Keeping it in Perspective: Intention, Not Perfection
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Day 29 and Colleen restates a concept I appreciate a lot about her approach. Being vegan is about intention and wherever practical and possible acting on that intention.
Donald Watson created the word vegan by putting the beginning and end of the word vegetarian together. He believed veganism was vegetarianism taken to its logical conclusion.
He defined vegan as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.
In 1979, the Vegan Society he helped to establish became a registered charity and officially clarified the definition, as follows.
The word “veganism”denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
The key phrase here is “as far as is possible and practical”. In other words, being vegan is a means to an end; not the end itself. What is practical and possible is going to vary from situation to situation. We are not all in the same place. We do not all have the same level of privilege. If I am honestly working to do the best I can in any given circumstance that is all I can expect of myself. And the only person who can know that is me.
I like that the definition is a practical one. It is not just what we avoid, but includes our positive intention to promote and develop alternatives to all forms of exploitation and cruelty. We create a better world for ourselves, our fellow humans, other beings we share this planet with and the environment we all live in and depend on.
It is a definition that will stand the test of time and can be applied to all circumstances until such time in the future, if we have one, that we stop the exploitation and learn some respect.
In an interview Donald Watson gave towards the end of his life, he was asked to give advice for those whom his actions had helped inspire. I thought his response was very interesting. Focus on what matters – on the end game. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep it in perspective.
Q: Do you have any message for the millions of people who are now vegan?
A: Take the broad view of what veganism stands for – something beyond finding a new alternative to scrambled eggs on toast or a new recipe for Christmas cake. Realise that you’re on to something really big, something that hadn’t been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it. And this doesn’t involve weeks or months of studying diet charts or reading books by so called experts – it means grasping a few simple facts and applying them.
Here is a link to a copy of the very first Vegan News Donald Watson produced in November, 1944 with war raging around him. It makes for a very interesting read.
To get more context read this well-researched article from Candid Hominid.