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A recent study by the Humane Research Council (HRC) found that 84 percent of vegetarians go back to eating meat at some point in their lives. A total of 11,399 adults 17 and older were surveyed, which is a small sample size but with a sizable lesson for us all.

Now, on the surface this would seem to indicate that vegetarians as a whole, are sappy, spineless, flip-floppers with no ability to remain steadfast and who immediately tuck cloth napkins into their collared shirts and clutch utensils robustly when met with the faint, wafting odor of the cooking of a rump roast.

Let’s do this!

Vegan For Life or Vegetarian For a Meal? Why Labels Shouldn't Matter.Esquire

But let’s take a look at the wording here, specifically the “84 percent…go back to eating meat at some point in their lives.”  There is a ridiculously expansive chasm of variables in this phrasing.  This is why at times, the same statistics can be used by either side of an argument.  Was it a decades-long, vegetarian couple, celebrating their 46th anniversary in Italy and one night as the moon glistened atop Lake Trasimeno, they dipped crackers in a bowl of tapenade that happened to have a hint of lurking anchovy?  Or was it a vegetarian fad diet that 17-year-old Britney saw in Teen Beat, decided to try in mid-May to get down to her bikini weight but gave it all up for the first slice of thin-crust, boardwalk, pepperoni and sausage that she saw in early June?

You know what?  It doesn’t really matter.  Both examples, and every one in between must be considered absolutely integral to the cause.  We can no longer risk alienating potential return contributors.  Sure, making the decision to go vegetarian or vegan and never wavering is obviously ideal in terms of animal welfare. But efforts in aid of any kind and caring philosophies that endeavor for change, can never exist in an “all-or-nothing” vacuum.  The effort itself will suffocate.   These efforts must be given room to breathe, to grow and regress, and to slip a bit, to even fail.  Failing is the greatest teacher we have.  Try something heroic and positive for a week, then try it for a day, then try it for just one meal.  Then try it again someday if it ever occurs to you, and then again and again.

Any little bit that we can decrease the demand of animal products is a positive step, and the fact of the matter is majority of Americans are cutting down on their meat and dairy consumption. According to a Harris Interactive study conducted in 2011, 33 percent of Americans are eating vegan/vegetarian meals more often, though they are not vegan or vegetarian. That is over 100 million people, or one third of the country consciously choosing more plant-based foods! With mounting evidence that cutting down on meat and dairy consumption is not only good for the environment, but is also a key ingredient to good health, this number can only be expected to grow in the years ahead.

Well, crap. Better hop back on and try again.

Vegan For Life or Vegetarian For a Meal? Why Labels Shouldn't Matter.Louant

You might be interested to learn that being vegetarian for just one day, depending on your diet, your environment, your appetite and your vigor, can result in saving the life of roughly one animal.  For those of you who were doodling pictures of your math teacher in a wizard cloak atop Mount Doom and not paying attention, that’s about 365 animals a year.  Imagine that level of rescue in your backyard.  Now imagine it in your neighbors yard.  That’s an amazing amount of kindness and compassion and that’s just one person for one year.  This is simply an amalgam of estimates, but I find it very encouraging.

You shall not pass!…math. You won’t pass if you don’t start paying attention.

Vegan For Life or Vegetarian For a Meal? Why Labels Shouldn't Matter.Drawception

Not to mention the environmental impact that eliminating or even merely reducing meat consumption can have. Factory farming is a huge contributor to green house gas emissions, water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and unsustainable water usage. Just by participating in Meatless Monday, one person can save 65,000 gallons of water per year. That’s only going meatless one day per week! A person who does their best is always going to have a larger impact than a person who does nothing, so why are we getting our panties all in a twist about someone’s lack of perfection again?

If we take the 84 percent number at face value, our instincts might consider this number a “failure rate.”  We might have the infamous, knee-jerk, holier-than-thou, reaction.  I can’t say that it wouldn’t have been my own response at one point or another in my life. I suppose we can’t completely ignore that exchanging a long integrated lifestyle for another, kinder lifestyle might be too difficult a change to maintain flawlessly and forever, for some people.  But instead of the judgment that so often comes with this, we vegan and vegetarian folks might be better served thinking about the issue in terms of an overall reduction in animal product consumption.  It’s very much like the building of a wall, or a house, or a community, or a movement.  Every effort in aid of that progress should be welcomed and encouraged, no matter what happened in moments or days past.

By way of example and very recently, the ever enchanting Anne Hathaway, retreated from her vegan lifestyle stating that her health was less-than-ideal during her vegan stint.  But Mrs. Hathaway did a lot of good in her time as a vegan, going as far as serving an entirely vegan menu at her own, rather well populated, wedding.  Now, would Annie (do you mind if I call you Annie? Oh.  Ok.  Mrs. Hathaway then.  That’ll be fine.  My apologies…) be more or less likely to reconsider a return to eating vegan at some point in her life if all we vegans do is condemn her for her weakness or her lack of vegan efficacy?  The idea will invariably return to her consciousness.  As it will, I imagine for much of the 84 percent previously referenced.  This is what the study does not indicate.  Let us consider a vegan and vegetarian, long-view every now and again. Let us trust that the virtuous choices will once again find virtuous hearts.

You’ll be back Hathaway.  We know it.


My father once, when he was 22, famously ate six and one-half cheese steaks in one sitting.  The man ate meat like there would soon be a shortage.  When my dear old pop was 73 years old, he adopted a vegan diet so that we could be more connected and so he could exercise efforts that more represented his newly adopted idea that, in his words, “I’m no better then them.”

