To avoid miscommunications and to better understand where people are at in their vegan consciousness, it is important to understand the difference between a: plant-based diet, 100% plant-based diet, vegan diet, and veganism/being vegan. These are all very different things.
A plant-based diet does not mean 100% plants, unless it specifically says 100% plant-based. Plant-based is a term directly out of the healthier foods movement and means; predominantly plants, still consuming animal products, however, in “moderation” like 3 oz servings 2-3 times a week. Some like to say “like a condiment” which is particularly galling to vegans because these “condiments” were created at the ultimate price of the lives of other innocent individuals who wanted to live and did not consent to being killed. And even still, 100% plant-based does not always mean that it is vegan. In the case of the Impossible Burger, it could certainly be called 100% plant-based and not be considered vegan because Impossible Foods unnecessarily tested heme iron levels on animals that were killed in it’s development of their impossible burger. This information is not widely known but disqualifies the item for some vegans because of the fact that it was unnecessarily tested on animals. Many things are tested on animals and since the objective of veganism isn’t to be an expert on the tertiary processes of every single human endeavor, is each individual’s personal integrity to determine their consumption compliance (pragmatism and practicability) based on their knowledge, accessibility, affordability and availability etc.
Many vegans are pragmatic in understanding at this stage (finally just gaining a toe in mainstream momentum) of our cultural evolution, it is not practicable for them to avoid all products tested on animals, such as in medicine where animal testing is mandatory by law for drug development, and houses (wherein every chemical- and since the industrial revolution, humanity has created 80,000 chemicals and introduced them into the global environment-) from glue to paint, to bleach, to fire retardant etc. and all the compounds created to make other infrastructural items/textiles etc. and of course, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and medical procedures and often cosmetic/body care products has been and continues to be, redundantly tested on millions animals 24/7/365. I once entered an animal testing facility and the person leading the tour was talking about their holiday, and made some off-the-cuff remark about how “the animals at the lab never get a holiday”. Let the magnitude of that level of torture sink in, for a moment…
Just being aware of these realities, let alone the images/videos/personal experience many a vegan animal rights activist has witnessed, creates a chronic emotional pain and awareness in all vegans in the trenches of this movement. Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder is an occupational hazard to those who are directly actively investigating and engaging the animal torture and death systems and those who are empathic types. People who came to veganism initially as simply a potentially healthier dietary option that have not witnessed and internalized these horrifying experiences in the most massive systems of death globally (60 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic annually) are not necessarily going to have the same reaction to information they are likely sheltered and disconnected from. Many people, no matter where they currently land on the vegan consciousness spectrum, are sensitive to the graphic violence humans inflict on our fellow earthlings. While non-vegans may be inclined to shelter themselves from witnessing these systemic forms of violence and killing because they “don’t want to know”, we ask that if you have not yet made a decision to make a vegan shift, that you, at the very least, witness with your eyes and your ears what our fellow earthlings must endure with their bodies, or make a veganshift immediately if you think it is too disturbing to witness. We are not a group to enable willful ignorance, we are empowerment group for helping people take personal accountability to live in integrity of their values not to harm innocent earthling unnecessarily, to help everyone make a vegan shift as soon as possible, and thrive.
When it comes to pragmatism and practicability, each individual has to decide how far they are going to adjust to what is available, affordable and accessible to them and their circumstances. Vegansim is not about becoming an acetic martyr or monk, though many people continue to refine and adjust their levels of what feels right and what they can do to be most consistent to their values and personal integrity. Our goal as vegan advocates and empowerment strategists is the help people make the biggest shift into vegan alternatives as soon as possible.
My best advice is don’t come to vegans looking for opinions on “how vegan is it to consume items that are tested on animals” etc. and expect people to not tow the party line on what exactly is considered vegan based on the most basic of qualifiers: Is any part of it from an animal? Was it or it’s components tested on animals? While many a vegan no longer owns a car and/or frequently walks or bikes, seeking to nail us on our hypocrisy for driving a car when we live in a socially engineered society that destroyed its mass transportation systems after WWII, is neither pragmatic nor practicable for most people and is considered indulging a tu quoque debate fallacy. (Wikipedia says -Appeal to Hypocrisy Fallacy or Tu Quoque. An appeal to hypocrisy is a logical fallacy in which one attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by showing that the person making the argument has been unable to act in accordance with the position being argued for.Sep 4, 2011).
A vegan diet is for certain, 100% plant-based, not tested on animals and does not include even products produced by insects for items like honey and last but not least, is only one facet of vegan behavioral conduct negotiation. The entire vegan perspective is based on not exploiting other sentient earthlings simply because we can and to do as much as is possible to avoid participating in their unnecessary exploitation, violation and killing. Insects are animals and plants are where vegans technically draw the line on sentience. (Plants are neither animate – meaning they cannot seek pleasure or avoid pain and do not have a brain and central nervous system). Veganism is about the fact that these beings do not consent to what we do to them simply because they are on the weaker end of a power situation. The fact that we have inherited a social infrastructure that is comprehensively founded on the literal backs/bone/blood and death of animals is what creates systemic challenges in avoiding such things. We all do what we can and ideally, we don’t ever stop trying to evolve, adapt and refine our world to become the vision of true world peace for all earthlings.
Veganism is a consciousness of justice for all earthlings, grounded in facts that they are equal to us in being fellow sentient earthlings, with the inherent inalienable right to coexist here and not be violated unnecessarily. That consciousness has a word- vegan- that was created by Donald Watson who founded the Vegan Society in 1944 to be the beginning and the ending of what were the gaps in what had been previously referred to as an ethic with the term vegetarian. Unfortunately, it too became known as a diet, and now, is the cultural designator to indicate includes eggs (ovo) and dairy (lacto) because of a lazy lexicon that didn’t want to distinguish lacto and/or ovo vegetarian. The official vegan definition can be found here: “VEGANISM: 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 humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
Vegan is ultimately the ethical grounding compass (and social justice for all earthlings) for all human behavioral conduct and policy etc. It is not just a diet. That is merely one aspect of vegan consciousness and conduct consideration from every single aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, many of the organizations out there championing the animal rights agenda have dumbed down the meaning of veganism into a simply a diet, or are avoiding the “v” word entirely and have cheapened the ethic by polluted confusing messaging such as “veg”, “veg*n”, “vegetarian” “meatless” etc. and a “lifestyle” which has been extremely problematic, to put it mildly.
The problem is that many people erroneously self-identify as being a vegan when really, they are eating a plant-based diet and not living in vegan consciousness on any other level, maybe not even within the diet itself. Someone who self-identifies as a vegan while eating a plant-based diet, yet is taking their family to the zoo, the rodeo, the marine entertainment parks, animal act containing circuses, etc. or buying animal-based fur, leather, wool, silk, feathered goods, and either breeding or buying companion animals from breeders, etc. instead of supporting sanctuaries and rescues are not living as a vegan and to do those things contributes to why so many are confused as to what it means to be vegan with so many inconsistent behavior patterns. Here is an article that while written 4 years ago, is just as relevant today as it was then: