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Like everything else, veganism exists on a spectrum. Where do you land?

In the U.S., vegans are often considered fanatical non-meat eaters who kill plants and preach that they’re saving non-humans from suffering. Some vegans would tell you, “Hell yeah, that sounds like me!” And while that’s just fine, some of us aren’t so confident.

I’ve been a vegan for a while, but when I began to transition into veganism, I found it difficult to label myself, because I felt like I wasn’t The Perfect Vegan. I would accidentally eat bread that was made with milk or I would wear a pair of leather shoes I bought before changing my diet. The Perfect Vegan is one who lives a life completely devoid of animal products, but that isn’t necessarily realistic for many people.

Does that mean that they should be shut out of a proactive, healthy community and subjected to ridicule? I don’t think so. Therefore, I’ve come up with a list of different labels vegans can give themselves to accurately describe their level of veganism. What kind of vegan are you?

The Lifestyle Vegan

This vegan is all about all things vegan, including food, clothing, makeup, skincare, haircare and anything else in between. Not only will they aim for a healthy diet like The Diet Vegan, but they’re also aiming for perfectionism as a vegan. Yes, The Lifestyle Vegan is a little obsessed with keeping animal products away from themselves, but they’re just passionate about their choices.

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They’ll browse the web for the best vegan makeup and haircare products; they’ll search shoe stores far and wide for the best faux-leather shoes, and they will go to great lengths to find the perfect vegan moisturizer for their perfect skin. (I mean, have you ever seen a vegan with terrible skin?) The Lifestyle Vegan embraces veganism completely.

The Diet Vegan

This vegan only cares about what they consume, staying away from animal products in their food. They’re not concerned with cruelty-free clothing or products, or even animal rights necessarily, but just what they put inside their bodies.

You might see this vegan frantically looking at labels on food packaging and shopping in the organic section at the supermarket. The Diet Vegan will prepare awesome food for their wary non-vegan friends to show them that the gig isn’t so bad, and may like to remind others that animal products can have detrimental effects on your health.

The Diet Vegan wants to learn about all the nutritional horrors of the food industry by watching documentaries and reading books so they can put the best food inside their bodies without worrying about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), chemical additives and preservatives or hormones. If The Diet Vegan lives close to a farmer’s market, you can bet they’ll be one of the first to check the place out, searching for the healthiest foods available.

The Cheagan

Then there’s the cheating vegan, who tries to stay away from animal products but may break fast whenever dessert comes out. I like to call them “chill vegans,” because they’re lax about the whole vegan thing.

Yes, The Cheagan aims for the diet and lifestyle of a vegan, so you’re not gonna see them eating a rare steak or a lasagna loaded with cheese, but they’re not bothered if a tiny bit of egg makes its way into a bowl of noodles or if a smidgen of milk ends up in a pile of toast. They’re laid back about veganism, but still hold to most principles.

I consider The Cheagan to be accomplishing a good goal—after all, a world full of Cheagans is better than one with no vegans.

The Ones Who Say They’re Vegan…but Still Eat Meat and Dairy

Yeah, this one makes no sense. It is rather difficult to be classified as a vegan, whether in diet or lifestyle, if you still consume meat and dairy, but there are some people who like to call themselves vegans, as reading enough YouTube comments has showed me.

But hey, the whole point of this article is to say that you can define yourself as whatever type of vegan you want to be, so if you want to tell people that you’re a vegan who eats meat and dairy, so be it, though you’ll likely just confuse some people and probably earn a few scowls in the process.

The Vegetarian Who Everyone Confuses for Vegan

Just a quick fact: Vegan is not short for vegetarian. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, but they still consume other animal products, like dairy and eggs. If you’re a vegetarian, then expect some people to ask you if you can consume dairy; they’re probably thinking you’re a vegan.

If you feel the vegan diet is too tough for you after trying it out, there is no shame in becoming a vegetarian instead. Defining your own diet is the key to success in it; then you don’t have all those expectations or pressures imposed upon you.

The Animal Rights and Eco Activist

Due to their beliefs about animals and the environment, these vegans changed their diet to accommodate the needs of the planet and population. There can be so many reasons why a person chooses to become a vegan, like health issues, but The Animal Rights and Eco Activist became vegan for the greater good.

You’ll see this vegan at rallies and events fighting for their causes, and when at home, living a life devoid of animal products. The Animal Rights and Eco Activist is a lot like The Lifestyle Vegan, however the latter doesn’t necessarily attend events for animal rights or environmentalism. For The Lifestyle Vegan, changing their diet is more for themselves, rather than for the world.

The Vegan Extremist

All groups of people are gonna have ’em. These vegans like to make non-vegans feel bad for consuming any animal product or wearing any animal product or doing anything with animal products. The Vegan Extremists give veganism a bad name, causing many vegans to be scared to utter the word, since they don’t want to come across as a radical who loves animals too much.

Stereotypes are formed from The Vegan Extremist who preaches and condemns others for forgoing their lifestyle, but if The Vegan Extremist label is how you want to define your veganism, then go for it. Passion does not have to be a bad thing, but be respectful when trying to encourage or educate others on the topic.

At the end of the day, you can decide what type of vegan you want to be. It doesn’t have to be any of the labels I describe above, or you could be any combination that feels right to you.

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Megan Schnese

University of Alaska, Anchorage

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