Veganism, Intersectionality and the Issue with Labels

“Are you a feminist?”

I asked my then-boyfriend, via text message.

I remember sitting in my women’s studies class waiting anxiously for his reply.

When it finally came, it wasn’t what I expected.

I don’t know. What’s in it for me?

Although disappointment is what I feel now as I reminisce about this moment, betrayal is what I felt then. Only I didn’t know enough to call it that or begin to know why I felt this way at all.

I felt alone and unsupported. That’s the best way I could describe it at the time.

In hindsight, I was hurt a lot more than I cared to admit to myself. I was hurt that this man I thought would do everything for me, rejected to be part of a group that had my best interests in mind. A group that simply sought to offer me equal rights in our society. He didn’t want to be an ally to such a simple request.

To this day I don’t know for sure if it was applying the label to himself or being in favor of equal rights that didn’t interest him.

It could have been both too.

I’m going to be optimistic considering I spent years with this person and say that it was probably a label issue.

I personally have no problem with labels. I’m a vegan and a feminist.

But I know a lot of people have problems with sticking those kinds or any kind of labels to themselves.

I get it. The same label can make you feel trapped while it makes another feel free and proud.

Some labels are too hard to bear in some communities and sometimes precisely because of the communities that wear them.

The vegan movement certainly is a good example of that. A lot of people can’t dissociate the meaning of the vegan label from the negative connotation (imagined or founded) that those who wear it have.

It’s a problem in rallying people to the cause and it’s also a problem when it comes to intersectionality.

If you’re not familiar with the term it refers to the idea that systems of oppression are not independent of each other but rather that they interrelate and thus any form of oppression can’t be eliminated without fighting all of them.

When I asked my old boyfriend the feminist question a few years ago that’s when I opened that Pandora’s box for myself.

When I become vegan a few years later, that’s when I started looking at the contents of the box and realizing that I had been as bad as he had seemed to me.

I saw how pieces fit in the giant intersectionality puzzle.

I cared about being a feminist because feminist issues touched me as a woman. There was nothing in it for him.

I could afford to not care about animals for all these years just like he could afford to not care about being a feminist.

I realize now that sometimes the roots of oppression go so deep that we can’t recognize how we’ve grown from and with them.

Myself included.

It’s a scary thought but one that needs to be addressed.

In the past years I’ve learned to care, a lot, about people and animals and it’s overwhelming to think that there’s more.

That there’s always more. More ways in which I should care.

I’m learning that having the luxury to not have to care about certain things means that I should care even more about them.

What do you think?

*I’m by no means a scholar and that familiar with intersectionality theory so please feel free to chime in and correct me or to add to the discussion. Those are simply some thoughts that circle in mind lately.

Thanks for reading!

*Photo Credit: Pedro flickr Creative Commons 2.0


Letter to my Former Self

Dear old me,

I think of you often. If I’m being honest (I know you appreciate honesty) those thoughts are mostly about trying to understand you, not very much about a fondness for who you are (who I were). To be fair you wouldn’t like me that much either, I have failed you in ways you might have predicted and failed to do things your brain hasn’t even conceived yet.

You and I are similar in that we’re both perfectly imperfect and you probably already know that’s all we’ll ever be. I think you get the beauty of that, although I’m way ahead of you in appreciating it to its full extent.

I see you from afar trying to cling to things that don’t serve you because you like the idea of them and the comfort they bring to your life. Life is never perfect, you know it but you still believe there’s a perfect time for changing. That one is hard to shake off. I know. 

This is not a letter to try to change you, obviously that’s impossible. If you could somehow really receive this letter I know you would though. You have it in you to be the kind of person who cares about aligning their actions with their morals.

You’re nice to everyone around you, too nice sometimes and you make up for the times you aren’t. You care about people and the bad things happening to them so much that you’re unsure how to deal with it. I can’t tell you the answer to that, I still haven’t found it. See, the world didn’t get better in the years that separate us. In many ways, it’s worse. Much worse.

You don’t think of injustice everyday like I do but you think about it more and more. I remember.

