Vegans: let’s not be party poopers

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» Vegans: let’s not be party poopers

Have you been criticised by other vegans for eating processed vegan foods? Rebecca Burke calls on vegans everywhere to treat each other with respect, and to embrace the proliferation of vegan alternatives.

That familiar feeling of elation creeps up on me, the taste buds start tingling and the good news alarm is sounding. Reading the exciting developments in the world of vegan food on social media pages fills me with joy. "Vegan cheese pizza in Pizza Express," "Quorn Fishless Fingers hits supermarkets," "Sainsbury’s brings out vegan cheese." Yet what is this I see? A flurry of clucking, tutting and chastising...coming from trolls? No, from fellow vegans.

It is normally a three-form attack and takes the form of one of these examples:

"Why are you buying ready-made food? Make your own! Make meals from scratch!"

"Why would a vegan eat junk food? Veganism is a lifestyle, stop eating rubbish!"

"Why on earth would a vegan want to eat something that tastes like meat/fish/cheese? I tried it once and yuck! Threw it in the bin! Yuck! It tasted gross! Oh might as well add another yuck!"

People say going vegan is more than a diet and I agree. It would be silly to proclaim yourself vegan and walk around draped in fur. However, that is where it ends. Judging me or other vegans for not cooking our meals from scratch is actually a form of prejudice: it is ableist and classist.

Dozens of comments follow this suit as all hell breaks loose! Why? Because life is being made easier for vegans with more and more yummy food available. Despite this, there’s always someone out to spoil the fun, and my answers to them will always be the same.

"Why am I buying ready-made food? Because it's my life: I decide what I spend my money on and what goes on my plate. After all, it’s all vegan!"

"Why would I eat junk food? I eat a balanced diet but I do enjoy Linda McCartney sausages in a bun. I have grown up not just living off falling fruit from trees. I grew up a healthy, happy child and still ate crumpets and chocolate as part of an overall balanced diet.”

"I didn't give up eating animal products because I disliked the way they tasted: I like it when things taste fishy and eggy. To be honest, I still miss egg sandwiches, but I will NEVER go back to eating them. I will happily recreate the taste though. Plus, I wouldn't dream of throwing something in the bin, what a waste! I would persevere or give it to someone."

People say going vegan is more than a diet and I agree. It would be silly to proclaim yourself vegan and walk around draped in fur. However, that is where it ends. Judging me or other vegans for not cooking our meals from scratch is actually a form of prejudice: it is ableist and classist. If a vegan buys cheap vegan sausages for their family as they haven't got the time or inclination to cook, or can’t afford expensive ingredients, why judge them? Perhaps they suffer from a disability or health condition that means most days it is a necessity to bung something quick in the oven?

Fry's braai-style sausages

Another area we vegans should work on is not putting people off exciting new vegan menus. When someone announces that a restaurant now has vegan options in a vegan group online, there will often be the doom-laden voice of doubt. "I heard there was milk in it". Unfortunately, many of these claims are unsubstantiated and just seek to confuse new vegans rather than helpfully providing information. Other vegans take the time and trouble to screenshot menus, to contact the restaurant and share the confirmation that it’s vegan. These people should be thanked for their time and effort, not doubted.

Lastly, we must all be more sympathetic towards vegans with health problems. If you have health issues it doesn’t mean that you are not a good enough vegan, not level 20 enough. If you propagate that line it just serves to make someone feel lousier than ever that when they went vegan they didn't wake up the next day 10 pounds lighter, with perfect skin and hair. There are plenty of blogs surrounding chiseled blondes sitting on beaches drinking green smoothies but not that many about vegans going through the menopause, though this is far more common an occurrence. Let’s support everyone to be the vegan they want to be, instead of having to live up to an idealised, and often problematic, norm.

Got angry reading this? It’s probably about you! I will carry on buying new vegan ice lollies from Tesco, I’m always bikini body ready regardless of my size, and if I want to pick up a ready-meal on the way home then that is just what I will do.

Enjoy your lives and I will enjoy mine. There are enough stresses, worries and issues in life to contend with, so I’ll continue to buy delicious store-bought hummus!

