Veganism; ‘strict’ or ‘simple’ – a matter of perspective
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FROM There's an Elephant in the Room blog
January 2020

"We don’t need to use the lives and bodies of other creatures so we stop doing it."

My eventual conclusion was that only those who either don’t know what veganism is, or who want to continue harming other creatures without being challenged could possibly call it ‘strict’ when it’s suggested they stop doing it.

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I have heard it said that ‘militant’ members of the community ‘scare off’ people from becoming vegan with ‘strict guidelines.’ I have found living vegan to be the easiest, most consistent, most nonviolent way to live that I could possibly imagine, so I have kept coming back to the idea, trying to work out why anyone would say such a thing.

I accept that depending on circumstances and the availability of food types in some parts of the world, transition to veganism may pose a few challenges, even maybe temporary inconvenience, but that’s not the same as ‘strict’. ‘Strict’ denotes something that limits one’s freedom to behave as they wish; it suggests something difficult, rigid obedience to a set of complex rules and regulations. ‘Militant’ suggests confrontation and aggression, and is often used in a derogatory manner to attempt to silence disagreement. So let’s have a think about this.

First principles

  • It’s not necessary for human health to use the lives and bodies of members of other animal species.
  • Those whom we persecute are exactly like ourselves in that being sentient, they value their lives, they share bonds with their friends and families; they have minds, memories and emotions.
  • When we use them for any reason, we ignore our shared sentience, we disregard every right they have and we reduce their individuality, their selfhood, to nothing other than a resource – an unnecessary one – for our use.
  • Their lives cease to be life as we know and value it for ourselves, but rather become an existence to be endured, a means of production and commerce for humans, to be conducted in a way that minimises costs and maximises profits.

Veganism in a sentence

So against that backdrop there’s only one concept that we need to embrace in order to be vegan. Only one.

We don’t need to use the lives and bodies of other creatures so we stop doing it.

If we understand this, and are sincere about wanting to stop being the cause of the reign of terror that nonveganism inflicts on trillions every single year, that’s our one guiding principle. The rest is simply a matter of educating ourselves about the products and practices that we feel we need to have in our lives, determining whether they have been derived by using other creatures, and if so, finding an alternative. We are literally spoiled for choice these days.

Vegan or not?

And when we come across something new, we need ask ourselves only one question;

Has this been made / obtained by using members of other species?

Don’t know?

So find out. We have Google. Beware of seeking answers from those self-styled ‘experts‘ who want you to keep buying animal substances.


Great, carry on.


If there’s any way we can possibly avoid using it, then avoid it.

In my own experience, everything, every substance, every item, every practice and activity falls on one side or the other of that one question, a question which enables us to live true to the original and accepted definition of veganism as:

‘A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’

Bear in mind that even trying our absolute hardest, we may not always be able to choose a vegan path. As we are constantly reminded, it’s a nonvegan world and the regimes of exploitation run extremely deep.

Even after several years, I still find myself learning that something I had previously thought was okay – actually isn’t because it has used body parts or some other means of exploitation in its production. The most recent was – of all things – safety matches. Before that it was some brands of toilet paper and kitchen towels. Those who must take medications in order to continue to live, find themselves in a minefield. Apart from the testing aspect, many medications contain derivatives from body parts and secretions. This is where the phrase ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ has to apply. As someone who takes such lifesaving medication, I know from experience that it doesn’t ease my guilt. Like many vegans I know, I do what I must to survive, while always campaigning hard for the day when there will be no ‘nonvegan’ options of any type and our victims will no longer be persecuted. We each have to try our absolute best. And we do. Because doing so matters to us; it defines who we are as people.

‘Strict’ and ‘Militant’

Veganism has no need of checklists of which species to torment and which species to respect. Veganism doesn’t need to make up complicated dietary rules about ‘by-products of slaughter’; doesn’t need to invent new words to try to justify which species we want to keep hurting. With massive financial vested interests at play, a great deal of misinformation about what veganism is and is not, is circulated in the media, in advertising, on social media and everywhere else.

To quote the excellent Go Vegan World,

‘Many people confuse it with a diet or a restrictive way of living. Others misunderstand it as a means to health or a safer environment, but completely divorce it from its animal rights and social justice origins.’

To bring veganism back to its roots in justice and Animal Rights, is simply being honest and what is ‘militant’ about honesty? What is ‘extreme’ about sincerity?

My eventual conclusion was that only those who either don’t know what veganism is, or who want to continue harming other creatures without being challenged could possibly call it ‘strict’ when it’s suggested they stop doing it. Only those who want veganism to be something that it’s not, could possible accuse Animal Rights advocates of being ‘militant’ and seek to silence them for telling the truth.

Point to ponder

My final point relates to something from my own past that I have written about before. No one ever told me the truth about veganism until I found social media in 2012.

Anyone who tried holding back the truth thinking I wouldn’t be able to handle knowing, anyone (or in fact, any fundraising business masquerading as a ‘welfare‘ organisation) who fed me platitudes that made me think that what I was doing was somehow ‘good enough’ wasn’t doing me any favours.

They were insulting both my intelligence and my values. Had I known the truth, I would have begun to live those values decades earlier, could have raised my children in a morally consistent way.

Our audience deserves the truth and their defenceless victims are depending on us to tell it. Be vegan.

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