Just how Vegan are you?

Part 1: the drama of being vegan

this puffy winter coat is so not vegan

Being Vegan and living in NYC is almost like being in a new religion. It’s not a matter of being Vegan, it’s a matter of just how “vegan” you are. For those who weren’t raised vegan, the newly converted usually begin with giving up eating meat and dairy.  Usually diet choices then lend themselves to garment choices. No more leather handbags ladies. Those super cute suede boots you were sporting last fall have now got to go. The big puffy down coat you’ve worn 4 winters in a row is now frowned upon by your new vegan friends. Even Mr. Snugglepuss is damaging your street creed (cats are carnivores, people). At some point one starts to examine whether honey is acceptable, whether the table sugar is really vegan (chances are it’s not), just what the hell is in that toothpaste, nail polish, floor cleaner, body wash, dish soap and so much more. Do your shoes made of man-made materials include a glue that has animal by products in it? The cute bra with the satin trim that you got as a gift, did they use Satin made with or without Silk (not all Satin is vegan my friend).

As a small business owner, costumer, organizer of a Vegan ladies lunch group, and former employee of a popular vegan restaurant it has happened on multiple occasions where the question of just how “vegan” am I has come into play. While working in a Vegan restaurant I quickly learned from the example set by colleagues that being vegan wasn’t nearly as fabulous as being a raw food vegan on a gluten free diet. I also learned that you are no one unless you owned a Vitamixer and made your own nut milk (apparently making nut milk from my food processor was not nearly vegan enough).

chicken pic by Kim Newberg
I’m all for eating the cucumber. My cats are all for eating the chicken. photo by Kim Newberg.

Members of my lunch group are taken aback when I tell them my husband eats meat and that I cook chicken for my cats (my cats are on a raw food diet, but haven’t gotten used to the idea of totally raw meat). Why not just buy the vegan dry food? Why didn’t I marry someone who is vegan? Well, cats are carnivores and I don’t think it’s right for me to force them to eat food they aren’t genetically designed to eat. Plus, dry food has caused them to get stones in the past. As for my husband. Well, I simply try to encourage him to eat more vegetables and at least twice a month he will eat a vegan meal. He really likes vegan food and has accepted my funny toothpaste, vegan sugar, and eco cleaning products. He also just likes meat.

As a costumer, performer and small business owner, I try not to sway from my vegan beliefs as well. You see the photos of me with the big Ostrich feather fans? Well those were purchased after doing a lot of research on how Ostrich feathers were collected. It wasn’t until after that purchase many years later that I learned that Ostriches aren’t killed for their feathers, the feathers are a by-product and that the birds are often killed for their meat. Yep, I don’t mind wearing feathers as I think they are beautiful, but I do not want to wear them if an animal was harmed in collecting those feathers.

Wool? I used to work on a farm. I  know sheep are sheered for their wool. In the summer time the haircut is a nice relief from the heat. Of course I worked on a small farm. Commercial farms aren’t taking their time to trim each sheep humanely. They are buzzing away, cutting the sheep in the process. The warm down coats that every New Yorker sported during the winter, the birds didn’t naturally molt those feathers and many birds died from infections incurred during the plucking process.

For me it’s not just about the animals. Those super cheap vegan shoes may have seemed like a great deal, but is it really a good deal if they were made in a factory which did not provide humane working conditions for its staff and provided very poor pay? I buy most of my clothes from thrift stores not just because of the pricing, but because it is recycling. I don’t really need the latest fashion from Strawberry’s or Forever 21 even though the pricing is dirt cheap. By not buying newly manufactured garments I’m not supporting those inhumane work conditions that help create dirt cheap fashionable wear.

inthegarden.venus.12.15.1A girlfriend of mine who has been vegan for 10 years is not parting with her 11 year old down comforter and I have no intention of parting with those big white feather fans that I purchased many years ago. Even though I’m not purchasing new feathers, I’m fully aware that a message is conveyed to the public every time I use them. All I can do is encourage others to make smart decisions like buying used fans, recycling feathers, find feather alternatives, or buy cruelty free feathers.

Though I’ve managed to get a little more vegan everyday for the last 7 years (before going Vegan I was Vegetarian for about 9 years, a lot less peer pressure being a Vegetarian), I still struggle to practically apply all my beliefs to my business.

  • I would love to find Satin gloves that I know for sure aren’t made with Silk.
  • I would love to acquire enough cruelty free feathers to provide feather boas to all of my students in my dance class.
  • I would love to provide vegan dance shoes for my entire dance troupe (this one might actually happen before the end of the year).
  • I would love to find a fancy vegan restaurant/ nightclub to present my shows in.

There are many vegan decisions that I would love to make immediately, but as a small business owner, finding an affordable vegan alternative has yet to present itself in terms of my making those decisions. In the meantime, I’ll continue to do what I can and while my decisions may not be vegan enough for all, they are made with great thought.


So tell me… Just how Vegan are you?  Check back next week for Part II which will offer some vegan business options.



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