This is a few months premature. I quit eating animal products in, as best I can guess, February 2001. Regardless, I’ve had thoughts stewing in my head about this thing that I’ve chosen, so I might as well spit them out.
What veganism is to me
It actually hadn’t occurred to me that I would need to define (or describe) veganism to a general audience. As far as I’m concerned, being a vegan means that you don’t consume animal products. I don’t eat anything with meat, milk, or eggs. Veganism is a dietary choice that some people make. The reasons vary tremendously, which is something I’m totally fine with.
The reason I feel the need to define veganism is because of a recent encounter with a vegan who, as far as I’m concerned, tried to take the label away from me. He felt that veganism wasn’t just a diet, that veganism was a commitment to a lifestyle that supported the concept of animal rights and opposed speciesism. He said that an omnivore who burns down a factory farm has more claim to the title than someone who eats vegan but doesn’t do anything else for animals. And while I agree that said omnivore is a better champion of animals, I disagree wholeheartedly that this entitles that person to claim the title veganism.
Why is this distinction so important to me? For one thing, because I care about veganism as an idea that can spread (among those willing). I’m not interested in defining ourselves into a more and more specific, more and more pure little niche. I’m interested in minimizing the number of animals that are slaughtered in factory farms, not being an elitist.
And the distinction is important to me because vegan is a handy word to use to describe my diet to people when we talk about where to go out to eat. I don’t want some damn whippersnapper kid taking it away from me. He can find something else to call himself. Fifth level vegan or something.