If you are on a plant based diet, stop calling yourself Vegan!
There’s a movement hijacking the vegan one, and it’s called “plant-based”. This buzzword is getting the kind of attention Paleo misses, and is confusing just as many people. Read on, and understand why it’s important to make the distinction for the progression of animal activism.
So what is a plant-based diet?
First and foremost, it’s just that – a diet. It’s grounded in good health, with advocates opting for high volumes of fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, and grains. It most commonly does not include meat, dairy, or eggs. Often, it can be seen getting cozy with gluten free and organic labels. People take on plant-based diets for a number of unique reasons, from illness prevention and weight loss, to saving money and having one more thing in common with Miley Cyrus.
While a plant-based meal might also be vegan, a person who eats plant-based often is not. You can eat nothing but arugula for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but if you then throw on a pair of leather shoes and head to SeaWorld, you’re not a vegan. The majority of people who eat plant-based foods also won’t necessarily eat all vegan foods. You see, many vegan favourites aren’t plant based at all. I’m sure some of the vegans with a sweet tooth (hi!) will try to convince you that a second serving of Oreo crust chocolate tofu pie originates from plants, but it doesn’t.
Plant-based is quite commonly mistaken for a gentle and more marketable way of saying vegan, but the similarities end at broccoli.
So what is a vegan?
Well for starters, it’s not a diet (we eat lots). Unlike eating plant-based, going vegan is something you become. A total rejection of using animals extends far past the plate or grocery store. In fact, you might make three or more animal-free meal choices a day, but your clothing, cosmetics, cars, employment, and relationships are all effected by a choice to follow veganism, too. It’s rooted in peace for all sentient beings. If that means eating white bread because the only other buffet options have eggs in them, so be it.
Vegans are not “health nuts”. We don’t avoid eating meat because it’s high in calories, just as we don’t search for pleather pants because we heard leather ones are so last season. Of course you’ll find junk food eating plant-based people, and health-food eating vegans, but that’s beyond the point.
So why should we care about whether someone calls themselves plant-based or vegan?
Remember the fateful day that a kale t-shirt wearing Beyonce was declared vegan on the news? That day was simultaneously the best and worst for Queen B appreciating vegans like myself. No, Beyonce didn’t stop buying leather shoes, and she didn’t write a song called “Run The World (Vegans)”. She had simply switched to a plant-based diet for a while, and wanted the public to know how beneficial it was for her waistline. In advocating only for plant-based diets, the ethics of veganism is ignored.
The clear distinction here is that one is a diet. If you decided to try out a Jenny Craig plan, you’d never say “I’m a Jenny Craig.” You’re not a gluten free or a paleo, you eat gluten free or are on a paleo diet. When people on a plant based diet call themselves vegans while continuing to exploit animals, it makes it possible for people to assume that all vegans are like that. We are not. It puts blinders up to some of the more horrific sides to animal exploitation that are already harder to face than a jackfruit sandwich.
Can’t we all just get along?
Sure, we can rub elbows at a Whole Foods salad bar without scraping, but truth is, someone can be doing just as much damage to animals, to the planet, and to themselves on a plant-based diet as they are on an omnivore one. Rather than advocating that people make the switch to Meatless Mondays, it’s important that vegans focus on the big, moralistic picture; it’s not right to use animals for any purpose on any day. I won’t applaud Ricky Gervais for being against hunting while he continues to eat meat. It’s hypocritical to pat the backs of people who think refraining from eating animals makes it somehow okay that we don’t question if they wear, hunt, are entertained by, or in any way use animals.
Don’t get too upset – I know that if people are comfortable with trading steaks for green smoothies, they have the capacity to care and a ton of patience. All I ask is that the plant-based people consider the next steps, and that the omnivores in my life stop assuming I’m vegan for the v-shaped cuts in my abdominals. I go boxing for those bad boys.
Eating a plant-based diet has many benefits, but switching to veganism has the ability to make a difference in more than just your own life. Maybe just take it easy on the coconut ice cream.