FIRST PERSON | When I was vegan, I kept my choices mostly to myself, but I was pretty open about one opinion: Militant vegans are the worst enemies of veganism. Notorious groups like PETA and the seemingly ubiquitous "preachy vegan" seem to be everywhere, and they, of course, get a lot more attention than the many vegans who just don't talk that much about their diets. Nothing hammered that opinion in more than seeing myself on a website called "The Vegan Sellout List," which is very rapidly gaining popularity among the militant-vegan crowd.
The Vegan Sellout List features my name, photo, city, and state, and calls me an "Ethical vegan turned unethical carnivore." Linking to an article I wrote five years ago, titled "My Recovery from Veganism" -- in which I express full support of vegan lifestyles but explain that veganism became something of an eating disorder for me and made me very ill -- the Vegan Sellout List offers the following "shameful" information about me: "Craved cow flesh during her pregnancy and went for it. The ones who are insecure about their decision always talk about it the most."
I'm guilty as charged, but I thought the wording was funny, since I don't "talk about it" much at all. In fact, I think that if you polled my friends and family members, only one or two people would recall that I've eaten red meat at all in my adult life (although I'm hiding nothing and am ashamed of nothing). I make no apologies for making the decisions that were best for my body, my mental health, and my then-unborn child. If the purpose of the website was to make me feel ashamed and guilty, it failed miserably at doing so.
In fact, I'd be a saint if the worst thing I ever did in my life was give into a steak craving when I was pregnant with my daughter. I'm actually kind of flattered that the folks behind the Vegan Sellout List think I'm such a good person that the steak I ate more than six years ago is still weighing heavily on my conscience, or that publicly admonishing me for it will make me feel hurt or guilty.
This begs the question: Why is anyone on a mission to collect the names and information of people who tried to be vegan but ultimately didn't maintain the lifestyle? According to the site's authors, the mission is to be "our answer to the epidemic of vegan sellouts -- those who are aware of the suffering caused by meat, dairy, egg, fur, and leather production, yet choose to look away while the animals suffer."
I suppose this is the reason that so many people view veganism as a cult. There are people who view the vegan lifestyle as something you are never allowed to leave. Those of us who do leave this "cult" are sentenced to have our full names, photos, and contact information published publicly in a not-too-subtle implied threat.
I posted a polite response to the Vegan Sellout List, explaining that I'm fully supportive of veganism but believe that the website is counterproductive because it reinforces vegan stereotypes and frightens people into believing that they should never even try veganism because they'll be threatened and publicly admonished should they choose to "go back." My comment was deleted within minutes. I have to admit that I feel genuinely sorry for the people who run this website. It must be a truly miserable existence to spend so much time tracking down, attacking, and censoring anyone whose lifestyle choices aren't identical to your own.
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer, health enthusiast, and dedicated mom living in the southeastern U.S.
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