This is quite a controversial topic but it’s something I want to write about and VeganMoFo seems a good time to do it. When I am cooking for myself or eating out with very close friends or family, I only ever eat totally vegan food. But there are some occasions where I do make exceptions. It’s not that I order a cheeseburger, but I don’t always thoroughly quiz the waiter who is serving me or the friend who has cooked for me. This weekend was one such occasion. I was travelling in Belgium and France with non vegan friends. On the first night we went into a restaurant and I tried my best to order a pasta and artichoke dish without the cream. When it came it had clearly had some cream added*. If I’d been ordered in my native language and was sure I’d made myself clear, I’d have sent it back. But I wasn’t, so I ate it. My sister recently bought me a gift set made by Burt’s Bees, telling me she’d checked that it wasn’t tested on animals. I thanked her profusely and used it, even though I normally wouldn’t buy honey. I know some people would have sent the meal back or refused the gift, but I didn’t. If I’m at home I drink mostly vegan wine, but if I’m at a friend’s house and they offer me a glass of wine, I don’t quiz them about how it has been fined. I have a few reasons for this.
Firstly, I am vegan for compassionate reasons. It’s all very well being compassionate towards animals but I like to extend that to humans too. If people can’t understand you, or are trying their best, it’s just plain rude to insult their efforts. I also don’t like meat eating friends and family to think that being vegan means you have always to be on standby, that you’re starving to death, that you can’t go out to eat and all the other things that they probably already think and don’t need reinforcing.
If I’ve checked at a restaurant before I go and they assure me they can provide vegan food and then can’t, I’ll firmly stand my ground and refuse to eat there or pay. I don’t knowingly buy any animal products. But I like to use common sense and try and give veganism a good name. Sometimes I’ll explain why I don’t wear leather or eat milk chocolate when people I don’t know very well buy me gifts – sometimes I’ll just thank them and pass the gift on. I weigh up each situation as it comes, and try and do my best. It’s not just for the animals – it’s for the humans too!
* If you’re wondering, the pasta definitely would have been tastier without the cream. It had lovely artichokes, parsley, garlic and lemon zest in it. A splash of good olive oil would have enhanced the flavours but the cream smothered them.
Interesting post. I appreciate your honesty and it’s always interesting to hear different perspectives. I’ve had a lot of vegetarian friends over the years so I am a bit sensitive about these things even though I myself am not vegetarian or vegan. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives. That’s actually why I am participating in VeganMoFo. Even though I personally know I cannot make such a life change, I applaud those who do and am still looking for ways to raise my awareness and understanding while lowering my animal product consumption. It’s not perfect, but my hope is that my awareness and conscious effort to cut back is better than no awareness at all.
I really get what you’re saying in this post and I appreciate the honesty.
I also like the idea of “compassionate vegan”…I can wrap my head around it easier than the hardcore vegan ethics that I still haven’t synthesized into my brain. As someone who switched to vegan eating from vegetarian because of the health benefits, I’ve always had a hard time chastising my friends and family when they offer honey and cream-laden things, mostly because I hadn’t processed all the information on ethical eating before making the switch to vegan food myself…how can I expect them to as well? At least not all in one take. =)
I’m getting better at being an eagle-eye when it comes to ingredients, but I’m also getting better at just not eating something if it comes down to it, especially if my “not eating” isn’t be conspicuous to a well-meaning family member who can only take in so much revolutionary information in one sitting. =)
I completely agree with you. I prefer things to be as pure of animal products as possible, but sometimes you have to consider your choices and I don’t think yours are unreasonable at all.
I can only agree with you. And as a Belgian I can only offer to send you some vegan-friendly restaurant tips next time you want to come over.
Ooh! Was this sparked by me asking about the leather camera case?
Interesting take. There are way too many militant veggies/vegans out there who care more about a gnat than the person sitting next to them.
It is definitely hard to order food vegan in another language (I had to do this in Greek once, we fared pretty well, I think they got it, it was just 3 tiny potatoes on the side that had cheese on them but they weren’t part of the main dish and the staff probably didn’t give them a second thought so we just left them aside and ate the main).
I don’t refuse gifts and I haven’t thrown everything out (like leather) that isn’t vegan. If I can I pass it on to someone who will enjoy it. I really hate to hurt peoples feelings.
I’ve found the best approach is to educate as much as possible but I try and do it in a conversational way. Work it in as much as possible until they understand what vegan means to you.
My mother inlaw sent me leather, silk, & cashmere items for 3 holidays, if I were not vegan I would have thought they were lovely but now I think she understands (and she just sends money hehe)
oh man…shit happens. i accidentally ate a chip that had cheese in it this weekend. and i don’t always ask at restaurants like i should either. no vegan is perfect!
This is such a problematic issue. I like to say that if I’ve done my best then that’s okay, but ‘my best’ is incredibly subjective. But overall I agree (though I probably wouldn’t accept the gift of honey-product from my sister).
I understand where you’re coming from. If I order something without cheese and they give it to me with cheese, the first thing I do is see if anybody at my table wants it. If not, I’ll eat it. Mostly because I don’t believe in wasting food as much as I don’t believe in exploiting animals.
I am not totally vegan but I still understand. I do limit my dairy and try not to freak out too much about it. But tonight my veggie burger had mayo and even though I use veganaise at home – I just ate it. I do the best I can but I try not to be over the top.
I know this is a hot topic! But I wholeheartedly agree with what you say here. Thanks!
Wow! My most comments ever. Thanks for all your encouraging comments. I know everyone is different but I expected to get a bit of a pasting for this one.
I don’t think there’s a vegan in the world that isn’t faced with similar issues. We all have to draw our own lines and boundaries and be accepting if other peoples boundaries are a bit further away than our own.
It is impossible to live 100% vegan- all we can do is our best.
Great post and kudos to you for having the balls to say it.
I totally see your point. While I’m not a pleather-bound vegan drill sergeant, I would have sent it back. Partially for ethics reasons, and also sparing someone’s feelings isn’t worth spending a whole night on the toilet.
My vegetariansim/veganism has mostly been based on environmental concerns and the politics of fair food for all. When I get non-vegan food at a family gathering, I’ll usually offer it to someone else, or eat around it. I’m not as forgiving at a restaurant, if I’ve been really clear about leaving off the cheese. I’ve become really lactose-intolerant, and if I can’t salvage something off the plate, I’ll send it back. Then, I usually feel guilty about wasting food, when others have none, etc. etc. Thanks for posting on this subject.
Compassion for life isn’t limited just to animals. If people are making an effort they should be applauded while also educated if there was a slight misunderstanding. You’re a good spokesperson for teaching people that veganism doesn’t have to be a black and white issue that should be militantly defended.