Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Giving it 95%

Up until now I've resisted the temptation to weigh into the debate surrounding Carpe Vegan and their approach to vegan advocacy. This is partly because I wanted to avoid a kneejerk judgement and partly because whatever I say on this issue is going to offend someone. But I have a period right now, so I'm allowed to be offensive.*

I do like the idea of 'decultifiying' veganism. I don't personally feel that it is a cult, although I do sometimes feel that certain individuals I've encountered would quite like it to be. I know, however, that some people do feel that veganism is overly cultlike, and that they are put off by it. So the idea of making it less exclusive, eroding crap such as 'you aren't vegan because you like the wrong music' or 'you aren't vegan because you eat cooked food/gluten/caffiene', strikes me as a good one. The glitch is that their approach seems to also want veganism to become inclusive of people who knowingly, consciously, with other choices available that don't involve pain or death, consume animal products. This is the 95% vegan.

Speciesist Vegan has come up with a scientific nutritional breakdown of exactly what being 95% vegan might entail. (He clearly has more time on his hands even than me :P) A commenter then raised the issue of how to account for animal products that are consumed by genuine accident or unavoidably. SV suggested raising the bar to 97%.

Let's look at what accidental and unavoidable means here. There's quite a wide range. Trace elements of dairy from cross-contamination in the factory. The crisps you eat before realising they taste different from the last hundred times and checking the packet to see the recipe now contains milk. The time early on in your vegan path when you forgot to pack a protein bar and are now on the verge of fainting so you decide to go back to being vegetarian to take advantage of what's available. The medication you have to take to be functional that has lactose in. The vegetarian meal in an omni resturant that has no obvious dairy ingredients that you wrongly give the benefit of the doubt to. The leather and wool in your wardrobe that you decide to use until you can replace those items. The small traces of nasty stuff that are in all sorts of products, probably more than you'll ever know about. Your mum's or friend's toothpaste that you use on an overnight visit because you forgot yours. You get the idea. Depending on circumstances, you're probably 95-99% vegan in any given year.

Now, some take that as an incentive not to make more effort - if you can't be totally vegan, why try? I take the opposite line. I aim for 100% in situations where I have control. I don't consciously or knowingly consume animal products when the alternative options are all tolerable. If the worst thing that will happen is I have to eat white bread because the wholemeal has honey in (admittedly I live in a country where that isn't usually a risk) or not get a piece of someone's birthday cake then yes, I'm going to take the 'worst' option and stay vegan. That's what 'as far as reasonably practical' means to me.

*This isn't sexist. Men are also allowed to be offensive if it feels like the carpet is being taken up in their innards. Or maybe if they get kicked in the balls while suffering food poisoning, which I guess would be an analogue. Although you'd have to be either very mean or heavily provoked to do that to someone who was already ill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"SV suggested raising the bar to 97%."

I just want to make it clear that I'm not advocating the 95% things as "the best way." I just wanted to start the discussion about what 95% really means. I was surprised by how "unvegan" it really looks on paper.

CarpeVegan has been accused many times of trying to co-opt or water down the meaning of veganism, but they're pretty clear that they see it as "veganishism." And from a pure "number of calories from animal food" perspective, it's quite clear that 95% vegan is WAY closer to vegan than it is to omnivorism (although it can be quite close to vegetarianism, depending on what kind of vegetarianism we compare it to - something that I point out in my post).

"The leather and wool in your wardrobe that you decide to use until you can replace those items."

I see no reason why this decreases one's "veganicity." You can't unkill the cow. If the item existed prior to you going vegan, it doesn't make sense for it to count against you, imo.

"He clearly has more time on his hands even than me :P"

Yup. And I love messing around with Excel! So it was a natural post to do once I realized that no one else had actually analyzed what 95% really means (as far as I know).