The vegan zoologist Jordi Casamitjana writes about the concept of “Vegan Balance” and how vegans get better at it with time
Balance comes with experience.
You may think that’s not true, that balance is a physical phenomenon that occurs independently of how old the things that get balanced are (like the balance between the sun, the Earth, and the moon orbiting one another) or is an innate biological phenomenon (such as the balancing up between roots, trunk, and branches in a tree).
However, think about human newborn babies. Think about their inability to walk, how things fall from their tiny hands, and how it takes some time for them to even balance their head on their neck. Other animals may not have any of these problems, but for humans, these naked apes with big heads and two long legs, balance comes with experience.
When we are growing up we learn to balance our head over our shoulders, we learn to stand straight and run with just two legs, and we even learn to dance and juggle — well, some do. Physics help, genes too, but in the end, we learn to balance our lives by trial and error.
But being bipedal (i.e. walking on two legs) makes us deal with balance differently than the quadrupedal animals we are so close to (like dogs or cats), the Hexapedal animals we see crawling around us (the insects), the octopedal animals we share our houses with (the spiders), the decapedal animals we see walking our seas (the crustaceans) and the centipedal animals we find in our soil (the centipedes and millipedes). We and the birds have fewer legs to keep our bodies balanced, so we deal with it differently than others, relying more on learned skills than well-designed anatomy.
Like a surfer riding the waves on a board, we keep our balance through motion, not stillness. We move a bit to the right, then a bit to the left, we tense a muscle here, then another one there, and this is how we achieve balance, constantly adjusting ourselves. In other words, our balance is dynamic and behavioural, not static and structural.
Interestingly, though, I think this binary balancing style ends up being the template for many more aspects of our lives where balance is required, and have nothing to do with posture or locomotion. Even our minds, ideologies, and philosophies require balance, and our dynamic behavioural balancing style shows up in most of them. We can see it in veganism too, this philosophy that seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for the benefit of humans, non-human animals, and the environment.
We, vegans, manifest this philosophy as a complex balancing act which, as the big-headed naked bipedal apes we still are, has a distinctive binary behavioural style that many have never noticed. When we analyse it, it helps to explain both our failures and successes, our shortcomings and skills, and our decisions and contradictions. We are not born vegan but make ourselves vegan by keeping the balance of our philosophy with behaviour that may sometimes look contradictory in isolation, but when we look at it holistically, we may realise this is the only way we can keep everything together and not fall apart.
For instance, we encourage others to join us but at the same time we try to keep the vegan identity free from dilution. We reject some products (meat) but promote others that are very similar (fake meat). We are very concerned and sad about the realities of the world but also happy and optimistic about the vegan future we are building. We are constantly celebrating our movement’s victories even when we are losing.
We resolve such contradictions by keeping the right balance between opposite actions and attitudes, as a funambulist walks on a tightrope by alternately leaning towards one side after the other.
There is such a thing as the “vegan balance” which vegans get better at with experience. Balance within veganism, not between veganism and other philosophies. Balance on how to manifest veganism, not about whether to manifest it. Without mastering such balance, we could eventually stop being vegans and we would resume contributing significantly to animal suffering and environmental destruction (going too far and falling on one side of the tightrope), or our life could be too difficult, depressing, unhealthy, or unfulfilling that we would not be able to help those in need or support others who also want to follow our philosophy (going too far in the opposite direction and falling on the other side). Walking the tightrope of manifesting veganism in modern societies is a skill we perfect with time.
Confused? Let me break it down for you.
The Yin and Yang in Veganism
There are religions based on the concept of balance. Taoism (or Daoism), currently followed by 30-40 million people, is the most well-known of them. Taoism is a Chinese religion or philosophy which emphasises living in harmony with the Dao (the “Way” or “Path”), the natural order of the universe, by keeping the right balance between opposite forces at all times. Taoists believe that if humans are in tune with the Tao, their sufferings will cease. The ultimate goal of the religion is to be one with the Tao, so although Taoists recognise the duality of how humans see the world, Taoism can be seen as a tradition of non-duality where practitioners seek to bypass this perceived duality through balance in action and thought.
