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1 Finding your way in an imperfect world.
The purpose of this guide is to make your vegan transition easier. Given
that, it would be disingenuous to pretend that it’s all smooth sailing.
Real talk: Some of the most difficult challenges we face as vegans come
from how entrenched and pervasive animal cruelty is, making it
impossible to avoid accepting at least some of it. Living as a vegan in
a non-vegan world can present some challenges that are unavoidable
stumbling blocks to maintaining a life that is free of animal
exploitation simply because most cultures are profoundly oriented
toward using other animals as we humans see fit.
Animal remnants can be found in everything from the wood glue in the
chair you’re sitting on to animal fat-derived stearic acid in the bus,
car or bike tires that take you to vegan restaurants. This is because
since the dawn of animal agriculture, there has been a need to use last
every bit of an animal’s remains to be resourceful and to make as much
money from it as possible. This is why animal “ingredients” are
virtually everywhere, not because they are necessary. Multi-million
dollar industries have emerged to provide outlets for these various
animal parts, which go into everything from gelatin, used in food
products as well as supplements, to sugar processing, which uses bone
char to bleach sugar cane white. (In addition to beet sugar, this
resource lists some bone char-free brands.)
There is also the issue that many brands that vegans love are now owned
by parent companies that are not vegan, which is the case for too many
brands to mention, from Daiya to Field Roast. Don’t want to support the
new dairy-free line by Ben & Jerry’s because it’s a non-vegan
company and it’s owned by animal testing Unilever? That is your
prerogative but please note that So Delicious is owned by WhiteWave,
whose parent company is Danone, owner of many dairy companies, from Dannon to Stonyfield Farm.
Along these lines, some compassionate consumers believe that purchasing
plant-based foods from non-vegan businesses - for example, meals from
fast food chains - is unethical because you are giving your money to
companies that cause so much animal suffering and your money would be
better spent supporting businesses with similar values to yours,
whereas other vegans believe that supporting plant-based choices at
such places is a powerful way to back alternatives to meat and make
them more accessible for those who are less affluent.
The ethical challenges don’t end there. In the United States, for
example, new ingredients - even plant-based ones - must undergo animal
research to get FDA certification as GRAS, or Generally Regarded As
Safe, for products to be sold in different markets, such as large
retail outlets. Ingredients such as flax seeds, pea protein and the
leghemoglobin used in a popular new “bleeding” burger are just a few
examples of plant-based foods that have had to be researched on animals
for FDA approval. Life-saving prescription drugs in the U.S. have also
undergone rigorous animal research to be approved by the FDA and many
vaccines contain animal products.
If you are vegan for ethical reasons, our inability to completely
disentangle ourselves from products containing animal-derived
components or developed through animal cruelty can present an
overwhelming challenge. The futility of being consistent in this
reality has also sidelined many a well-intentioned potential vegan.
Admittedly, it is a complicated, complex, divisive and difficult
Here is what I propose: first, take a deep breath. Now, take another breath.
We live in a world where animal exploitation and use is stitched into
its very fabric to the point of near-invisibility. Knowing this, we can
expect that impossible to avoid compromises abound, as well as
quandaries that we have some measure of control over, like our capacity
to use make an informed decision of buying one food product over
another. Or not.
Perhaps the ultimate takeaway is that while it is impossible to live as
a “pure vegan” in our deeply flawed world, we can support efforts to
reduce and eliminate animal use and exploitation, like direct our
support towards businesses we believe in as well as non-profits
that are working toward ending animal research, like AAVS, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Beagle Freedom Project, NEAVS, and encourage the development of the much less harmful and more accurate alternative models to phase out animal-based research.
We live in a very imperfect world and because of this, many of our
decisions will necessarily be encumbered with shortcomings. The best we
can do is remember that living as a vegan - as best we can - is not
about satisfying our egos or impressing someone else but being guided
by compassion, justice and our own internal moral compasses. A final
note: If you are accused of being a “purist” by a vegan who thinks
you’re too strict or “lazy” by a vegan who thinks you’re not strict
enough, do your best to tune out that noise. At the end of the day, you
only have to be at peace with your informed decisions, not jump through
hoops to please critics.
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Intro: Welcome new vegan!
1. Finding your way in an imperfect world
2. Make peace with making mistakes
3. Find community
4. Don't overload on disturbing videos and content
5. Develop your vegan voice and assertiveness
6. Stay strong against social pressure and gain resilience as a vegan
7. Learn how to cook, even just a little
8. Technology helps you over hurdles
9. Listen to vegan podcasts
10. Take advantage of other resources
11. Don't let yourself get famished
12. Expect that your digestive system might take a little while to get straightened out
13. Untangle and tame food cravings
14. A primer on vegan kitchen appliances, tools & gadgets
15. Bring joy to your vegan practice
2013-2018, Vegan Street