When is a vegan not a vegan?

By Published On: 21 May 2010Last Updated: 17 January 2017

Can a careless and lazy vegan still be considered a vegan?

What's in this post

No Cheaters

My first reaction to Dirty Rotten Vegan Cheaters by Annie Hartnett was positive.  I can appreciate other vegans encouraging other vegans- especially if they fall off of the “vegan wagon” so to speak.  Annie’s point is that you’ll “slip up” in your journey to be vegan.  Okay, I agree.  I’ve been vegan for more than 5 years now and I still make mistakes.  I simply learn from them and more on.

But then I came across this:

And I don’t miss the way I ate before veganism, but I cheat when I’m careless or lazy. Vegan food isn’t always readily available.

Annie implies that it’s okay to choose to eat animal products every once in awhile.  That, if you do, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it- just move on.

Let me ask you, would you want me to careless or lazy with your life?

Then why is it acceptable to be careless or lazy with someone else’s?

And please, don’t give me any BS that vegan food isn’t “readily available.”  Since when is it hard to find an apple or a banana?  They sell them at freaking gas stations these days.  Brown rice and dried beans, just to name a few, can be found at (icky) Walmart.  It’s not rocket science to know that whole foods like these are readily available to most people, even college students.

Am I getting worked up over nothing?  Annie might be a vegan, she does advocate for animals- all of that is a good thing.  But, as a vegan, why give the impression to non-vegans that it’s fine to be lazy or careless?  Doesn’t that go against what real veganism is?

Can you still be a vegan if you are careless and lazy?  Or does that make you a flexitarian with a heavier emphasis on vegan foods?

Or, am I just being a pissy vegan?  Chime in, I’d love to know what you think.


  1. Joshua Matthews March 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I agree with William Branson. Veganism is not just a diet. It’s the avoidance of all animal (ab)use.

  2. Joshua Matthews March 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    On the subject of mistakes, I made ‘mistake’ about 18 months ago. I bought Walkers’ Salt & vinegar crisps which used to be vegan. But they substituted cows’ milk for MSG. I noticed the change on the ingredients list before I opened them and gave them to my parents.

  3. Joshua Matthews March 11, 2011 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I had a friend that told me he was vegan but I caught him eating sausages made from pork. When I poitely asked him about it, he said he only has them three times a week ‘because they’re to expensive’. I’ve no idea whether he genuinely thinks he’s vegan or just wanted to please me. (P.S. I am a true vegan).

  4. Meg May 25, 2010 at 5:53 pm - Reply


    If you’re just eating a vegan diet then you aren’t even a vegan. Veganism is against ALL animal exploitation, not just for food. People who eat “vegan” diets are best called “strict vegetarians”. This is not me trying to be mean, just insisting on not watering down veganism to just some diet which completely misses the point of veganism which is that animal exploitation is wrong and therefore we shouldn’t contribute to it.

    That said, as a vegan, I enjoy life plenty — but I try not to do it at the expense of others. That would be wrong and I won’t tell people that it’s o.k. to exploit other animals for their pleasure or convenience. Does life suck as a vegan? Sometimes! (Though, life just sometimes sucks, period.) But people should be willing to make sacrifices to do the right thing. It’s not like we’re asking for people to go out and kill for their beliefs or risk their own lives, even. We’re not asking people to go naked or hungry, just to stop exploiting animals as much as reasonably possible (and not just “as much as you feel like”).

    Quanzi Z,

    With some relatively few exceptions, people already have choices. And there are plenty of site and other resources pointing out how to find vegan food and products. There are some that truly have no choice, such as minors with unsympathetic parents or those in nursing homes or prisons that don’t provide vegan options. But, for the vast majority of people, going vegan is far from impossible. It might be inconvenient for some, but that is absolutely no excuse to continue to contribute to animal exploitation. And the fact that so many with so many opportunities and choices complain about it being “just too hard” really saddens me. There are some real hardships in life. Going vegan is hardly one of them.

    Also, veganism is, by itself, not about *helping* animals, but about not continuing to *hurt* them (which is why it’s only the first step, not the last in actually helping animals). Those who are not vegan continue to intentionally and unnecessarily hurt animals. I’m vegan not because I figure I’ll save X amount of lives, but because I am no longer willing to hurt other animals for my pleasure. Saying that those who maybe just eat less meat (etc.) are *helping* animals, too, is like saying “But look how many I didn’t kill!” and expecting to get a round of thanks.

  5. Happy Tea House May 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm - Reply

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  6. anniehartnett May 25, 2010 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Hi KD,
    At the risk of revealing that I occasionally Google myself, I thought I’d respond to your post. I agree with you that it is not ethical to slip-up on veganism, but it does happen, either by accident or by a lapse in judgment. I think that is important to acknowledge, especially to beginner vegans.

    I’m definitely not a vegan only when it is convenient. Nothing about my diet is convenient, I’m vegan with a gluten allergy! My first year of veganism, I cheated once every few months because I selfishly missed eating cheese. Surely you remember the dark days before Daiya, when all soy cheese had casein in it. Thankfully alternatives have gotten better.

    The most recent cheating occurred because I had just been diagnosed with my allergy. I was so caught up in determining whether the fried eggplant has gluten in it, I didn’t notice that the salad included cheese. Since it was my mistake (and not the restaurant’s), I had the option of ordering again, paying for both salads, or eating the one with cheese in it. As I knew the salad I already ordered legally has to be thrown away, I ate it. This is an example of a truly careless mistake.

