Ex-Vegans has a simple purpose: find people who used to live an animal-free lifestyle, then post their names and locations to shame them for “selling out.”
Take Madaline Foxtrot, for example, a Brooklynite who landed on the site for “eating a McDonald’s Cheesburger [sic] with some douchebag in a bowler hat and suspenders.”
The site’s mission page explains its creation: “The Vegan Sellout List is our answer to the epidemic of vegan sellouts—those who are aware of the suffering caused by meat, dairy, egg, fur, and leather production, yet choose to look away while the animals suffer.” They link to Meat.org, and suggest if the videos on that page don’t “stir your conscience” you should consider suicide.
If the idea of a crowdsourced shit list of former vegans already seems unfair and unnecessary, you might not be surprised to learn that a number of entries are patently untrue.
Corey Mintz, for example, is a food columnist for the Toronto Star and other publications. His profile on the site states that he is the “definition of a sell-out” because he took “a job as a food writer, and decided that animals were food.” Except that he didn’t, he tells us.
“I am totes a paleo-terrorist and have never been vegan, unless you count the time I spend sleeping (in which case, I am vegan for seven hours a day),” he wrote in an email. “Looks like a friend, or enemy, or both, has taken the liberty of posting a profile for me. The really upsetting part is that someone might believe I attended Burning Man.”
In some cases, the website hits its mark, but does so only indirectly and while brandishing only half of the story. Lisa Talev is a massage therapist and coach in the Austin, Texas, area whose business and photo are prominently featured in the Texas section of Ex-Vegans. Clicking on her profile reveals the following bizarre non-sequitur: “Owns Inspired Wellness in Austin. Argues vegans do NOT make better lovers.”
Talev explained that she moved to a "flexitarian" lifestyle after 17 years. “[I] found that after seventeen years of vegan diet, I was developing multiple health problems.” While someone “pretending to be vegan” is excluded from submission to Ex-Vegans according to the site’s submission guidelines, “health problems” doesn’t count as an out.
The moral quandary explicit in the creation of a site like Ex-Vegans is simply that it relies on the means to justify the ends. But what about those ends? Ex-Vegans wants to bring attention to the plight of animals suffering everywhere, but as Talave continues, this circling of the wagons will likely just alienate those interested in the movement while doing little to challenge the opposition.
“I was a devout vegan the first several years, and actually was wracked with guilt/shame/worry/fear the first few months I started eating meat again (17 years later), wondering if: a) I was a horrible, selfish person, and b) if vegans everywhere would hate me for my ‘betrayal,’” she writes:
This is a ridiculous waste of energy, and harmful to health. I believe that all of us compassionate, conscious people need to relax, have a sense of humor, and appreciate that people do what they can, in little and big ways, to improve the modern plight of animals. We need to support each other, instead of criticizing and discrediting one another.
Instead of building some kind of bridge to understanding or communicating veganism’s strengths to a curious public, Ex-Vegans brandishes the salad forks and goes straight for the apostates, dragging the whole conversation into a tiresome “punker than thou” closed circuit that does nothing for the cause. That Ex-Vegans is ineffective at communicating anything other than vitriol is unfortunate. Even worse, it does so while relying on baseless testimony.
Photo via Tarale/Flickr