It’s okay to not be perfect. I’ve eaten food thinking everything was vegan, and then later found out that it wasn’t. Or, sometimes decisions are made only to be questioned later. This has most often occurred at restaurants, of course.
On one of my first trips back home for a wedding, I ended up eating at a Mexican restaurant at which I frequently visited for years before becoming vegan. I ordered the vegetable fajitas and asked them to not cook it with butter. I ate it, along with plenty chips and salsa. I consumed 8 ramekins of the salsa at a minimum because I was so hungry from not being able to eat much at the wedding (and from all the free wedding drinks)! I later found out that both the beans and the salsa (the salsa!!!!) were drenched in lard. Who puts lard in salsa? Therefore, I went out of my way to avoid eating any animal products at the wedding only to have a PIG FAT FEST afterwards.
Another example: I ordered a veggie burger when I was out eating in Houston with my visiting family. I asked questions ahead of time, and found out I couldn’t eat any appetizers due to the milk and eggs in the batter of all of the fried foods, but could have the burger (no mayo) and fries. I patiently waited for my burger and fries, getting hungry, watching everyone eat a bunch of appetizers like fried pickles and fried mushrooms. Finally, all of the main dishes started coming out. But then, the owner came to the table to let me know that the burger bun and the spinach aioli dressing that goes on it were both not vegan. The burger bun was made in house (so it was the only bread available) and contain both eggs and milk, and the aioli was made with butter. She said they were remaking the burger without the aioli, but what did I want them to do about the bun situation? I wavered for a bit because at this point I was so ready to eat, and I had “burger” on my mind. I ended up getting the bun. I beat myself up about this for a while, but all I can do is bring my own bun the next time I go to the restaurant.
Another example: I went to a crawfish boil for the last time this year. First point to make is that a strict vegan wouldn’t go to a crawfish boil. This has been a difficult situation to avoid as I’m from Louisiana. I’ve been to about 8 crawfish boils since becoming vegan, and it’s been terrible and it sucks, and I’m now trying to quit as much as possible. I obviously haven’t eaten any crawfish or vegetables boiled with crawfish, but it’s the mere fact of participating in this ritual. Anyway, I’ve learned to request that the veggies be boiled before the crawfish, that way I can eat more than just crackers at the crawfish boil. So at the last boil I went to, my friend boiling went through all of the trouble of boiling the vegetables first (even though he only was boiling one sack of crawfish). My partner even had picked up what she thought was vegan sausage for the boil. I looked at the ingredients, saw there was egg in it, so I threw it away (because nobody else wanted it of course). Boiling is a long process, so we all sat around, drinking, talking, and waiting. Finally, the veggies were ready! I even had brought peanuts so I could have hot boiled spicy peanuts! I went look in the pot and my friend had put regular sausage in the pot with the veggies 🙁 I was incredibly sad to see it, as I thought my friend would have understood why that was not ok, especially after he saw me throw away the non-vegan sausage. Again, I had to make a decision. I ended up eating the veggies, but I won’t ever allow that to happen again. I’m going to watch everything going into the pot. When he boiled a few weeks after, I stayed home. Again, I will try my best to not go to crawfish boils as much as possible.
I do consider myself a strict vegan, and I know situations demonstrated above in which I bended would be considered not strict (and not vegan). Veganism isn’t a cult or religion or the law. You can decide how you want to live your life and you shouldn’t have to fear the vegan police. I do the best I can. There have been times when I haven’t asked whether fried restaurant foods (like fries, tator tots, mushrooms,etc.) are fried in the same fryer as meat and seafood, because there is nothing else for me to get on the menu that would be satisfying. This is definitely an ethics issue that I struggle with. Sometimes I might mess up, but overall, my “little protest” is saving the lives of animals and reducing animal exploitation overall. Before becoming vegan, I was eating an abnormal amount of meat. One thing I will never bend on is eating a slab of meat. That will never happen on purpose.
Some vegans are very aggressive and I get it. Once you go vegan and do research, it begins to pain you about all of the violence against animals in the world and you become less tolerant of the mass murder around you. However, at the same time, this aggressiveness can scare off potential vegans from becoming vegan. This is honestly the daily struggle.