject would be human sentient species?
Would be better word without anti which would mean species equality – is there such one?
In others words: are vegans looking at production, context, upstream reality, or are they just interested in being ‘pure’ as to what they consume? I have been trying to make vegans understand on social media for some years now that we need to take an interest in production, the production of what we eat, because even so-called ‘organic vegan lettuce’ is probably grown using non-organic steer/chicken/horse manure/remains. If we want a truly vegan world, a truly vegan diet, we must become producers, and if we cannot be producers, we must support veganic agriculture as it exists today, and amplify it as much as possible.
Hi Angus, thanks for your kind words and overall feedback. And you’re right; there’s undoubtedly non-British vegan origins that need to be explored. Perhaps I’ll look into it when I get around to updating the post.
Regarding bees, I think there’s a larger issue at play. Humans have exploited one species of bee specifically for honey production, killing the biodiversity of native species along the way. Additionally, there’s a path forward where we can encourage and grow pollination without extracting honey—so why not explore that option? I’d encourage you to read our honey article if you haven’t already.
As for certain crops causing harm and death in the production of crops, this is absolutely something that needs to be reviewed. But, on the other hand, we also have to acknowledge that our very existence is harmful. And as described in the definition of veganism, we’re seeking to exclude exploitative practices as far as is possible and practical.
While I am prone to agree, this also undervalues the systemic nature of the problem humans face.
It’s kind of like the Amish absolving themselves of modern society to be able to forgo technology (which they don’t entirely do).
You’ll notice that they aren’t actually creating systemic change, and you will still see the Amish participating on an economic level, even as they distance themselves socially.
It is common to conflate systemic problems with animal exploitation with personal choices.. but suggesting that everyone start their own veganic farm and grow their own produce isn’t practicable by the general society (if you are giving away money to do so tho, please email me).
Nice article. You did skip an awful lot of non-British vegans-avant-la-lettre, of course in your historical summary. In any case, there is an argument to be made that almonds and some other tree fruits are not vegan, and yet people consider them so because they come from plants. The truth is, bees are enslaved by humans to service miles and miles of monocrops, which are draining the groundwater, particularly in another drought year here in California. There is also an argument to be made that bee-keepers, at least some of them are actually vegan heroes, saving bees from other humans, who would destroy them with poisons, perhaps, if they didn’t know they had a bee-person to come remove the problem hive (too close for human comfort) and put it somewhere safe and adjacent to blooms. There is a Yemeni family in Berkeley which does just this. They have a shop where they sell honey, wax, etc… I would argue these people respect and love bees (extracting rent perhaps?), and monocrop almond farmers do not.
You would *dissent.. the argument has already been made, you are simply choosing to dissent away from logic and reason
But you wouldn’t be vegan because you are choosing to needlessly exploit animals.
Hi, great read, thankyou.
I’ve been vegan since 2016 apart from a few slip ups that included……….caramel squares? but I’m past the temptation now after realizing it wasn’t just about the food.
It was overnight that I decided to go vegan and I had been vegetarian for a year or so before that. It was my inner self shouting at me not to “take” from animals so I listened. Now…..I’m on my way to a mostly raw diet….. apart from mash and roast potatoes! I can’t give them up, I’m from Ireland ???
I chose not to talk about my food or lifestyle choices because I get so much negativity and the usual “what do you eat then?!” Or, or! Some people tut and walk away!….only happened once lol but some people won’t accept what needs to change in their own lives or for the planet….so I usually keep quiet about being vegan.
Thankyou for this article.
Thankyou for your compassion, may it spread out to all the planet xo
Hi Julie, it’s so lovely to hear about your experience so far.
I love your honesty, and I too, have had my fair share of slip-ups over the years.
Also, kudos for going mostly raw, that’s impressive!
I know the feeling of not wanting to deal with those common questions, but I’ve learned to see those situations as an opportunity to share a different perspective on how we consume food. Little interactions with people become a reference point for their encounters with veganism in the future.
Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your compassion.
Being secretive and acting ashamed of being vegan doesn’t exactly encourage our goal of justice for the other animals.
Dear Michael: I do consider myself vegan but I love honey and since I didn’t think any animals were being harmed I have considered it ok. Should I then consider myself vegetarian? Except then restaurants and friends cooking would assume I eat eggs, cheese, fish maybe — am I really being an ass if I say I am vegan?
Hi Judy, apologies for the delay in getting back to you!
Fundamentally, honey is an animal product and is therefore not vegan. Have you considered some alternatives to honey such as maple syrup and agave nectar?
As a reference, it might be worth reading Simon’s comment above about how he positions himself to others?
You are definitely part of a group of people who would be watering down veganism by claiming you were, in fact, a vegan.
I do not think you answered Dominic’s question. He was wondering if fruits, depending on bee pollination would be considered vegan.
