I whole-heartedly consider myself to be a vegan. Veganism does, after all, present itself in so many aspects of my life. I eat a fully vegan diet. I buy and use only vegan cosmetics. Even my full-time job is as a vegan chef!
And yet, some people would claim that I’m not really vegan.
Because of the medicine I take.
You see, many modern medicines contain animal products. Lactose in pills, gelatin in capsules, lanolin in tablets. Beyond this, all medicines are tested on animals before humans, anyway.
These are not things I generally agree with, obviously. I avoid gelatin and lactose, amongst many other things, in my diet. In fact, I have gone half-blind scanning the tiny print of ingredients’ labels for any mention of them. I will not buy cosmetics with lanolin (sheep’s wool fat) in them, and nor will I buy from any company who tests on animals, or who sell in mainland China where it is required that they do so.
So why am I still taking my medication?
The very simple answer is this: I need to.
The medication I am on is not akin to a quick snack, or a lipstick I will use once and then forget about. They are anti-depressants, which are vital to stabilising my mood and essential to me remaining functional at this time.
Now – some vegans (and some meat-eaters who really, really love a good old game of devil’s advocate) will argue that plenty of medication options are vegan – or at least do not contain animal products – and that the only ethical choice would be to swap to one of these.
And to those imaginary people imaginary-fighting with this blog post (who are imaginary here, but unfortunately very real and very vocal in real life), I would tell them that actually, I have tried other anti-depressants. Check mate. The thing is, I would also have to tell them that these alternatives worsened certain symptoms of my depression to such an extent that they are dangerous for me to be on.
So, the situation is not quite like discovering a favourite cereal bar has honey listed amongst its ingredients, and thus moving along to a new one with golden syrup binding it, instead. No – I need to take this specific medication. My mental health is not stable enough to play around with trying out vegan alternatives (or trying out animal-product free, animal-tested alternatives).
And I don’t feel good about it. I feel horrible that something I consume everyday contains animal products. But – and here’s the issue I’ve chased around and around my head many times and finally come out the other end of – I would feel a hell of a lot worse without them. They are necessary for me to take. In fact, non-vegan medications are vital to many people’s health – whether that be for mental or bodily health. Some of those things may seem trivial to certain members of the vegan community, from the lofty heights of their pristine pedestals. But that decision is simply not for them to make. These medicines are a necessity, no matter what form they come in.
Once more: these medicines are a necessity.
A way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Veganism is not: shaming people for taking medicines that they need to take. It is not possible and practicable to stop taking medicine which is vital to you. Any marginally empathetic person should understand this.
So. My medicine is not vegan. But I am.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read something so different from this blog; something so intensely personal to me.
For anybody wishing to check whether their medication is vegan, you can find an excellent resource here from The Vegan Society. If it is not safe and advisable for you to switch medications, I wouldn’t worry about checking through this guide. It may prove helpful for checking up on non-vital medication, though. Say, for a cough. Cough cough, you’re still vegan anyway.