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Cheagan, flexitarian, freegan, and veggan – aka carnivores

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People seem to hate it when I try to define the word vegan. When I post about plant-based diets or Bill Clinton’s choice to eat fish, someone inevitably decides to label me as a perfectionist, purist, or my personal favourite, an asshole. Without being able to take credit for coining the term vegan (that credit belongs to Donald Watson), or the movement at large, I find it particularly hilarious that commenters believe I have any real authority to change what veganism is – the rejection of violence towards all beings. Nevertheless, I’d like to challenge some labels that are skewing the vegan one, once again. Today, my beef is with “cheagan,” “freegan,” “veggan,” “flexitarian,” and any other ridiculous appropriation of vegan you’d heard of.

I can already anticipate all the arguments that people cutting back on meat is better than people doing nothing, so let’s get this out of the way. Yup – less violence is always better than more violence, but we’d never agree that racism could continue if it was just done in small amounts. There’s no label for a person who is a racist sometimes. I will always advocate for veganism. If the person I’m talking to decides to take incremental changes to get to veganism, that is their choice. By most accounts, people don’t eat flexitarian on their way to veganism, and instead use it to excuse the meat they do consume. Again, less suffering is better, but most of these diets don’t actually result in much less suffering from the people taking part. They’re just labels, meant to soothe the consciences of people who don’t want to be lumped in with the criticism that is given for eating meat full-time.

The cheagen label was introduced to me fairly recently. In case you haven’t heard of it before, a cheagan is someone who openly cheats while being a vegan. It’s clear from the get-go that to be able to cheat on something, what that something is has to be clear. It also makes it known that it only focuses on diet. You’d never find an ethical vegan cheating by buying a leather purse. No, instead, this label is for all the people who decide to have a steak, a piece of cheesecake, or their coffee with milk once and awhile, aware that they’re going against the premise of veganism. It’s like a bandaid for their non-vegan errors, so that they don’t have to face owning up to the responsibility of not sticking to it. Vegan.com seems to think that cheagans can have a greater impact on the meat industry, because they’re pragmatists, and not perfectionists (that word again). But of course, I find that insane. If industry believes there’s even a chance they can tempt someone vegan into purchasing meat, they’ll keep producing it in droves. This label was popularized by Venus Williams, who claims it’s how she shares her ability to “try” to be vegan. Again, would we use a label like this to refer to sexism? Can we cheat here and there, and make sexists jokes sometimes?

Freegan is just as absolutely insane. Some argue it started as a way to cut back on waste, but it completely excludes animals from the conversation. The premise is that you remain vegan, unless someone buys you something, or you’re passed down something, that contains animal products. Sure, your own dollar isn’t voting for animal use, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone’s dollar is. Likewise, when it comes to using animals, you’re still promoting the idea that it’s necessary. Jared Leto helped make this one popular, someone we already know sucks at promoting veganism. It’s 2016, and it’s not difficult to avoid meat any more. I have a strong discomfort with waste in our world, but would never abandon my morals for a free meal. I understand that I am incredibly privileged to be in a situation that allows me to pick and choose what I consume, but I think of people who are faced with extreme poverty and situations that require the removal of their morals as it’s own form of veganism. That is, a label-less decision that can exist situation to situation, that shows compassion to beings that are in this case, human. if you’re not in a position where money is tight, say like Jared Leto, taking free animal products takes you far, FAR away from being a vegan.  

Veggan is one of the newest terms, finding popularity on Instagram of all places. It’s eating vegan, and eggs. So for this one to make sense, we have to agree that eating eggs isn’t the worst animal offence. Since we already know that’s not the case, we can appreciate that this diet (like the others) is entirely human focused, not animal. With health advocates praising eggs and fearing the predictable protein-less vegan meal propaganda, this diet shows some real selfishness. With tons and tons of plant sources of the good stuff eggs boast, there’s absolutely no reason to cancel out your efforts to avoid some animal suffering by directly contributing to another’s. Especially because we’re talking about an animal product that people aren’t casual about – someone who eats eggs still takes hundreds of chick and chicken lives, and shouldn’t think that saving cows cancels that out. It’s the same speciesism that meat eaters practice when they love a dog or cat, while eating a pig for breakfast. If you choose to consume eggs, you can’t be a vegan.

I saved flexitarian for last because it’s the term that makes the least sense to me. There’s no one eating strictly animal products out there, even if they’re trying to. To be flexible, to eat meat and sometimes not eat meat, is how all humans live. Hiding behind a term that says you’re easy-going, and cut back to help others, is simply smoke and mirrors. Even if someone only eats meat once a week, they’re still a meat-eater. We would never consider someone who only eats vegetables once a week a vegetarian, would we?

