The term ‘vegan’…
Dave (generally a meat-eater): There’s no universal definition of what a vegan is. Some use leather, some don’t. Some eat fish or honey, others don’t. It’s an unhelpful label – some days I am ‘vegan’ and some days I’m not. It’s ridiculous.
Lucy (more-or-less vegan): Well, thanks for your comments Dave, but let’s just start with clarifying that I think you’re ridiculous [I’m only joking, Dave’s great]. But you make a valid point. Rather than debate the term ‘vegan’ maybe we can approach this from a different angle. Does it matter what word someone uses to describe themselves & their approach to food and their lifestyle? Oh, and I don’t think vegans generally eat fish – just saying.
Dave: It does if you want to make a statement, meet like-minded people, or define your belief system.
Lucy: You’re right. It’s almost a bit like religion – a term to stand for a set of ideas and beliefs. But the word ‘vegan’ can perhaps start to exclude people. For instance, I’m not Christian but I follow a set of values that you might say are defined by Christianity – such as good will to others.
Dave: I’d warn you off going into a church as you’d probably burst into flames.
Lucy: Thanks for that, Dave. But more to the point that you brought up initially – should people who don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, wear leather, use honey etc. define themselves as vegan? I think it’s a perfectly respectable thing to do. But I also really respect the attitude of some of my friends who aren’t vegan, who say ‘do what you can, where you can’, without placing strict limits or a label on their approach to food.
Dave: That would be me.
Lucy: Yes, I know. You and a lot of people, probably. I think it’s also a great way to live. For instance, if everyone ate less red meat, not because they were vegan but because they were conscious of the effects of it on the environment, I’m pretty sure that would have a positive effect & reduce some carbon emissions, not to mention, reduce slaughter and animal cruelty. Same goes for things like driving to the shops.
Dave: That’s a bit of a leap you’re making to driving, but let’s go with that. As I’ve always said, it’s far more environmentally friendly to order your shopping online compared to driving to the supermarket for example.
Lucy: How so? The groceries have to be driven to your door, after all.
Dave: Basic arithmetic, Lucy. A Tesco truck will have 20 stops on a circular route, for example – compare that to multiple return trips to the supermarket in 20 different cars… you do the math.
Lucy: Got it. Better to walk to the plastic-free grocer’s though isn’t it.
Dave: Er, yeah.
Lucy: Anyway, we digress. You can use the term ‘vegan’ to describe a person, a sandwich, a shower gel… it’s got so many uses. Inevitably it will lead to some arguments about who or what qualifies as a ‘true’ vegan. But, I think our time is wasted a bit, disagreeing over these details. If a non-meat and dairy-eater goes to a zoo, are they no longer vegan? I’m still undecided about zoos - some might exploit animals, while some might house animals that for whatever reason can’t return to the wild through injury or sickness. Is there a need to delineate who is and isn’t vegan? It’s just a set of values that people strive towards and inevitable cannot stick to all the time? It’s almost like acknowledging the fallibility of being human – no one is perfect.
Dave: Some are more perfect than others.
Lucy: Yes, Dave. Of course that excludes you, Mr. Perfect.
Dave: Well I’m glad that we’ve come to that conclusion.
Lucy: Sure… ok. Well thanks for hashing out the term ‘vegan’ with me.