Not a Perfect Vegan

By Published On: 13 March 2012Last Updated: 17 January 2017

Being vegan is a journey that is filled with people doing the best they can to muddle through a life filled with animal-laden obstacles.

What's in this post

“Alright, we’ll wait.  But just until tomorrow, if your levels don’t change by then- we must do it.  Otherwise….”

My surgeon trailed off because he knew he didn’t have to reiterate the situation any more, I knew what he was talking about.  I had just had a partial nephrectomy due to a birth defect and there were complications.  I had iron deficiency anemia, my red blood cells couldn’t replenish themselves after my surgery- I was basically suffocating.  Or, my organs were suffocating without the oxygen that the red blood cells bring them.  I needed a blood transfusion.

By the time that I agreed to the transfusion, I was very sick.  I no longer held onto any delusions that I had a choice at all, I just turned my head away from my arm that was being fed the reddest blood I’d ever seen in my life.  I wondered then, as I do now, whose blood had I received?  What were they like?  Why did they chose to donate blood?  Did they eat animals?

Sounds silly, I know.  But it’s a strange thing to lay there and see someone else’s blood going into your body.  Staying awake that night I thought about all the animals that made my recovery possible.  The first successful nephrectomy took place on August 2, 1869 by a man named Gustav Simon, who admits to practicing on animals for years before attempting it on a human.

The medication that I received; the anesthetic, the morphine, the anti-inflamatory, the anti-nausea, antibiotic, aspirin, and something designed to help reduce the fluid in my internal cavities- they were all tested on animals before administering them to me.  Without the role that the animals played in my surgery- I may not be here typing on my Mac.  It both humbles me and makes me sad

[and a little disgusted to be honest].

I’ve been vegan for seven years.  Throughout this time I’ve been told that I will never truly or fully be vegan [as there is no such thing] because of insert animal or animal by-product here.  Usually topping this list are cars, computers, and medications.

I’m not going to say that those things are vegan, they aren’t.  Animal use is institutionalized.  Even the most careful vegan consumes small amounts of animal product because we are forced to live in a non-vegan world.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Don’t let unattainable perfection prevent you from rejecting every animal product (and by-product) that you can.

From deciphering food labels, all the way to critically rethinking everything you’ve ever been taught about the rights of animals- veganism isn’t always black and white.  Being vegan is a journey that is filled with people doing the best they can to muddle through a life filled with animal-laden obstacles.  It’s about doing our best and encouraging others to do their best.  Then, true change will come.

Update 3/23/12:   I’d like to clarify a certain point in this post.  This post is not a discussion on whether or not veganism is good for the health of humans.  Veganism did not play a role in my birth defect or the subsequent need for surgery.  In fact, my veganism is beneficial in that my diet isn’t inundated with animal protein, something that is difficult for our kidneys to process.  So in essence, my vegan diet afforded me more time to  live “normally” prior to needing surgery.  I’ve been vegan for 7 years and have never experienced a negative impact on my health as a result.  Enough said.



  1. Martin Scappaticci August 6, 2020 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I wish to know if there are any medically registered programs for those willing to try blood cell transfusions from animals fed on vegan only products

  2. Bb ward October 19, 2017 at 11:42 am - Reply

    I don’t have blood’s attainable.there are other products..epo…dextrose… it’s all down to money….keep well

  3. Jeanie March 23, 2012 at 8:05 am - Reply

    I understand the struggle to be vegan. I was for about six months, then I became anemic & anxiety ridden. My initial reason for becoming vegan was factory farming. Now…I eat organic & sustainably raised meat & associated products, along with lots of fruit & veg. Animals have a huge part in replenishing our soil. I still struggle to get enough of the nutrients I need for optimal functioning with careful monitoring as an omnivore.
    Please, listen to your body’s needs and live well. Veganism may be the answer to feeding an overcrowded planet, but the true problem is overpopulation. How do we solve that problem & reduce our number to 2 billion?

  4. Rhea March 14, 2012 at 11:53 am - Reply

    There is nothing in the definition of veganism that says one should not take medication or should refuse medical treatment for illnesses. Anyone who says that people who get treatment for their medical illnesses are not vegan are completely wrong. Even abolishionists agree about this. Veganism is about doing your BEST to avoid animal products. There is NO ONE on this planet that can completely avoid animal products or EVER harming a living being, even unintentionally.

    In my opinion, having to take a medication or get a medical procedure is very different than giving in to a craving for dairy or eggs. One is necessary, the other is not. In the former, the choice is get treatment or perhaps die; in the latter, the choice is choose to satisfy a personal hunger or eat something else. Clearly, not the same thing.

    It saddens me to read when you, or anyone, beats themselves up over needing medical care. We can’t do any good for the animals if we are too sick or too dead to fight for them.

