I eat about an 85% vegan diet, with some dairy and the occasional seafood meal. The seafood is doctor ordered; I have dangerously low levels of B12 from some medical problems and my body simply doesn't absorb it from vitamins. But I do eat organic and I try to buy things that are local and in season whenever possible.
The problem is that, while I do care a lot about animals, I don't eat a lot of them mostly because I think meat is disgusting. I always have. The very first time my Mom tried to feed me a hamburger, I told her they were gross and looked like worms. The smell of pork makes me feel ill. I developed a shellfish allergy later in life. Reading and research made me give up chicken more recently. I refuse to cook any meat, fish included, in my house. However, I wear leather, like cheese and I sometimes put honey in my tea.
The thing is, I hate meat the same way I hate eggs, mustard, watermelon and mayonnaise. They are all just gross to me.
And that's why I love people like Bryant Terry. He calls himself a food activist and goes to great pains to distance himself from any label. "When I reflect on my journey with food, I realize that most of the times when I was naming my diet, it was for other people. I want to empower people to embrace a more ethical, sustainable and helpful diet without feeling like they have to box themselves into a model," he recently said in an article about his new cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen.
Admittedly, it's easier to tell someone I am a vegetarian or a vegan if I am going to their house for dinner. But neither of those is totally true. The yogini in me wishes I could be 100% vegan as part of practicing ahimsa, but until those B12 levels stabilize and Sweet Green's froyo stops tasting so delicious, it won't happen. But I struggle with it within myself and I struggle with explaining to others. And movies like Food, Inc make me wrestle with that guilt even more.
A label, I guess, is a cognitive shortcut, even if it is an inaccurate one. And one I dislike.