Your Thoughts Thursday: Vegan Guilt

October 14, 2010 by Keri

My question today isn’t about right or wrong.  It isn’t about what, as a vegan, you should do or think.  Everyone has lines they draw, and chances are, no matter how far you’ve drawn your line, someone else has drawn theirs further.  I’ve known people who won’t get in their friends cars or sit in certain theaters because they have leather seats.  On the other hand, I know many vegans who won’t purchase apparel with leather or fur, but will gladly accept free hand-me-down leather coats and shoes from friends and family.  The point is, they’re acting upon an individual decision with which they are comfortable, making a personal decision.  We all make choices based on what our gut (or heart) tells us is right.  But my curiosity is, is there anything you purchase, use, or do that “your gut” just isn’t happy about?

  • Is there anything you feel guilty about purchasing despite knowing it isn’t vegan?
  • What about OTC or prescription medications?  Do you use them when you’re sick  or to treat a medical condition and hold a little vegan guilt about it?
  • Do you ever dine out wondering, “Was that 100% vegan?”, cursing not asking the waiter more questions when he was vague?
  • Have you ever felt guilty for taking part in some sort of activity that involved animal exploitation such as a fair, zoo, or circus?
  • Do you ever prepare non-vegan food for others, and if so, does it bother you?
  • Has guilt ever led you to “redraw your line” for products, restaurants, or activities?
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  1. Always good questions! As a new dietary vegan I’m still finding my way on the continuum. With that:

    No, I will not cook anything with animal-based products (my husband makes his own animal-based entrees/sides)

    I try to question a server as much as I can at a restaurant and usually feel about 85 – 90% confident I’m eating vegan.

    I have not purchased anything with leather since becoming a dietary vegan; I still wear my leather shoes but find that I feel a bit “hypocritical” about it all. But not enough to quit wearing them. (for now)

    I’m a knitter and am on the fence about silk and wool yarn. I have lots of it and will probably knit it up. And I have some hand-knit wool items that I’m so proud of (I learned to knit two years ago) that I cannot imagine wearing them.

    So I guess it still comes down to drawing the line on the dietary side and evolving in the other areas.

  2. Grishma says:

    Heyy… I m a vegetarian (no eggs). And yes, Wever we go out to a restaurant I always
    Have special instructions for waiter. Sometimes I gotta tell them
    that “I m allergic to meat, fish or eggs (to be on safer side). Just to make sure that they do not
    use same knief or spatulas or just do no mix up ingredients.
    And although after solo many instructions I always check my food before I eat. And I constantly feel guilty about eating outside or may be in next bite I will have some meat in my mouth. ..etc… so rather than enjoying my food I keep worrying. My husband is just like me. He has his meditation reasons for not to eat all this and he also does not prefer to buy or wear leatherware. So ya u r right we all draw our own lines with what we r comfortable… 🙂

  3. cleaninggirl says:

    •Is there anything you feel guilty about purchasing despite knowing it isn’t vegan?

    I have to say yes to this I had to buy safety boots for work (I work in a fuel station so I have to have special shoes) I feel somewhat guilty as they have suede on part of the shoe but better than my last ones which were all leather but were brought before I had even thought of going vegan.

    •What about OTC or prescription medications? Do you use them when you’re sick or to treat a medical condition and hold a little vegan guilt about it?

    I try and get medications that are vegan friendly but I recently had to have antibiotics for a chest infection and felt ever so guilty about the fact the casing for the antibiotic had geltin in it =(

    •Do you ever dine out wondering, “Was that 100% vegan?”, cursing not asking the waiter more questions when he was vague?

    I have to confess that since going vegan I’ve only ever dinned out once and what I thought was going to be a dish with gravy turned out to be cream so I ended up trying to eat as little of the sauce as possible

    •Have you ever felt guilty for taking part in some sort of activity that involved animal exploitation such as a fair, zoo, or circus?

    I’ve never gone to a fair or circus and only to a zoo once in France where I have to admit they appeared to treat the animals with dignity (this was a few years before I decided to go vegan) I have to admit the thought of going to a zoo now terrifies me as it will only make me feel so upset about it all

    •Do you ever prepare non-vegan food for others, and if so, does it bother you?

    Yes I do have to prepare non-vegan food for my family (I’m the only vegan in the house) and it doesn’t make me happy one iota I even have to buy meat for them as well as prepare it I try not handelling the meat as it make me feel sick I can’t carve a cooked chicken without it making me wanting to vomit so I try not to (lucky for me our main family meals I’m not there for as I work at that time so I can enjoy my vegan meal without having to look at dead animals)

    •Has guilt ever led you to “redraw your line” for products, restaurants, or activities?

    Yes it has I made the decision a couple of months back that I wouldn’t go to the zoo ever again I just can’t bring myself to doing it.

  4. paul says:

    having almost died a couple times, i never bothered asking if the meds were vegan or not. so i guess that’s my line. i won’t wear leather/fur/wool new or hand-me-down though.

    my biggest grey line is my home. i tell folks staying with us to not bring animal products (they always do), but most friends wear leather shoes or coats or belts or those tags that are on most jeans… and i don’t tell them to leave them outside (they’d get soaked, i live in a rainforest).

    i wouldn’t prepare or serve non-vegan in my home, ever. i don’t mind if people order steak (or any meat) when out for dinner though, it’s their choice and at that point, it’s not my house.

    i think vegans are unique in associated morals/ethics with food, since everyone else i know doesn’t even bring it mind about eating.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Interesting question! I’m more of an environmentalist than I am a vegetarian, so most of my guilt is over environmental sins (the car, plastic, etc.). I think if I were presented with a perfect toasted marshmallow I might have some qualms about eating it. At the same time, I don’t know how guilty I’d feel over having a toasted marshmallow once every few years. It just seems like there are bigger things to feel guilty about.

