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When Veganism Doesn’t Work: Ethics vs Health

Since it’s the second last day of 2015, I thought I’d make this blog post to go over a few things that people may experience over the course of the next year if they are either vegan already, or plan to go vegan.

Did you/are you going vegan for ethics or health? What keeps people there and what turns them away?

Today I’m going to be talking about what drives people to go vegan, and how sometimes people slip up and ditch veganism, while others stay vegan for life.

ethics vs health

 The reason I decided to write this post was because I’ve come across quite a few people (mostly on social media) who have been vegan and have gone back to eating meat, dairy and eggs. A lot of people that switch back claim it is because of health reasons (not enough protein, iron, etc), but we all know that it is possible to thrive off a plant-based diet because it gives you the MOST nutrients. So I wondered if people were doing it wrong, or just stopped caring/craved old habits?

Let’s get into it then.

So you’d think that ethics brings people to veganism and is able to keep them there because of everything they know. I mean, how can you go back to eating meat once you are aware of the cruel injustice that goes on within the factory farms?

Health on the other hand is a different story sort of. People who go vegan for health shouldn’t actually be considered vegan, rather plant based instead. (See my post on vegan vs plant based here)  So these people who go “vegan” for health do it to become happy, healthy etc. The thing with this though, is that animals were not their main priority or driving factor in the switch to veganism. So when you don’t have that cruel reminder ringing in the back of your mind when you walk into a restaurant, you could be tempted to just “let loose”, have a “cheat day” “indulge”, etc. because having meat once a week is not going to make you obese or give you heart disease. So to them, depending on the person, it’s okay to have these things sometimes in small amounts. (“In moderation” as most say)

But those two situations do not apply to everybody. I originally went vegan for health reasons (I experienced bad bloating and stomach pains when I ate meat/dairy/eggs), but even though my driving force to veganism wasn’t the animals, I later discovered all this information about the planet, the animals, global warming, etc. But even before I learned those things, I still stayed vegan because 1. animal by-products made me feel like shit, and 2. I considered them unhealthy and they grossed me out. So in some people’s scenarios, they can go vegan for health and stay vegan 100% without going back.

In fact, I’d say “health” vegans could potentially stay vegan the longest BECAUSE they are so healthy. They would never complain about lacking iron or protein, and they would understand how to get all the proper vitamins and nutrients. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t ‘cheat’ on their ‘vegan’ diet though. (read: plantbased.)

People who go vegan for ETHICS can sometimes forget about those aspects because they are so focused on animal rights and ethics. Often times those people who were driven to veganism strongly through ethics, such as Gary Yourofsky, can sometimes be “Junk Food Vegans”, because to be quite frank, they don’t give a shit what goes into their body – as long as it didn’t come from animal. And I think that’s AWESOME, because sometimes Health Vegans can get so caught up in being healthy and perfectly pure that they are afraid to eat vegan treats and desserts.

I feel like I am healthy, but also very ethical. I care about what goes into my body – to an extent. Like, I probably wouldn’t eat oreos or vegan candy, or Kraft peanut butter and other things, but mostly anything other than those exceptions I will eat. IF IT’S VEGAN, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME TO EAT IT! I love vegan brownies, chocolate bars, cookies, cakes, pies, donuts, ice cream, etc. I love treating myself and being happy. And as long as no animals were harmed to make my food, then that makes me even happier. A cruelty free, happy conscience.

But with all that being said, sometimes those kind-hearted people who go vegan for the animals, sometimes have to go back to eating meat or eggs because they think they need protein and other nutrients. I’ve actually heard of quite a few people who thought they had to incorporate chicken or salmon back into their diet to get their proper nutrients. So while their initial drive to veganism was awesome, they couldn’t keep it because of health purposes. That is I believe you need to be educated on both health and ethics to essentially stay vegan.

And then there’s some people who just no longer want to be vegan and simply go back to eating meat, dairy and eggs because they wanted it.


So what is better then? To go vegan for health reasons or ethics?

To go vegan for health reasons and believe it’s okay having to have cheat meals? But also maybe going vegan initially for health reasons, but then discovering everything else on your journey.


Going vegan for ethics and having a happy mindset with food forevz, but then chancing not knowing enough about health and nutrients and feeling the need to go back to their old ways!?

Well, my ultimate conclusion would have to be: either one; they just must balance each other out.

So if you’re going “vegan” for health reasons, also learn about ethics. And if you’re going vegan for ethics, then also do your research about health so that you are informed.

They work hand-in-hand with each other, and I think to ultimately stay vegan for the longest period of time, you need to have both those health and ethical drives to keep you reminded of why you are doing this, and how you can sustain it.

See my video on this similar topic here:

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  • Reply
    December 30, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I’ve actually seen ethical vegans go back to eating meat as well. I guess some people just experience side-effects that interfere with their well-being or they just lose sight of everything they’ve learned. I believe that the reason doesn’t really matter, so as long as you stay vegan, have a positive experience with it and make it work πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Graeme M
    March 22, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    I’m not sure you can go “vegan” for health reasons, surely? Veganism is an ethical framework, a philosophy if you will. If you simply choose not to eat animal products but still use other animal products you aren’t vegan.

    I’d be very surprised if someone became a genuine vegan for ethical reasons and later renounced that.

    All of that said, in terms of eating food, choosing not to eat animal products for health reasons is a valid approach to life. It’s just not vegan.

    • Reply
      March 22, 2016 at 4:49 pm

      I actually know multiple people who went vegetarian for ethics, but then felt like they weren’t getting enough nutrients and decided to go back to meat! And I also know lots of people who go ‘vegan’ for health purposes, simply because they don’t understand that there is a difference between vegan and plant based πŸ™‚ That’s partially why I made this post, to educate people on the difference!

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