Plot twist: they don’t exist. In most of the world in which we live, being a truly perfect vegan is impossible.
From the sugar in your coffee to the glue holding together your expensive trainers to the asphalt on the highway upon which you drive, cruelty to animals prevails – and unfortunately will most likely continue to prevail till the day you die. Bleak right? Sure, but the point is vegans are trying to fix this.
I’m trying to fix this. However I’ve noticed that there is a climate within vegan culture which perpetuates finger pointing and shaming of other vegans when they slip up. And they will.
Show me a perfect vegan and I will show you a liar. It’s impossible. I’ve tried. I will keep trying till the day I leave this world.
Granted I have only been vegan for less than 2 years; I’m just a baby in this lifestyle. I’m sure my slip ups will be fewer and farther between as time goes on and I’m sure that the hackles of more experienced vegans might raise at what I just wrote. Don’t get me wrong – I applaud anyone who can look at themselves and their actions and honestly say that they don’t mess up with veganism every once in awhile. Maybe that’s only my perception but I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not wrong… comment with your thoughts please – I would love to hear from any of you taking the time to read my articles.
Regardless, I am not a perfect vegan. I even ate some steak! Does it help if I tell you my mother the cattle rancher cooked me said steak on Christmas? Not really? Okay.
I’ve dubbed these slip-ups and my subsequent feelings about them ‘VEGAN SHAME’. I’ve also made a list of my vegan shames. You might find it fun to make a list like this for yourself if you’ve been trying to live this way lately.
- Ate steak on Christmas (worst goes first)
- Ate several slices of cheese pizza between Christmas and now, also, occasionally, cheesy pasta
- Still wearing leather gloves, purses and jacket (if needed for the cold)
- Still using a beautiful leather briefcase which was a Christmas gift from my mother
- Still wearing wool coat
- Ate fish with my friend who didn’t have any vegan options in her house, other than 4 day old oatmeal and wrinkly blueberries
- Also ate a cupcake (2 cupcakes) that night
- Ate the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had, which was decidedly not vegan
- so many Mcdonald’s french fries. I didn’t know they weren’t vegan! #grr
- I’m sure there are similar things I can’t think of at the moment but you get the idea…
Alright! What a list. The vegan shame is strong with this one… however I am representing Cool Vegans, not perfect vegans, and I needed to get all that off my chest.
I’m only human. I’ve had harrowing guilt over the items listed above, especially over actually eating animal flesh when I have done the research, made the connection and know better. What else can I do, but admit my wrongs and do my best to move forward. This website is about inclusivity and love to all beings, that includes love to myself. I’ve always found love to myself to be a bit tricky; I come across as a tough and confident chick most days, but I’m not always truly like that. I really do care so much about what everyone thinks of me and especially what vegans think of me, as I value the vegan code of ethics above anything else in my life.
I value it so much I’ve been avoiding writing this article. I’ve been avoiding getting down to the nitty gritty and speaking my truth. Not anymore. I don’t have time to live in fear of the opinions of others or of conducting an honest appraisal of myself. Time is precious and it is running out!
So, all that said, let me explain my bad bad vegan-ing. My mother’s side of the family have been cattle ranchers for generations, and raising beef cows is a great passion for her. Family dinners in my youth had food that came almost exclusively from our farm. My mom has always been proud that she can provide beef to her family that is raised with love and is better quality than any posh restaurant meat. I was always proud of her profession as well. Why wouldn’t I be? I saw her work harder than anyone I’ve ever known, and so did my older brother and sister. This is still true to this day.
I remember that life fondly, sitting with a new born calf in the back of my mom’s truck, driving through bumpy fields and being mesmerized by how fragile and innocent the huge calf was, still all slick from birth and relying on us entirely to survive the -40 temperature and snow storm raging outside. I thought it was magical, and I still do.
What never occurred to me then though, was the fact that those cows trusted us with their whole lives, and eventually, unfailing, we sent them to slaughter.
When I started to make friends in the vegan community in my current home of Toronto, Canada, comments they made about farmers being the most heartless people for this exact reason hurt me deeply, but I knew there was truth in what they said. My perspective has changed from those first conversations, during which I thought to myself that the way my mom runs her farm is admittedly not perfect, but there’s no reason for major upheaval in the way she makes a living… because how could she make money if not for the sale of beef? If being an activist has taught me anything it’s that there are two sides to every story.
When my sister, mother and I sat down for Christmas dinner together, and began eating these animals, as we always have, I was sweating bullets and having a massive internal battle between which ‘right’ is the one I should honour in this situation. Then something happened… I couldn’t swallow what I was chewing and I knew I would never be able to eat even homegrown beef again, regardless of my prior thoughts that I would be vegan in every way – except for my mom’s beef because I don’t want to offend her. My mother didn’t eat much either and there was a strange energy passing between all of us; I hoped she was also thinking about my efforts in veganism and what it meant for our family.
After this ordeal, I faced one of the most difficult dilemmas I’ve ever dealt with: either tell the truth and risk breaking my mom’s heart or go against my own heart and not say any of these thoughts out loud, but I couldn’t be that big of hypocrite…
I told my mother that I didn’t think I could eat her beef anymore and could barely look her in the face for fear of her reaction. But instead of being angry with me, or not understanding my perspective, my lovely mom said not only that she wasn’t upset, but that she agreed and for the first time ever, had also not enjoyed the meal with all these vegan thoughts in her head. At this point I blurted out “Mom, what if you turn your farm into a sanctuary?” and she was receptive to the idea!
I had a wave of relief and gratitude then unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
This is just a fledgling idea, and it’s a major undertaking for a woman running a farm largely alone and me living a 3.5 hour flight away, but I feel in my heart it is the most beautiful thing I could do for the future of my family and it has given me a lot of peace to know my mom is open to the idea. I plan to start by helping her set up a way to sell her homegrown veggies in Saskatoon’s farmers markets when I come to the farm in spring!
I am now studying other farms that have successfully transformed into economically viable veggie farms and sanctuaries, like the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home in Uxbridge Ontario, to learn more about how to do this. It’s a huge undertaking but I won’t give up on it. Once you realize that humans have no right to play god to animals in the modern world, and how unnecessary it is to kill them for food or clothing etc, there is no going back or being quiet about the need to change the current situation for our fellow earthlings.
This issue is not just black and white, as much as it may seem that way to people who aren’t farmers. Farmers do love their animals dearly and it is the worst thing in the world to have to send them to slaughter after raising them with love and care for months or even years.
It will be so hard to make Cool Vegan Sanctuary a reality, but it needs to be done. It is so hard to write these words. But nothing compared to how hard it must be to be pushed up into a trailer and hauled away to a place that reeks of death before you even enter the building. Nothing is more important than changing the reality of factory farming, and I am so grateful to have a family farm to start changing from the ground up; to have the opportunity to save at least a small herd of cows on the prairies in Saskatchewan!
I hope that everyone enjoyed reading this, it is the most difficult and lovely piece of writing I’ve ever done. Please let me know your thoughts and share this if you enjoyed it! Below is a video of the Farmhouse Garden Animal Home’s current situation, which I am modelling my plans for mom’s farm after! Thank you for reading I know it’s a very long post. 😁
3 thoughts on “The Perfect Vegan”
Love it Natalie!!! I love how you had perspective on both sides of the aisle.
Loved it xo