Tim Barford – ”Deep” veganism and ”light” veganism

24th July 2016

There has been plenty of discussion recently about the word ‘’vegan’’ and what it means….and whether it should be replaced with other words, or altered to include animal consumption in some form or other….….. but ‘’vegan’’ is way more than a ‘plant-based’ diet or a ‘cruelty-free lifestyle’.

Vegan is a philosophy and a way of life, and words like plant-based, compassionate, cruelty-free, reduceaterian, flexitarian and vegetarian don’t come anywhere close to articulating the far-reaching vision of veganism.

The big problem lies in ‘careerists’ hijacking the word ‘vegan’ to mean something other than what it already means, often diluting it to include animal exploitation when it suits…. or with people trying to reduce the meaning ‘vegan’ to nothing more than a diet.

I prefer the use of ‘light veganism’ and ‘deep veganism’ to differentiate between where many of us start, which is often vegan food, scrambled tofu and such (light veganism) to exploring other systems of oppression that intersect with speciesism (pro-intersectionality), and differences between treatment and property status, welfare, and campaigning (abolitionist ideology), and examining Rights and Justice for non-humans. That’s ‘deep’ veganism.


Let’s not ruin the beauty of the original vision of Donald Watson when he coined the word back in 1945. Let’s not reduce it to a diet, or to a lifestyle that may include using some animal products ‘for effectiveness and pragmatism’’. Let’s not lose sight of the incredible vision of non-violence and world peace that veganism brings to the table. And let’s not sell out the animals by promoting anything less than veganism.


But let’s not put off pre-vegans either by going too deep straight away. Veganism is a philosophy and as such involves a lifetime of understanding. But like anyone wanting to swim the channel, it’s best to learn to swim in the shallow end. Which in vegan terms, generally means learning how to scramble tofu or make a cake without eggs. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Xx Timbo July 2016