my path is better than yours: a brush with an ex-vegan

Judgment is not a positive force in life, and as citizens of this world we should try to catch ourselves before passing judgment on any person or people. What is it we’re reacting to? Why does it bother us? How can we use others’ actions or words to further a positive action rather than a negative reaction?

Enter the ex-vegan. Much like the born-again/newly religious, the reformed you-name-it, or yes, the newly vegan, the ex-vegan has been down a path and chosen to take a different one. Perhaps it was due to an outside influence: a doctor speaking with authority, a convincing boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, or the ridiculous amount of advertising and the advertiser-sponsored studies proving how inadequate a vegan diet is. Maybe their cruelty-free resolve wasn’t very strong and was worn away by leather shoes, then “ethically farmed” eggs and cheese, then eventually they’re eating bacon-wrapped shrimp at a party, a la Ron Swanson. Any which way it happens, someone who finds a new path has entered a new belief system because their old belief system is wrong.

Because they’ve been down your path and left it, they can belittle yours. They now know better than you. They can dissuade someone considering your path, speaking with authority and experience.

Leading up to something? You bet I am. Because I just had an ex-vegan encounter and I’m finding myself rather frustrated. I’m naming no names, directing to no links, because a personal war is not worth it—and I don’t know enough about this individual or their path. I’m starting my own conversation here. It’s not a conversation about vegan versus ex-vegan; it’s about trampling other paths to make your own seem like the one true path.

Yesterday I noticed a referral from a site I’d never heard of before. Turns out it’s an ex-vegan site, and the post, written years ago, was ripping on the then-new Daiya. It ridiculed vegans who kept trying vegan cheeses, fooling themselves that it doesn’t all taste like crap, trying to replace the real thing, and this was from someone who knew, an ex-vegan, and went as far as to quote a bunch of vegan bloggers, who all admitted as much…including myself. What?

My quote was simply “It’s worth a try.” It linked to my post about Daiya, when it first came out, and if you’ll notice, the first three words of the post are “I love it!” (Exclamation point included in original.) The quoted phrase came at the end, when I was suggesting people order it online if they couldn’t find it in stores.

Being taken out of context due to sloppiness is one thing. It’s not great, but I understand lazy journalism. This was a dirty trick. This was a quote so misused that it gave it an opposite meaning. Not cool.

Bad journalism aside, I take issue with being misquoted to bring down veganism. I try to explore veganism, to offer up an honest view of vegan living. I have repeatedly dissed vegan products out of honesty and responsibility. If I tell you I love a certain candy bar and you spend $3 on said candy bar and it’s a tarted-up packing peanut, I’m not doing anyone or any cause a service. I don’t believe in giving a vegan restaurant a glowing review just in the hope that people will dine there rather than an omnivore restaurant with way better vegan options. Shoddy nonleather shoes are not saving animals; they’re giving others ammunition to prove how inferior vegan shoes are! (Please note: I’d rather walk in an uncomfortable shoe than an animal skin, but with the vegan shoe options available, this is not a dilemma.)

I do not wish for my honesty and openness to be mistaken for dissatisfaction with veganism. I refuse to turn a blind eye to trends I find silly or dangerous, dishonest marketing, or less-than-spectacular new products. In fact, I see much more of this in my future.

I am well aware that I live within my belief system, and that belief systems morph, die, shift—you can’t control it. I simply ask that as you enter a new way, follow a new path, that you keep an open heart to those not on your current path. Remember where you’ve been and be open to where you might find yourself in the future. It’s sad that we can’t do more than coexist…and some of us can’t even do that.

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