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I occasionally joke that perhaps the three most difficult words to define are God, love and vegetarian.
But how important are labels and how exclusive do they need to be in order to mean anything, let alone be taken seriously?
Literally from infancy I fought my parents (in particular my father) not to feed me meat. I knew it originated from living creatures and so felt instinctive abhorrence. Eventually at the age of thirteen years I managed to ride my father's violence, refused further meat (not to mention my slaughtered pet rabbit!), and became a vegetarian.
It felt right albeit I never gave it much thought other than 'killing has to be wrong!'
I guess that the best part of three decades then past. I became a single person in London, joined a veggie dating group, met a few vegans and for the first time began to truly think in more detail.
In essence my main thoughts were along the lines that I loathed all exploitation and wanted no part of it. I took a look at myself and thought - hold on I'm only half way there. On both an intellectual and spiritual level this made me squirm. Indeed I never felt at ease after that first cold look at myself.
And so I became vegan and have steadfastly remained so for around twenty five years.
I'm not a labels person, nor am I a big supporter of absolutism. Veganism sits on the shoulders of reasonability so for example in summer most vegans do not stop driving in order to reduce the deaths of small flying creatures. Or refuse life saving drugs (tested on animals) for their children.
We all take our own small steps in an effort to reduce animal suffering. And on a level we personally feel comfortable with. That has to be good - helping animals, and being true to our spiritual nature.
That is not to say that per se I regard veggies as being overall better people than say meat eaters, simply more caring with regards to living creatures.
So what is a 'vegetarian?'
I don't know, and nor does anyone else - hence many sub-definitions have arisen.
But does it matter?
Our own group labels help us to firmly understand who we are and what we endorse and also promote the welfare of creatures.
The rub of course though is 'do we sit comfortably within our own label?' And that is for each reader to personally decide.
MODERATOR: An enormous space has arisen within my above article. Albeit it scans perfectly. Would you please be so kind as to attempt a repair and then remove this note? Thanks.