When I first thought about this question my immediate response was ‘I don’t really get asked that!’ On reflection, though, I do. A lot. Like a lot of other vegans, I assume. The short answer I always give is ‘no.’ And by and large that’s right. I don’t find it hard to be vegan, because I believe that being vegan is right and because I have built up a knowledge of vegan foods and other products that I regularly use and buy. I don’t have to think as hard about it, or read quite so many labels as I once used to.
But, just because being vegan isn’t hard doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. It’s not. Sometimes you face a situation where you have to forgo food because there is nothing suitable. Sometimes people have misunderstood what it means to be vegan, or have catered for you incorrectly (either though laziness or though ignorance, the result is the same). Raising a vegan child brings a whole other set of ‘not easy’ to the equation as does negotiating a life in a vegan house with a ‘mostly vegan’ partner.
The most important aspect is the first reason I mentioned. I don’t find it hard to be vegan because I believe that being vegan is right. I personally think that it’s wrong to exploit other sentient life. I don’t view meat or eggs or dairy as foods. I don’t believe that they are right for human consumption, and so the question to me is sort of like asking someone if they think it’s hard to not eat plastic, or dirt, or books, or something less savory than any of those things. You wouldn’t consider it hard to avoid eating something that you don’t consider to be a viable food source.
I try to be very pragmatic about my veganness. I know very few other vegans, which means that most of my friends and family do consume meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products. Often in front of me. When Mr. Neon orders a coffee with cow’s milk my stomach turns a little bit at the thought of it. I don’t fancy bringing up my disgust at every opportunity (apart from the fact I would soon end up with no friends!) I struggle with my desire to share my vegan life, with how wonderful being vegan is, with how horrifically animals are treated and an actual life in which I sometimes need to put those thoughts to the back of my mind in order to survive successfully in society.
So, being vegan and living vegan is not hard. The practicalities are not hard; the avoiding animal products. The hardest part of being vegan is negotiating life as a vegan in a very very non-vegan world.
This post is inspired by a question asked on Facebook by The Vegan Society: