Jason and the Veganauts

and the Quest for the Vegan Golden Fleece

Open Letter of Invitation to Ellen DeGeneres

going_veganaut_with_ellenDear Ellen,

‘Sup?  I heard you talked about using some eggs and caused more panic than an abrupt end to a Mayan calendar.  Well, my imaginary BFF, I’ve got your back.

I am huge fan although not as big as I was before.  Since I dropped animal products and started living the vegan lifestyle my size has been slowly diminishing.  However, the size of my belly is no indication of the intensity of my fanaticism for you.  In fact, the smaller I get the more excited I am to get to meet you in real life soon… but more about that near the end.

When I took the vegan plunge back in October of 2011 I was new to the scene and busily learned all I could about this strange new cult of compassion.  I originally made the life change because of health reasons but quickly learned that there were many less selfish reasons to stop eating, wearing, and using animal products.  I’m not saying that living longer and looking more and more like I did as a high schooler in the late ’80s is a bad thing, but I found there is so much more to being a vegan than getting skinny enough to pull off a Flock of Seagulls haircut and a Frankie Says Relax tank top.

One of the highlights of my early veducation was learning about the people I admire who were already living the lifestyle.  The Artist Formerly Known as Prince didn’t get my heart pumping.  Pamela Anderson… meh.  Mike Tyson?  Really?  Now Bill Clinton was a happy surprise.  As a recovering McDonald’s addict myself it is good to have him on the list.  However, even counting the former leader of the free world I was most excited to learn that you were living and promoting veganism.  I’d watched everything you ever appeared in, including Ellen’s Energy Crisis (yes, I rode it before EPCOT wimped out and changed the name).  Basically, you rock and I was glad to have you as a role model.

Fast forward to about a week ago when you told the world that you use eggs.  You explained that they were not caged hen eggs and that the producers were actually happy chickens.  You were rational and eloquent and not in the least bit apologetic, which seems to be the three things that piss some vegans off the most.

I found most vegans to be supportive and helpful when I was making the transition and learning the rules.  However, I found that a number of them were very protective of their label and quick to henpeck me into silence if I strayed from the established path.  The group of supporters that followed my blog were almost always as compassionate toward me as they were toward the Animal Kingdom, but free range vegans who didn’t know me or my story were often rabid with their insistence on what made them vegan and everyone else a vegan failure.

Then early last summer during one of my zombie-like shuffle-jogs I was ruminating on these compassionate haters when I had my epiphany (BTDubs- I find oxygen deprivation to induce the best epiphanies).  I was on an uphill struggle when I realized that I wanted to be like a vegan but I didn’t want to be like those vegans.  I realized that they were probably just very proud of themselves and wanted to protect the label that they proudly used to identify themselves.  Out of respect for them I abandoned the vegan label in exchange for my own: veganaut.

ve-gan-aut /VEE-gun-ot/ (n.) 1. a person who is exploring the rewarding vegan lifestyle without actually meeting all of the vegan tenets all of the time.   2. someone who lives like a vegan but makes occasional allowances for transgressions without giving up the vegan lifestyle afterwards.  3. any omnivore who is experimenting with plant-based eating or vegan living. 4. a person who is sick and damn tired of defending their own personal brand of veganism and prefers to have a label nobody can argue with.  An example sentence: Sarah is a veganaut because even though she is almost always vegan, she wears leather shoes and eats cheese fondue once a month with her Mother-in-law and has some turkey on Thanksgiving.

Now with your egg announcement I am hoping to add another example sentence to this definition that Websters Dictionary should be including in the next year or so when the word takes off: Ellen DeGeneres is a veganaut because she lives a compassionate vegan lifestyle except for her decision to use the eggs of happy neighborhood chickens. 

The veganaut community is ready to accept you with open arms.  We are a growing group of individuals who are supportive of each other and anyone else needing shelter from criticism and the finger pointing that can occur.  We understand that you catch more flies with agave nectar than you do with vinegar so we focus on the positive and forgive and/or accept each other (and ourselves) without question.

To your critics, dear Ellen, let me say what I’ve said to thousands of my young students over the years: Blowing out someone else’s candle will not make yours burn any brighter. Pride and righteous indignation can turn ugly when they are used to judge others.

I hope that you will consider adopting the veganaut label and joining our non-judgmental crew.  We have a private Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/groups/theVeganauts/) and a secret handshake and we are working on a secret language called Tofurky Latin.  More than anything, we have a desire to celebrate any victory that moves our global population a step closer to understanding that humans are not the only beings on Earth who deserve our respect and compassion.

Feel free to have your people call my people (um.. me) and we can work out the deets about when you’d like to have me on the show.  I don’t mind riding coach and please don’t feel obligated to put me up in the nicest hotel.  Second or third nicest would be perfectly OK for a simple guy like me.  In the meantime, I am going to practice my dance moves.  Obviously, I’m going for a variation of the Chicken Dance.

