This collection of essays by vegans from all over the world aims at reminding people that to declare yourself “an ex-vegan” is somewhat nonsensical. If being a vegan is being someone who tries to minimise the suffering they inflict on others whenever possible, then saying you’re an “ex-vegan” sort of sounds like admitting you’re deliberately a monster now, but you didn’t use to be, or you’ve taken up behaving immorally as a hobby. Of course, what self-confessed “ex-vegans” mean is that they have taken up eating meat or fish or dairy or eggs again, after eating vegan for a while. They only take “veganism” in the restrictive dietary application of the word. The English language is lacking in resources here compared to French: in French, someone who eats a vegan diet is “végétalien”; someone who tries to live a vegan lifestyle, minimising the suffering they inflict on others in all areas of their life, is “végane” (pronounced “vaygan”).
So, once a vegan, always a vegan, these essays tell us, and I can see why that would be the case. I remember that in the first few days after I became a vegetarian (at the time, I didn’t know of the damage caused by the egg and dairy industries), my husband let slip that he believed I would soon return to my carnivorous ways. “I really can’t see how I could go back; there’s no going back, now that I know what I know”, I replied. And so I understand the many points well made by all the vegan writers in this lovely idea of a book, and if I recall, as I was reading it in the few days when I was considering going from vegetarian to “végétalienne” and even vegan, the sum of their thoughts helped me articulate my own reflexions, think deeply about my actions and strengthen my resolve. It’s also lovely to hear from a variety of vegan voices from all over the world when you are becoming vegan in Malawi, and only know one vegetarian who cooks meat all the time (for their family, they pretext) and one pescatarian who doesn’t seem to realise that fish are animals too (they grow on trees, don’t they?). But, actually, there is another vegan around who could tell me more about his own brand of veganism soon if I manage to pin him down for my first “Meet This Vegan” interview. I must admit that the fact that I knew of him being around might have helped stir me towards veganism; it made it more approachable, more doable… more real. There is nothing like seeing that it makes perfect sense and can effortlessly be done by someone else to bring home the fact that you can do it too.