Vegans Who Stay Vegan and Vegans Who Don’t

Recidivism and Advocacy

by Paul Pinfield

An enterprising AnimAg propagandist looking for ways to divide and overcome the threat of veganism might draw a line in the sand between vegans who became so as the result of a Road to Damascus like awakening, switching almost instantly, and those whose road bumped its way along through recipes, advice, encouragement, cajoling and so forth. For ease, I’m calling the former Epiphany vegans and latter BabyStepper vegans.

PMing recently with vegan advocate friends I noticed that all those who had an opinion on my topic were in agreement. My topic is vegan recidivism, and their agreed position was that most BabyStepper vegans revert to eating meat or dairy whereas nearly all Epiphany vegans commit for good.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of fully committed vegans who got there by stages and probably a significant number of Epiphany vegans who haven’t made it.. but we’re generalising here. 

If this disparity in the recidivism rates of BS-Vegans (accident! I don’t have a view!) and E-Vegans is real then I suggest that what I instinctively feel to be true.. that either you give a shit, or you don’t… may actually be true.

In which case the expansion of veganism would be a matter of how ignorant we are, (I don’t mean in general… I think that’s abundantly clear!), specifically… how widespread is current awareness of the true horror of Animal Agriculture?

If a high percentage is still unaware then movement towards veganism will be a function of that, and how many in a given population give a shit. If, on the other hand, most of us now either know, or have had a seed planted that will inevitably sprout and encourage further investigation, then vegan numbers will stabilise, with new recruits and recidivists turning over in near equal number.

Armoury-ed with more substantial evidence of this relative rate of recidivism, activism might well better focus its endeavours. But how easy might such evidence be to get at?

One problem is that, human nature being what it is, any feedback from someone who has been nursed along, been persuaded into, or who has crept up on veganism over time, will clearly be quite different to feedback from another, who suddenly woke up and smelled the blood.

The reverting Babystepper will suffer few slings and arrows as a result of their outrageous falseness… “Yeah. I know, it’s a bit crap of me. But there you are! Just not as strong as you, I guess.”, whereas the reverting Epiphany vegan might well just STFU! 

And whilst we’re drawing broad conclusions from scant evidence, my one enquiry amongst vegan advocate friends on comparative recidivism in the two groups yielded very little, in either the number of those willing or able to engage at all, or advocates with a definite view. We are all busy doing our thing it seems. Very good. There are many very committed and active advocates doing plenty, and doing it well. But in much the same way that Big Picture outcomes will depend on the coalition and co-operation of many minority groups and the dissemination, mutual acknowledgement and understanding of their individual imperatives.. so the furtherance of veganism will be better served by individual advocates showing a greater propensity for interacting amongst themselves in order to establish a firmer, shared notion of the most effective direction the movement as a whole should take.

A more holistic attitude in advocacy might not obliterate lines in the sand drawn between us by those who stand to lose by a reduction in Animal suffering but it might add a little cement to the mix, and we all know what sand and cement make!

 

 

Editor’s Notes:

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7 thoughts on “Vegans Who Stay Vegan and Vegans Who Don’t

  1. Vegan is a consciousnesses of compassion and awareness that “ALL LIFE MATTER”~!!! . Either you try to live by it or you don’t…it’s a thought process w/ everything one chooses to do each day….and as a result, those actions will affect the well being of other living things ~!!!

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  2. One estimate notes that only one-half of one percent of the USA population–or 1.63 million–is vegan. More depressing is that there are more lapsed than active vegan/vegetarians, at approximately 8 million.

    The slow progress of the animal rights movement and veganism has been frustrating. Some of the major organizations attempted to save animals by appealing to the human benefits of vegan diets, namely that the diet makes people healthier through better nutrition and more attractive through weight loss. That has not worked long-term for animals.

    As you noted in the excellent post, some Baby Step Vegans finally come to a long-term commitment, perhaps after getting more information about the extent of animal abuse and viewing the horrific videos on YouTube. And I suspect some “Epiphany” Vegans who relapse actually had a “Come to Jesus Moment” after getting the results of a cholesterol test or stepping on a scale. In that case the real issue, again, is health, and even medical issues may not survive the inevitable visions of cheeseburgers and fries.

    I think it helps to distinguish between veganism as a diet alone and veganism as a moral imperative growing out of an ethic that holds all life sacred. In the latter case, we move beyond anthropocentrism to value nonhuman animals as part of the web of life and to protect them from suffering and exploitation.

    Thus, the true foundation of veganism should be the spiritual goal of abandoning speciesism to achieve a more humane world. That moves us beyond diet alone to supporting humane organizations, advocating human population control, stopping habitat destruction.

    Along with the steps listed in the above post, we could also continue the movement to get veganism named as a religion. That recognition would bring legitimacy, protection against harassment, and vegan foods available in more places, including hospitals, schools, etc.

    The broader moral vision can improve motivation and help avoid relapse. Unfortunately and realistically, we still have to keep human nature in mind. Every group has some attrition from lack of commitment, and all churches preach repentance for a reason.

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  3. Excellent article. I think too, that many vegetarians are the BS type. They do it for their ‘own’ health, not the animal or the environment. Cognitive dissonance prevents them from seeing and responding accordingly. No one condones animal cruelty, but they refuse to take that final step.

    >

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  4. Epiphany vegans and baby-step vegans … I hadn’t read that before. I’m going to start including the word “epiphany” when I mention I’m vegan, mostly because I’m fed up with some folks in town who seek – and receive – praise for saying, year after year, that they’re not vegan, but are thinking about it. I’ll take them out first if I decide to do something useful with my life by going Bill Williamson on the omnivorous majority.

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