Vegan – or chegan? And who’s the hypocrite?

January 28, 2019 6:31 am Published by Leave your thoughts

We’ve been celebrating Veganuary this month – and it’s been lovely! Now that the month is drawing to a close, it’s perhaps a good time to take stock. Who went vegan in Veganuary? How likely are they to carry on? And would it be a good idea if they did?

Naturally Good Food isn’t a vegan company, but we sell to hundreds of vegan customers and businesses. We have vegan members of staff – and members of staff who are not at all vegan. We all get along very well, happily sharing the same workplace, airspace and microwave.

Unfortunately, the same isn’t true out there in cyberspace. Arguments rage online over veganism, non-veganism and the issue of hypocrisy. Mud is slung liberally in all directions. Vegans denounce chegans/cheegans (and others). Chegans punch back at vegans. People write impassioned and incoherent blogs on both sides.

Chegans and vegans - which ones are the hypocrites?

We’re wading into the fray. What’s everyone getting so worked up about out there?

Chegans: hypocrites?

Let’s start with chegans. These are ‘cheating vegans’: people who are happy to identify as vegan, and who eat vegan almost all the time, but who don’t mind the occasional ‘slip-up’, usually for some particularly flavoursome food, or if there’s no realistic vegan alternative. Some chegans eat vegan while at home, but don’t want to offend or inconvenience dinner-party hosts, or relatives, by insisting on doing so while out and about. Some chegans are really just at the start of their journey of phasing out animal products and are taking it gradually. And some are simply not that bothered about the fine detail, so accept that there might be the odd bit of animal product in say, their cheese and onion crisps.

There are some famous chegans: Jared Leto, Venus Williams and Bill Clinton among them. And some vegans really don’t like them. It’s the ‘#hypocrisy’ that gets to them, it seems. Carnivores, so the reasoning goes, are at least honest about what they do, while chegans are plain hypocrites. ‘Someone who consciously and purposely eats animal products is not a vegan’, thunders a Reddit user – and giving your lack of will-power a label doesn’t excuse it.

 

Vegans don’t tend to like ‘veggans’ (vegan plus eggs), ‘flexitarians’ (occasional vegans) or ‘freegans’ (people who eat or use animal products, so long as they didn’t buy them in the first place) either. Many see these new trends as the worst kind of hypocrisy: an attempt to garner applause for an ethical way of life, while giving yourself permission to be unethical whenever you feel like it. They fear that these new movements dilute the central and crucial message of veganism, making the outside world take it less seriously, and dangerously undermining veganism from within.

Vegans: hypocrites?

In November 2018 the editor of Waitrose’s Food Magazine was forced to step down, because of the tone of an email he wrote about vegans. He too talked about ‘hypocrisy’ – but this time, he meant the hypocrisy of vegans themselves.

Due to his dismissal, he didn’t get a chance to elaborate – but many others have done so online. In an essay ‘The Myth of the Ethical Vegan’, Ward M Clark, author of the book Misplaced Compassion, claimed:

“Every potato, every stick of celery, every cup of rice, and every carrot has a blood trail leading from field to plate”

Animals are killed ‘in untold millions’ in the course of plant agriculture, he argued, when you take into account land clearance for farming. It’s not possible, he reckons, to live a life in which no animals are harmed: by extension, it’s hypocritical to claim that you do so.

Others agree. Animals are harmed in the production of every single thing humans make use of, they state. It’s not just leather, wool and honey: it’s your car tyres, made with an acid derived from animal fat, powering a vehicle that crushes millions of insects in its path, sprayed with paint derived from animal elements, designed on a computer with a screen made from animal cholesterol (and probably operated by someone eating a hamburger).

Some non-vegans point to the general cycle of life. It’s livestock fertilizer that makes healthy soil for plants, they say. Even those farmers who eschew pesticides rely on natural predators to cut down on pests. We ourselves will one day return to the earth and take our part in the cycle: we can’t opt out of it and shouldn’t pretend we can.

Others look further afield, arguing that vegan food is bad for the environment. Almond milk, made in the monocultural, drought-ridden states of America, with a destructive impact on bees, is right in the firing line. Critics also point at soy beans and other pulses and grains, transported across the world, with a heavy carbon footprint. Some vegan products are likely to have been grown, harvested and processed in fairly dubious ways, they add, harming human workers.

Thus, say the chegans, it’s nonsense to claim that anyone can live a fully vegan life. Veganism = hypocrisy.

Easier to fight for your principles than to live up to them?

There’s no sign of the vegan-chegan-carnivore battle ending soon, but fortunately, at Naturally Good Food, we’re still all friends.

We can’t help admiring the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism:

‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’

We note, as many do, the crucial words ‘as far as is possible and practicable’. We don’t expect anyone, any system or any movement to be morally flawless – even if it claims that it is. And we don’t want to make ‘the best’ the enemy of ‘the good’.

There is, perhaps, some way of meeting in the middle. The Veganuary movement occupies an interesting slot out there in the No Man’s Land between the two factions. In Veganuary, in a post-Christmas truce, vegans embrace the idea of cheganism: non-vegans are welcomed aboard, but are not required to sign up to the movement for ever.

In the end, some think, it will be the chegans who lead the vegans to ultimate victory, through their pragmatism and less stringent demands. It will be the chegans – not the vegans – who end up convincing everyone to eat a lot less meat, and finally, no meat at all.

Vegans and chegans are all welcome at Naturally Good Food! Click here to get started.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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