Posted by: conradvisionquest | March 10, 2010

“I’m better than you” or Vegan vs. Vegetarian

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  ~Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Sometimes I feel like a caterpillar in it’s cocoon stage, just about to burst from my shell and become a gorgeous butterfly.  Sorry to get all goopy, but this time in my life is both exciting and awkward.  It’s as though I am feeling my way around in the darkness, mentally mapping out surroundings that I cannot see.  As I search for my truth, the information I discover is shaping me, my perspective,  and my lifestyle.  I adjust accordingly.

As I weed through all the information about the animal industry, being vegan, animal rights, responding to meat eaters, vegan recipes, and everything in between, I am noticing something disturbing:  the divide between those who call themselves “vegetarian” and those who call themselves “vegan.”  In trying to find out where I fit in amongst all this labeling, I have decided the label does not matter and not to label myself except to say I love animals.  What matters are the choices I can make, am making, and conversations I may have with others.

The discord seems to come mainly from the vegan side, getting upset when people who do not fit their definition of “vegan” label themselves as such.  “How dare you group yourself in with me, when clearly I am standing on much higher moral ground!”  This seems like wasted energy, and counter-productive to what I feel is our responsibility.  Arguing about labels does not help animals.  Having thoughtful conversations about choices you are making, and WHY you are making those choices, can.  And the ego-based, “higher than thou” stance only contributes to the pre-existing stereo-type that vegans/vegetarians think they are better than meat-eaters.

It is not my place to judge anyone just because they are not doing what I am doing (or not doing.)  When you know better, you do better.  After all, we all had to start somewhere, right?

We, as voices for the voiceless, must do better than this.  As ministers of a cruelty-free message, we are up against many challenges.  Social conditioning, not wanting to know the truth, misinformation, longstanding stereotypes, and inaccessibility to the correct information are just a few of the obstacles that stand in the way of people choosing a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Having said all this, I do find it hypocritical that some people call themselves “vegetarian” but eat meat on occasion.  However, the only way I could criticize someone for being hypocritical is if I was NEVER a hypocrite myself about anything.  I think it is safe to say we have all been there.  At least people are becoming aware of this issue, rather than refusing to see and being content with their heads in the sand.  An “almost vegetarian” is better than a “meat always veggies never” as far as I’m concerned.  Arguing over semantics is futile to the goal of animal activism.

And although I am very passionate in my love for animals, I am equally aware about how every conversation I have with a meat-eater (or “almost vegetarians”) may be their only window into what is for them, an unknown world.  I feel that, for the animals, it is our duty to keep these conversations informative and not offensive.

I am not perfect (I know, I’ll give you a minute to gather yourself).  And I am learning not to expect everyone else to be (including myself!!)

To quote my new favorite vegan,Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, “Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything. Do something — anything!”

Another quote I just came across:
“I’ve found without question that the best way to lead others to a more plant-based diet is by example~ to lead with your fork, not your mouth.”  Bernie Wilke

Check out this article about vegans vs. vegetarians.

Got some thoughts? Jot them below…



  1. Wow. GREAT post!

    I really feel like a whole new world opened up to me when I became vegan about a year and a half ago. It’s truly been an amazing, life-changing experience and that’s what I want to convey to people. I don’t want to pass judgment or preach to people about what they should or should not eat. I’m certainly not a a perfect vegan. I just want to show people that vegan food can be delicious and easily adapted into their own diet, no matter what that might be.

    • i agree totally. sometimes i get so frustrated, because i know people think all the stereotypes are true (not enough protein, you have to eat leaves and twigs, unhealthy way to eat), hell, I used to think they were true! and i just want to be able to touch their forheads with my finger so they can know all the things i have learned. i think what happens is, people’s egos get in the way, but the good intention is there. sometimes MY ego gets in the way, and that’s when i get pissed, but if step back i can see that emotional responses are useless, especially with this issue. thanks for the comment!

  2. Hi Wendy! Thanks for commenting on my blog! :o)
    I totally agree with you on this. There are so many militant vegans on the net who love to tell others they are doing a bad job. I believe that doing something is always better than doing nothing, and at the end of the day, vegetarians and vegans are all coming from the same place, just different areas of that place! And I definitely think leading by example is far more effective than preaching.

    • hey, jen! thanks for visiting and commenting…

  3. Wendy,

    This is a fabulous and insightful post. Great work here.

    – Calesha

    • wow, thanks Calesha! i never thought someone would find my ramblings insightful! thanks for stopping by… ~w

  4. Agreed! With it all! Great post!

    • hey, thanks for stopping by, Cristy! and thanks for the compliment… 😉 w

  5. As a recently converted vegetarian, THANK YOU for being kind and supportive! (I don’t eat meat, not even in secret, but still can’t fathom a world without cheese.) When I first made the choice to stop eating meat, I was excited and proud of myself – it was so disheartetning to go looking for new information, only to be told that, since I’m not 100% vegan, I’m not good enough. Personally, I can’t make huge sweeping changes and stick with them for more than a day or two. But by first cutting out met, then gradually adding in other changes, I can see myself eventually reaching the vegan end of the spectrum, and sticking with it. Thank you for seeing the big picture on this issue, and supporting thos of us who are making baby steps in the right direction!

    • thanks for stopping by and commenting, cathy! although sometimes i wish i could wave my magic wand and turn everyone vegan (uh oh, everybody RUN!) this is not my goal. my goal is to live my life the best i can, and hopefully be able to offer support to somebody along the way (whether that be food-wise or in some other way). some people might say this makes me a “passive vegan,” but i don’t give a freak. i think being the stereotypical “in your face” vegan is counter-productive to my values. i think it’s great that you have a goal of being vegan! please let me know if you ever have questions or wanna swap recipes…and thanks for linking to this post!

  6. […] found that, on the internet, there are a lot of “militant vegans”, as described in this Vision Quest post.  I didn’t really expect the veggie-loving community to be waiting to welcome me with […]

  7. Nice piece Wendy! I feel this way about so many movements, actually – all the infighting, one-up-manship, and perfectionism really gets in the way of our progress.

    That Colleen Patrick-Goudreau quote reminds me of an argument I sometimes hear from meat-eaters, something along the lines of “Why should you stop eating animals when you still have to kill plants to live? Aren’t you discriminating against plants?” It’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing as much as we can to reduce suffering (and as far as I know there’s no way for me to survive without killing some plants). If everyone would simply think about how their choices impact the rest of the world, and then make an effort – ANY effort – to choose something less harmful, we’d be so much better off!

    • thanks for stopping by! lol at the plants thing. sorry but i just think that argument is silly. check out the link on the sidebar under “read it” for a cool article about that very thing. good stuff…

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