Lao Tzu, who lived between the 4th century BCE and the 6th century BCE (scholars have not agreed on which century yet, or even if he was a real person), is generally considered the founder of Taoism, and the books the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi are widely considered key Taoist texts. Lao Tzu taught that understanding the reality of the Tao will naturally result in balance, self-control, and virtuous conduct.
One of the key concepts of Taoism — which many of you may have heard about — is the philosophical concept of Yin and Yang. This describes two opposite but interconnected forces, yin being the receptive principle, and yang the active principle, which can be seen in all forms of change and difference. For instance, in the seasons (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), gender (female and male), the day (night and day), and temperature (cold and hot). Sometimes the yin is described as a feminine principle and the yang as masculine. The famous symbol of yin and yang (taijitu) is represented by a black and white circle with two teardrop-shaped halves, one black and one white, wrapped around each other, and each half of the circle contains a dot of the opposite colour, indicating that there is a bit of yin in yang and a bit of yang in yin. This is to show that the two forces are interdependent and complementary, and that nothing is absolute or pure.
In many respects, Taoism is quite a vegan-friendly religion. Taoists consider that non-human animals are manifestations of the Tao, and as sentient beings, they are not different from humans, so they should be treated equally. Regarding the diet, the Orthodox Taoist Canon 0018 states, “The Heavenly Lord said: The precept of being vegetarian is the fundamental of Tao, and is a bridge of truth, which crosses the ocean of births and deaths, between the ferry and the other shore of liberation. If you wish to learn Tao, you should be a vegetarian and keep the precepts, and your every single thought should be righteous and Real, then the evils and delusions will vanish of themselves.”
The concept of “simple eating” (sù shí) refers to a particular restricted plant-based diet associated with Taoist monks and sometimes practised by members of the general population during Taoist festivals. Those who practice sù shí abstain from meat, eggs, and milk, but it is not quite a vegan diet as it does include oysters.
Although we may not have specific records about it, it is quite possible that some ancient Taoists were vegans who did not eat oysters, as some modern Taoists are. It is believed that the Qianfeng School of Taoism advocates following a vegetarian diet, and some say that the members of the Dragon’s Gate sect, an offshoot of the Northern school of Taoism, were essentially vegans. Also, Liú Ān, a Han dynasty prince and Taoist adept, has been credited for inventing tofu as a replacement for meat — which has become a vegan staple.
I think that, together with the other ancient concept of ahimsa (“do no harm”, this one coming from India also millennia ago), we could add the ancient concept of yin and yang (the balance of opposite forces) to the root principles of the philosophy of veganism. However, I would say that ahimsa is more of a primary principle as to the core of the philosophy (the most important of its five axioms) while the yin and yang is more of a secondary principle as for the manifestation of veganism in everyday life.
It is therefore plausible that the first specific thoughts of what would constitute “The Vegan Balance” were formulated millennia ago in the East by Taoist thinkers, even if the term “vegan” had not been coined yet. However, I suspect that ancient Taoists interpreted the concept as whether veganism (excluding the exploitation of sentient beings) is a method to get the right balance to follow the natural way of the Tao (as many vegan Taoists think), rather than balance being an integral part of manifesting veganism, which is the main subject of this article.
As circumstances would change for every vegan, and not all are equally experienced, the balance they all are achieving in manifesting veganism is bound to be different for each vegan, and one would expect it to be more fine-tuned and steady the more experienced the vegans are — both in terms of years of being vegan but also in having faced many different situations where their veganhood was tested.
