I have thought about this for a while and as I would like to keep blogging,
though I assume a lot of people will stop following me after this, I need to get this out there.
With the title I'm not implying that I'm above anybody who is a strict vegan, or that veganism is a phase you will eventually grow out of. Although I did. I don't expect you to read further. I am also writing this for my vegan friends and hope they will accept my decision, even if they don't understand.
Over the past few months, I have found myself falling off the vegan track repeatedly, and have not felt guilty about this at all.
I used to be a poster child for veganism - honestly, I never missed any animal products because except for a little yoghurt and fish once or twice a month, I have not consumed any animal products since I've been 13/14. I love cooking for others to show them vegan food is not bland and boring. I never thought of veganism as hard in social contexts, or travelling, or anything else.
I still don't - I would hate being one of those 'I tried veganism but it was too hard/my doctor told me to eat cheese/etc' people. Maybe I'll even got back to being vegan eventually. Right now, at this point in my life, veganism isn't for me.
If you care about my reasons:
1) The guilt question or: Animal rights vs human rights vs Ecological decisions
I used to be a passionate animal rights advocate, and in many cases still am. Now I have increasingly become interested in how other humans the world over live - and no, this is not a 'why veganism when there are so many other things wrong in the world' point I am trying to make. Simply said, it put things into perspective for me, and made me feel a lot less emotional about animals being exploited for human consumption.
Provocative question: If you travel to an economically deprived country where the monthly village chicken is slaughtered a day early in your honour as a special guest from far away, will you refuse it, knowing that these people live on a handful of rice a day usually? (Not a 'What if a monkey made you a sandwich?' question, but a scene from a friend travelling in SE Asia).
Another situation: Another friend of mine is super eco aware – all his clothes are fair trade, his house uses mostly renewable energy sources, they re-use water and shop all organic. If he travels, he does so by train, I don't think he's flown anywhere in the past 8 years (might be due to a flight phobic wife, though). How can I judge him for eating two eggs and a little bit of chicken once a week?
No, I am not playing down that it is horrible how animals are a commodity in this world. What I'm saying is that there are other things that matter at least as much.
2) the Vegan Scene
This might be one of the main reasons for me and also was what put me off veganism in the first place. When I was 13, I met a guy who would later become one of my closest friends, but back then, he was just the vegan nutcase. Although his arguments made a lot of sense to me, I could not relate to someone who was in his early twenties and still lived off his family/girlfriend, and spent all his time at demos or other direct action events.
When I moved to London, pretty much everybody I knew here was on a certain vegan forum. For a few months, I felt part of a big loving alternative community. Until I realised that apart from veganism, we did not really have much in common, and have values that are nothing like mine.
On the one hand those who are part of a high flying elite, and do not have to worry about money, or those who have never experienced any hardship in their lives (apart from stuff like: 'My parents got a divorce when I was 17' or 'Where shall I go on that round the world ticket my parents bought me?').
On the other hand, there were too many people that were just nuts - people who have been studying for the past 200 years, or have been on the dole for a similar time, and of course everybody has a bloody mental disorder!
(Ok, I get that some people are not in good health, or life has fucked them really badly so they are not 100% ok mentally. But it's my decision whether I want all this drama in my life or not).
On both ends of the scale, I found that people did not care about the same things as I did, apart from veganism: I will not buy anything made by a multinational corporation that is well known for its nonexistent environmental policy or animal testing. No, I will not have this damn take out, no matter how vegan it is, because I would like to have control over what I put in my mouth, and I feel bad for the illegal delivery man/waiter/kitchen assistant who works for 2 pound an hour. Wow, and all these amazing vegan convenience products that come with an extra 400% of packaging that causes our clean vegan eco record to skyrocket.
I don't want to be associated with these people. That said, I have met some awesome vegan people that I hope do not only like me for being vegan.
(And no, I don't want a dozen vegan household cleaning products in my home, either.)
Which leads me to:
4) the Environment
A big part of their holier-than-thou attitude comes from many vegans' assumption that a vegan diet equals a zero carbon emission diet. Well, it isn't, except if you grew 80% of your own food and supplemented the rest with locally grown, organic produce. I don't believe this is possible for anybody in Western Europe, even if you were a farmer. Milk consumption makes for 0.001% of carbon emission of an average omnivore's diet, and even if you eat big fat Argentinian steak, that only adds about another 0.2 per cent. Only reducing the amount of packaging of what you buy has a much bigger effect.
And the story with the meat that needs 10 times as much water as soy or wheat to grow (or whatever is the exact number)? Well, this applies only when the crop is grown in ideal conditions, otherwise the relations aren't that extreme.
To be honest, from this environmental point of view, I'd rather eat 50g of local, organic cheese a month than 300g of soy products imported from Asia or the Americas, and rather eat a few bits of sushi with tuna than buy a pair of vegan trainers that were made from fossil fuels (yep, I know that leather is an environmental no go, as well. Though it lasts longer).
PS: Rather build in some double glazed windows in your houses, Brits :)
Last but not least, and this is a very selfish point:
I'm a foodie, and I love travel, and for the first time in my life I can do this quite extensively now. Being in Japan this summer opened my eyes. It's very easy to eat all vegan in the UK, but even in my family's village in Germany it's nearly impossible (when I asked at the supermarket where their organic range was, I only got blank stares – all I was looking for was a vegan spread, even if it only was margarine!). Or in a supermarket in Paris. Or – coming back to Japan- in Asia. My Japanese is fairly good, and I was with a friend who speaks fluently in the local dialect. We were in the second biggest city in the country, in an area where (religious, buddhist) vegetarianism has a long tradition. And still, nobody really knew what we were talking about when asking for vegan food (or explaining what exactly that meant). This was in the most developed country in Asia.
Next month I'll be going to Morocco, where the only vegan options will be olives, dates and bread, and essentially every 'vegetarian' stew contains meat broth. I fancy myself a traveler rather than a tourist, and I don't what to be the rich white bitch in a developing country.I'm going to be there for a week, on my own, and believe that I'll have plenty to put up with as a single western woman in her 20s, without creating a fuss about food.
So, will this blog be all steak and kidney pie from now on? No, because I still like the idea of veganism, and vegan food, and will continue to lead a 95% vegan lifestyle. Over the past weeks, I let myself have anything I wanted, and all the animal products I consumed were some salmon maki (and this kind of on accident, because I had ordered vegetarian ones), a croissant and few pieces of feta cheese in a salad – in two months. I can't imagine eating meat, or eggs, or drink milk. Just every now and then, I feel like a little bit of dairy or fish, and I don't want to deny that anymore because of an idealistic idea that no longer moves me (animal rights).
I will most likely keep my house, including pantry and fridge, vegan, as I don't know it any other way (I went vegan shortly after moving out of my parents' place). Recipes and pictures in this blog will stay vegan. I won't start wearing wool, or silk, or leather, or visit a circus. If anything, my eco-awareness has increased. I won't be buying any more non-fair trade chocolate, or coffee, or tea, or clothes. I will increasingly try to buy mostly organic food.
Things like these matter just as much as not consuming animals. Ideally, all of us would avoid all the 'bad' products in this world (woops, I forgot to mention/rant about Made in China and Made in Israel!), but each person's options are limited and we all pick and choose what's right for us.