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Vegans Are What?

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What is veganism? A diet? A lifestyle? A moral commitment? All of the above?

Are there absolutes about veganism, or does everyone get to make their own rules? (Remember that guy you once met who swore to you that vegetarians eat fish?!)

Are some people more vegan than others?

Here’s a little test to see exactly what kind of a vegan you are. Papers will be strictly graded, and if you don’t pass you can expect a couple of thugs to show up at your door and confiscate all of your vegan tee shirts.

Actually, of course, there are no absolute answers—or at least none that every vegan in the room will agree on. Maybe that’s what makes veganism intensely individual, always the subject of heated debate, and very fun.

Here are the questions. Check all the answers that apply, and then compare your results with your vegan friends!

  • I eat animal products:

    □  Never

    □  Only when they would otherwise be thrown out, because I hate to see food wasted

    □  Only when my Aunt Dorothy brings over chocolate chip cookies and I have to be polite (“I made them just for you—try one!”)

    □  When I’ve been hiking for 7 hours without food, and someone offers me a granola bar with whey in it

    □  Only when I eat carnivorous fish (thereby saving the lives of numerous other creatures!)

    □  When I’ve been lost at sea for 2 weeks in a lifeboat and my fellow passengers decide they’re going to eat the cabin boy (“Who, sir? Me, sir???”)

  • I ingest:

    □  Things like peanut butter, that we all know contain the occasional insect parts

    □  Things that don’t contain animal products, but may use them in their manufacture, like refined sugar, Guinness, and wine

    □  Things “made in a plant that processes dairy products”

    □  Only things that are clearly labeled “vegan,” “gluten-free,” “non-GMO,” “organic,” “fair-traded,” “carbon neutral,” and “sustainably harvested”

  • Under the right conditions I could be persuaded to eat:

    □  Chickens’ eggs and/or goats’ milk, if I knew the people raising the food and could be sure that the animals were treated well

    □  A really delicious tomato, even if it was engineered using a fish gene

    □  Meat made in a laboratory without using any animals

  • I won’t wear:

    □  Anything that came from an animal

    □  Anything that came from an animal …unless, of course, I already owned it before I went vegan

  • When it comes to restaurants:

    □  I take the waiter’s word on which menu items are vegan

    □  I insist on “grilling” the chef or manager about animal products in their dishes

    □  I only eat in restaurants that are all-vegan

    □  I don’t trust any food that I don’t prepare myself

  • My dog(s) and/or cat(s) eat:

    □  Special vegan pet food

    □  Whatever they can catch in the yard (and that’s okay with me because it’s their natural food)

    □  Meat that I serve them (and that’s okay with me because it’s their natural food—even though cats and dogs rarely eat cows in the wild)

    □  I don’t have cats or dogs. Animals should be free, not people’s “pets”

  • I won’t use these if they may have been tested on animals:

    □  Cosmetics (because lipstick always looks terrible on a guinea pig)

    □  Household products (because guinea pigs hate to mop the floor)

    □  The heart drugs prescribed by my doctor

  • Testing drugs on animals is justified:

    □  When there is no other practical way to test them and many more lives (of animals and/or humans) can be saved than are lost in the testing process

    □  When actually treating the animals, because it’s best to test drugs on animals in veterinary medicine before using them on humans

    □  Never—humans should test their drugs on themselves

  • What about “lower” forms of life?:

    □  When ants invade my kitchen I carry them outside, one by one

    □  I never drive on summer evenings, because I know bugs will be splattered against my windshield and radiator

    □  I’d never swat a mosquito that was biting me

    □  It’s not vegan to kill germs

    □  It troubles me to kill plants

    □  Vegans are inherently speciesist, because we favor one form of life (animals) over another (plants)

  • It is child abuse:

    □  For fast food companies to promote their food to children with clowns, toys, and playgrounds

    □  To take a child to a fast-food restaurant

    □  To feed any kind of animal product to a child

    □  To breast-feed a baby (because breast-feeding isn’t vegan)