  5. Leigh March 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    Very good writing and your thoughts that night aren’t silly at all, they are filled with love and compassion…how could you not think about the animals that gave their life to save yours…isn’t that the truest form of love? I sympathize with your situation, and was filled with tears as I read it. I personally, reject western medicine for that reason. However, given a life threatening situation for, let’s say, my son or husband, I would quickly do whatever needed to be done to save them. You have done so much by keeping to a vegan lifestyle and sharing it with those who will listen. We do our best to support the well being of the animals but, through no fault of our own, we sometimes fall short. While medical animal testing is absolutely horrendous, it has saved so many lives, I find some peace in knowing they have not suffered in vain. You are the change, don’t forget it.

  6. Kitty March 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    I was told when I first wenr vegan that I wasn’t a vegan because I take psychiatric drugs and that mental illness wasn’t “real”. This made me feel awful. Not only was I being judged, but my illness was being denied. I hate medication, it makes gain weight, it messes with my memory and it makes me tired. I hate it was tested on animals and that it has animal by-products. But I hate being in the hospital more, and that’s where I inevitably end up when I don’t take them.

  7. Adelle March 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    by the way, the treatment is topical. SIGH loophole? fuck :(

  8. Adelle March 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you for posting! I am currently struggling with a similar issue. I’ve been a vegetarian for a year and a half, vegan since January and it’s been amazing! However, I have been suffering extremely for the past 7 months and finally found a naturopath with a “natural” remedy to help me. He did his thesis on my specific condition. The problem? The treatment employs a protein from cow’s milk. My boyfriend said he prayed I wouldn’t find out.
    I am going to use it.
    I have tears welling up as I write this.
    I don’t know what else to do.
    All I can think is, that cow did not choose to die for that product. It was murdered and its body was sold for profit.
    But if I’m sick, I can’t help the animals that are still alive and yet to be born. Believe me, I have tried EVERYTHING.
    I feel disappointed in myself. But the reality is, I am desperate and willing to do this. I feel disgusted with myself, like in order for me to do this, I have to use the cognitive dissonance and moral loophole tactics that the people I have to argue my lifestyle to use every day.

    Blood transfusion from someone who maybe ate meat? OH GOD. I feel your pain. It is NOT EASY being an empathetic and aware consumer.

  9. Lisa March 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I very much like this. I feel like too often, people are too focused on being absolutely perfect and stray away from the fact that the true reason why we are doing this is because at this moment, billions of animals are suffering. We need to do what can to change this, and focusing on perfection of ourselves and others is not doing the animals any good. People need to see that being vegan is to the most of our ability contributing to the least amount of suffering – we also have to remember that the majority of the public choose their taste preferences over anything else. Living consciously is something that people can strive to do and won’t want to if they think it must be 100 percent or nothing.

  10. Jen. H March 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this post. I have been diagnosed with an extreme form of b12 defiency which in a year and a half has finally started to affect my nerous system. I am constantly having to defend myself to loved ones and doctors. Every week I go to get my b12 injection and every week I hear the same rant from the doctor ‘just eat some scrambled egg’ ‘you are essentially poisoning yourself’. I also have arthritis and a form of anemia yet the only medication that is prescribed has gelatine in the capsules. I am seeking a new doctor (one that is at least vego friendly!)

    Friends and family are no better. I feel for you, its tough sticking to principles that may not be the mainstream norm!

  11. VeganInLA March 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I don’t believe the definition of vegan from Donald Watson includes shunning medications, plastic, car tires, etc. It’s obvious there are things we can avoid such as animal products, including honey, in our diet but we don’t have much control over what is added to medications, etc.

    I had a friend who was diabetic and refused insulin and medications because of the ingredients and animal testing. She endured a long and painful death. The world is now missing an activist and loving vegan.

    Taking medications to be healthy and stay alive does not mean you are not vegan. Going out an having a hamburger, buying leather, etc. does. Be well.

  12. Sarah March 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks for posting this. There are some days where it gets so overwhelming thinking about how much of my life is ruled by non-vegan elements, and it feels like I’m being a “bad” vegan because of it. It’s nice to know that my sentiments are shared and we’re all doing the best we can.

  13. Lori Luza / @theUcane March 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    I frequently use the phrase: “I’m not militant.” I do turn a blind eye to a few food things here and there. It’s far from perfect and not what I’d prefer, but it’s the deal I made with myself when I stopped eating meat and animal products. …and it’s a deal that has kept me >98% vegan for two years. I only had faith I could make it a week or two, so I have to remind myself of this success when I am without good options and have to concede one thing or another.

    (Mashed potatoes are usually my weakness when ordering a veggie plate sans butter.)

    All we can do is the best we can with the information and resources we have at the time. You did your best. And, those animals did their best for you, too.


  14. Jackie @ Vegan Yack Attack! March 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Great write up, I know a lot of vegans that feel like the pressure is very high to defend themselves and live as purely as possible. A lot of people (like I) can definitely relate to this!

  15. Nicole (@NotablyNicole) March 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I can relate completely. I take medications due to my arthritis and fibromyalgia. Without them I’d be stuck in bed. Some of the meds are coated with a dairy source, but what good am I if i can’t get out of bed? We can only do the best we can with what we have.

  16. Jacqueline M. March 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I really appreciated this. Thanks.

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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…