By Rebecca Burke


Great points about ablist nature of the comments. Great points all round. I initially lost weight on a vegan diet, then discovered vegan junk food and gained. Now I'm just trying to get a good balance. But it ain't one size fits all.

I really don't find any difference when I have the chance to eat vegan food,they are as tasty as any other food,I usually don't eat every animals meat because we don't need to catch anything moves and kill and eat ,we have enough product to limit our food for sacrificing very few meat ,I haven't eaten egg and cheese for years and I haven't missed it.when I saw how they kill and cook lobster I was horrified.there is enough plant food to satisfy our need .

I couldn't agree more, the health vegan nazis boil my p!+s, I'm vegan for animals and the environment and will eat anything, healthy, processed & junk as long-as it is cruelty free.

Rebecca, whilst I think you do make some sweeping generalisations in the article - particularly in relation to referring to critics as ableist and classist, I think it is valid to say that a negative approach wins people over to vegan cause. However, I think you risk going too far. A lot of people are put off by veganism as they are sceptical to the health benefits. I spoke to a very-open minded friend who is health conscious. She follows a paleo diet and said she often sees friends who are vegan posting photos online of their lunches, dinners and commenting that they are entirely vegan. However, my friend passed comment that in fact, whilst the meals were vegan, they were not healthy and were largely processed foods, which she found was very off-putting and seemed to harden her resolve against becoming vegan. So I think there needs to be an acceptance that the health argument is one of the key vegan arguments, it is also keenly propogated by the Vegan Society itself.

We of course will all have our known reason we became vegan, mine is totally for the well-being of other life, living gently and without harm as much as I can, my own health, not so much, I indulge in plenty of chocolate and sugary snacks like Oreo’s , I love the new Quorn fishless fingers I hope they will continue to expand their range of vegan friendly foods, wether they are healthy or not concerns me less, what I know is that other life wasn’t hurt and this is what matters, so lovely vegans eat whatever you like from our growing choice and keep the guilt trips away, it sure is a wonderful time to be a vegan :)

Thanks for your article. I always equated veganism with compassion and kindness. Then came to realize that there are angry folks everywhere and in all walks. I understand that in this world there is plenty to be angry about. Still, kindness and compassion are nobler choices.

Best. Post. Ever! Compassion, love, tolerance and empathy should SURELY encompass human beings as well as animals - and, seriously... judgment is just so unsexy...! ;) Thanks for writing this. I would shower you with confetti and offer you a glass of bubbly, but I will have to just send you happy thoughts instead. Hope that's okay too? ;) Have a great day!

Again, the difference between Plant Based Diet and Veganism arises here. If you are vegan, it is a whole way of life, including not buying products tested on animals etc. It is about compassion for animals. What has that got to do with healthy living. If you are on a vegan diet for health, it is just that - a diet. Nothing to do with animal compassion if your only change is what you eat without the rest. That is what you call a plant based diet. So many vegans love cheese and meat, fast food and takeaways, but not at the expense of animal suffering. I am not a vegan for selfish reasons i.e. My health, but for the animals.

Thank you for saying something that needed to be said. I am sick of hearing moralistic stuff being spouted on behalf of veganism. You would think that giving up exploiting animals was a big ask. It used to be but it isn't any longer and with every menu that includes vegan options, every supermarket shelf that includes vegan items, every sandwich shop that offers vegan alternatives and every food manufacturer who decides to make another vegan version of an animal product, it gets ever easier. The question of healthy eating really is a separate (and perfectly valid) one which should not be conflated with veganism. A carefully thought out vegan diet can no doubt be more healthy than a meat one, but I don't think there can be much doubt that oily fish is (or used to be) actually rather a good addition to the human diet - except that dragging fish out of the seas and rivers is cruel and environmentally destructive and in any case, as the seas are now full of plastic, eating fishes is no longer the healthy choice it once was. If someone is drawn to a vegan diet by the perceived health benefits, that's fine by me but I just hope we aren't overplaying them. It's perfectly possible to be a quite unhealthy vegan. The more vegans there are, healthy or unhealthy, the better.

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