In trying to find balance, vegans may need to establish a hierarchy of issues of concern, causes, or priorities when facing choices, and these could be quite different for each person to person. However, after sharing each other’s solutions for how to achieve the right balance, people may get inspired and modify their choices if they like how others have dealt with them. This article is written in the spirit of such sharing.
Following is a description of how I, an ethical vegan for more than 20 years based in the UK, have been finding the balance of how to manifest my veganism in different situations.
How Far Should We Go in Vegan Gatekeeping?
To maintain the integrity of any ideology or philosophy, a certain level of gatekeeping is necessary, so only those who are aligned with the core principles of the philosophy should define themselves as belonging to the community that follows it. Otherwise, the philosophy would end up being diluted and eventually disappear. On the other side, being too restricted about who can join the community could make the philosophy very unwelcoming and insular, and the community of followers very small and niche. As veganism is also a transformative socio-political movement trying to build the vegan world of the future, this cannot be achieved if it remains too small and fringe. Therefore, a balance needs to be struck by applying the right kind of vegan gatekeeping that is welcoming enough to maturing pre-vegans but keeps the diluting non-vegans away.
To achieve this, I find useful the qualifier “ethical” that has been added to the term “vegan” since the 1980s to differentiate vegans who follow the official definition of veganism from those who only follow the diet vegans eat. If you follow the definition to the full in all aspects of your life, you are an ethical vegan, but if you don’t you could be considered a “dietary vegan” if you follow the definition to the full as far as your diet is concerned. If not, if you willingly consume animal products when you could avoid them, such as those who deliberately eat honey (the self-defined beegans), eggs (the self-defined veggans), molluscs (the self-defined ostrovegans), or lab meat (the so-called C-vegans), you are not a vegan (let alone an ethical vegan).
This distinction between ethical vegans and other people who call themselves vegan has now been officially recognised in the UK due to the acceptance of ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief (which in the US is called a protected class) under the Equality Act 2010. This happened in 2020 in a legal case I was involved in, and there have already been other court cases since where people who call themselves vegans were not afforded the protection because the judge concluded they did not follow the entire official definition of veganism and therefore they did not qualify as ethical vegans.
To strike the right balance we should not be too restricted and unwelcoming, so for me and many other vegans, the balance can be achieved by using the loose term “vegan” in inverted commas to include ethical vegans and dietary vegans together but exclude from such umbrella term all those post-vegans who consume animal products in food that I mentioned earlier.
In other words, finding the balance by considering that dietary choices are more important in terms of impact than all other choices, and if you cannot at least follow the definition of veganism in the diet you should not use the label vegan to describe your identity (although nobody can stop anyone using it because there is no such thing as the vegan police controlling these things).
This is the same balance point the 80-year-old Vegan Society has arrived at, as it accepts as voting members dietary vegans, but since 1988 has maintained the definition of veganism as the one ethical vegans follow (which is “ Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”).
As far as I am concerned, my balance point on this issue is a bit more restricted, as I would not consider vegan those dietary vegans who support zoos, ride horses, or are involved in the breeding of domestic animals in any way either — and I would say that most experienced ethical vegans I know would agree with me on this. But I would accept dietary vegans who do not do any of that (or consume any animal product in food as post-vegans do) as part of the wider “vegan” family, in inverted commas. The recognised existence of the more precise term “ethical vegan” (which I like and use, as it is even the title of a book I wrote), allows me to have such acceptance without fear of contradiction, and find the right balance on this issue.
Which Food Items Should We Reject?
Both ethical and dietary vegans would reject any food or drink that has the flesh of any animal (terrestrial or aquatic) or any animal product in it (such as dairy, eggs, or honey). Most vegans would also reject any food or drink where animal products were involved in their manufacture even if they are no longer detectable in the final product (such as fish bladders to clarify some wine or cow’s bones to filter some beer), animals were forced to work to produce them (such as Thai coconuts produced with chained monkeys) or were tested on animals when this was not a legal requirement (such as some ingredients of the American Impossible burger).
