Sunday, January 29, 2012

Things I Hate About Being Vegan

Vegan Fairy Kindness
Sometimes I wish the vegan fairy would just sprinkle kindness everywhere and banish misinformation and extremists.

I love being vegan, eating a healthy plant-based diet, and living a kind and cruelty-free life.  Nevertheless, there are some aspects of being vegan that I dislike.  I don't like complainers, vegan or otherwise, but I'm hoping that people who are more experienced vegans will be kind enough to give me some advice and push me in the right direction through their comments below.  I recently wrote about my concerns about lack of family/friend support and lack of support from the vegan community in my article Is Vegan a Dirty Word?, so I won't revisit my dislike of the vegan police, but I have noticed that there are some aspects of being vegan that are frustrating and difficult, so I'd like to air these frustrations with the hope that others will offer advice.  Stay tuned for my upcoming article about all of the things I love about being vegan.

1.  Unnecessary videos or graphic images of animal cruelty.

I understand that the point is shock value.  Some people may need these videos and photos to truly understand how disturbing animal cruelty is, but I find it repulsive when seemingly harmless links lead to unexpected images of horror.  I am doubtful that the shock value really does much to convert most people to veganism long-term.  If anything, I think the constant images of horror makes veganism seem less approachable and makes vegans seem like extremists.

2.  Determining what's vegan and what's not is difficult.

I mostly eat unprocessed foods now, which is great.  I also am noticing that an increasing number of packaged foods clearly say whether they're vegan or not.  However, the process for determining whether a product is vegan or not seems to be Google, check forums, and contact the manufacturer.  The problem is that Google and online forums don't always seem to have firm proof and often rely on anecdotal evidence.  Contacting companies takes a long time and doesn't always yield clear answers.  Plus, even if you know most of the hidden animal ingredients, it can still be hard to know if an ingredient might not be vegan.  For example, I learned in this vegan forum that vegans need to source D3, and apparently companies don't necessarily know what's in their food.  Prior to reading that forum, I had no idea that the product in question might not be vegan.

3.  Companies are less than eager to answer questions.

I contacted my first company a week ago to try to find out if the sugar used in a particular product is vegan or not.  I never got any acknowledgement from the company at all.  My awesome vegan mentor @xlibrarygeekx suggested that there really isn't a great rule of thumb to determine whether sugar in a product uses bone char, and he suggested that it's better to just avoid a product if you can't figure it out.  This makes me sad because I'm always looking to expand my vegan options and would be able to make an informed decision if these companies would just write back.  I'm thinking either big companies don't know what's in their products, or they don't care because the vegan segment of the population isn't large enough or doesn't have enough power to matter.  The lack of cooperation by manufacturers is also a problem for people with food allergies, but in these cases companies appear to do the bare minimum to comply with the law.

4.  Many vegan resources or health/diet/lifestyle websites make claims without scientific proof.

A vegan blogger suggested that she only uses coconut oil because it's the healthiest.  I started researching that claim because her website didn't explain why this oil was superior compared to other oils.  Ultimately, after I wasted a lot of time, I discovered that it's probably not the best, although there are a lot of people out there spreading propaganda.  Many aspects of veganism or healthy diets are not exact sciences, but it's counterproductive when vegans and others in these industries make unsubstantiated claims that we are just supposed to take at face value.  I feel especially frustrated that some of these unsubstantiated claims could actually be harmful to one's health.

5.  PETA is one of the best vegan resources!? Really?

I understand that we must take every step possible toward cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly, but I find some of PETA's tactics morally and ethically objectionable.  In addition to some of it's politics or strategies involving animals, I find PETA's treatment of people horrendous.  I believe in in non-violence, compassion, and I am against the killing of all beings, animals or people.  As objectionable as many of PETA's practices are, nothing was more offensive to me than the "death by chocolate/bite Osama Bin Laden's head off" campaign.  The people of Afghanistan and the world had suffered so much under Bin Laden's terrorist reign, military members risked their lives to end that reign, military families in the US and elsewhere worried about whether their loved ones would come back alive, all of the suffering of September 11, and Bin Laden's family no doubt suffered after he was killed.  After all of this, PETA treated the whole thing as if it were some type of big joke, reopening the wounds and offending me and many others.  It's pretty hard for me to believe that PETA engaged in the Bid Laden campaign in order to accomplish something for animals.    The whole campaign reflected a total lack of the compassion that PETA supposedly promotes.  PETA's many snafus are more incidents that make vegans look like extremist weirdos.  I didn't support PETA when I was a vegetarian, and I don't support PETA as a vegan.

So I'll step down from my soapbox, but I am hopeful that maybe somebody out there has ideas about how to deal with these frustrations.  I love being a vegan, and given that I was a lactose intolerant vegetarian, I don't have any intention to be anything other than vegan.  Any ideas about effective ways to contact companies?  I hate being on hold forever and I'm tired of getting no response at all.  And what about compassionate charities that aren't walking contradictions or corrupt?  Does such a thing exist?  And is veganism a word?  My spellchecker doesn't recognize it.

Posted as part of: Best Posts of the WeekPink Saturday, Weekend Wander.


  1. The animal cruelty videos/pictures always get to me. When I was a new vegan I used to watch PETA videos and cry my eyes out. I finally just stopped. I don't need to see it since I know what horrors befall animals. I have however been known to direct friends who were on the fence about becoming vegan to them...after they saw and were made aware they hopped off that fence!

    As for the ingredients in prepackaged foods...I did my best to study up on animal derived ingredients so that I would recognize them while shopping. I've also been known to whip out my phone while in the grocery store so I could call the company.