Lots-o-love,

Jason

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36 thoughts on “Open Letter of Invitation to Ellen DeGeneres

  1. Here’s a perspective to consider, as well:

    http://www.theveganrd.com/2012/12/goats-milk-soap-happy-chickens-and-ellen-degeneres.html

    “when we send the message that an animal is a commodity in a hyper-capitalist market, there will always be cruelty, because use perpetuates demand, and demand continues production”

    • Hi Paria- I read that blog post earlier this morning when I found it on Reddit r/vegan and thought it was level headed and well articulated. I think the quote you provided is valid but it also sets up the all or nothing mentality that prevents some people from trying at all. Even something like Meatless Monday may seem like a cop-out to many vegans and vegetarians, but the reality is that MM participants might have never taken the small step of abstaining for even a day without it. For every 7 MM participants the planet has on whole vegetarian. It isn’t perfection but it is a step closer to where you and I want the world population to be. Thank you so much for your comment and I’m glad we are working to make change together.

      • Thanks for your response, Jason. I enjoy following your blog. I also completely agree with you on Meatless Monday and the fact that any small step is better than no step at all. I am a strict vegan, but I would never discourage curiosity or any changes, no matter how small. That said, I think the frustration with celebrities comes from knowing that they have such influence over their followers. If someone is going to give themselves a vegan label, they become a role model whether they intended it or not, and that spotlight shouldn’t be used against the cause. I still love Ellen and think she does wonderful things, but I can see why some of the vegan community was upset over her discussing her egg use. Life isn’t always black and white for us “normal” folk, but when people take your word as gospel, then gray areas shouldn’t be promoted. My humble opinion, anyway. And we are absolutely working together on the same team. :)

      • You rock! I would love to sip coffee and have this convo- you bring up a lot of stellar points. Power to the ‘normal’ folks : ) Thanks for the support and input!

  2. Sheree on said:

    Great (and funny!) post, Jason!

    Eggs…I ate them for a long, long time *after* I stopped eating land animals (20 years)…but it took a certain mind shift and experience for me to get to the point where now they are just disgusting to me (we had a rescued chicken for awhile~~she fell off a Tyson truck and we kept her~~seeing firsthand how they come out of the chicken, etc., did me in, lol). But sometimes chickens *do* just leave their eggs lying around and if a human didn’t eat them, then some other critter would, so I don’t see how that is harming the chicken in any way (unless you want to go as far as saying that just *having* chickens is wrong, which I’m sure some could make that case).

    Each person has to have their own epiphany, whether it’s for their own health or something that finally makes them “see the light”~~judging one another never works and your blog is a great vehicle for pulling people toward the light rather than blinding them by shining it right in their eyes and making them want to run away! GO VEGANAUTS!! (and I hope Ellen has you on her show! woot!!)

    • Sheree on said:

      Just to be clear, I’m talking about “happy” (backyard) chickens who leave their eggs around (not the poor souls who are factory-farmed)! Didn’t want anyone to think I’m that naive!

    • Jason still loves me and I keep chickens. I assume they are just as happy as the other animals I keep captive and feed (fish, cats, dogs, husband). I wish all the chickens in the world had living conditions like mine have. I truly believe they are happy and happy to see me and get love and extra snacks. I will send some eggs with him for Ellen along with pictures of the ladies.

      • FYI- If Shannon ever kicks me out of the house my backup plan is to live with your chickens. They are easily the most pampered children I’ve ever seen.

    • So good to hear from you Sheree! I can’t believe you were able to actually save a Tyson chicken~ although I am picturing you in a black ski mask with a lock pic and a get-away vehicle idling on the side of a nearby road. That’s how it really went down, right? Let me know when it’s time to “find” another chicken and I’ll grab my night vision goggles and meet you there!

      • Um, it was more like a Lucy and Ethel episode! (we named her Ethel!) She was down by the lake where I used to live and from a distance we thought she was a white plastic bag, lol, but upon further investigation we discovered she was a chicken hanging out with the geese. My partner in crime had experience in snatching up unsuspecting chickens, so she snatched away and we put her in a doggie cage. Her body was extremely top-heavy from all the strange growth hormones and she limped (could barely walk without toppling over), but we brought her to our horse barn, fed her, and kept her happy! She left eggs all over the place. I couldn’t bring myself to eat them, though!

      • <3 it Sheree~ I watched Vegucated recently and was reminded of how bad the factory egg farms were- overwhelmingly horrible- I want to go and save them all. I'm so glad you got one- it reminds me of the starfish story; http://andrew-ong.com/2008/02/06/the-starfish-story-you-can-make-a-difference/

  3. This reminds me of a quote from Will Allen in his book the Good Food Revolution.
    “We’re all so afraid of doing something imperfectly that we don’t do anything at all.” Love you Veganauts!