But you can be more restrictive than that. If you dig deep enough, you may be able to find connections with animal exploitation and suffering in foods and drinks you thought were vegan-friendly. For instance, most crops cultivated in the standard way would cause the death of many sentient beings deliberately (with pesticides) or accidentally (through violent harvest). Or you may order a vegan product from a vegan company but it may be delivered to you by a company that also delivers animal products. If we take veganism seriously and we look deep and wide enough, we may find ourselves rejecting most food options, to the point of hunger at best, and malnutrition at worse.
Where do we draw the line? How do we strike the right balance? Every vegan will do it differently. For what is worth, this is how I deal with it these days (and I am not claiming this is the right way to go about it):
- After my first ten years of being vegan, I decided to explore the health dimension of the vegan mansion, so I move from having a mostly junk-food vegan diet to a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPB). I did not go as far as adopting a raw vegan diet, a macrobiotic diet, a non-oil diet, or any of these more restricted diets, and I allow myself to have the occasional junk food as a treat, so I found the balance by moving towards healthy little-processed food with high variety as my default meals, but allowing myself to deviate from it occasionally for comfort or convenience, as doing so does not necessarily violate any of the main core principles of veganism — it just might affect my health a bit.
- As veganic farming is the method that causes fewer animal deaths, in the last eight years I have been growing vegetables in my yard following this method and I eat some of them every day I cook at home. However, I must resign myself to eating other vegetables when I eat out, or when I run out of vegetables in my yard (or want some I cannot grow), because there are no veganic farms close to where I live for me to buy their products. I recognise my privilege of having a yard in which I can grow food, but also my bad luck on not living in the countryside close to a veganic farm.
- As organic crops use fewer pesticides than non-organic crops, anytime I need to buy groceries I choose produce from the former. When I do my weekly shopping, I go to either organic shops that sell vegetables or to stalls in markets from organic farms (even if I may need to walk more than half an hour to get there) or order it online from organic farms. This is where I buy the fruits and vegetables I cannot grow. However, when I eat out or I am away from home, I accept vegetables from standard traditional farming if I cannot find an organic option (but I try to minimise when that happens). I recognise that I am privileged enough to currently afford organic produce as it is more expensive, but if my circumstances changed I would need to adapt.
- I avoid some fruits and vegetables that I do not find essential in my diet when I do not know where they have been grown and there is a big enough chance that they would have been grown using animals for labour. In particular, I avoid almonds, kiwis, and avocados (which might have been grown using farmed migratory bees if coming from the US or New Zealand), and coconut (which may have been collected with monkeys if coming from Thailand). I find this solution to get the balance easy as there are many other fruits and vegetables I can eat instead, especially locally grown ones, which tend to also be cheaper. For instance, when I am looking for plant-based milk, I choose oat milk over almond milk, which is widely available.
- If I must eat in a restaurant or buy a takeaway, I choose vegan establishments over non-vegan ones. I use apps like Happy Cow (which works anywhere in the world) setting it up to show me only the vegan eateries, and I will choose those first. Only when going to vegan places is not practicable in my circumstances — practicable, not practical, as for capable of putting into practice —do I choose vegetarian restaurants, and only if these are not available either I will use eateries that serve meat as takeaways for plant-based options. However, if I am with another vegan who has different criteria for the selection of eateries, I may make an exception.
- Although I have not signed the Liberation Pledge, in practice I have been following it for years. The key commitment of those who sign the pledge is that, as someone who opposes violence towards animals, you pledge to refuse to sit at a table with people eating the bodies of the victims of violence. This could mean forgoing social events such as Christmas dinners, and work parties (which I have done since 2012), although the aim is not to remove yourself from social situations but to encourage people to adapt their idea of a social situation revolving around a centrepiece of violence and enjoying a vegan meal instead. However, I would not go that far by never eating in an establishment where other people are eating animal products at other tables — but I try to avoid this and the last time I did it was four years ago. I recognised that I am privileged in having been able to avoid key social events that others would not have been able to, as I do not have family in the UK and most of my friends are already vegan.