I have clear memories of all the times injustice and cruelty didn’t cross your mind at all.

Sitting down at the Brazilian Churrascaria place, wondering about what the future holds with this boy in front of you -well man- but more boy than man, feeling privileged that he took you out for once.

You didn’t think about what was on your plate at all that night. Especially not what was on your plate used to be.

That’s the memory my brain brings me to often when I want to try to understand you.

I don’t know if I ever will. I can’t change anything you did now.

All I can say is this:

I forgive you for believing there’s such a thing as necessary evil.

Much love to you,

Your future vegan self.

 p.s I do envy you sometimes for the easier and happier life that this lie gives you but I wouldn’t ever go back.

This was part of my “writing a letter to myself” February challenge. 

What would you write to your former self? 

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Photo Credit: Max Braun flickr Creative Commons 2.0

How to Avoid Vegan Burnout

It’s no secret that the world is a dark place.

In the wake of recent political events, activists of all walks of life are feeling the repercussions on their mood I’m sure.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of art in activism. I touched upon how there’s no reason to feel that being artist is pointless.

Today I want to talk about how being vegan feels pointless and rightly so and what can be done about it.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been vegan for a hot minute or years, you can most definitely feel the effects of a “vegan burnout” at any time.

It can take you to new depths of despair, contemplating everything that is wrong in the world and having to add the plight of animals to the mix.

There’s a price to pay for caring too much.

Sadness, anger, bouts of righteous unwanted vegan militant-ism and the worse; giving up altogether on morals are all symptoms of a vegan burnout.

You may want to stop associating with people. Going out to eat at the burger joint with friends is just too much for your soul.

I understand. I’ve been there.

I’ve been vegan for a few years now and I’ve had bouts of difficult times.

I still get symptoms of vegan burnout once in a while. It happened to me very recently when a long time vegan I looked up to, someone I thought was a great activist, turned his back on the animals to literally face (and eat) their dismembered body parts.

I thought if this of all things can happen, is there any hope at all?

While I’m still clueless and astonished that people can go back to (or never stop) gorging on something that is the result of cruelty and death, I’ve been feeling a bit better.

If you’re feeling a bit like you’re having a vegan burnout or you’re actually down there at the bottom of a negative feelings well, I’d like to help you.

Here are a few things that have made a difference for me:

1- Finding solace with like-minded people

First, know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Even though some people leave veganism or never give it a try, there is a growing community of people who think just like you.

It’s worth reaching out to them, you won’t find a more compassionate ear than a vegan one!

2- Celebrating the little victories

For me it was receiving a Subway ad that made the promotion of the vegan Italian bread. It may seem insignificant but if you add them up, little things like that show that change is indeed happening.

Look around, it may not be obvious at first but if you pay attention you will eventually see all those little victories.

3- Focusing on what you can change

Dwelling on negative feelings is not good in any situation. Sometimes the solution is as simple as turning to action.

While I have no control over the terrible things people do, I can put my own actions forward and focus on the things I can change or get better at.

For me it means getting my words and values out there into the world and supporting the causes and businesses that go in line with them.

4- Making time to distract yourself

It may seem counter intuitive to want to take time away from the issues that matter the most to you but there is no point in letting your anguish over things you can’t ultimately control ruin your mood.

It’s ok to stop watching vegan themed videos or any animal rights content if your mood is already low.

There’s lots of fun vegan things you can do that doesn’t involve thinking about the suffering of animals.

I personally enjoy trying out new recipes.  Ice cream and brownies totally help too!

Have you ever dealt with a vegan burnout?

What are your tips and tricks to feel better?

I’d love to know in the comments!

*Picture Credit: Anton Vakulenko Flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Why Having a Vegan Partner Is the Best

Sleeping with a meat-eater isn’t wrong by any means (obviously) but to us vegans it can sometimes feel like we’re doing the same as those women who marry serial-killers in prison. Sure it may be fun to cling to a bad boy (or bad girl) but in the long run we’re better off not sleeping with the enemy like I wrote about a few weeks ago.

