Candy-coated Veganism Is Giving Me a Bellyache

By Published On: 24 August 2010Last Updated: 17 January 2017

And if you're not "indignant" about the lack of commitment to the vegan ideology, then you are ignoring a problem that will only get worse and that will reduce our credibility as a serious movement trying to affect change.

What's in this post

The last time that I sat down to write a post, I had a hard time doing it.  I typed out my thoughts, only to erase them and start over.  I did that for days on end until, finally, I realized that I just needed to walk away from my computer.  And so I did.

What spurred me, a self-proclaimed internet junkie, to just walk away from my computer?  (I even, shockingly, shut. it. down.) Glad you asked.

It all began with a certain so-called “vegan” company and an article that they published about how to “live by example” as a vegan.  The Quiet Influence of Living by Example: Ten Tips, by Lisa Cottrell-Bentley is one of the most infuriating articles I’ve read in a long time and I’m stunned that more people haven’t said anything about it.  The article, in case you didn’t click on it, is about how to be “mainstream” without “repelling” non-vegans.  No, really- it is.  And her tips?  Her bullshit tips?  Yeah, they are things like,

“Advertise it as “green”, not vegan. For a variety of reasons, people are scared of the “v” word. Yet, “going green” is popular currently, so go with the flow on that!”


“If you must use a “v” word, emphasize Vegetarian. People don’t bristle when hearing that.”

Let me tell you right now, I am the one bristling– over the use of term vegetarian (And “green,” because like I’ve said before, Green is the New Fat-Free)!  I can’t imagine a vegan would ever tell you to “emphasize vegetarian instead of vegan,” it baffles me.  Let’s play a game.  Let’s change a few words in Cottrell-Bentley’s tip and see if it holds a similar meaning…

  • Advertise it as “Christian”, not Wiccan . For a variety of reasons, people are scared of the “W” word. Yet, “Christianity” is popular currently, so go with the flow on that!

Not quite the same thing, is it?  Well, for vegans, vegetarian isn’t the same thing either. (I can’t believe I have to point this out to someone who is obviously educated)  For some, there is no difference between a vegetarian and an omnivore and so it can be considered offensive to some- like me for instance.

You know, vegans have a hard time already, don’t we?  We fight for a cause that most people can’t wrap their heads around because they’ve been fed mainstream bullshit all their lives.  Most have grown up believing that meat and dairy is essential for good health, and that animals are here solely for human use.  This mainstream idea is, of course, what vegans fight against every day- in every single conversation that is held about animal use.  And don’t mistake me, I don’t mean we are all out there being “in people’s faces” or doing something that is illegal- you can fight a battle with respect and intelligence too.  But vegans are making it harder, the problem bigger, when the message is diluted so it “fits in” with the mainstream.

How are we ever going to get anywhere if we can’t be honest with each other and the non-vegans?  Why hide your ethics from someone who probably needs to hear your views the most?  Why waste the opportunity to educate respectfully?  Why hide behind a lie?  Do you think that, by lying, you’ll be sending a positive message to non-vegans?  That they would take you at your word that veganism is important, even if you won’t mention it in passing because you don’t want to lose their money?  Whatever.  That ain’t veganism people, that’s bullshit.  Candy-coated bullshit, or what I call candy-coated veganism.

For the animals, veganism is life or death.  That’s it.  Your choices in life either spares an animal or it doesn’t.  That’s what veganism is about.  Vegans make choices to minimize and eliminate, as much as possible (from educated earnest attempts), animal products from their lives.  And before you start in on me, I am aware that I will never fully remove every animal product or by-product from my lifestyle.  But my choices in consumption are done so with care and never without investigation.  I read labels, I look up ingredients, I look up companies, I look up words I don’t know on labels- I do my best to be educated.  Let’s solve the billions of animals consumed each year for food, then worry about the mice in the fields being killed during harvests.  One death isn’t more meaningful over the other- they are both sad.  But one is choice, the other is the unfortunate result of having to farm on larger and larger scales.  It isn’t the same thing.