- Regarding fake meats, I have been improving over time. Currently, I found my balance by trying to avoid them as regular meals and only eat them occasionally, but never buying any plant-based burgers or fried chicken imitations from an animal burger place such as Burger King or KFC, try to avoid any fake meats that look and taste like real meat (such as Beyond Meat burgers), and only use fake plant-based meats that are clearly from plants or fungi at first sight and that are not advertise using the name of animal foods (even with asterisks to disguise them) — as I think we should be moving away from the concept of meat itself, with all its sexual politics. This latest point is something I decided to do since last January (my New Year resolution), and as these days I mostly eat from home little-processed whole food plant-based, I have been able to achieve it without much difficulty. In other words, I found my balance by switching to a WFPB as my default diet, and gradually eating less and less fake meats, only as long as I am not contributing to the meat industry (economically or conceptually). I recognised that those who are too addicted to meat may not be able to go as far as I did.
- Regarding food coming from other non-animal sources other than plants using methods that do not involve killing any sentient being (even accidentally), I am keen on trying food developed from precision fermentation using bacteria, algae, or fungi, but not if they are genetically modified to produce animal proteins (as we do not need them and supporting their fermentation suggests that we do). This does not include lab meat (aka cultivated meat, cell meat, or clean meat) as this is not produced through fermentation, but through tissue growth, and this is an animal product, so it is incompatible with veganism — and I have been publicly opposed to it for years. At the moment, precision fermentation technology has not been scaled up enough to become an option for my diet, but I do occasionally eat Quorn products produced from fungi — the vegan versions, as most of them are not vegan yet — and I would eat more if the company ditched the vegetarian versions (as long as they do not advertise it with the names of animals).
- I would always completely avoid plant-based food produced and sold by companies that are key to the animal agriculture industry (such as big burger chains) as the main point of boycotting any product when manifesting veganism is not avoiding their consumption itself, but not fuelling the animal exploitation behind its creation by giving funds and/or publicity to those who exploit the animals. However, if we follow the fifth core axiom of the philosophy of veganism, the axiom of vicariousness that states “Indirect harm to a sentient being caused by another person is still harm we must try to avoid,” then we might also need to boycott products produced by other non-vegan companies less close to animal agriculture or sold in non-vegan establishments, or even those produced by vegan companies that belong to a wider business group that involve animal exploitation (I was one of the vegans who stopped consuming the spread Marmite when Unilever, known for testing on animals then, bought the company). How far should we go into this rabbit hole? I have found a balance in this by always prioritising buying products from vegan companies, always boycotting big meat and dairy chains or any of the companies they own, gradually moving away from buying food from non-vegan supermarkets, and only considering boycotting the company that produces the product or the company which owns it, but not beyond that (not the company who owns the company who bought the vegan company, and no other companies indirectly involved such as the companies that transport the goods or publicise the products). I recognise my privilege in living in London, where there are many vegan shops (even vegan supermarkets), which allow me to achieve this stricter balance than other vegans could strike living in less vegan-friendly places.
Other Balancing Acts in Manifesting the Vegan Lifestyle
Apart from food choices, we, ethical vegans, manifest our veganism in the choices we encounter in other aspects of our lives. For each of them, we may also have a spectrum that would go from failing our vegan principles on one end and being deprived of something we need on the other. The right balance will be somewhere between the two, and through trial and error, and seeing how others have dealt with the issue, we will be gradually closing on it. Following is where I have arrived so far in this process in several non-food related issues.