Hi Sunni, I don’t know the answer to that question. In fact I have as many questions Dominic. But for me personally, I choose not to consume honey based on the reasons I stated above.
Thanks for the post Michael,
One of the things that always seemed a grey area to me are honeybees, and by extension their pollination. If it were not for honeybees, we would not have almonds, avocados, oranges, berries, and many other fruits. Are these foods still vegan?
I also see honeybees as somewhat different from other animals, and let me explain why. Honeybees are true social insects, meaning that no single honeybee or any honeybee caste can survive without the other castes. Individuals are cells of a superorganism, which is the hive. The hive goes through growth and contraction cycles throughout the year, and some honeybee behavior may seem cruel to us, but is necessary for the survival of the hive (culling infected larva, forcing drones out in the fall, altruistic suicide of diseased bees, workers forced to work to their deaths, queen supercedure, etc..). It is for these reasons that the survival of the hive is more important than survival of individuals. We should then be focused on the well-being of hives rather than individuals.
I wouldn’t have learned all of this if it were not for my own hives. Being a beekeeper has helped me learn so much about honeybees, the multiple serious threats they are facing, and how important they are to our food system, especially fruit, vegetable, and nut production.
So I understand that honeybees can be exploited, but what about the role they play in pollination for food production? Are the foods they pollinate able to be considered vegan? I mean this as a genuine question and have always wondered this myself, and would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Hey, Dom, I hope you’ve been well!
You have far more domain knowledge and experience than me when it comes to the ecosystem of hives and bees.
I’ve never heard of the idea of the superorganism—so I find it to be fascinating.
When it comes to ethics, I like to keep things simple.
I 100% agree that honeybees are critical for everyone’s survival and if it weren’t for beekeepers, we’d all be in serious trouble.
However, whether or not bees produce an excessive amount of honey, the intended use of their honey is for the insulation of their hive and to feed themselves and their families (please correct me if I’m wrong).
I’m sure they’re around—but I’m yet to see a beekeeping practice that purely exists to breed more bees for pollination without any extraction of honey. There’s no return on investment for such a practice, whether it’s to sell the honey or consume the honey. So this mentality in itself is exploitative. I’m not sure how else to view it.
To throw some ideas out here; what if we had dedicated bee sanctuaries? Or what if local communities came together to do beekeeping in their yards, but with no intent to extract honey? Is that too idealistic? Is that too much to expect from humans? Heck, would I do it? I don’t know. But it’s something worth pondering nevertheless.
I think you’ve inspired us to write an article to go more in-depth on the topic 🙂
Honey is used by the bees as a food source in the winter, but not insulation. When it gets cold, bees will huddle together into a tight ball and consume honey as they slowly move upward toward the top of the hive through the winter. The temperature just outside the cluster of bees is not much warmer than outside. Excess heat and moisture is vented upward out of the hive.
The most common type of honeybee raised by humans, the Italian honeybee, has been selectively bred to produce much more honey than they need for winter in most climates. The idea is that you can take the excess produced by the bees, and leave the rest, although some producers will take nearly all of the honey and feed them sugar water instead.
Actually, it is possible to exploit honeybees for their pollination, and this is frequently done by some commercial beekeepers. In February-March hives are moved to northern California for almond pollination, then in April-May to Oregon, Washington, New York, and Michigan for blueberries, apples, and cherries. In the summer, they are kept in the midwest for clover to produce honey, then from October to January they are kept in Florida for oranges until the process starts again the next year. A less exploitative alternative would be to keep hives in one place, but since these crops only bloom for 3-4 weeks out of the year and modern agriculture clears out other year-round sources of nectar (“weeds”), the bees would starve if they were kept there.
And yes, it absolutely is possible for communities to raise bees solely for pollination in a non-exploitative way! There is a type of hive called a top-bar hive which is a long, rectangular or cylindrical hive. They can be built by hand or made from natural materials such as a stump. In fact, this type of hive is commonly used in Africa where it is called a bee gum. This type of hive is the most natural type of hive to give bees since a tree stump is an ideal place for a hive to live in the wild. However, they don’t do well in cooler climates because there isn’t much room for the bees to move up (bees instinctively migrate upward over the winter), and since they are small, they frequently swarm (reproduction on a hive level). There are some communities that raise bees this way in New Mexico and Arizona.
Michael and Dominic,
Thank you Dominic for explaining about bees a little bit. I came here to do the same but you have done a much better job than I would have!
Michael, I can highly recommend the documentary “More than Honey” (2012) it’s a great film about bees and beekeeping.