This isn’t Eva trying to be the big, bad vegan again. Gary Francione puts it best when he says “you are either vegan or you are participating directly in animal exploitation.” Labelling how we eat is almost always a waste of breath, meant to pigeonhole our food choices for simpler marketing. It’s not any more difficult to choose veganism than it is to declare yourself a cheagan, freegan, veggan, or flexitarian. The only difference is that one removes violence from our lives, and the other four do not.

Let go of the labels, and make the change in your own life, regardless of how others may view you. Here’s how.

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  • Dylan Wentworth

    The ceo and founder of Gardein said himself on a TV show that he is a flexitarian and it was a face palm moment to say the least. A flexitarian doesn’t need to eat gardein. A flexitarian eats meat whenever they feel like it basically.
    I don’t think those silly labels are delivering the same amount of gratification as they used to. It’s not like you’re going to get much acknowledgement from vegans if you tell them you’re a cheagan or whatever.

  • vegan truth seeker

    I don’t get all the fuss about ethical vegans trying to educate people to use the word veganism correctly.

    If you don’t consume any type of animal products, products tested on animals, that have animal products and if your main focus is to prevent all kinds of animal suffering then you’re a(n) (ethical) vegan, otherwise you’re not!!

    I can’t say I’m not a racist and be racist once in a while, or that I’m not a misogynist and hate women here and there, I can’t say I’m heterosexual and have sex with other men a few times… and so forth!

    How is this so difficult to understand!?

    Words exist to define our world and veganism is one of them!!!
    Get over it!!!

  • Nezu

    I have a lot of respect for veganism and for anyone who wants to reject violence in any form. However, if you live under the impression that being a vegan removes all your contributions to violence, I would have to argue that you are just as delusional as the “freegans” and “flexitarians” you criticize. In the production of any agriculture animals and insects are killed. When fields are plowed, what do you think happens to the field mice and other critters?

    The very existence of one being comes at the expense of another. That’s what life is, whether you take that life from an animal, a plant, soil, or bacteria. One could also argue that to considering the life of a plant as less valuable than the life of an animal is a form of specism.
    So by all means, be a vegan and make the choices that helps you feel better about your life, but don’t hold yourself on an ethical pedestal over others.

    • Constantin Philippou

      Do you love animals? Do you eat animals? Is eating animals necessary to survive? If you answered YES, YES, NO, you see the problem. Veganism is the easiest starting point to end the 100,000,000,000+ animals killed every year for the taste of it. It’s the easiest change to help the environment, solve drought, and end the unnecessary suffering to billions of animals. It requires zero dollars, zero investment from our part, simply eat what you eat minus the meat and the milk meant for babies – did I meantion all the meat alternatives out there. Of course vegans are not perfect, but saying that they are not better than people who intentionally eat meat because they love the taste of it, is like saying it’s ok for a molester to occasionally have sex with a 15 year old. That was ok in the 1800s, but things evolve and nowadays the damage is too big to play it like it’s a choice. When your meat destroys 90% of the Amazon forest, pollutes the rivers with fesses, caused half the fish of the ocean to be gone, then your choice destroys my house, and that is not a choice one can tolerate. Only a fool would destroy his own house or allow another to bring down our fragile Earth. Our times require different measures, and the only way is to turn vegan to end this self destruction. Please watch the following movies to better understand what I am saying: Cowspiracy, What the Health and Earthlings.

  • Adam Weissman

    Yawn. You apparently don’t know what either the words “freegan” or “carnivore” mean.

  • Ashley

    There’s a flaw in your argument with the snipet below. Using sexism as an example. To use this example sexism would have to be the popular cultural norm and in that case it would be cheating by only being sexist on occasion rather than all the time, not ideal but better. Because sexism isn’t a socially acceptable norm you’ve taken what is currently positive and made it slightly more negative, where as being freeman or cheagan is, while not ideal, better than not being vegan.

    Vegan is obviously better, but ideally there needs to be a word that describes one who lives all, that include animals, their own health and the environment if you really want to kick it up a notch; even vegan products can have harmful packaging for the environment.

    “This label was popularized by Venus Williams, who claims it’s how she shares her ability to “try” to be vegan. Again, would we use a label like this to refer to sexism? Can we cheat here and there, and make sexists jokes sometimes?”

  • Bruce Reynolds

    It’s funny, in the first paragraph I was like, “who would call you an a**hole?” Then a few paragraphs in I was like, “oh, because you’re an a**hole”. How about the existence of varying terms to help people understand your diet… and that’s it? I’m a cheagan, and I really don’t give a f*ck what anyone’s opinion on my diet is, it just happens to be the most appropriate term. Ironically, it’s self-righteous people like this author that I resent being associated with.

  • HeartBurstTimetoSmile

    worthless woman

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