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Veganism is Absolutely Not Dogmatic

From time to time I hear the complaint that veganism is dogmatic. It's not. The "dogmas" upon which veganism is based are the Golden Rule and the principle of least harm. Both of these guidelines give the follower wide latitude in interpretation.

Every vegan knows that every other vegan can never be a perfect vegan, and that it would be an exercise in futility to strive for that impossible ideal. Every time we walk outside, we're liable to step on insects. We live in a society in which the use of products with animal-derived ingredients is rampant and unavoidable.

Veganism is more a frame of mind; an honest effort to avoid harming other living beings. Generally speaking, we have the highest obligation as ethical vegans to refrain from causing suffering that is obvious or extensive, and easily preventable.

Veganism is a derived, not root principle. It is outgrowth of compassion, of a connection to the world, of a sympathetic desire to help not hurt other creatures.

The Official Vegan Handbook (which doesn't exist -- further proof of non-dogma) does not specify precise rules by which one must abide. It does not say you must drive under the posted speed limit on your way to work each morning, to be more ready to swerve if a squirrel runs across the road. It does not spell out what to do if there is a wasp in your child's room. But if you have sympathy and respect for all living creatures and a genuine desire to be a friend and protector, your conscience will guide you toward peaceful, mindful resolutions. You'll be vegan by default.

Basically, veganism says that in terms of minimizing harm and maximizing charity toward all creatures, "do the best you can."

We all know that there are a number of things we can do instantly, at no cost, with little effort, to reduce unimaginably hard suffering of animals. They suffer because of our habits -- selfish habits -- that we can break in a heartbeat. No dogma is required to adjust our life so that it spares thousands of animals from horrid lifelong misery in factory farms.

Related Resource:

Vegan FAQ, by Vegan Outreach. This essay provides thoughtful, non-boastful answers (including "I don't know") about many aspects of veganism. The authors specifically warn against activists becoming dogmatic, which I think is sound advice. This next thing I'm going to say may be stupid and ill-advised, and please don't get the wrong impression because I have a great deal of respect for PETA... If you consider yourself a non-vegan, and are not categorically opposed to the idea of veganism, and would like to know more, but cannot stand PETA or are turned off by them, then Vegan Outreach is the site to which I want to send you. There are no nude models in cages or billboards with arguably offensive messages. Just honest information about the billions of animals that suffer in factory farms and how you can help them. Thoughtful, considerate, and humble, yet powerful.

Can you be "veganish?"

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