I've heard a lot of complaints lately that vegans (of the variety who define veganism by not consciously consuming animal products when there is a reasonable alternative*) make veganism look too damn hard. Because, seriously, all that 'not eating animal products on purpose when avoidable' business? So difficult. So I was interested to see an article claiming that vegan celebrities make veganism look too easy.
I get their point to an extent. I'm always a bit wary of relying on celebrities to effectively promote veganism without a) doing/saying something stupid that gets attributed to all of us (Morrissey, dude, zipit) or b) going back to eating animal products with a massive fanfare. (Natalie, you really think cake is the best source of iron and b12? And impossible to make at home?) And yes, the fact that these people are rich and can afford to pay a private nutritionist to generate an optimum diet plan and a life coach to help them stick to it. Not the most inspiring to the average person going vegan!
On the other hand, more vegans = a good thing, particularly if their primary motivation is helping animals. And that's true however people go about it, whatever help they might have and whatever inspiration they use. (Even Skinny Bitch, provided they get the hell over the 'love the empty feeling' bollocks and focus on the why-you-shouldn't-eat-animals sections. And don't bring it near me if they don't want to be boaked on.) So the last thing I'm going to do is condemn anyone for going vegan or for promoting veganism, even if they go about it in a way that might not be realistic for everyone.
This seems to create a bit of a tightrope to walk. We can't make it look too hard, for example by being clear about omitting all animal products. And we can't make it look easy by effortlessly gliding into a resturant and asking for a pizza with loads of veg and no cheese or posting pictures of pretty cupcakes (and taking an electric prod to one's friends to comment on how tasty those were). So what can we do?
How about portraying veganism as realistic? No, we don't use animal products. No, it isn't easy at first. Yes, it gets easier with practice. No, veganism doesn't cure all ills or magically make your life better, assuming your problems aren't down to your consumption of animal products to start with. You will make mistakes, and you'll learn from them. Some days will be filled with cupcakes and cute sanctuary bunnies, others will be grim. Most will be somewhere in between. That's just life.
*Starving to death is not a reasonable alternative. Going through huge amounts of pain and suffering and possibly death without medication may not be - I can respect anyone who will hold out, but it's hardly the vegan minimum standard. Eating white bread instead of wholemeal because the store where you choose to live has no wholemeal without honey, or walking a bit more to find another cafe, or tiding yourself over with crisps and an apple until you get home are reasonable alternatives. So is politely saying 'sorry, I don't eat [whatever animal product is being offered].