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To all the former vegans out there- You did great work, and you can do it again

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I recently read a blog post from “Mickey Z.,” an activist, author, and blogger who was all too proud to proclaim the fact that he had left the vegan lifestyle behind in favor of continuing a life instead of animal exploitation. It was an infuriating read, as he listed apology after apology for being a vegan and speaking the truth to people for so many years. “I’m sure plenty of you are itching to assure me that none of your friends behave like this. (None, you claim!) Hey, I personally know some amazing humans who happen to follow a plant-based lifestyle but sorry, that doesn’t alter the overall reality. As someone who was immersed in the inner circle of veganism for two decades, I can speak from vast personal experience. So please spare me and everyone else the “not all vegans” defense.” As you can see, Mickey loves a sweeping statement or two, and in one statement, manages to discredit every facet of the vegan community by reducing it down to one “inner circle.” I was appalled by his blog post, as he erased and discredited years of work being done by vegans within oppressed and minority groups in favor of feeling self righteous and struggling to come across as a very good guy. Mickey, ladies don’t need your white knighting on our behalf by you giving up veganism as some sort of show of backwards morality. We’re fine without the silly effort.

Other than sighing loudly, his posted caused me to reflect on a few things, and wonder how former vegans can be empowered to answer a call to animal liberation again. What causes someone to break veganism? A few factors depending on the individual. Is it possible to go vegan again after leaving it behind? Absolutely. With that, I’d like to address all the wayward former vegans out there- it’s time to talk some things out.


Dear former vegan,

Hello. It’s me. Sorry, I just had to do that. There’s no way to open a letter or communication without throwing in something to laugh at before cutting to the chase. It’s called building rapport, right? Anyways, as far as I understand, you used to be a vegan, you “saw the non-vegan light,” and now you’re back to animal exploiting ways without thinking about it. There’s a way back to ethical choices, you know, and there are people who want to help you. Why did you ditch veganism in the first place?

Maybe you were a passionate vegan! Maybe you’re like Mickey Z., and kept up a public persona and blogged about animal liberation before deciding that animals were no longer worthy of protecting, and decided to buy into nonsense such as we “did not evolve as herbivores.” That’s the cool thing about evolution, with bigger bodies came bigger brains, and with bigger brains came the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. Maybe you’re apologizing again and again for being “such a vegan” when vegans exist in so many different ways, with varied backgrounds. There’s a lot of us out here, you know, and we all have different stories.

Maybe you fell off the boat because you watched the actions of vegans who think it’s perfectly okay to be racist, sexist, and violent against oppressed groups with their rhetoric. This is almost understandable, but not quite. Vegan feminists, vegans of color, and poor vegans are working their asses off each and every day to make sure that they stay visible not only to other animal activist communities, but to the entire world. How dare you disrespect their work in such a way as to assume every vegan operates, when so many of us are fighting tooth and nail against such ignorance. It’s an act of silencing these revolutionaries when you tell your friends that “vegans are sexists and racists,” instead of getting to the real heart of why ever it is that animal rights ceased to matter to you.

Maybe you were advised to follow the diet in an unhealthy way, and for that, I am sorry. The great news is that resources exist to keep you healthy and feeling top-notch, like the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (link) and the aptly named Vegan Health Home Page. (link) Remaining healthy while eating any diet is a challenge that every single person faces, no matter what is going into their bodies, and vegan medicine and nutrition is advancing at a stellar rate, especially over the last few years! Now it’s easier than it has ever been to feel good about both your morals and your health.

Maybe you fucked up once, and you feel like you can’t come back. Maybe you fucked up for a few weeks, or months, and you actually really want to come back! I get that kind of anxiety, and the shame that comes with telling your friends one thing and doing another. Messing up feels like shit, doesn’t it? Tough it out! Get back in tip top vegan fighting shape, because it’s entirely possibly. It takes a certain kind of badass to tell people, “look, I left behind an important part of my moral framework for awhile, but it’s important to me that I get back to where I was. Can you respect this? Will you help me?”

Maybe you simply don’t care anymore. That’s a distinct possibility, people change their morals sometimes, but if at some point in your life, you were able to open up your heart and say, “hey, animals deserve to live unharmed and free,” than I would encourage you to think long and hard about how you reached that conclusion in the first place, and what it took to get there.

We miss you. You did good work, and you can do it again.

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  • AlpineDan

    I’ve been an abolitionist vegan for more than 12 years, and I’ve never heard of “Mickey Z” until this article. I’m no longer on facebook, but was for 5 years with hundreds of vegan “friends,” so it’s not like I wasn’t in touch with other vegans and vegan news. This is all to say that the vegan world is much large than “Mickey Z” thinks it is. While he may have been in some “inner circle” of his egotistical mind, there is no vegan inner circle.

    It sounds like Mickey was, and still is, one of the abrasive, highly emotional megalomaniacs who are often attracted to relatively small movements to pump their egos. I suspect veganism has always been about him: his power, his eloquence, his moral rectitude, his popularity, and whatever else kept the ego balloon inflated. It finally got boring for his ego, which caused an intolerable deflation. His ego dreamed up another route to keep up the air pressure: be the ame exact blowhard guy, just go anti-vegan!

    As a committed vegan-for-life, I actually agree with some of what Mickey wrote. I agree that we should try to be intellectually honest with others, but especially with ourselves. Veganism is very easy for me (in fact, not being vegan would be almost impossible for me), but I can see where it’s not for many people for various reasons.
    That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do what they can, given their circumstances. But it does mean that I need to walk in their shoes for a mile before forming judgment on their behavior. It also means I need to check my ego and motivations. Regardless of the cause I promote, is my advocacy more about me, or is it more about empathizing with others (human and nonhuman)? The world is a harsh place, and there are times to fight fire with fire to defend against our cause. But we need to stay real and honest while doing so.

    We also need to not take vegan dietetics for granted. When non-vegans ask us where we get our protein or any other nutrient, we shouldn’t take it as a challenge to our moral stand. We should know the RDA and how we get it so we can educate them. We should know that we need 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day, and tell people what we eat that adds up to that daily average over a week.

    I hope Mickey can someday domesticate his ego instead of letting it run wild like a bull in a china shop, offending people wherever he goes. I hope that if he goes ever vegan again, he does it for the right reasons instead of for a steady flow of hot air into his ego. I suspect that’s the only reason he’ll ever go vegan again.

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