Food & Health Musings

Why I Will Never Be A Perfect Vegan

Why I Will Never Be A Perfect Vegan
Written by Jennifer Nini

Becoming vegan wasn’t a decision I made lightly.

I had been vegetarian (and in moments of ‘weakness’, a pescatorian) for nine years and was satisfied with my predominantly plant-based diet. But I started having some serious questions about eggs and dairy.

After evaluating the pros and cons of becoming vegan  – spiritually, logically and rationally – against my own set of personal values I decided that veganism made perfect sense due to my love of animals and deep commitment to sustainable living.

So I decided to take the next step and remove all animal-related food from my diet. The decision to go vegan was made at the beginning of the year. I’ve been vegan for almost five whole months.

But a couple of months into my plant-based diet, I knew I would never be a perfect vegan.

Here’s why.

Reason #1 – There’s no such thing as perfection.

The quest for perfection is a foolish one because perfection doesn’t exist. Striving for perfection in an imperfect and often complex world is delusional.

Just as there is no such thing as the perfect human being, or the perfect sustainable lifestyle, or the perfect one-size-fits-all diet, there really is no such thing as the perfect vegan.

Why There's No Such Thing As A Perfect Vegan

I have met many vegans throughout my life and am friends with some hardcore vegans and I can say that not a single one of them (not even the vegan fundamentalists) is perfect.

If your goal as a vegan is to attain perfection, I’m sorry to say but you’ll be extremely disappointed. Best swap that goal for something else.

Related Post: Vegan Amateur Reality Check: My First Vegan Diet Fails

Reason #2 – Human error.

When I find myself at a restaurant that is non-vegan I have to rely on the wait staff to provide correct and accurate information about the food on the menu.

If I’m dining at a friend’s or family member’s place, I have to trust that they have properly prepared my vegan meal.

And let’s face it – humans make mistakes.

In the relatively short period of time I’ve been a vegan, I’ve:

  • ordered dairy-free coffee only to discover dairy milk in my mug,
  • mistakenly drank wine that has been processed with non-vegan clarifying agents such as egg and milk,
  • devoured ‘vegan’ french fries only to learn afterwards it was cooked in lard,
  • been served egg noodles instead of rice noodles,
  • have been ordered pizza with cheese (Ben forgot to ask for no cheese).

Human error is one reason I can't achieve vegan perfection

These are just a few examples. I could go on.

Now as I see it, there are really only two ways to avoid encountering these human-caused problems:

  • don’t eat out and prepare all meals myself at home; or
  • eat at vegan-only restaurants.

Neither of these options are practicable because one of my simple pleasures is dining out with friends and family. And in my rural neck of the woods, there are zero vegan restaurants.

So I have to accept that there will be times when I will eat byproducts of animals – not by choice, but as the result of human error.

Reason #3 – I’m not a vegan purist.

Oxford Dictionaries defines the term ‘purist’ as:

A person who insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures, especially in language or style.

In other words, a purist is a person who follows strict rules and ‘letters of the law’ in order to achieve their preconceived idea of perfection.

I am definitely not a vegan purist.

I see shades of grey in my vegan journey where purist vegans only see black and white.

I make mistakes and own up to them unlike purist vegans who claim not to make any.

Why There's No Such Thing As Vegan Perfection

Related Post: Why I Own A Pair of Ethically-Made Leather Boots, Even Though I’m Vegan

I don’t like to vegan ‘bash’ whereas some purist vegans will seize any opportunity to ‘correct’ others for their ‘wrong’ food choices.

I am not caught up in the ‘vegan’ label where as purist vegans wear it loudly and proudly.

I believe in compassion, unlike purist vegans who like to judge, debate and dismiss you because you’re not as ‘perfect’ as they are.

Like I said in point #1, there is no such thing as a perfect human much less a perfect vegan.

Plus the end goal shouldn’t be veganism in and of itself. I think that veganism – as with religion – is a tool that should be used to help people become more compassionate and loving. Vegans should show compassion not just towards animals – but towards people and planet too.

If you’re vegan and agree with me, please share this post and let’s bring more human compassion into the vegan community!

I’d like to hear from you if you’re vegan: What are some of the struggles you’ve faced on your vegan journey? Have you ever come across someone who behaved as though they are a ‘perfect vegan’? Please leave a comment below and let’s discuss compassionate living in veganism!

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she launched Eco Warrior Princess to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

13 Comments

  • This post is so motivating – thank you. I’ve been vegan for over a year now (after being vegetarian) and some of the hardest moments stem from the expectation to be a vegan purist, and to follow the standards set and judgements made by my (vegan and non-vegan) friends. I really appreciate your realistic and supportive approach to eating a plant based diet, and acknowledgement of your ‘mistakes’ 🙂

    • It’s so refreshing to know there are realistic vegans out there! I abhor such inflexible rules and regulations in the community and this expectation of strict compliance. It’s like I’m back in Catholic school all over again lol. Plus, who made them the vegan police? 🙂

  • Hey Jen, I TOTALLY agree with you! I have been vegan on and off over the last couple of years. When I ‘off’ it was usually because I was travelling and it is MUCH harder to be vegan in countries that don’t even understand what vegetarian is, let alone vegan. Plus, I mostly couchsurfed and hosts love to cook a meal for their guests, so I didn’t want to impose too many restrictions and miss out on this type of experience. For the last 6 months, I have been vegan, but like you have had a few slip ups and have accepted that I will never be a perfect vegan. I’ve had a pizza with cheese, shared some biscuits and cake with my nan, and I don’t question what hot chips are cooked in. The biggest challenge I face is having my friends and family take my veganism seriously. They expect that I am a purist or am not vegan at all. So when I have little slip ups, I try to only have them alone or with my husband who understands and doesn’t judge!