All jokes aside, being with someone who doesn’t share our ethical beliefs can be hard. There comes a time where we have to make a decision.

Stay or go?

If you’ve been wondering how it would be to have your vegan cake and have them eat it too 😉 , here are a few of my favorite things about having a vegan partner.

1- Your fridge will never contain dead animals

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

The truth is everything related to food is better when you eat the same. You don’t have to compromise on restaurants and argue on how to split the bill for groceries.

They understand your excitement when Gardein products are on sale and they never laugh at you when you’re genuinely sad that you’ve run out of nutritional yeast in the pantry.

2- You can rant all you want about the rampant carnism of society

Remember all the times you had to hold back from saying something about the sad state of the world after watching another bacon commercial on TV because your carnivore partner could be offended?

You won’t have to anymore.

Trust me, it feels amazing to be able to share all the feelings you have without having to constantly filter them between non-vegan appropriate/inappropriate.

3- They smell and taste better (yes the hype is founded)

You can actually use the bathroom after them without wanting to die.

There’s also the obvious upside of tolerable morning breath.

It may sound silly but it’s nice to not have to worry about kissing someone with cheeseburger breath.

4-You can send them 20 pictures of your cat because he/she’s cute and they won’t get annoyed

Because chances are they will do the same.

It’s also nice to know that when they say they love animals they really mean it.

You don’t have to explain why you won’t go to the zoo on a date. Bonus: both of you are as excited to go to an animal sanctuary instead.

5- They get the big picture and the little things

Not only do they really get your lifestyle but they are aware of all the little things that makes being vegan sometimes difficult.

They can comfort you when you’ve seen far too many burger restaurant billboards on your way home from work or when the restaurant mixes up your order and your nachos come out covered in extra cheese.

The bottom line is you don’t have to be alone in your little world.

Do you have a vegan partner?

What are your favorite things about sharing your beliefs?

If not, what are your tips and tricks to make it work?

I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic!

*Photo Credit: Susanne Nilsson flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Diet and Nutrition Obsessions Are Detrimental to the Vegan Movement

Vegans as a whole tend to be an health focused crowd. It’s not that surprising considering studies of current and former vegans/vegetarians show that 45% of people say that they adopted the lifestyle for health reasons and animal protection.

Indeed, when prompted, most cite health as one of the reasons for going vegan. It’s rare to have people mention only animals.

Although being careful about eating right and knowledgeable about nutrients is generally a good thing, it can also be detrimental.

That’s a rightful conclusion to come to considering that 95% of ex-vegans cite health as their only motivators for trying the diet.

A plant-based diet is often championed as the cure all. Obviously it’s great and has been shown to prevent diabetes, heart diseases and a host of chronic diseases but its reputation may be doing more harm than good in terms of actual veganism.

When a diet is so tightly linked to our health in our eyes, every bump along the road is cause for concern.

Feeling foggy one day? It’s probably our diet’s fault.

Our mood is low for a week? Obviously it’s the lack of eggs that’s affecting our brain.

You get the picture.

Most of us have been conditioned our whole life to consider a diet rich in meat and animal products normal.

Normal is never put under scrutiny.

The default option can never be wrong. 

While plant-based eaters put their ailments as a direct consequence of their diet, meat-eaters rarely ever do.

Every possible explanation under the sun will be explored before diet gets put on blast.

Being vegan is not a science experiment we make on our bodies. At least it shouldn’t be.

What do you think?

Are nutrition and diet obsessions doing more harm than good?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: fouilbreizh flickr Creative Commons 2.0

The Ex-Vegan Conundrum

Will I ever be an ex-vegan?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering on these past few days.

My short answer is no.

My long answer is this very post.

Obviously no one knows what the future holds. Humans have the (sometimes aggravating) capacity of changing their mind and evolving. It’s part of what makes us very unique animals.

Our ability to think, reason and exercise compassion is at the root of the very decision to become vegan.

For some reason that I find very hard to understand, that same ability is also responsible for people going back on their convictions.

