Vegan culture is harmful and toxic, that’s why I left

by Kayla Henrikson, Staff Writer

We have all heard the jokes about how vegans just have to let you know that they’re vegan, right?

Or what about the joke that suggests they are constantly trying to guilt trip you into being vegan?

While they are jokes, I can’t lie —there is a little bit of truth behind them.

I’ve been vegetarian for four years now and was vegan for a year about two years ago.

I thought the diet would be the most difficult aspect of veganism, and though it was a major challenge, there was another hurdle I faced the community that surrounds the diet and lifestyle of veganism.

I first recognized the judgment by those in the vegan community when I became a member of it. I felt as if I wasn’t allowed to transition from eating dairy and other animal products.

It was like I had to go cold turkey or else it meant I didn’t care the way the other vegans I saw on social media did. God forbid I ate a candy bar that contained dairy or maybe a  homemade cookie.

I had one girl almost yell at me saying, “You can’t call yourself vegan if you knowingly eat anything that has animal products in it.”  

The community acts so holy and righteous, they commit their entire lives to this diet, and act above any minor mistakes.

There is more forgiveness in religion than in that community.

You can sin and all will be forgiven, but you eat one bit of cheese or a slice of regular cake, then to them, you might as well have eaten a whole cow.

Not only was the diet and the judgement something I struggled with, but when it came to the whole lifestyle that was expected and pushed onto me, I felt pressured  to get rid of all my leather and suede, and never wear or buy it again.

Though this is an unrealistic expectation, and not one that everyone should or can be expected to do, I made the effort not to buy it anymore, and I still try not to, but sometimes it’s too expensive not to buy, or I simply don’t pay attention to all of the materials my clothing consists of.

Another thing that bothers me about the vegan community is how many refuse to acknowledge the benefits that vegetarians bring to the earth.

They see vegetarians as less than because they aren’t as hardcore as them. You’d think they’d be happy considering the fact that vegetarianism is one step closer to veganism. Though it’s not quite veganism, isn’t it better than not commiting to either diet?

Just the other day I met a new kid while eating at East Commons. He told me that he recently decided to give up red meat. Instead of lecturing him about getting his act together and cutting all meat out all at once, I showed him that I was excited for him, and I asked him about how the process was going. It actually even sparked a conversation between the other people I was eating with and I got to explain the reasons, largely, environmental, for why I eat the way I do.

Most vegans seem to fight their battles with aggression, condescension and brute force. This is not an effective way to win convince someone to transition to veganism. Instead it does the exact opposite, it  creates a fear or distaste for a whole community which could potentially cause people to steer clear of it forever.

Instead of alienating the people on the other side, try and make them feel welcome to dip their toes in and try something new.

Encourage the little things like not buying fur, eating vegan for one day a week or even one meal a day.

One day I wouldn’t mind being vegan again, but I don’t know if I’d ever be able to embrace that title so long as the toxicity within the community remains.

Kayla Henrikson is a freshman studying journalism