    • So wonderful to hear a vegan journey so similar to mine haha! I was the same when I went to Bali. I actually wrote about some of my first ‘vegan fails’ here. I’m like you – I enjoy good food and the love that people put into preparing it. I love how it brings people together and just as you shared biscuits and cake with your nan, when I’m in Melbourne I watch my mum adapt her recipes to suit my veganism. But there have been a few times when she has slipped up. This one particular time I woke up and mum was busy in the kitchen. She loves to cook for me when I visit. She had gone to the shops and returned and was keen to try a new pad thai recipe she had discovered. She was in the kitchen for at least two hours I reckon getting it all perfect. We sat down to lunch and I could see egg in it. I just didn’t want to crush her spirit by telling her about it especially when she had gone to all that effort. I think some vegans best remember that we are human and we live in an imperfect world and fundamentalist attitudes are really a turn off. Plus some people may not attempt veganism if they think it’s too hard and need to be perfect, and I say doing something, even something little, is better than doing nothing at all!

  • Amen sister! I have been vegetarian for several years and transitioned to being a vegan more recently and its just too hard with my family. My daughter wants to be vegan but she also wants to do stuff with her friends. And my favorite thing is to go to little local restaurants with my husband who is not vegan. I have to put being vegan second to being easygoing, that’s how I see it. For sure I’m strictest when it’s hardest-at nasty restaurants and hotels where I figure everything is clearly cooked in lard, I’ll make everyone travel across town late to find the only natural food grocery store…but then it just becomes another fun adventure. I think it’s all in the mindset and I just can’t be too strict with myself or anyone else.

    • Thanks so much Jenni and I love your comments also Christy…I have been pretty much pescatarian for over 2 years but have desperately tried not to label how I eat. It becomes most difficult when dining out or having dinner at friends places. I also have two young boys and although I do prepare them pasture raised whole chicken from a local farm as well as pasture roaming bio dynamic eggs I do have to relax when we are out. I am also mindful that I would like the boys to make their own decisions around food when they are old enough and try not to heavily impose my own personal values and beliefs. I found the stricter I was getting around food, the stricter I was on myself and this impacted not only me but my family. In my heart I would love to be vegan and maybe one day I will but I also need to go easy on myself and acknowledge that I already make a difference even if I am not quite vegan in the strictest sense.

      • Thanks for sharing your story Danielle. I understand what you’re saying when you mentioned that you want your boys to make their own decisions around food and don’t want to heavily impose your own values and beliefs and allow them to make their own decisions. I applaud you! Some people ask me how I ‘cope’ as a vegan in a relationship with a non-vegan and it’s easy: he thinks for himself and he’s his own person. Him being non-vegan is not a deal breaker. In fact, when we met, I was still eating meat lol!

    • It’s definitely hard with family. There are others you have to consider and you don’t want to seem selfish or be seen as too difficult. And being strict is no fun. Humans are not robots! I went to Bali earlier in the year with my brother and my partner and I didn’t want to be difficult on our travels. There were many times I had to compromise. Asking my travel buddies to traipse across town to find a place that serves vegan food when they’re hungry and famished after travelling is a bit much to ask for. I think we each negotiate our vegan journeys in ways that fits best with our lives and I think if our heart is in the right place and we’re making a concerted effort most of the time, this should be recognised too 🙂

  • I eat a 95% vegan diet but avoid calling myself a vegan in case a purist points out my leather boots (I also try to be zero waste and don’t want to get ride of a perfectly good pair of shoes I bought pre-vegan era) or see me eating a vegetarian curry that may have fish sauce. It’s hard to juggle various Eco-conscious values and not be exhausted so we must be kind to ourselves if we’re not perfect.
    I hope that by living according to my beliefs, my lifestyle might inspire others rather than attacking their choices. That almost never works.
    Thank you for your great posts and for being brace enough to share your vegan journey with us. It’s very inspiring.

    • Thanks for sharing Georgia, I love your approach and its very similar to mine… I too have two pairs of leather boots that I have had for many years now, I have re-soled one of the pairs and they must be 10 years old now. I have contemplated passing them on but for now I have decided to keep them and wear them with gratitude and focus on all the new ways that I can make a difference 🙂

    • Thanks Georgia for your kind words! Yes I generally don’t use the term either preferring the word plant-based unless I’m in a restaurant as it’s easier to convey my eating habits to wait staff 🙂 I think that living what you believe and leading by example is the best way to inspire others too. People talk about education but knowledge is one thing – knowing is not enough. We need people to take action and since we are a social creature who tends to mirror the behaviour of those around us, I think as more of us share our experiences and show how we live, more people will jump on board. From my observations of society since starting this site, I can see it’s happening. At a snail’s pace maybe, but at least our behaviours are moving in the right direction 🙂

  • These are my thoughts also. Once in a while I do crave a juicy burger. My reasons to be nearly vegan in order are: health, environment, and last ethics. I am torn on the last one. I guess I feel that the fewer animals that are used for food the better. Yet, my heart and soul is not there for complete elimination. Also, when talking about veganism with others, it is important to not be overly judgemental. That will not change views much. You can state it and your reasons but let people be where they are for now.

    • Yes, death is part of life, and hence why some people (like my partner for example) have no qualms about ethically raising an animal to then consume. Also as I’ve moved to this sort of diet, my partner is now eating mostly vegan too. It’s a lot easier for us as making separate meals is time consuming. There are some days though where he cooks and I don’t want to and sometimes I will allow him to make a meal of his choice. And sometimes that meal has egg or cheese but I won’t complain because he’s trying and I’m tired and I can only be grateful to him because he’s cooking when I don’t feel like cooking 🙂

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