Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Road Less Travelled To Veganism

Is the veggie path a stepping stone to veganism? Some vegans would contest this notion, but to disciplined veggies it is the holy grail – the imagined and unattainable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The next logical footprint to aspire to. If this is true however, then how come so of few of us dare to mirror, signal and maneuver down this crossroad? Is veganism's presumed rigidness in terms of lifestyle and the individuals who follow it a turn-off? Do we veggies judge vegans as harshly as others judge us? I'd like to think the answer is no, but I can only speak from a first-person perspective.

Veganism is, for me, so near but yet so far. Just within my reach, but not strong enough to sway me completely from the veggie path. A veggie veering vegan is how I like to think of myself - I dabble in it, but fail to go the whole hog. Yes, I'm aware of the irony - I chastise people who call themselves veggie when they're not, when in reality I'm really no better. My only saving grace is that I ignore my ego's call to follow suit. Should I become a fully-fledged vegan (and only then), do I deserve to make use of the term. In the interim, I greatly esteem vegan principles and constantly bargain with myself. For a number of years, I have forsaken dairy products, particularly cow's milk, butter, yogurt and cheese. Initially, this was reinforced due to health issues, as I found I could no longer tolerate these. A big ask considering I could easily nibble my way through a block of cheddar in one sitting! A picture of health, I have now adapted to the loss and only mourn it occasionally. It's rare that I will purchase such items to stock my larder, preferring instead the many alternatives available, but there are exceptions to the rule. I will opt for the dairy-laden, (goat's cheese preferably), if out and there really is no other choice, or if someone's gone to the trouble of preparing a meal for me. My justification being that I'm too polite to cause a fuss. At home it's a different matter, with the one omission being a quarterly craving for eggs which I ensure are free-range and organic. It's far from being a guilt-free pleasure, but until I have a house in the country and a backyard filled with hens, it's a choice I'll have to live with. In a town flat without a balcony this just won't work!

The vegan lifestyle poses a ethical dilemma for me – I dislike contributing to the meat trade and its animal suffering through said dairy products, choosing instead to vote with my purse and my feet. Scrupulously checking the small print on packaging can be a chore, but it's a necessary evil if you wish to stand by your convictions, and can be surprisingly revealing too. Eggs and honey are the barrier to the pearly vegan gates. I can easily live without both, but I also recognize their dietary and therapeutic properties. I don't feel it's wrong in itself to consume or use these in cosmetics. Both are perfect examples of what nature is able to provide and their benefits testify to that. It's the food processing and factory farming industry that is in need of an urgent makeover. Mock meat is also an area I'm uncomfortable with. Do we really need to substitute our diets with meat-free versions shaped, textured and flavoured like the real thing? Ironic, but then life is full of contradictions like McDonald's being crowned the official sponsors of the World Cup and the 2012 Olympics.

Unable to overcome my cravings, I may never attain full vegan status. I prefer to think of this approach not as a road less travelled, but what Buddhists declare the middle way. A path of moderation between the two.