    □  None of the above—it is better to expose a child to everything and then let her/him make his/her own decisions when he/she is old enough

  • Some people have legitimate reasons not to be vegan, because:

    □  They have to live with and/or cook for non-vegans

    □  They have their food cooked by non-vegans or the non-vegan institution in which they are living

    □  They have health problems that require them to eat animal products

    □  The use of certain animals and/or animal products is part of their cultural heritage

    □  The use of certain animals and/or animal products is part of their religion

  • I cheat on my vegan values:

    □  Never

    □  Very rarely

    □  Occasionally (it’s not good to be too rigid about these kinds of things)

  • Rather than compromise my vegan values, I’d rather:

    □  Suffer a minor inconvenience

    □  Suffer a major inconvenience

    □  Lose my job

    □  Pay any amount of money

    □  Lose everything, and end up homeless and eating out of the dumpster at Whole Foods

  • In relation to other people, vegans are:

    □  More ethical

    □  Healthier

    □  Smarter

    □  Better looking

    □  Obnoxiously sanctimonious

    □  Pretty much the same as anyone else

  • Here are my thoughts about being around people eating meat:

    □  I don’t mind cooking meat for my family

    □  I’ll eat out with meat eaters, but I won’t allow animal products into my house

     □  It makes me ill to be anywhere near a person eating meat

  • Here are my thoughts about associating with meat-eaters:

    □  Many of my best friends eat meat

    □  I’m just more comfortable around other vegans

    □  Meat-eaters are okay, but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one

    □  Lips that touch meat will never touch mine!

  • Here are my thoughts about being vegan:

    □  It’s never easy to do the right thing, but I’m happy to make the sacrifices that are called for

    □  There are no sacrifices—I love the vegan lifestyle

    □  It makes me feel proud of myself

    □  Going vegan was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life

    □  I will always be vegan

  • The thing I miss most is:

    □  A big, juicy hamburger

    □  Ice cream

    □  Cheese

    □  Leather shoes

    □  The convenience of being able to eat anywhere

    □  Nothing!

  • True or False?:

    T □  F □  I respect hunters more than other meat-eaters because they at least take responsibility for killing the animals that they eat

    T □  F □  It’s justified to kill individual animals if doing so will benefit the welfare of the whole population of the ecosystem in which they exist

    T □  F □  If someone offers me a free Lamborghini I won’t take it because it has leather seats

    T □  F □  Sometimes it’s better to use natural animal products (like wool) than environmentally-irresponsible man-made products (like polyester)

    T □  F □  I’d rather eat a healthy meal that includes small amounts of animal products than a meal of vegan junk food

    T □  F □  Trying to make vegan imitations of meat and dairy foods is stupid

    T □  F □  Abortion isn’t vegan

    T □  F □  I boycott entertainers who wear fur or advocate animal cruelty

    T □  F □  I boycott sports like baseball and football that use balls and other paraphernalia made from leather

    T □  F □  People who eat animal products have no right to be shielded from seeing the cruelty they are inflicting on the animals

    T □  F □  We’d be better off without zoos

    T □  F □  It should  be illegal to eat meat

    T □  F □  I like animals more than people

    T □  F □  I do what I can but, crap, I could always do more!


Mark W. Reinhardt is an attorney, writer, and long-time vegan who makes his home in Denver.  He is the author of numerous articles and of the book “The Perfectly Contented Meat Eaters Guide to Vegetarianism”.  New, autographed copies of Mark’s book can be purchased here hopes that Mark’s blog will inspire a respectful discussion, both online and off.  Consider hosting a potluck or other get-together with fellow and aspiring vegans to discuss the important points raised in this blog.   


Author: Mark W. Reinhardt

Mark Warren Reinhardt is an attorney and author who has been writing and lecturing on veganism and animal rights issues for longer than anyone can remember. His book, “The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarianism” was published by Continuum in 1998. Mark has previously served on the boards of the Vegetarian Society of Colorado, Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, and Divine Feline, as well as a number of other nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Mark holds degrees in engineering and law from Duke, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. He lives in Denver with his cat Elgie.