In the vegan movement, there has been a rising pressure to be the “perfect vegan”. Many vegans will attack other vegans for not being 100 percent cruelty-free; for example, wearing a pair of leather shoes that they bought before they went vegan, eating honey, or buying makeup from a brand owned by a company that tests on animals. Often called the ‘vegan police’, these people often criticize their fellow animal activists and tell them that they cannot call themselves a vegan if they aren’t a perfect. Although their intent is to help animals as much as they can, this vegan policing is actually detrimental to the movement and results in veganism feeling, to many, like an exclusive club that one may only join if they follow a complex set of rules and guidelines. As a result, many feel like the goal of being vegan is unattainable, and people who would have otherwise taken steps to help animals feel discouraged and give up.
This problem of the pressure to be perfect in the vegan movement is also based on
privilege and discredits many who do not have as many resources. For example, many people in poverty live in food deserts or low-income areas where there are few supermarkets and fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious food is difficult to access. Although there are some vegan options, for people living in these areas, it is nearly impossible to live a completely vegan lifestyle. More often than not the vegan police are comprised of upper-middle class, white vegans, living in urban areas with access to countless vegan restaurants and ten different Whole Foods within a five-mile radius. Telling low-income people with far fewer resources that they can’t call themselves a vegan unless they are perfect is classist and perpetuates the idea of veganism as an elite club that only the privileged may join.
Veganism should not be an all-or nothing-thing. For some people, going completely
vegan overnight may work for them, but for most it is something that happens in steps. Animal products are often a huge part of culture and tradition for people, so finding alternatives is a process. Everyone is at a different place in their vegan journey, and those who may be farther along should not shame and discredit those who maybe haven’t completely cut out dairy yet or are still figuring out what brands are cruelty-free and which aren’t. Veganism is about doing the best you can, in your current situation, to reduce animal suffering. Being perfect is not the goal; helping animals to the best of your ability is. To truly help animals, we must welcome and encourage people taking even the smallest steps, like participating in Meatless Mondays, getting soy milk in their Starbucks latte, or choosing to buy a shampoo from a company that doesn’t test on animals instead of one that does.