Veganism is important, it means a lot to me and I’m proud of my own evolution and advocacy work.  I’m one of those folks who believe in living by example, so the article touched a real nerve with me.  I know the stereotypes surrounding vegans, it’s my job to make sure that I don’t perpetuate the ones that aren’t true.  Vegans are not tree-hugging, hemp wearing, crazy (and angry, people love to say how vegans are angry) people who love worms more than humans (and eat nothing but twigs and berries or tofu).  We are smart, insightful, compassionate people who (eat really freaking good) have evolved into veganism (that may wear hemp, that may hug trees – but that doesn’t mean that one is exclusive of the other).  So I try to keep myself in check.  It’s been my belief that you can afford someone respect, even if you don’t agree with them, while still debating points.  It’s also been my belief that it’s important, vital even, to support other vegans in their endeavors.  It’s that whole Vegan Unification thing, you know?

I realized something after trying to write a post about that article, the reason I couldn’t write the post is because I was trying to censor my response because I felt bad about calling out another vegan.  But I was wrong.  How can veganism ever be efficacious if there’s no consistency in the ideology?  Too many “vegans” are too willing to let their ideals fall lax for a perceived “greater good” or to avoid conflict.  A vegan telling another vegan to advocate for veganism by calling it vegetarianism is outrageous and someone should say so.  That’s like telling a child to conform to peer pressure in order to “fit in.”  It’s bullshit and it pushes the vegan movement back.  Animals deserve nothing less than ideological purity.  And if you’re not “indignant” about the lack of commitment to the vegan ideology, then you are ignoring a problem that will only get worse and that will reduce our credibility as a serious movement trying to affect change.

Stand up for your beliefs and the animals, do it respectfully and intelligently.  If you don’t- who will?


  1. Jeffrey Coolwater June 27, 2011 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    I tried to pull a quote to paste when I Tweeted a link to this article. It was very difficult as every line is quotable. Great piece. Took the words right out of my mouth, especially with the ever increasing number of Vegan vegetarian-promoters following me.

  2. Wendy May 23, 2011 at 2:47 am - Reply

    I agree that vegans should call themselves vegans and vegetarians are not the same. I can understand people not eating animals, but I really need a vegan to explain the statement:

    “For the animals, veganism is life or death. That’s it. Your choices in life either spares an animal or it doesn’t.”

    How can not drinking milk spare a cow’s life?

    When people saw those horrendous images on TV of baby fur seals being clubbed to death, furs became non-U overnight. People who owned farmed mink jackets never wore them again. You can’t sell a second-hand fur coat on ebay now. I understand that minks are wild animals and should be free.

    If farmers can no longer milk cows and sell milk, what will happen to the cows? No one will pay to keep them. They would have to become extinct.

    If no one wears wool anymore, what will happen to the millions of sheep? They aren’t wild animals that can survive in the bush. Would they all have to be killed to make room for vegetable crops? They too would become extinct.

    If no one eats even organic eggs from free-range chickens any more, who will pay to look after all the chickens? They might not be able to survive by themselves, especially in Australia where foxes are killing off native animals and rabbits are destroying habitats.

    I am not anti-vegan. One very good friend of mine is a vegan. But he respects vegetarians. And he doesn’t consider vegetarians to be cruel because of their choice.
    Millions more people are against cruelty to animals than just vegans.
    Should we not be accepting of one another and join forces in the fight against cruelty?

    Having spent long periods of time on farms in Australia, I would hate to see those gentle, doe-eyed cows become extinct.
    But no farmer has the money to hand feed them every day in a 9 year drought if he can’t even sell the milk.

  3. Stephanie May 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Thit was just a delight to read! It is all the words that rumble around in my head when -once again- I fall silent of helplessness when omnivore people stomp all over me with stupid arguments. I admire you for being able to form your words like that, straight out of the heart and still incredibly precise.

    best wishes from Switzerland

  4. Bijou May 7, 2011 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Thank you for putting it into words for me. I will never feel like I have to fall into that trap of sugar coating veganism and I am happy to hear you are just as passionate about the animals. Sometimes I feel so different but I will not budge. I never budge on any issues about animals. I never compromise so why should I ever speak or write like I would. You are right it’s a lie and we would be doing ourselves, the animals and the non-vegans a disservice if we monitor our voices in ways that distort the message. We have a good message, a great message and it needs to be heard.

