When Are You Vegan?

Bob Harper tweeted today that he had some egg whites. (I saw this in my Facebook newsfeed from Vegan.com.)

Is this the personal trainer cum Quaker Oats guy? You know, people who are prone to allergies should not be eating a single food every single day or they run the risk of developing a problem with that food. That's the first thing I thought when I saw his commercials. (I should qualify that by saying that I have a friend on the rotation diet right now with an oat allergy so that's the first thing I think when I hear anyone say "I eat X every day" like he did in the commercials.) Also, I thought, those Quaker Oats would be a lot more nutritious if it took, say, 10 minutes to cook instead of 1. But that's just how my oats roll. Or don't, as the case may be. I'm not above convenience for sure, but I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, in the Facebook comments, folks are all pissed off because it's one more celebrity who has flirted with veganism and waffled. I guess I just haven't been vegan long enough, but I don't get it. One person says,
"So long as he doesn't call himself vegan, or espouse the health detriments of animal products, or otherwise make himself a hypocrite, then sure, whatever."

What does that mean? When does someone who has a slip-up get to call themselves vegan again? I mean, is there like, a set number of days or something? Some special rule? Does it like, reset your entire year or month? Do you have to qualify it? "Yeah, I'm vegan, except for 4 weeks and two days ago when I had egg whites." Or "Because of that cheese incident on my birthday, I'm just a vegetarian this year."

Seems kind of silly and I know there's not a vegan alive that hasn't had a slip-up at some point in their life. And I damn sure know there are very few vegans who started their life that way and have never had contact with an animal product of some sort. And it seems pretty bitchy to the new people who are definitely going to make more mistakes in the beginning. So, when is it that you get your vegan card?

Someone else said,
"He could have kept his egg white cravings to himself, but at least he's not cooking duck ragu with vegan muffins on GMA like A-lister Gwyneth Paltrow."

Yes, that's true. And I don't know how I feel about that. On the one hand, aren't you glad that she didn't put an egg and cow's milk and bone-char sugar in that muffin? Aren't you? No, really. AREN'T YOU? And on the other hand... a duck? Are you kidding me? Okay, though, I get that one. She's not vegan any more. She doesn't get to say, "I'm vegan." Preparing a duck dish as part of a planned television appearance when you've already outed yourself as not vegan any more is a world of difference away from tweeting that you screwed up this morning, though. And saying that he could have kept his cravings to himself is kind of encouraging him (or others) to be dishonest and not show a real side of this life. An honest mistake. Or, who knows, maybe the end of him living a vegan lifestyle. We don't know, yet, right? (And certainly jumping all over him about it will make the case and seal the deal?)

And as to the real side of this life, in living it, I'm finding that there is a bit of hypocrisy involved, for sure. And anyone who thinks there isn't is probably not being very honest and open with themselves or others or is just really good at making excuses and justifying things. The Vegan Society defines veganism as "a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." That possible and practicable thing is kind of important. Because that's where the judgment comes in. Who decides what is possible and practicable? Do I get to judge you and decide in my mind that you're not vegan if you don't do things the way I want you to? If I compare you to me and you don't measure up, then I get to say, "You're not a real vegan," right?

I mean, isn't that the thing that you hate about the inflammatory omnivores? They're always pointing out this kind of stuff, hoping it will bring you around to their side. You know, about the tires and the field mice killed during harvest and the pesticides and so on and so forth. My own recent dilemma has been that I own half an acre of land and don't find it "practicable" to grow enough food so that I can stop buying it at the store. You know, the store, which is full of all that food, wonderfully pollinated by bees. The very bees whose honey I won't eat? How can you say there is no hypocrisy there?

I can't. So, I have to live with it. I have to be honest and admit it to myself and figure out where that puts me. I have to give in to those shades of grey and those conversations that end with, "Well, at least this is better than that" or "every little bit counts" or "at least I'm trying." Nobody can withstand that kind of scrutiny. I have to say, "Yeah, Bob had a moment and had him some egg whites, but that doesn't negate the whole rest of his day or diminish the rest of what he did this week that prevented animals from suffering or being exploited." Because if I don't say that, and you don't say that then why should anyone try at all? Why make any effort at all? And if you go out of your way to bag on another person who is otherwise making a concerted effort, then what makes you better than that annoying meat proselytizer who manages to find his way to every vegan forum?

I don't know. Sometimes it is difficult to see two sides of the same coin at once.


  1. This is the kind of stuff that gives me a headache! It's not as if there's some magical vegan scorecard in the sky. Oh, you had egg whites---minus two points, and now you're not a vegan.

    People should just eat what works for them, nutritionally and ethically, and butt out of what's on everyone else's plate.

  2. Interesting discussion. I didn't see the tweet, but I know what you mean about those kind of comments ... people will question everything from isinglass used to make a beer to whether I'm actually using vegan Worcestershire. I looked at the link, though (btw - is he sponsored by a health insurance company?!) - the problem for me his declaration that he is giving into a craving. It is tough to know what is bad for you or for the world and resist it. Would I like a slice of cheese pizza? Yes. Eventually I lost cravings for meat (ick) and I hope one day cheese is the same way for me. I kind of wonder what will happen next - will he continue to call himself vegan? Will he say it wasn't worth it? Will he say he now eats eggs in addition to everything vegans eat?

    I'm split - I don't like saying "at least I'm not doing that!" or "good enough for me!" but I do realize that my life does affect other living beings.

  3. I really liked this post.We all slip up and make mistakes but, we get back up and hopefully get going again.As I am trying to eliminate animal products from my life, I am trying my hardest.39 years of eating animal products it is a HUGE learning curve.I tend to be very hard on myself and that is my downfall.Thinking I can't do something because of one mistake.But, hopefully I am getting wiser and can forgive and move forward and not get stuck.So I agree I think we should support the people that are trying, why tear them down.Don't we have enough of that?I think this world would be alot further ahead if we could be nicer.So great post Stephanie and well said!!

  4. I think labels confuse everything. Why not just eat in a way that makes sense nutritionally and ethically for you? That seems much more logical, AND stress free.

    While the labels can help in the beginning {finding a like-minded community, support, "rules for eating", and help navigating the choices} it can end up making things more difficult in the end {rules are too strict, community not supportive of slip-ups, your body not agreeing with the dietary choice}.

    Just my two cents.

  5. I really like this post. thanks :)


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