What’s a Vegan To Do?

If you hate veganism, or think all vegans are pretentious and condescending, you should probably skip this post.

You should also skip Gandhi: An Autobiography—The Story of My Experiments With Truth.

Sorry. You’re right. That comment was pretentious and condescending. Mea maxima culpa. ;-)

The thing is, not all vegans are alike. Not all non-vegans are alike. “Non-vegans” shouldn’t even be a word; all it does is reiterate the separateness of veganism. And frankly, I don’t think “vegan” should be a word. It should be “vegetarian,” because that means eating only plants. People who also eat cheese or eggs should have to come up with their own distinctive terms, or resort to “ovovegetarian” or “lactovegetarian” or “ovolactovegetarian” or “pescatarian” if they also eat fish, or “ovolactopescatarian” if they eat all three. Leave the ominovores and me to our simple, straightforward designations.

But I digress.

Not all vegans are alike. Some eschew honey. Some chew honeycomb. Some are vegans for health reasons (I myself lost 40 lbs. and my Type II diabetes on a vegan diet). Others are religious about it (literally religious—See BBC – Religion: Jainism).

My reasons for veganism are my own. I don’t mind sharing them if asked, but by nature they are personal, not evangelical. But those reasons are either reaffirmed or challenged daily.

On the one hand, it’s becoming ever easier to buy “vegan safe” (god I hate that term—it’s not like “normal” food is “unsafe”) products at grocery stores and markets. Vegans aren’t limited to shopping at farmers’ markets or Whole Foods. Many products are literally labeled “vegan” on the back. Aldi’s is my favorite grocery store, and the number of vegan-specific items there increases all the time. Even Walmart carries “vegan butter” (a plant-based product that unlike margarine contains no dairy); soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk; and coconut or almond milk ice cream. (They also used to carry a wonderful frozen breakfast scramble, but nowadays I have to go to Super Saver for that.) The cheapest Dollar Store chocolate mint cookies and chocolate peanut butter cookies are dairy free. (I don’t know, maybe milk chocolate costs more.) I can order a seven-layer burrito fresco style at the Taco Bell drive-thru, and it’s vegan—generally I add potatoes.

On the other hand, animal products crop up where you wouldn’t expect. Much common white sugar is whitened with bone char. I have to decide if potatoes fried in the same oil as shrimp is suitable or not. Me ordering french fries doesn’t actually kill a shrimp, and I’d like to encourage vegan options at restaurants; on the other hand, my potatoes are now tainted with dead flesh—so I guess I’ve now made my decision.

A few days ago, I learned that Diet Pepsi isn’t vegan. PepsiCo won’t say why—that could endanger their secret formula. Regular Pepsi is vegan; Pepsi Zero is vegan; but Diet Pepsi isn’t.

That’s a crying shame. I love my cola. I chose Diet Pepsi specifically because of sucralose instead of aspartame. Now I have to give it up because of some undisclosed ingredient. The question is, do I toss out the three six-packs I bought on sale just before hearing that news? Or do I drink it anyway, because whatever creature that went into its makeup is already dead. That question may seem silly to some, but it mirrors one I had to make about the leather motorcycle jacket my dad gave me years before I became vegan, a jacket he wore on his motorcycle, and which went with me on my motorcycle adventures.

I gave up Guinness, which I loved, because of isinglass, the fish bladder stuff the beer is filtered through. Compared to that, giving up Diet Pepsi is no big deal.

But dammit, PepsiCo, you could at least tell me why.

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