I truly believe beekeeping can be ethical but I also know it very often isn’t (even if it is just for pollination) and thus vegans should consider that when they consume fruits, almonds or vegetables that are pollinated by bees! (however I also think that even the worst kind of beekeeping is still more ethical than even the most ethical way of any other kind of animal farming)
So my point is I think it can be more ethical to consume some honey but no fruits, nuts or vegetables that have been pollinated by bees from exploitative (who do not care much about the loss of entire hives) commercial beekeepers (however it is not that straight forward to find out how exactly these fruits, almonds and vegetables have been pollinated).
So what does that mean for the term “vegan”? If we follow your simplified definition, then I think to be a vegan we would also have to stop eating everything that has been pollinated by “domesticated” bees (wild bees and other insects might actually play quite a large role in pollination, but I think more research in this field is needed).
Maybe this would be the most ethical way, but maybe not, let’s say for example one part of your diet that is important for your health is something that is pollinated by bees, there might be a replacement that isn’t pollinated by bees but maybe it doesn’t grow where you live so it has to be transported a big distance to get to you which of course is less energy efficient. (this is just hypothetical I don’t have an example, I just wanted to make the point that sometimes there is no 100% ethical solution at least not at the moment, actually leather shoes is a good example, since I stopped wearing leather shoes my plastic shoes don’t even last a year… whereas the leather shoes lasted a few years and if I had taken better care even longer)
But otherwise a great article! Apart from the bee and honey stuff I agree with everything!
And I would be very interested if you wrote an article about bees and pollination! Actually I should really do some research myself I would really like to avoid foods that are linked to exploitative beekeeping.
Ah and if I tell someone that I’m vegan I often add “but I eat honey” (even though I very rarely do) it just seems more honest that way.
Dominic and Simon,
Thank you so much for taking the time to add your knowledge and experience regarding the dynamics of honey as it relates to veganism.
There’s lots to digest here, and admittedly, I’m not in a position to answer the question about supporting crops that rely on the pollination of bees.
On the surface, though, I still feel like there’s a more ethical solution than supporting the honey making industry—which we’ve started to brainstorm in this conversation.
This has piqued my curiosity to go deeper, and yes, we’ve watched “More Than Honey”. I may need to consult with you both in the future about this topic—as it’s caused a lot of confusion in the vegan community.
And Simon, you’re spot on, there’s never going to be a 100% ethical solution for anything—as it seems like we’re always going to exploit an animal indirectly.
Thanks again for your time.
There is o such thing as “ethical beekeeping”.
This is just circular reasoning, to justify exploiting for human gain.
People love to pretend like being polite and saying a bunch of fancy justifies their unnecessary exploitation.
This is no different.
People dissent from logic and reason when logic and reason do not suit them.
The double edged sword of cognition- that which allows us to reason also allows us to dissent from it.
First three letters and last two letters to write vegan is what you meant in your article.
I think the “possible and practicable” part of the definition is important. Because I have hard to fit feet, and I’ve quickly worn out or donated many pairs of poorly fitting vegan leather shoes, I’m permitting myself one pair of gently used leather dress shoes every two years. I’ve seen processed foods advertised as vegan online that list honey as an ingredient.
I prepared traditional egg custard and eclairs for my flexitarian Mom in her last four months of life to help her stop losing weight so quickly. On the rare occasions eating out where dessert is allegedly vegan and honey, egg and dairy free, I resist asking if the sugar is bonechar free to encourage restaurants to have options at all.
Recently, as I am a single and rural vegan, I’ve become more omnivore friendly. I’m not advocating as other vegans are, yet no one complains when I surprise them with homemade vegan cupcakes. When one’s livelihood depends of supporting veganism, one would be, can I say?, a “professional vegan”. For those of us amateur vegans, we might not be able to sacrifice the relationships with the few family members and friends we have. Thank you for your time to read my comment.
Hi Rhea, thank you for picking up the typos, and for sharing your experiences!
I think you make some really valid points concerning the definition of veganism.
I think your examples reflect your intent and commitment to veganism. One of the motivations behind writing this article is the example of said vegans to willfully pursue non-vegan options when there are clear “possible and practical” alternatives.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally consumed cow’s milk, cheese, honey, butter and other animal products over the last five years, and I accept they’ll be many more accidents to come.
I also don’t think it’s necessary to sacrifice personal relationships for veganism. At least this hasn’t been the case for us.
People only care about their own convenience. It is no different that human slavery.
Would you say the same thing about ending relationships if the argument was about keeping other humans as chattel property?
How would you feel if the victim was human instead of animal?
Would your compromise be acceptable then?
For instance- would taking upskirt photos of women in public be acceptable if done very infrequently.. let’s say- one every 2 years or so?
We often find it easier to compartmentalize our bad behavior when we cannot relate to the victim- perhaps this analogy will better help you personally see why compromising your position is illogical, unreasonable and unethical.
Please stop calling yourself a vegan when you’ve just pointed out the ways that you’re in fact a non vegan. If you’re choosing to be an omnivore, then call yourself an omnivore. Simple. Thanks.