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The Good Vegan: I Don't Have to be Perfect
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The Good Vegan: I Don't Have to be Perfect

I happened to catch part of an episode of Dr. Oz’s afternoon show the other day. Ever since I learned that he and his wife are vegans, my opinion of this uber-popular television personality went up a few points.

His guest that day was tennis player Venus Williams, a beautiful woman who grew up just a few miles from where I’ve lived most of my life. I’ve never been much of a tennis fan, but I stopped to listen to what she had to say anyway.

Dr. Oz asked her if it was true she is a vegan. She said that would depend on whether they have cameras in the green room. She may have had a piece of cheese from the cheese platter, she admitted, but if no cameras were in the room, she was a vegan. In fact, she said “I’m a cheegan.” Now I’m not sure if that’s cheegan for “eats cheese” or “cheagan,” for a cheating vegan. Either way, she outed herself as not being a perfect creature.

I take comfort in the fact that I am not the only vegan that backslides every once in a while. I went vegetarian as soon as they removed the straightjacket I was in after watching some of Peta’s footage of slaughterhouses in 1987, but becoming a vegan was a longer process. I had many false starts, and pizza was a deal-breaker. When I foolishly admitted this to people on the Internet whom I did not know and with whom I would never break bread, I was symbolically crucified for being a hypocrite, a phony and a heretic. Geez, I shoulda just lied, how’d they ever know?

Then came the judgments and the labels. I was harassed for not being a “real” animal-rights activist. Being an American human, naturally I pushed back. The harder they came at me, the more I dug in my heels. But in time, the harassment waned and the haters moved on to some other poor schmuck and I was able to continue my journey to becoming a vegan in peace. Soon after, I made the complete transition.


There is always temptation, it’s all around us. I’ve been “helpfully counseled” that Coca-Cola and Guinness have animal products in them. Luckily, my favorite beer, Corona, is vegan-friendly, but I guess I’m cheating when I indulge in a pint of Guinness once a year to celebrate my Irish heritage. Truth is, I don’t like it. I guess I could disguise it with green food coloring, but really, who wants to drink green beer? Maybe I can switch to Jameson’s instead and still be traditionally festive. Hey, I’m nothing if not flexible.

I once told my therapist that I felt incredibly guilty when I ate something that may contain milk and eggs, such as birthday cake. She said “You don’t have to be a great vegan, you only have to be a good vegan.” 

Since Tofurkey came out with a vegan pizza, I’m happy to report that pizza is no longer a deal breaker.

Sorry about the Coke.



*Image courtesy of Flickr creative commons.

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Michelle A. Rivera is the author of several books including HOSPICE HOUNDS, Animals and Healing at the Borders of Death (Lantern Books); CANINES IN THE CLASSROOM, Raising Humane Children through Interactions with Animals;(Lantern Books) DO DOGS HAVE BELLY BUTTONS? 100 Questions and Answers about Dogs(Adams Media); THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN SLOW COOKER and THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK(Book Publishers, Inc.) and ON DOGS AND DYING (Purdue University Press). She is also an essayist and has been published in the vegetarian essay book “Voices from the Garden.” She is a freelance writer/editor and along with her Certified Therapy Dogs, a Humane Educator and R.E.A.D tutor. Michelle is a past blogger for and a writer for several online publications including eHow, Livestrong, Rachel Ray, The Daily Puppy, USA Today, Cracked and others. She has two Certified Delta Society Therapy Dogs: Murphy, a Golden Retriever, and Tabitha, a Standard Poodle; and two cats. All are rescued animals. Michelle lives in South Florida with her husband, John, an attorney, and is the proud grandmother of three lovely children, Austin, Alexander and Adrienne.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Support
    Michelle-- this is a truly compassionate approach to yourself and the rest of the world by extension. We adore it. So much so, that we just posted it to The Flaming Vegan Facebook page. We look forward to your future posts!
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  2. AnnaB
    I agree! I think we should always celebrate and encourage the positive rather than expecting perfection.
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  3. shafess
    This is a fantastic post. It's always so nice to read or hear about other people who aren't necessarily perfect. I can breathe a sigh of relief and feel comfort in the fact that we are all trying our best, but alas, we are human, and make mistakes. So, thank you for this! :)
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  4. Buster509
    Since I've become Vegan two years ago, I've also been through the gamut of disapproval and sideways glances. I've found that clarifying that I am a "Dietary Vegan" will keep people from checking out my shoes and handbag to see if they are leather. And often I also tell them that I am NOT a purist. I will have an occasional doughnut, and if bit of feta cheese happens to grace my salad, I will certainly enjoy every bite without freaking out and sending it back. My main goal is to strive for healthier eating..
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    1. DogWriter
      I tell people that I am an ethical vegan because I want them to think about what that means. I have found that those who switch solely for nutritional reasons backslide a lot more than those of us who have seen the slaughterhouse footage and have vowed never to support that again. But the point is, we all do what we can, the best we can, and that's all anyone can ask for. Doing your best is one of The Four Agreements, a book I try to live by.
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      1. Buster509
        At the same time, with eyes wide open, I have to be realistic about my personal veganism. While I won't be rushing out to buy leather shoes, I certainly can't afford to toss the ones I already own! I was raised on a farm, I know the difference between the respect my father had for the animals and I also have also seen slaughterhouse activities. I have also helped in butchering deer meat, cleaned fish and plucked chickens before, and it is customary in my family to give thanks to the animal for providing food for us. It is a personal choice, for me, not a statement. And, I reap the healthy benefits.
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  5. Vin Chauhun
    Vin Chauhun
    Ha! I take that approach. I don't stress about being a vegetarian. If I need to eat dairy products because I can't get cheaper alternatives, I am not gonna feel bad. voted !!!
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