Does the perfect Vegan exist?
Is anyone capable of living a life that doesn’t exploit or contribute to the exploitation of animals?
What do we do when we live in a world where the mistreatment of animals is so deeply entrenched into every corner of the globe?
Whether or not it’s possible to be the perfect Vegan is a difficult and somewhat emotionally challenging question to consider. Every person who has joined the fight for animal liberation wants to know that they are doing all they can to challenge speciesism and protect mammals, birds, insects and fish. So, it can be upsetting to know that living a 100% Vegan lifestyle might not be entirely possible.
This is something The Vegan Society recognises with their definition of Veganism:
"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
The key phrase to note is ‘as far as is possible and practical.’ This begs the question: when is it possible and practical to uphold a Vegan lifestyle - and when is it not?
There are certain daily choices we can make to reduce our support for the systems and industries that rely on animal exploitation.
For example, we can all pay extra attention to food product labels to make sure they don’t contain animal-derived ingredients. We can also make an active choice to avoid animal and insect-derived products when buying clothes, such as by avoiding materials like leather, wool, fur and silk. We can make the same choice when shopping for beauty products and toiletries.
This isn’t an extensive list of ways to uphold the principles of Veganism, but the bottom line is that it’s important to do everything you possibly can to prevent animal suffering.
Nevertheless, some choices are currently out of our control. Let’s take money as an example. In the UK, £5 and £10 banknotes contain tallow from animal fat. Although the banknotes aren’t Vegan-friendly, they are still legal tender that you may have no choice but to use or receive as payment. Despite pressure from Vegan activists, the Bank of England hasn’t yet agreed to substitute the tallow for a plant-based ingredient.
Unfortunately, using money isn’t the only circumstance where it’s neither possible nor practical to be 100% cruelty-free. Taking medicine is another example. In the UK, medicine must be tested on animals before it is licensed for use. This means that everything from painkillers to life-saving medication has been tested on a bird, fish or mammal. Not only this, but many prescription and non-prescription medications contain animal-derived ingredients, including gelatin, insulin and lactose.
Even Vegan dietary choices may not be wholly animal-friendly. Crops that rely on commercial beekeeping (such as avocados and almonds) have been pulled into question over the last few years, alongside organic farming methods that use manure, blood and bone meal in place of synthetic fertilisers. Non-organic farming methods don’t make for a kinder alternative, as synthetic fertilisers are responsible for poisoning waterways and aquatic animals. In both types of farming, small rodents and grass snakes are often killed during the cropping process.
There are also lots of household items containing animal products that you may never have questioned or considered before. For example, sugar, glue, razors, clothing dyes and car tyres are often produced using ingredients and practices that rely on and perpetuate the exploitation of animals.
It can be disheartening to know that we have contributed to animal suffering in ways that we could never have imagined. However, it’s important to remember that this is not a reflection of you or your Veganism; it simply highlights where we still have work left to do.
While it may not be viable to live a life devoid of animal exploitation, it is possible to uphold the formal definition of Veganism. Until we live in a world guided by compassion and kindness for all species, we must simply do the best we can.
To learn more about Veganism and why it’s the future, join the Global Vegans community today. Sign up to our mailing list to get involved.