From the way veganism is discussed in mainstream media (I’m looking at you, New York Times), you might think there are just two kinds of eaters: normal ones, and…vegans. Even as the animal-free lifestyle grows in popularity, veganism still gets depicted as crazy, restrictive, unhealthy, unnatural, and for weird, crunchy hippies. But in fact, there are many stealth vegans among us, proving that you can go vegan without turning into a crusty, twigs-and-bark eating social outcast.
Enter Kourtney Campbell and her friend Katie Charos, who run an adorable lifestyle blog called the Vegan Housewives. It’s full of cute craft ideas, yummy recipes, pretty Instagram photos, and stories about their lives and families—much like any other popular, Pinterest-ready blog—along with some vegan stuff, like beauty products and recipes. And yet–here comes the kicker–even non-vegans read it, because it’s great. Even Charos herself isn’t vegan (she’s vegetarian).
Which is what makes Campbell living proof of the fact that veganism doesn’t define a single type of person; nor is it always accompanied by tie-dye and dreadlocks. Not that there’s anything wrong with tie-dye or dreadlocks (hey, I’m from Eugene, ok?), but they are not a prerequisite for veganism. Some people think they are. They are not. Vegans can be anyone. They can walk among us. They can, in fact, have excellent taste and be super-cute.
We spoke with Campbell in hopes of learning how to go vegan, while still maintaining a love of traditional things, or at least, things that aren’t made . Which, again, is not to say that traditional things are “normal,” or that one lifestyle is better for everyone than another–but Campbell is an example that veganism, just like every other thing, comes in all styles.
Here’s what she had to say:
First things first. Living a life without animal products is a big step–what made you decide to become a vegan?
I grew up in a SUPER southern family—we sometimes ate fried parts of animals that I don’t even want to mention. I was always extremely overweight and had constant stomach problems. In college, I studied Fitness & Nutrition, which caused me to completely turn my life around. I started eating really healthy, exercising daily and went on to become a personal trainer, but the stomach problems were still there.
I slowly began cutting out animal products (first dairy, which I found I was border-line allergic to, then land animals). I felt like a new person, but I was having a really hard time giving up sushi. I ended up meeting some kids on tour with peta2 who encouraged me to try out a vegan diet and I did it and have never looked back. I had never really looked at the cruelty that went into the meat and dairy industry until that time, but as an animal lover, it was horrifying. I knew I would never again contribute to an industry so cruel and unnatural.
Recently, veganism has gotten a lot more attention in the media–but it seems like it’s still perceived as very “crunchy” and “out there”–or, as you say on your site, “ridiculous.” How does being a vegan intersect with the rest of your life?
I compare veganism to my religious beliefs in many ways. I myself am a Christian. However, when I see how other “Christians” portray themselves with such hatred towards other people (and animals) just because they live a way they disagree with, it mortifies me that someone may lump me in that category and breaks my heart that the actions of those people are turning people away from the true root of their religion out of pure disgust.
I think many vegans feel they need to be extremely out there in order to live a cruelty-free lifestyle, and if you aren’t as “hard-core” as they are, then you don’t deserve to call yourself a vegan. It’s a huge turnoff, not only to carnivores, but for many other vegans as well.
I know a lot of vegans that interrogate restaurants. Some even go as far as to ask if meat has ever been cooked in the pans or if you use a different part of the kitchen for the vegan food, etc. When I see this, I immediately think “this makes restaurants NOT want to cater to a vegan lifestyle.” If all vegans are this difficult, then why in the world would we ever want to serve them? And I would really like to know how an animal is being harmed by using the same utensils that were used to cook a non-vegan meal.
The bottom line is that you aren’t helping by being difficult. I personally use the same kitchenware I used before going vegan and every so often, my husband even cooks eggs in them.
After I became vegan, I went on tour with peta2 and I actually made friends with a girl because she came up to me to tell me that she hates vegans (because of similar reasons listed above). She was completely shocked to hear that we were both on the same page with thinking some people take it to the extreme and gained a lot of respect for the vegan population.
It’s so much easier to win people over with compassion (and vegan sweets) than it is to criticize them for what you believe they’re doing “wrong.” You have to show them that there is another option and it’s even better than what they’re used to!