I meet a lot of people that are very close to being vegan (or at least that’s what they tell me). And I know many people as well that consider themselves mostly vegan in terms of their diet. It’s always very encouraging and commendable to see people standing up for what they believe in, even when the status quo isn’t on our team yet. Nonetheless, I find myself often asking, what keeps some from making the small leap to becoming a proud, confident and out vegan rather than one shyly hovering on the threshold?
First, I suspect that the reason that some might not be fully committing to a vegan diet is that they’re afraid to let go of a kind of psychological safety net. No one wants to fail or be perceived of as failing. Keeping the door slightly ajar prevents such an opportunity for failure.
Second, letting go of all the “dietary baggage” that we’ve been carrying is quite a feat for some more than others. Many people still want to hang on to some of it even after rejecting much of it as superstitions and myths. They might not be hoarders storing all of their past possessions in closets and basements, but there are still certain ideas they just have a hard time letting go of from their past. These could be past notions of health, family, social or cultural norms and fragments of their personal identity that are connected with certain foods.
Third, I think that being vegan is too often associated with moral perfection or purity rather than simply living your life according to a simple principle of nonviolence that is consistently carried out in your every day lives. As vegans, we need to work hard to dispel that myth of purity. We are not purists. We are moral realists using our forks and chops to oppose unnecessary violence to animals. In my humble opinion, it is not the most, but the least we can do for animals.
Fourth, we live in an age of moral relativity (unless the subject is violence to humans) which views any commitment to living on principle with suspicion. In fact, ethical vegans who claim to “eat on principle” are often viewed with contempt and / or dismissed as absolutists, extremists, zealots, etc. Could it be that the “almost-vegan” fears such social scrutiny and seeks to avoid it? And this question begs yet another: Is it worth abandoning our values to fit in or conform or pacify the interests of other non vegans in our life when the consequences of doing so are literally a matter of life and death?