- Living with non-human animals. Many of us may enjoy living with non-human animals but vegans should always consider that the animals may not want to live with us, and forcing them as if we “own” them is a speciesist action incompatible with veganism. However, you can also find a balanced option by adopting domestic animals such as dogs or cats who have been rescued from shelters, and who might have been euthanised if not adopted. By treating them as equal “companion animals” you live with and not as “pets” you own, you can develop a positive relationship with everyone that does not break veganism principles (especially if you give them nutritionally balanced plant-based food). However, such principles would most likely be broken if the animals are forced to live with you because they require cages or terrariums and are wild animals who should not be living with humans (the so-called “exotic pets”), or if you bought the animal from an animal dealer who would use the money to breed more into existence (or if you are the one allowing them to reproduce).
- Visiting places with non-human animals. We like to see animals we never have seen before but going to a zoo to watch them would be against veganism, as vegans do not support zoos. However, the balance could be found by visiting a genuine vegan animal sanctuary that allows visitors — which not only may give you a more intimate experience than if you had visited a zoo but you will be financially supporting them so they can look after more farmed animals in need — or by going to natural reserves and observe animals in the wild—which is a far more fulfilling experience than watching disturbed wild animals in captivity.
- Medicines and treatment. Most medicines may be tested on animals or may contain animal products, becoming unsuitable for vegans. However, not being medicated or treated when we are ill is not a viable option either, as the more ill we are the less we can help others in need or spread the vegan message. The balance here would be in always asking your doctor or pharmacist if there are vegan-friendly options to the medicines prescribed, and if they are not available to you then take whatever non-vegan version the doctor prescribed you as the decision will no longer be yours — so there would be no transgression of veganism principles from your part. In an ideal situation, you may want to try to get a vegan doctor that would make this problem easier, but you would be extremely lucky if you found one as there are far between. Another way to strike the balance on this one is to try to avoid any medication that is not essential (such as medication not intended to cure you but only to mildly alleviate your symptoms) and try to find reliable holistic versions that are compatible with veganism (considering that many of such versions may not actually work but they may nevertheless have a placebo effect).
- Clothes. Ethical vegans would not normally wear clothes or fashion accessories containing animal products such as wool, fur, leather, silk, bones, or pearls. However, when exactly one should dispose of such items after becoming vegan varies from vegan to vegan, as some dispose of all of them at once while others do it gradually, letting them be worn out and then replacing them with vegan versions. In my case, when I became vegan in 2002 I got rid of most of the items at once but I retained the most expensive and difficult-to-replace items for a few months until I felt guilty about it and gave them to charity. Now I believe that giving the items to non-vegans who otherwise would purchase them, financially contributing to animal exploitation in fashion and creating more demand, is a better-balanced solution than just keeping wearing them until they are worn out.
- Furniture. Ethical vegans who have control over which furniture use in their dwelling would not have leather sofas or any other item using animal products (such as wool, silk, fur, or tortoiseshell). They would not have any stuffed animals by taxidermists either. But what about using somebody else’s room that has all that? I never enter a room that has hunting trophies or mounted animals for decoration. However, I do enter and use rooms that may have animal products in the furniture, but without using such furniture (for instance, if there is a leather sofa, I would sit somewhere else, or remain standing if there are no alternative seats). This is how I find balance on this issue.
- Transport. Using different forms of transport may not be vegan-friendly because either non-human animals would be forced to work for it or the chances of killing animals by accident (including insects) may be high due to the speeds involved. But not all forms of transport are equal, and if we have several options, one may be more vegan-friendly than the other. I would never use any form of transport that is pulled by animals (such as carriages pulled by horses or elephant rides), but as far as vehicles such as trains, buses, or cars are concerned, I would use them only if I really need to use them (I tend to walk anywhere that is up to an hours walk), I would avoid sitting in any leather seats, and I would always choose the least harmful option (for instance, in London I would choose the underground over the buses in Spring and Summer where there will be more insects outdoors).
