Friday, 21 July, 2017
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!”
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?
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