Vegans. We have a variety of weird, broad, and varying reputations.

pepper, meat, sauce, chili, legume, tomato, vegetable
Katherine Baker

Some people think we're pretentious. Or that we're difficult, snotty, impossible to feed, over-the-top, gone-too-far, annoying, Birkenstock-wearing hippies, etc. Some people totally respect our lifestyle choices and think how we eat is cool. Others couldn't care less. 

dairy product, candy, chocolate, cream, milk, banana, sweet
Katherine Baker

After three years of veganism, and 17 years of vegetarianism, I've heard every damn stereotype in the book and quite frankly IDGAF about any of it. Think what you will of how I eat. You do you. I do me. Let's move on with life.

meat, pepper, stir-fry, rice, chicken, broccoli, vegetable
Katherine Baker

But one thing that totally irks me is when a small subgroup of my fellow vegans act as the vegan police. You know what I'm talking about. That person who misrepresents the vegan mentality by trying to make other people feel guilty for eating dead animal flesh during a family meal.

nut, corn, wheat, muesli, oat, granola, oatmeal, cereal, sweet
Katherine Baker

This is often the same person who asks how hormone-filled utter pus tastes when out to froyo with friends, or talks about vegetarians as being inadequate or not fully committed, or feels they have the right to judge those who wear leather boots or down jackets. You know, the vegan police. 

Animal cruelty isn't cool IMO, and I have a breadth of reasons for my dietary and lifestyle choices. But I also don't find it kind or productive to pass judgements on how other people choose to eat or what other people choose to wear.

lentil, cereal, legume, pepper, rice, corn, parsley, vegetable
Katherine Baker

I have been known to occasionally take bites of things that contain traces of honey or eggs (just to try them), and have a plethora of gifted hand-knit wool socks. Oops. Someone call the vegan police, to whom I say: pump the breaks.

Katherine Baker

There is no single eating pattern that should give one the mentality that they are morally superior enough to another human being to pass judgements.

And also, if you're going to encourage compassionate lifestyle choices, using such disgusting words, images and harsh judgements is most certainly not the most productive way to go about things.

cookie, pastry, butter, cake, cream, peanut butter, candy, sweet, chocolate
Katherine Baker

In today's market, it can be, at times, difficult to find affordable sweaters that aren't wool-blends, or warm winter coats that aren't stuffed with down. 

And although food choices are certainly getting easier in recent years, certain products like wine (which often uses animal blood as a fining agent during distillation), can be difficult to find, or to verify, as vegan

sweet, juice, apple
Katherine Baker

There are even sugar-processing techniques employed by some manufacturers that use animal bone char as a refining agent, and cause further confusion. 

My point is that you can drive yourself absolutely crazy if you want to and obsess over every last shampoo, granola, and glove you by—or you can take comfort in the fact that you are doing your best, and making a difference. Personally, I choose to do the latter. 

cabbage, salad, lettuce, vegetable
Katherine Baker

What I think is important to realize, for all people, vegan or not, is that veganism is does not have to be an all-or-nothing lifestyle. It can be a sliding, fluxing lifestyle scale that changes over time. And the truth is all forms of reductionism are helpful to animals and the planet.

parsley, lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli, vegetable, salad
Katherine Baker

Whether you practicing Meatless Mondays, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, every single gesture towards a plant-forward diet or lifestyle is making a small difference. And every small difference is important and worthy of applause. 

In my personal opinion, what vegans should do if they wish to encourage the spread of plant-based lifestyles is lead by a positive, kind, and non-judgmental example, and celebrate any behavior that reduces animal product consumption or cruelty.  

milk chocolate, goody, candy, mousse, coffee, chocolate mousse, sweet, cream, milk, chocolate
Katherine Baker

It's also helpful to build bridges of both understanding and curiosity by cooking and sharing plant-based meals, snacks, and desserts with eaters of all dietary patterns, or offering them a taste of your plant-based meal while dining out

Because as all vegans know, a vegan cookie can be damn delicious, and sometimes all it takes is a bite to swap a misconception that all we eat is salad and tofu.

pastry, oatmeal, oatmeal cookie, cake, goody, sweet, cookie, chocolate
Katherine Baker

At the end of the day, food is an emotionally-charged and complex topic. And we all must eat to stay alive.

I don't live up to any standard. My dietary pattern is not a religion, and I do not need anyone monitoring or policing how I eat, nor does anyone else, quite frankly.

Katherine Baker

If vegans want respect for their dietary patterns, it's up to us to give vegetarians, omnivores, carnivores, and pescatarians alike the same respect we seek. Compassion and kindness are important, not only to animals and the planet, but also to all people. 

Phew. That was intense. Now let's all share some vegan cookies. #BlessUp