Friday, 3 November 2017

My Vegan Journey // Why Nobody's Perfect

This week the world celebrated World Vegan Day (as well as the start of World Vegan Month) which recognises the founding of the Vegan Society in 1944. In July I wrote about why I went vegan which gave an overview of why this type of lifestyle is so aspirational to me. However, I'm incredibly aware of the fact that I'm not a perfect role model for veganism in any way and today I wanted to be honest about that and why I think it's okay to not be flawless but to be aware of areas where improvements can be made.

An issue I have noticed repeatedly when a lifestyle choice comes into conversation (usually for me this might be chatting about sustainability, going cruelty free, or avoiding animal products, but it's applicable to countless topics) is that people love to find flaws in what you are doing, searching for any possible contradiction or hypocrisy. This bothers me as I am of the opinion that every conscious choice matters and I don't believe any of us can be the "perfect" consumer. It is also frustrating that the majority of those who object to positive change are people who are not interested or well informed on the subject. I don't agree that anybody has a place to judge others or tell them what to do, but I believe in applauding the conscious choices we do make as it all mounts up to make a difference - and educating ourselves and others. This desire to be "perfect" and free of hypocrisy is something which put me off veganism for the longest time as I felt I would be fighting a losing battle, but actually it's the best thing I've ever done for myself. I'm by no means perfect, as I'm about to tell you, but I am so happy with the choices I am making, and the ones I plan to make in the future. But here are some of the things I'm struggling with to fit in with the "vegan" identity...


Leather
I have not yet been able to replace all of my leather items, and frankly, I'm not in a rush to. I don't remember the last time I bought a brand new leather item as almost all of the leather boots and jackets I own are hand me downs or bought second hand. I am of the opinion that it's much better for the environment to utilise the items I already own than to fuel fast fashion replacing the items that are too worn to sell or donate but have life in them yet. Recently when a friend found out my boots were leather (hand me downs from my mum, a great fit, and serving me well) she said I may as well just eat a burger. I respect the opinion that some can't stand the thought of wearing leather but as a fledgling vegan I would rather not be wasteful and of course whilst I don't plan on ever buying leather again, my current stance is that we vote with our money and the "damage" of leather items was done long ago when they were purchased by the original buyer.

Cosmetics
Cosmetics are a complete minefield. Recently in a health food shop, as a result of being suckered by greenwashed packaging and the confusing standard that an item can be labelled cruelty free yet contain animal derived ingredients, I accidentally bought a toothpaste which contained shellfish. Revolting, right?! Given the nature of the shop I assumed it would be suitable but was so focused on making sure the item was cruelty free I didn't think to check the ingredients and I ended up buying something not even vegetarian, let alone vegan. I can't explain how frustrating that was! However, with accessible cruelty free companies like Lush and The Body Shop providing vegetarian products and hugely expanding their vegan ranges, as well as masses of independent companies with amazing ethics to choose from, I now know I have a few failsafe go-to places to stock up on items I need. There are a few products I've yet to replace (for example, honey seems to make its way into a lot of haircare) but right now I'm OK with using these products until I find suitable alternatives if it means I am supporting a company who represent causes I want to support.

Cleaning Products
It's easy to forget that cleaning products can be tested on animals too. I always try and buy eco-friendly laundry liquids and cleaning products where I can but it's easy to accidentally pick items up without knowing if it contains animal tested or derived ingredients. I need to do a lot more research on this and would love to hear some suggestions!

Backyard Chickens
This is a really divisive topic again amongst vegans: if you had your own backyard chickens which lay eggs, would you eat them? I know lots of people who live in the country and keep chickens well - fed, watered, looked after and loved. They lay unfertilised eggs naturally and organically. So in theory I really don't have an issue with eating eggs this way, as it is much more the farming industries I have a problem with. This is a topic I am interested in learning more about, however, but I wanted to include it as it is commonly assumed there is a blanket rule for everything but I feel it's so important to look at all aspects and form your own opinions when it comes to moral grey areas such as this.

Honey
I'm going to come out and say it: I haven't yet completely stopped consuming honey. Though I have no particular desire to eat it, I have a huge backlog of herbal tea bags that use honey flavouring which were expensive and I would rather use them up! I also have some haircare products which contain honey that I am yet to replace. There are also medicinal aspects to honey which I need to learn more about as where possible I would rather choose holistic methods over traditional medicine. Of course I'd still prefer to avoid using any animal-derived substances, but theoretically if bees are kept ethically (on a local rather than mass-farmed scale) I have less of an objection to the use of honey.

Talking About It
I'll openly admit I've accidentally become the person that talks about veganism a lot, but I don't feel as bad about it as I thought. There are two reasons for this: firstly, being a new vegan can be a minefield, so in a restaurant I do find myself saying the word "vegan" a LOT so I can be sure what I'm ordering is suitable. Secondly, I really underestimated how much it would change my life and how good it would make me feel, and more than that, it's made me realise how much I want to share the information I'm so passionate about because like with anything in life, if you're learning about something you're interested in, it's likely to make it into conversation. When you love to cook, as I do, you are forced to get a little more creative as there are fewer ingredients that can be used and this was a concern for me when transitioning (I love food!) Yet the moment I cracked the formula for vegan pizza which I hand-on-heart believe is better than the cheesy equivalent, or figured out how to make lasagne with minimal faff and without needing loads of niche alternatives, it was pretty much impossible not to tell everyone I knew out of sheer joy. However, there's a difference between being excited about new discoveries and wanting to share that information, and judging people and trying to enforce your opinion upon them.

These are some of the grey areas that continue to play on my mind during my journey to trying to better myself and impact on the world around me. The issue is, however, that in this world it is almost impossible to avoid hypocrisy. It even comes down to things like getting a ride in a car with leather seats or even the use of glue - it is almost impossible to live a life avoiding all animal derived substances so it makes it harder for me as an overthinker to figure out where to draw the line. This has plagued me for the longest time, but I'll reiterate a conclusion I reached in my previous post:

The label "vegan" itself poses some challenges: a plant-based diet is one thing... there are many steps I have yet to take before I could consider myself to be fully "vegan". However something important to keep in mind is that it's not a competition and nobody is perfect. I never thought that I could live a vegan lifestyle because I couldn't be "perfect" and completely avoid hypocrisy. I thought if I accidentally bought a jar of coconut and almond butter with honey in it, the vegan police would turn up and tell me to hand back my badge, give up and go to McDonalds. But that's not what this is about - it's just about making a more morally informed decision as a consumer. Nobody can live a perfect lifestyle free of any footprint. Whether it's the blood on your steak or the air pollution from transporting produce, every choice we make has a price and it's up to us to pick our poisons. It's important that we just do what we can when we can, and remember that every conscious choice matters. 

I really find all of this fascinating and am enjoying sharing my journey here. In this post I'm addressing the reasons I referred to in my previous post when I said I can't consider myself fully vegan, but I am continuing to learn and grow because changes take time and it takes a lot of research and discussion to form an educated opinion. I know these are all incredibly divisive and I'd really love to hear your (respectful!) opinions on some of these topics. But most of all I want the take-home message here to be that nobody is perfect and the best thing we can do is to respect and learn from one another.
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4 comments

  1. lovely post!

    www.bstylevoyage.blogspot.com

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  2. Loved reading this post! For someone who's still transitioning to being full blown vegan, started as cruelty free with my beauty products, and cutting out dairy and other animal products its definitely a journey and reading about yours gave me so much motivation and passion for being cruelty free/vegan! Keep doing it!
    Kinga xx
    http://rockthisrunway.com/

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this post, thank you for commenting and good luck on your journey! <3

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