When I asked whether eating roadkill was vegan I was roundly derided by many commenters who pointed out a pretty obvious fact—vegans don't eat meat. Similarly, when I wrote about what a vegan world would actually look like, another commenter chastised me for focusing on diet—whereas true veganism is about avoiding all animal products and unnecessary suffering.
So it's fair to say I have been schooled.
Go Meat- and Dairy-Free One Day a Week
Interestingly enough though, Mark Bittman seems to get off more lightly. In his latest piece he writes that we should all give semi-veganism a try, eschewing meat and dairy for even one day a week, he says, can improve our health and lessen our impact on the planet.
He is, of course, right. Dairy ranks right up there with meat in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, so Meatless Monday and Weekday Vegetarianism will be a whole lot more effective if they also encourage low or no-dairy meals.
Is Semi-Veganism Possible?
But can we call it semi-veganism? Maybe I'm just over sensitive, or overly focused on semantics, but having put my leather-clad shoe in my mouth just one too many times, I can't help feeling you either are a vegan or you are not. I myself have been experimenting with vegan pizza and returned just half-an-hour ago from a deliberately dairy-free lunch. But I would be wary indeed of calling myself a semi-vegan.
By all means let's eat lower down the food chain. But if ending factory farming means stopping dietary fundamentalism, we need to build broad alliances and respect alternative approaches. Let's try to avoid co-opting labels that mean an awful lot to folks who are on our side, but take a different (and arguably much harder) path.