  6. Jaime says:

    I feel guilty about my cats’ food, which is why next month I plan to start testing the waters with a vegan diet for them. (Don’t worry. I’ve been researching it!)

    I’ve gotten a lot better about asking questions in restaurants and not backing down if someone tries to give me crap for asking. Aside from veganism, I think it makes sense for people to ask what’s in the food they might be ordering.

    It may be a bit bitchy, but I refuse to make non-vegan food. Ever. For anyone. But I don’t expect people to make vegan food for me. I expect to take care of myself, or to do all the cooking. So I guess it evens out.

    The thing that really bothers me, which is hard to get around, are medications that I/we need. This is often why I won’t take anything unless I absolutely need it. But then you run into the question, “Do I really NEED it, or do I just accept it and try not to think about it?”

    Le sigh.

  7. Laura Jill says:

    Great questions, Keri, and great replies, too!

    I try not to purchase anything not vegan anymore–I do a lot of research, a lot of ingredients reading, and a lot of online shopping. I always try to make the best decisions possible for my own health, the health of animals, and the health of the planet.

    As far as meds are concerned, I don’t take any prescriptions anymore, and I feel great about that (I also won’t get a flu shot). If I have to take antibiotics, I suck it up and take them, but they’re a last resort, and thankfully, I rarely get sick anymore anyway. I do have advil in the house just in case, but again, I rarely use it.

    When I go out to eat, I frequent a few restaurants where I know there is at least one thing on the menu that is safe for me. There aren’t a lot of veg friendly places in South Beach, so I’m really looking forward to moving to Austin–restaurants are going to be a lot easier then. 🙂

    I no longer go to zoos, circuses, etc…except to maybe participate in a protest outside. 😉 Last year, at my staff conference for work, they “required” us to attend a private event at Sea World. I spoke with my boss about why I didn’t want to go, and she respected my beliefs enough to let me out of it.

    Do I ever prepare non-vegan food? Hell no! And if people are coming to my house for dinner or a gathering of some sort, they know not to bring anything non-vegan. That being said, like Paul, if I’m out at a restaurant with my omnivore friends, I don’t get offended by their choices.

    Thanks for such a great post!


  8. Angela says:

    Great post! I definitely have guilt about the restaurants and the leather-seats thing. I also try my best at restaurants, but I know that I can never be 100% sure. However, my approach is to be part of the overall society as much as possible (to be a positive example) – and since I have any non-vegan friends, it means eating at omni restaurants from time to time… But I try to balance it out by suggesting veg-friendly places and having dinner parties @ home. My partner is omni, so I do cook non-vegan stuff from time to time. I balance that guilt by knowing that he’s eating a lot more vegan food because of me too…

    I don’t wear any animal products (or accept hand-me-downs) and I haven’t been to a zoo or (animal) circus in over 15 years, so I do feel great about that.

  9. Mary says:

    Having to choose between ibuprofen with shellac, gelatin, or lactose.

    Aspirin’s a better vegan choice, but not a strong enough anti-inflamatory for my half-marathon training.

  10. Lexie says:

    Vegans are way too hard on themselves. It’s a guilt-induced diet. It’s hard to start getting into eating vegan, when you’re afraid some crazy hardcore vegan will tell you that you aren’t vegan enough.

    I almost think the vegan diet is socially harder than being anorexic, or a hoarder, or a binge eater. I wish the boundaries could be relaxed, and instead of vegan meaning hardcore crazy never-going-near-an-animal-ever again, it could mean I’m changing how I eat so it better reflects my values.

    • Erica says:

      I agree with you!

      I’m a vegetarian–not a vegan–and though I do have strong values regarding not eating meat and I realize that I feel a lot better when I don’t, I don’t beat myself up if I occasionally slip up. I am a student at a tiny college, and the cafeteria often does not have the best options for vegetarians and vegans alike. If I’ve had a really crummy day, and I want some comforting soul food, and there is barbecue–well, the benefit outweighs the cost, to me.

      Being thoughtful over lifestyle choices is important, but to obsess is a disorder.

  11. kelly beth says:

    i am so cautious and careful about where i eat, if i do go out. living in boulder, colorado, with as many health-conscious, well-educated people here, you’d think that it would be more vegan-friendly, but it’s not. at all.

    the last time i went out to eat was for breakfast, where i got a sourdough baguette with grits & mixed in some vegan strawberry jam. this was my second time going out to this place. the first time, i asked the waiter if there was any animal product whatsoever in the grits, jam, and bread. no, no, no, she said.
    so i ate it. later that day, i had a terribly upset stomach, and laid in bed all night miserable, but dismissed it because my eating habits had been off from traveling.

    the 2nd time i go back, i order the same thing and my girl friend comments that i am eating like a bird. i said well, it’s not very vegan-friendly here (in front of the waiter) but at least this stuff is.
    and she stares at me and says “i’m sorry, but there’s cheese in the grits.”
    i almost threw up everywhere, just knowing i had had some a few weeks before. i was so upset. she didn’t apologize for the misinformation given to me by staff or anything. so i actually got up and left.
    that guilt was the last straw for me on going out to eat in boulder.

  12. kelly beth says:

    oh, and as far as meds go, i haven’t taken any since i was a wee-one with no say in the matter. i have used herbal, vegan treatments since i have been 5 years old. white willow bark and meadowsweet are awesome used as natural aspirin. aspirin was derived from white willow bark, anyhow. : )
    it’s also incredibly easy to make and encapsulate your own herbal meds, without the animal products.