I have spoken briefly about this in my Breaking Up with Veganism post but I feel it’s worth mentioning again, in the U.S the number of ex-vegans/vegetarians is 5 times greater than the number of current adherents to the lifestyle.

The vegan movement is clearly better at bringing people on board than keeping them in their ranks.

A lot can be said of those who abandon the vegan ship. Often not so nice things are expressed about them by the community that welcomed them with open arms in their pre-vegan days.

This chastising of ex-members is seen as cult-like and it’s not hard to figure out why.

The “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” and “you were never really part of us to begin with if you quit” doesn’t look good for any organization.

There is a common theme in the vegan community of brushing former members away on the basis of “you were never really vegan if you quit; you were just plant-based”.

Of course there is some truth to that but it’s an oversimplification that doesn’t explain everything and all cases.

Yes some people were in it purely for health reasons. It’s easy to understand why they quit if they feel their health is compromised.

It’s however harder or impossible to grasp how the most ethically focused and militant vegans out there suddenly turn their backs on the animals.

This is the real ex-vegan conundrum.    

The fact that somewhere down the line our ethics and moral choices can change.

Like I mentioned in the beginning, it is human to evolve.

Our moral compass can change.

Truth is, like a real compass, it can be affected by many variables.

I believe the main one to be survival.

Humans and non-humans animals have an inherent will to survive. We can be violent, aggressive and downright murderous if need be.

If we feel we need to I should say.

At some point a vegan re-evaluates his/her choices in light of some new belief that they are in danger. True or imagined it doesn’t matter.

Their health may be declining, their circle of friends shunning them or whatever else. The important point is that they are stuck weighing their own survival and well-being against another creature’s.

The big question is: if someone believes intently that going back to eating animal products will help them survive or improve their quality of life and also believes that it is wrong to do so, when does convictions break?

When is the breaking point appropriate?

For my own life my answer is: never.

Even if for some reason I came to be in such a position with such beliefs in my head, I wouldn’t do it.

It’s an extreme position and very possibly a seemingly unwise one but I simply can’t imagine just giving up.

I don’t care if being put on this planet is supposed to mean that I should survive at all cost. I don’t care if everything and everyone I see only care about themselves.

I would rather reject nature and what it means to live on this planet if my only option is causing death and suffering.

In the end, I don’t blame people for thinking differently.

It’s a hard world we live in.

What do you think?

Do you see yourself ever being an ex-vegan?

Are you an ex-vegan?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit: Marco Bellucci flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Animals as Family Members

I stumbled upon an article this week about a judge’s ruling in a divorce case in which the defendants fought over custody of their dog.

The judge decried the whole matter saying it was an outrageous loss of judicial resources. His exact words were that it was “wasteful” and “demeaning” to bring such a dispute to court.

The court ruled in short that:

Dogs are property and not family; thus fighting over visitation rights is pointless. 

Dogs were relegated to the same status as butter knives in a divorcing couple’s drawer.

The scary thing is I didn’t make this up. The judge actually used the butter knives example in his 15 pages decision ruling.

“Am I to make an order that one party have interim possession of [for example] the family butter knives but, due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?”

The whole thing is grossing me out so much that I’ve been thinking about it all day.

The “dogs are wonderful creatures but it’s still just a dog” saying rings true to so many people. You’ll see if you scroll down the comments.

It seems like even the most esteemed animals can’t catch a break.

If pets are on the same level as kitchen utensils, merely cared for out of sentimentality and practicality, I don’t know how all other animals ever stand a chance.

The truth is and I’m sure a lot of people can relate, the animals that we share our existence with are not inanimate objects. Sure we care deeply for them but not because of everything they add to our life. (Although the cuddles are always nice)

But because of the relationship we form with them.

You can’t interact with your possessions. And no Siri doesn’t count.

A lot of people say animals are our friends.

But to me, animals can and are family.

What do you think?

I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.


*Photo Credit: University of Liverpool Faculty of Health and Life Sciences flickr Creative Commons 2.0