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“Vegan” is getting more popular, even more than veganism

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The market has picked up on the trendiness of “vegan,” but hasn’t exactly taken the time to understand it isn’t just another buzz word.

An article on philly.com crossed my desk today, and in it, author Vance Lehmkuhl examines the popularity of people carelessly throwing the “vegan” label on to things that aren’t devoid of animal products. Everything from Bill Clinton’s phoney fish-eating veganism to the illegitimate use of the term on non-vegan items like a cheesy vegetarian cheesesteak and not exclusively vegan establishments comes up. No, this isn’t a scenario of vegans being shit disturbers like many would predict – but instead a sign that many are cluing in to the consumerism influencing businesses to try to get vegans through their door, without having the know how to back up giving them a truthfully vegan experience. Lehkmuhl questions if “vegan” is too popular, but I think it’s all the other words and terms that are stealing the spotlight. 

Fancy green v’s adorn menus, “meatless” pledges are on every social page, and people are constantly asking me how long I’ve been “veg.” I think our fear of using the word vegan in the chance it scares off non-vegans has come back to bite us. When we water it down, simplify it, and a call it anything but veganism, we make it easy to misplace. We also make it seem as though a 100% vegan person, place, or thing just won’t succeed. 

The real treasure in this piece, however, isn’t the criticism of the food fests and restaurants that have failed to make good on their vegan offers, it’s the self-criticism of the vegan movement for constantly confusing everyone with the definition – something we’ve been preaching to much contempt. Lehmkuhl says: “we vegans don’t always define “vegan” accurately, either. “If you’re not X you’re not vegan” is a great argument-starter, where X might refer to frontline activism, palm-oil avoidance, belief in “animal rights,” promoting Black Lives Matter, or other laudable but separate add-ons.” A point that highlights how the core work of veganism is commonly overshadowed and deemphasized; choosing not to participate in the exploitation of animals. When vegans blur the line on what it takes to join the team, it’s not that bizarre to see non-vegans run amok, quickly calling anything “vegan.” 

Lehmkuhl ends in a nice place, celebrating that this issue has arisen out of the influx of veganism in the public. We’d like to echo that excitement, but remind everyone to be crystal clear in their vegan promotions, education, and furthering of the cause, and to leave the grey-zones of pescetarian presidents and halfway labels out of it.

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