By Catherine Pigg
The basic understanding among vegans tends toward making a conscious effort of not funding the exploitation of animals. This effort means the exclusion of meat, dairy and eggs in their diet as well as abstaining from purchasing products made from and tested on animals.
This seems simple when viewing the community from the outside, but within the community disagreements start over exactly where the line should be drawn when attempting to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.
Honey, modern medicine and vaccinations play a huge role in these debates among community members. The most radical vegans are against these practices because they include the exploitation or abuse of animals, or simply because they believe there to be health risks in consuming pharmaceutical drugs. Examples of radical vegans include YouTubers Ellen Fisher and Kristina Carillo-Bucaram.
Fisher posts videos about her life as a vegan mother who believes in a whole foods and a plant-based lifestyle. Her YouTube channel has a following of over 30,000 subscribers and each of her videos typically have over 100,000 views. Her children are shown to be happy and healthy, but Fisher faces criticism on her choice to not vaccinate her children. Her choice not to vaccinate comes from reading Tim O’Shea’s book Vaccination Is Not Immunization and from reading VaxTruth.org. She recommends people do their own research on the subject instead of just taking a pediatrician’s opinion as truth.
Makennah Bristow, a junior physics student minoring in math and astronomy, became vegan three years ago but she still consumes honey, takes medicine and gets vaccinated.
“On the topic of medicine and vaccination, I choose to use medicine and get vaccinations because that is what’s best for myself and for everyone around me. While I know that medicine is tested on animals, there really are not many other options,” Bristow said. “Medicine and vaccinations are essential for keeping us alive and healthy. In particular, it is dangerous for people to not get vaccinated. Refusing vaccination risks the health of everyone you come in contact with. Get vaccinated! You’re saving yourself and everyone around you.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported flu vaccinations reduce the risk of illness between 40 to 60 percent. The World Health Organization states vaccinations provide a safer chance of gaining immunity to an infection rather than getting it through natural infection, which may lead to cognitive impairments depending on the infection.
Youtuber Carillo-Bucaram mostly posts recipe videos to live a raw vegan lifestyle, meaning she does not consume any cooked foods. Her channel contains a following of over 900,000 subscribers. She has also posted about her choice to not consume modern medicine and faced backlash when she posted a video stating a raw vegan ice cream recipe could cure depression. Her critics backlash on the vegan ice cream video followed the sentiments of not using depression as a synonym for sadness and how a recipe could not be a magic fix for a mental illness.
Other vegans tend to contain a more neutral outlook on these issues, like purchasing local honey rather than corporate.
Neutral vegans tend to be willing to take prescription medication when natural remedies cannot solve the medical issue, as well as understanding the importance of vaccinations. Bristow said she shares similar sentiments regarding prescription medication and vaccinations, but also wants to learn about prescription medicine options which do not test on animals.
Sadly, when most people think of veganism they only see one perspective, the radical side, and assume all vegans follow the same rigorous philosophy.
Bristow tries to eat local honey in order to support local beekeepers which she believes will help support the local environment as well as putting more sustainable practices in place.
“I consume honey because of the declining numbers of bees. By purchasing honey from a beekeeper, you are paying for bees to live,” Bristow said. “However, I don’t know much about the ethics behind collecting honey and if I were in a world where bee populations were not in danger, perhaps I wouldn’t buy honey. I know that the number of less invasive methods of collecting honey is rising, so that provides hope. I think it’s more ethical to keep bees alive and pollinating than it is to stop supporting bees monetarily altogether.”
As a vegan myself, I acknowledge the need for prescription medication even though animals are sometimes tested in the production process. I stray from taking prescription medication unless it is imminent for my health. I do believe in vaccinations because of the overwhelming evidence proving they serve a purpose and keep society healthy.