  5. Rob April 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    I know exactly what you mean KD. That other author has a point that a lot of omnivores get defensive when we talk about veganism. That is never an excuse to disguise our ethics or call them something else (!), but it does mean that we can be more effective activists if we speak in terms that our audience understands. I wrote about this last August in “Blogging To Mainstream Consumers – Like Us”

  6. Andrea April 4, 2011 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    This is such a touchy subject, and I agree with you whole heartedly. Omnivores, pescatarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, lacto vegetarians, ovo vegetarians, vegans, and everything in between – all deserve our respect and compassion. In general, people do the best that they can, and they must have room to do what they see fit. I don’t agree with eating animals, and I have a hard time wrapping my brain around it. However, I try not to send any negativity toward my meat-eating friends because that doesn’t help. And neither would telling a vegan to play vegetarian to “go with the flow”. That author clearly lacked respect for the vegan lifestyle. Being proud of who and what you are doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be anything else to smooth the way. There is way more to life than taking the easy way.

  7. Charleen March 28, 2011 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    If you’re not angry, then you”re ignoring what’s going on. To lie about one’s ethical beliefs, or to hide one’s core values just to make a buck is pretty fricking disingenuous to say the least, and quite harmful to others and the vegan movement in general. This article was respectfully written. Like the “religious right” you and others like to refer to when demonizing vegans who don’t keep their mouths shut, every group has fanatics- this isn’t one of them. Sounds as if you’re jumping on the “vegan bullying” bandwagon, which is merely a justification to acquiesce your own values for the sake of not offending others. It’s a good damn thing others prior to you took the opposite approach. Further, you should be thankful your contemporaries do as well.

  8. Pamela D March 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Great post!! And absolutely agree with you. The obvious (vegetarianism does not equal veganism) should not have to be pointed out. And the more we shy away from calling veganism WHAT IT IS, the more we prolong mainstream acceptance of it. how can society begin to accept that which is hidden and subverted?

    Good job.

  9. deb March 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    damn, i have just spent the whole year building website printing posters, buying fluffy costumes, banner etc, and ive called it choose vegan, now i am confused

  10. Brad March 28, 2011 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I disagree with you, and agree with her. The word vegan in most places in north america draws so many negative vibes. If people don’t understand it, they hate it. Just being with friends and ordering a non-meat dish can bring up a friendly non combative conversation.

    I chose my lifestyle because I want to live this way. But I grew up eating meat from an average middle-class Canadian family. It wasn’t some aggressive militant vegan that changed me. I woke up one day and wondered why I ate animals. Then it was a girl on facebook who posted delicious looking food. She lost a bunch of weight, looked SO healthy and was a sparkling example of a human. I asked questions, and she answered them.

    I think this article got you way too worked up and I am reading too much anger in it. THIS is why the movement fails – bitter, angry, protesting, raging vegans going around shoving shit down peoples throats like the religious right.

    I am a vegan, and I think both of you have valid points. But ANGER never wins any battles in this war.

  11. Ed February 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately and I think there is a LOT to be said for using “vegetarian” as a euphemism for vegan. Granted, many vegans see no difference between vegetarians and omnivores. Fortunately not all vegans share this condescending attitude. Many of us are happy to encourage vegetarians in their efforts to become more humane. We don’t insult them by telling them they are no better than meat eaters.

    However, most of the omnivores (ie meat eaters) I meet in my daily life have an strong unconscious aversion to the word “vegan”. They have gotten used to “vegetarian” and generally view it with a kind of tolerant interest, but say the word “vegan” and CLANG! the psychological defenses slam into place.

    Of course that’s not an issue if the only people myou ever want to talk to are those already on the verge of going vegan. But that’s not doing much to help animals. If you want to make a real difference you have to get as many people as possible to think about the ethics of eating animals. You have got to get your message past those iron clad defences.

    As I see it, my task is not to show people how pure and noble and ethically superior I am. My task is to get them thinking. And most of the time the word “vegan” kills off any receptivity they may have. It is much more effective to start off with “strict vegetarian” and only introduce “vegan” when you already have them convinced that they can no longer support how meat is made.

  12. LM January 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Like a lot of people these days, I’m fortunate to live in a city that has gained several vegan businesses in the last few years. These businesses have served not just as sources of food or clothes or household goods, but as gathering places, and as sources of increasing visibility for vegans in the community. As far as I can tell without checking their bank accounts, they all appear to be thriving. Yet they shouldn’t be, because according to this advice, they’re doing everything wrong: they’ve explicitly vegan, the decor is weird, the employees dress oddly, they play music not everybody likes, they wear their ethics on their sleeves, literally and figuratively.

