First of all, we’re not talking about veganism and vegetarianism as if they’re at war with each other. They aren’t. They are just different choices a person can make about lifestyle, diet and sustainability.
For the record, vegetarianism or veganism isn’t actually possible everywhere in the world. In some parts of the world where people live thousands of meters above sea level, communities rely on alpaca and potatoes.
There’s really no opportunity for vegetarianism or veganism. It’s important to remember this during any conversation about veganism or vegetarianism. It’s not a competition, and just because someone isn’t vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean they can’t be healthy.
Vegetarianism is a dietary choice
For one reason or another, vegetarians choose not to eat meat. For many Western people, for whom meat is easily accessible, vegetarianism is an ethical choice. Meat farming is becoming increasingly unsustainable, and in this way vegetarianism for this purpose can be seen as a form of rebellion. But at the end of the day, it’s a dietary choice.
I say this because vegetarians don’t necessarily shy away from buying leather shoes or using waxed macrame cord. It’s mainly about what is eaten or consumed.
Veganism is a lifestyle choice
For many vegans, the choice to be vegan transcends simply dietary choice. Many vegans will avoid leather products, beeswax or honey, or even animal-derived fibers such as wool (which comes from sheep). They might not use lanolin products, which also come from sheep. In this way, it’s much more than what is consumed.
That’s not to say that if you want to be vegan, you have to toss away your leather shoes. In my opinion, veganism is about sustainability — which means don’t toss your shoes just yet!
They can be worn for another few years! I feel that if veganism leads to wastefulness such as choosing plastic, non-biodegradable products over leather, biodegradable products, then it is an extreme form of veganism.
Recycling also plays a role in vegan “culture”. Purchasing things second hand so as not to necessitate an entirely unnecessary manufacturing process is just as sustainable as buying new, vegan friendly shoes. You see where I’m going with this.
Let everybody make their own choices
If you’ve all of a sudden decided that you are healthier or more sustainable than other human beings simply because you’ve chosen veganism, you’re deluded by your ego. As a vegan, it’s not your job to lecture everybody about why they should be vegan or vegetarian. Every human being is free to make their own choices, and while it’s wise to share your knowledge, you should let everybody make their own dietary and lifestyle choices.
There is a lot of judgement within vegan and vegetarian communities when somebody doesn’t “play by the rules”. If a vegan ends up with a new leather couch, they can be judged for straying from veganism. But this is just judgement. And in my opinion, it’s not a productive way to practice or preach veganism.
When it comes to vegetarianism or veganism, in my opinion, one isn’t better than the other. They are simply different choices, like choosing bamboo or solid timber. In many cases, vegetarianism can lead to veganism, but that’s not a strict rule either. Many people stop at vegetarianism and feel satisfied with their diets and lifestyle. It’s important never to make it a competition!