So, imagine my surprise today when I stumbled across this post on PETA's website. Did I just see a message of moderation from PETA?
What led me to the aforementioned post was another post on the PETA site: a list of foods that are accidentally vegan. That list contains the following footnote:
*Items listed may contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients. While PETA supports a strict adherence to veganism, we put the task of vigorously reducing animal suffering ahead of personal purity. Boycotting products that are 99.9 percent vegan sends the message to manufacturers that there is no market for this food, which ends up hurting more animals. For a more detailed explanation of PETA's position, please click here.That sounds remarkably similar to the position of Peter Singer and Jim Mason, as described in their recent book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. (The relevant quotation from that book can be found at the bottom of this post.) Perhaps PETA saw the sense in their argument and decided to take their lead. That would be appropriate, as Singer and Mason are two of the founders of the animal liberation movement.
The position of Singer, Mason, and (strangely enough) PETA is the position that I espouse in this blog. Veg*nism is, in essence, a boycott. For a boycott to be effective, it is necessary for a large number of people to participate. And it's much more likely that others will be willing to participate if they don't feel that they have to give up every product with a miniscule amount of animal-derived ingredients. At this point in our history, at least, I believe that we can do more good by encouraging people to do what they can than by focusing on purity and dogmatic adherence to a strictly vegan diet.
One commenter on this blog summed it up nicely:
Over time, I've come around to the idea that "mostly vegan" is perhaps a more ethical choice than fully vegan. My logic is that [if] you live a happy, healthy life as a mostly vegan person and others see it's not so hard to avoid animal foods when you can and not to worry about it when you can't, you're more likely to inspire others down that path. And if you convince three other people to drop half the animal products from their diet, you've done much more good than a strict vegan who eats no animal products - and turns off others from making a choice towards a plant-based diet by making it seem rigid or difficult.*
So, if you're reading this post, and you're not already vegan, please know that every vegan choice you make is a step in the right direction, and you don't have to compulsively check ingredients lists in order to make a difference for animals.
*ETA NOTE: While I believe that this commenter makes a good point, I do not wish to suggest that those who maintain a strict vegan diet are less ethical than those who don't -- only that there is an argument to be made for not adhering to veganism so rigidly that the vegan lifestyle appears to others to be difficult or impossible to maintain.