- Films and entertainment. Unfortunately, performers and movie makers often force animals to perform with them, which is not an acceptable practice for a vegan. Does this mean that we should not watch their performances? I strike the balance in this one by never attending any circus with animals (domestic or wild) or watching any movie or programme where exotic wild animals were used as performers instead of CGI or animatronic versions, but I will still watch (but not going to a theatre and pay to watch) those that use domestic animals as they are normally used (such as horses, dogs, or cats), or the animals shown were wild animals in the wild unaware they had been filmed. Perhaps in the future I will stop watching any movie where horses are ridden as I am not sure I have got the right balance on this one yet.
- Activism. Spreading the vegan message is something many vegans do in many different ways, but others tend to be quieter and more discrete. On one end we may have very pushy proselytising militant activists and on the other very apologetic people who are almost “in the closet” and only manifest their beliefs in private. The balance between the two could be achieved by not being too pushy or inappropriate while sending the vegan message but not hiding your veganism or wasting an opportunity to educate about it effectively. Be “out there” but not necessarily in people’s faces. Be an activist but not necessarily an aggressive militant one. Be polite and helpful to others considering veganism but not letting veganphobes and vegan deniers push you over. Be proud of your vegan identity, but not be a proud person who looks down on others.
- Consumerism. The more we consume and use money to pay for goods or services, the higher the chances that such money will end up being used in animal exploitation. One extreme would be trying to live off the grid in a self-sustainable vegan community, and the other would be not caring about it and overconsuming in a capitalist frenzy. I think the balance lies in consuming less (buy only what you need, rather than what you want), consuming better (always choosing ethical companies with good track records on how they treat humans, animals, and the environment), and consuming kinder (give your custom to those who need it the most, such as small vendors who are members of marginalised communities, rather than big corporations run by a few rich people from oppressive demographics).
- Practicability. The official definition of veganism of The Vegan Societies uses the expression “as far as is possible and practicable” to qualify when to exclude animal exploitation, and some may erroneously interpret this as “convenient”, as a card blanche to manifest veganism only on occasions, when it’s easier — which would obviously dilute veganism beyond recognition and eliminate any of its ethical imperative nature. On the other extreme, some completely disregard these terms of the definition and claim that if someone has managed to exclude one type of animal exploitation somewhere, everyone else should, no matter where they are and their circumstances. There is a balance point between these two extremes, which is based on interpreting the definition as it was written. The term used in the definition is not “practical”, but “practicable”, meaning “capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished.” If it can be put into practice according to your circumstances, then it should be put into practice even if this may be inconvenient or hard, but if it cannot because nobody can do that (possible) or your circumstances do not allow you to do it (practicable), then you haven’t breached any principle of veganism if you don’t do it. In this case, the balance is already in the definition itself, but many have missed it.
Veganism is not extreme or radical, despite what many may think. It’s a reasonable and balanced philosophy. It only appears fringe in an artificial world chucked with carnism. The Vegan Balance is an aspiration that all vegans work to achieve because they have to live in a carnist world not designed for vegans. We do not always agree on how to achieve it, and we get better at it with time, managing to walk the tightrope mostly in a straight line with fewer adjustments on either side.
Deep down, we know the world is not binary, but humans tend to think in binary terms because we walk with two legs and have two hands, and that has probably influenced the architecture of our brain (which is also separated into two hemispheres). We see everything as the consequence of two opposite forces, but that is not what reality is (millipedes probably think in waves, as probably octopuses, snakes, and worms also do). We know the vegan ideal is clear and uncompromising, and that the vegan world of the future will be an equal, equitable, and equanimous world where carnism, which feeds in the duality of “them and us”, will no longer have any effect. But before we get there, we have no choice but to navigate this treacherous world with the only tools we have.
I don’t know if vegan Taoist monks would approve of my choices, and whether they would consider that I am balanced enough to follow their Tao. But it doesn’t matter. I do what I can, I try to improve every year, and so far, I am still on my feet walking the rope.
No matter what we encounter, we must keep the balance and move forward.
Otherwise, we will fall.