    I like my vegan businesses like I like my vegan people: confident in their identity and forthright with their ethics. Apparently I’m not the only one. Even in the blandest suburb, being vegan and proud apparently pays the bills, so insisting on the yuppification of veganism isn’t only ethically dodgy, it’s terrible marketing advice.

  13. Your Daily Vegan « SumanSutra January 18, 2011 at 1:14 am - Reply

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  15. intheshapeofa November 21, 2010 at 6:36 pm - Reply

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  21. MichelleMary September 3, 2010 at 7:59 am - Reply


    I was about to write a comment about how you were getting worked up over nothing. But then I re-read you’re post and dammit, you’re right.

    Emphasis vegetarian instead of vegan – really?
    Wear normal clothes?!

    However, personally, if I had a vegan restaurant (and it would be vegan because I certainly could not sell or advocate animal products)I wouldn’t advertise it as that. Omnivores are scared of it and would in most cases go to the McDonalds next door (a generalisation – forgive me, I’m just making a point)

    I think there is a place for both quiet influence and activism.

    Thank you for your post!

  22. Anonymous August 25, 2010 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Twitter Trackbacks…

  23. louisa August 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    I consider myself a fairly newish vegan (3 years, from meat-eater to vegan overnight) and am only just shedding my own stigma to do with vegans now. Until recently I considered many vegans to be angry and people-hating and was a quiet, almost apologetic vegan. You see I think I am intimidated by non-vegans and frightened of the strength of feeling that animal abuse stirs in me. I fear that I will sound irrational when this choice (to be vegan) means so very much to me. I am so defensive that I haven’t, until recently, been brave enough to speak out about what I have allowed myself to finally know (the stuff we always knew – that animals go through hell for no logical or reasonable reason – but didn’t always want to face the responsibility of knowing). And I put my hands up to this, not with excuses but reasons. I know very few vegans so my judgments are no doubt based on a view I expect society to have. I also feel overwhelmed and so despairing at the size of the problem and how people I care about very much can turn a blind eye continually to suffering (as I did for most of my life). It’s helped me to follow more online vegans and to meet more vegans. I am seeing that my perceptions were based on stereotypes that were not fair or accurate. Though I am overwhelmed by despair still, it does help to see so many amazing people being creative and courageous in speaking out and trying to educate people and support people to change their lives so that we each live as compassionately as possible.

    I don;t know if this makes much sense and I know I haven’t referred directly to the article, but I feel that the kind of vegan I have been at the beginning of my journey into this is very emblematic of the kind of thing we’re all up against. It was kind of like “beat yourself up before others can beat you” – though I was never self-deprecating about my veganism, I was quick to point out that I was someone who was leading by example and respected other people’s choices. I realize now what a coward I have been. I do NOT respect people’s choices to pay for murder and torture to be carried out against animals. It is not a respectable decision and not a logical or reasonable one. I am not the extreme one, I now realize, for I am not killing things ruthlessly for the sake of my tastebuds or clothing etc. Non-vegans are the extreme ones. Thank you for speaking out when there are people like me who have been cowardly and thank you for calling people like me out on it. We need to help each other out here if we want to effect change and I’m just sorry it’s taken me so long!


  24. jeri@godsdreamsforme August 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I read the article and was totally tripped! I left a comment of course. I don’t usually get my feathers easily rustled, but why are we calling vegan the “V” word all of a sudden. I’m being sarcastic with this next comment…I never knew we had to have vegan etiquette.

    Every person in this world has chosen their lifestyle. I don’t know who came up with putting us into groups and segregating us. I have too many non-vegan friends and fam to count who “all” support my choice and voluntarily bake, cook, n research for me. How cool is that?!

    If I kept the vegan in me silent, they would’ve never had the chance to be here for me.

    Thanks for this article KD. I didn’t even know it existed.

    God Bless,

  25. tushieglobug August 24, 2010 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    great point, i read the article and it wound me up too. what is this article saying? make the amazing choice to be vegan but hide it as much as possible so as not to offend anyone even so far as to call it something else that it isnt! ‘dress normally’you dont want to upset those ‘mainstream’ people by using self expression.
    i too adhere to fact that most people respond to intelligent impassioned debate,that one should lead by example, i am not hysterical… i have integrity. and i am proud to be vegan and have no intention of ‘fluffing’ it up to make the concept more comfortable for other people
    rant over .. :)

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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…