To the 84 percent, we’ll be here when you get back, and if it’s up to us, our arms will be wide open, and until then, do the best you can.

Lead Image Credit: Stephanie Y Lin

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171 comments on “Vegan For Life or Vegetarian For a Meal? Why Labels Shouldn’t Matter.”

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3 Years Ago

I don\'t think this is about urges. The biggest reason Vegetarians and vegans fall of the bandwagon, is "peer pressure". Yes meat eaters are constantly trying to feed you meat or cheese.
Oh Common have it now have one piece just 2 days ago a friend was telling me. There was no plain biscuits so I ordered a cheese biscuit so atleast my friend could eat it with his tea.
Another 2 friends always get pressure from family. If nothing they say don\'t eat the chicken pieces just eat the gravy I have not made any other curry today.
A friend of mine who is vegan was telling me his observation and why he has now become a strict vegan.
His family is not vegan and his wife is a real bitch. She knows he does not consume ghee but will add ghee(clarified butter) to the rotis(Indian flat bread) which is normally eaten without ghee.
The she tells him I have already made it now you eat.
Then he said they are all very passively BULLYING us. First they force us to fall of the bandwagon and we do it as we do not want to create a scene. Once we eat it then they lose respect, they take us for granted they think we are not serious or we are also missing the meat or butter and all we need is a push.
Then these meat/dairy eaters laugh the evil "Muahahahahahahaha" laugh inside when we fall prey to their "PASSIVE BULLYING" and take a bite.
Then my friend simply did not eat the rotis and would go out of the house and eat at a restaurant and come. Then his wife stopped doing what she was doing.
This is the major reaosn why is it not being discussed and exposed. This passive bullying of Meat eaters. How they will try and alienate you.
When you are going out they will not call you and say..."what you don\'t eat anything so we did not call as that restaurant only has salads as vegan options"
One of my friends as a Female Body builder and slowly and steadily her trainer her boyfriend and her gym buddies got her to stop eating meat. They did it like brainwashing.
You must have heard the saying "as soon I go vegan everyone around me talks like they got a nutritional degree"....But seriously as soon as someone goes vegan these meat eaters don\'t act but I don\'t from where these psychological manipulation games come out of them.
I remember during my earlier ears of going vegetarian I "fell of the bandwagon" (but immediately got back on). Before going vegetarian I would only eat wild game or wild hen that was grown naturally. I did not want to be part of the cruelty back then I WRONGLY assumed we needed meat and dairy for health reasons.
Then I got wise stopped meat.
After a month I told my friends I had stopped my friend of 10 years gets me some wild fowl he bought from some remote village. I was like "I told you quit meat" he was like "I thought you still ate wild meat that was torture free, this is the fowl that roams in the jungles and these village catch them and they gave me some. My mom made it with so much love for you. She was like poor guy does not get to eat meat".
I actually ate it the first time( I still kick myself for falling for that crap) But the next time in less than a month when he bought me some goat meat. I was like in "in the last 10 years neither him nor him Mom ever felt like feeding me these exotic meat which they used to bring regularly. Yes when I visited their home they would invite me for dinner. But they never got it to my home(I was a bachelor living alone) in a hotbox.
This is passive bullying or emotional blackmail. But for some weird psychological reason they want you to start eating meat again or atleast to eat meat on certain occasions. Like when you visit their house.
I refused the second time.
I have so many instances, where my own aunts have tried to force me and my cousin(who went vegan inspired by me) to eat meat at family gathering. they don\'t prepare any vegetarian dish. We both simply order a home delivery.
Then they stopped doing that.
Lets discuss this I am sure many vegans and vegetarians would have experience their friends family , collegues urging them to eat one piece of meat. Or telling them at a office or family gathering. Now just eat what is prepared and don\'t make a scene here you will hurt the hosts/family\'s feelings.
Many may have not realized this is all deep rooted conscious attempts to force you to stop being vegetarian/vegan.
We have to discuss this and stop this when we see it. Or else more and more people will stop being vegan or vegetarian.

I remember 2 celebs who neighbor showed them their hens roaming free in their backyard and then "forced" them to eat the eggs and would give them regularly free(they raise the hens to sell the eggs).
They are so nice polite and many can\'t say no.

3 Years Ago

Gotta LOVE the logic that narrow-minded anti-vegans will use from these meaningless statistics, that \'just because something doesn\'t end up being all that popular long-term amongst non-serious vegetarians in today\'s modern society, veganism MUST be unhealthy and bad for the body\'!

Yeah, that logic makes total sense.

Keep on believing what you want, anti-vegans, meanwhile the ones who KNOW how to do diet and lifestyle will just carry on being EXTREMELY HEALTHY, now!...ta ta!

Kiesha J Wilburn
3 Years Ago

I've failed several times. :( I plan to try again.

10 Dec 2014

No, you\'ve challenged yourself to try several times. Every attempt has done a little more good for you, and for the world, even if you didn\'t maintain new habits. Keep at it, and don\'t listen when anyone (including yourself!) tries to tell you it\'s not worthwhile. :)

Christina Kalbaugh
3 Years Ago

I've been a vegetarian, since I could remember ...

Leslie Pacholski
3 Years Ago

22 out of 28 years isn't bad... Still going strong. No urges whatsoever.

Amelie Deny
3 Years Ago


Shelley Meaney
3 Years Ago

I so agree!!

Simona Sosa
3 Years Ago

Tonya, thought you'd might like to read this :)

Khaloy Ulpiano
3 Years Ago

Is that so

Shay Corrigan
3 Years Ago

We're not ever going to go 100% veggie because we really like meat and fish but we eat meat free every other day.


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