  4. I really want to love Ellen more but I can’t get past her promoting Cover Girl, which tests on animals. I have no problem with her using eggs from happy chickens; I imagine the chickens kept in her neighborhood are some of the most well-treated animals. I know this might fall into the category of all-or-nothing, but until she gives up CG a small part of me hangs back on my liking her. Still, I applaud her honesty and the other positive changes she’s made for animals.

    • That is why I love this community- I learn so much from you guys. I didn’t even know about that black spot on her record but it makes perfect sense. I’ve seen her ads with CG and I know that if *I* know the name of a make-up company they are big enough to be bad guys- but I never put 2 and 2 together. Thanks for the heads up! : )

  5. Jessica on said:

    I think it’s great that Ellen is moving in this direction. Becoming vegan (or even indulging in the curiosity) can be extremely overwhelming, especially in that it’s often a radical change (i.e., from the SAD) for themselves and their families. I personally know people who look down upon vegetarians/vegans for being snooty, holier-than-thou, or undeserving of their respect… for no real good reason. It’s truly heartbreaking. It’s difficult for someone to make the decision to become vegan when the people they’re surrounded with aren’t nearly as open-minded.

    The fact that someone as popular and as influential as Ellen made this choice to become vegan and then publicly confessed her use of eggs may cause some backlash, but I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s a wonderful start. People who watch her show, or follow her actions as a celebrity, might want to give veganism a try, especially if someone like Ellen can do it and allow for transgressions. They might not be as overwhelmed about “giving up” everything at once, but instead allow for changes to occur naturally and gradually.

    I understand that ultimately, perfect health and perfect compassion are goals that vegans strive to meet. For those that want to dip their toes into a drastic lifestyle change, though, it might seem impossible. I think Ellen is making it seem far more approachable… and then, over time, those people who took her example and started moving in the direction of veganism will realize that it wasn’t as hard as they’d thought, and change more and more aspects of their lives in a positive way. The slow, simple adjustments will become habits that are more likely to become permanent. Just to think about how many people can be affected this way is amazing.

    Also, I love your blog, Jason. I love what you do, and promote. Thanks for everything. :)

    • Thanks Jessica! You articulated that sentiment perfectly! The response to this post on r/vegan (on Reddit.com) is largely negative and perpetuates the intolerant vegan stance- you said this so perfectly which is such a palatable relief after being bombarded with the negative “my way or the highway” approach there. THANK YOU!!! <3 : )

  6. Mike Gillett on said:

    Is incorrigible the right word for you?

    • in·cor·ri·gi·ble
      /inˈkôrijəbəl/
      Adjective
      (of a person or their tendencies) Not able to be corrected, improved, or reformed.

      I’d have to say yes- how could I possibly be improved upon?

  7. It is not even worth trying Pops.

  8. Great post! There have been so many bloggers chiming in on the Ellen and eggs thing and this was one of my favourites. I love that quote about blowing out someone else’s candle; so true. Another thought: I believe she says she “gets” eggs, so perhaps she doesn’t even eat them herself and they are for others. I still love her even if she’s not a strict vegan, everyone’s path is different.

  9. Very good points and very well said. I agree that it’s easy to slip up sometimes when you leave the safety of your own home. No “vegan” or “veganaut” should be kicked out of the cool kids club for the “once yearly teaspoon of honey” that we all inevitably end up consuming somehow.

  10. Hi. I am new to your blog and appreciate the sentiment to encourage any form of compassionate eating, however, I worry about the social influence celebrities have. I definitely don’t agree with Ellen continuing to call herself a vegan if she eats eggs

    • I understand how you feel Xiomara~ there is a lot of attention focused on celebrities. Many people hold them to a higher standard because of this. I will be interested to see what her future holds. Thanks for reading : )

  11. Hi Jason. This is exactly what I needed. Being a big fan of Kaizen (the art of small changes), I sort of unconsciously began replacing some vegetarian meals with vegan meals and now cook 99% vegan at home. (I did borrow eggs from a neighbor to cook for my Paleo house guests last month).
    I seek vegan but usually end up ordering modified vegetarian when dining out. It all works. I am super flexible when I am an invited guest (manners matter). And so, I appreciate not turning everything into a fight for righteousness. It’s exhausting. Veganaut it is and veganaut I will be. Cheers!

  12. Pingback: Chickballs! « The Perks of Having Cancer!

  13. Pingback: Flo continues her vegan challenge ……. she’s got balls. « The Savvy Sister

  14. Love, love, love this! Finally a word for how I eat.. Veganaut!! I hope you don’t mind if I keep shamelessly throwing the word around as if it were my own!! :-)
    Found you through The Perks of Having Cancer.

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