    I understand your critique of my post. I agree that it is dangerous to make it sound like veganism is an exceedingly difficult diet to follow. It really isn’t, even with a food allergy. But I also think it is dangerous to ask “When is a vegan not a vegan?” and then suggest that “flexitarian” might be a better fit. We’re a small team, don’t kick people out! I’ve been a vegetarian since I was seven years old, I’ve never eaten a hamburger. I’ve been a vegan for over five years. And as soon as people make a commitment to stop eating animals, I say welcome to the club, I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll stay.


  7. Giggling Vegan May 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm - Reply

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  8. Quanzi Z May 23, 2010 at 12:51 am - Reply

    I think this kind of “all or nothing!” attitude is what turns a lot of people off of veganism. You can’t demand absolutes of humans. People are going to slip up. If you tell them they have to turn in their veg*an card as soon as they have a crisis of willpower and eat a chicken sandwich, they’re going to give up completely.

    You’re also assuming that only people who are 100% vegan can help animals, which isn’t true. Imagine if you told the entire world to try and have one day of the month where they ate vegan. Most people, even those who say they could never give up meat, will admit they could probably pull that off. And if they actually did it, thousands of animal lives (if not more) would be spared. Yes more would animals would be saved if all those people gave up animal products entirely, but that’s not something everyone is willing or feels able to do. If you really want people to help animals, you have to give them choices on how to do that, not tell them “you’re either with us or against us!”

    When you get angry at someone and kick them out of your club for not meeting your standards, you lose the opportunity to encourage them to come close, which is always better then being against you.

    • KD May 23, 2010 at 8:13 am - Reply

      I understand what you are saying but I think you misunderstood my perspective on it. I’m not saying that people won’t make mistakes in their veganism- I still do. No one is perfect. But that isn’t my question. I’m questioning whether or not it is appropriate to say you are vegan if you are only vegan when it is convenient to be. I can agree and recognize that there are times we will all consume something has animals in it, it’s almost impossible not to. But generally speaking, vegans have a tendency to be more diligent with reading labels and knowing which ingredients come from animals.

      This author implies that it’s fine to be “careless or lazy” with her veganism. My question is then, “Is it okay to be careless or lazy with your life?” Of course not. Then the same should apply to non-humans. This is, of course, coming from a complete ethical viewpoint of veganism but, why is it acceptable to tell these animals that we’re only going to care when it’s convenient. It isn’t about beating vegans up when they “make a mistake”- this is about living with compassion (not laziness). To these animals, our decisions are life and death. I can’t see where laziness is appropriate in that situation.

      I am also questioning how vegans are portraying themselves. If we are trying to say that it is wrong to use animals, then shouldn’t we say it’s wrong to use them all the time? I think if vegans tell non-vegans that “it’s fine to not be vegan if it isn’t convenient at the moment” then we are sending the wrong message. Sometimes it isn’t convenient to live in the minority, I know, I’m vegan. But if you made the decision to live compassionately, why be lazy about it? And if you are, what message does that send to non-vegans about what it means to be vegan?

  9. williambranson May 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    The real question should be “Does it really matter?”

    I’m a vegan for myself and myself only. It’s not a statement, I just don’t like to eat animal products. If someone is trying to change their lifestyle by “going vegan” then more power to them. If you have to take yourself so seriously all the time how ever will you enjoy life? I’m pretty sure that it’s the denying yourself things part of veganism that eventually turns people off. I’ve met lots of people who “used to be vegan.”

    Also, vegan is just a term used to describe something. We are on the earth to eat, sleep, and repopulate to ensure our species’ survival. We should be so lucky to have a choice of what we eat. It is a true luxury. So, instead of worrying about what others are doing under the veil of a term you hold so dear, relax and enjoy the time you’ve got left.

  10. REAL RAW LIVE May 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm - Reply

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  12. askantik May 21, 2010 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Anyone who is in the United States and isn’t a child under the care of an adult which limits their choices can never legitimately say that vegan food isn’t available to them. I grew up in a town of 30,000 people in Mississippi (not exactly known for vegetarianism, much less veganism) and yet I survived just fine for my first 2 years as a vegan there.

    It’s not about any kind of “holier-than-thou” attitude, but to cop out because something is hard goes against the fundamental premise of being vegan. Being vegan is about avoiding animal exploitation (directly or indirectly) whenever practical. In my opinion, a case of when it’s truly not practical is if you have a heart defect and genuinely the only option (for some reason, very unlikely) is to have a pig heart transplanted into your chest. It’s impractical to deny that because, you know, you’d die.

    Just because someone is too lazy to walk a few extra steps in a few cases to get some plant food instead of animal food does not, in my humble opinion, qualify as being something that’s “impractical.”

    The Vegan Society writes:

    “The word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

  13. KellyMonster May 21, 2010 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I totally agree with you.

    Some time last year I met with the leader of our local Animal Aid group and she said to me that she’s vegan but, for example, when she goes over to Aunt Bettie’s house she’ll have some non-vegan cake. I can’t remember her reasoning, probably because it was so utterly pointless, but I have a feeling it was along the lines of ‘so as not to confuse her’ or ‘because it’s easier’. I didn’t pipe up, as I had only been vegan for around 3 months, but I was angry that somebody could be so whimsical about something I had begun to take very seriously.

    I did eventually go to one of their meetings but it was so full of contradictions that I decided not to go again (it was a talk on fur, attended by so called animal rights campaigners , wearing leather shoes). I recently saw her again and she seemed disappointed that I hadn’t gone to another meeting but I still couldn’t bring myself to challenge her about what she had said on our first meeting and I wonder if I ever will. Either way, I have no respect for her as a vegan which is not good considering the position she holds in our local vegan community.

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…