There is a perception that being vegan is about saying “no”—about refusing things that are offered to us. It appears that being vegan is about restriction and sacrifice, and that’s the problem— the perception of what it means to live vegan. If people are on the outside looking in, they tend to see what vegans don’t choose. They don’t see what we are choosing. Perhaps in public settings, people see vegans rejecting things far more than they see them embracing things.
Another misconception about veganism is that there are rules about what vegans “can” and “cannot” eat, of what we’re “allowed” or “forbidden” to eat. Let’s be clear: vegans can eat whatever we want. There’s nothing we can’t have. But, there are some things we simply don’t want. Choosing to avoid putting in our mouths or on our bodies the flesh and fluids that came off of or out of an animal is just that: a choice. We’re “allowed” to eat whatever we want. Nobody is preventing us. We aren’t adhering to rigid dietary laws. We aren’t forbidden to eat animals. We don’t want to eat animals.
Being Vegan is About Saying “Yes!”
Being vegan is not about rules or doctrine. It’s not about restriction or self-denial. And though being vegan does involve saying “no” to some things—such as unhealthy foods, destructive environmental practices, cruelty, and violence—at its core, being vegan is about saying “yes.”
It’s about saying “yes” to our values. What’s the use in having values if they don’t manifest themselves in our behavior? And how many of us actually translate our values into action?
It’s nice to say that we are kind, caring, trustworthy, and helpful people. It’s nice to say that we’re in favor of eating healthfully or that we’re against violence and cruelty. Most of us are. But how many of us actually take these abstract values and put them into concrete action?
For me, being vegan, which extends to every area of my life, is an opportunity to do just that: to put my abstract values into concrete action.
By choosing to eat life-giving rather than life-taking foods, we’re saying “yes” to our values of wellness and health, of peace and nonviolence, of kindness and compassion.
By choosing to look at what we do to other animals—human and nonhuman—on our behalf and for our convenience, we’re saying “yes” to our values of accountability, of responsibility, of commitment to truth and knowledge.
By standing up for our beliefs and speaking up on behalf of those who have no voice, we’re saying “yes” to our values of justice, courage, unity, and service to others.
Being vegan is about saying “yes” to the bounty of plant-based food available to us.
Being vegan is about embracing abundance.
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A recognized expert and thought leader on all aspects of living vegan, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an award-winning author of seven books, including the bestselling The Joy of Vegan Baking, The Vegan Table, Color Me Vegan, Vegan’s Daily Companion, On Being Vegan, and The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. She is an acclaimed speaker and host of the inspiring podcast, “Food for Thought.” Colleen is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and has appeared on The Food Network and PBS.