I've been vegan for 15 years, and I've been eating meat the entire time. I've also been drinking milk and baking with butter.

Not mock meat. Not fake butter. Not imitation milk.

I eat real food based on real ingredients. I don't consume substitutes, alternatives, analogs or replacements.

I grew up conditioned to believe that animal-based meat, dairy and eggs are the barometers by which all other comestibles should be measured. Thus, we're told, anything that doesn't come off of or out of an animal is considered an alternative.

The marketing arms of the meat, dairy and egg industries have no doubt shaped our thinking in this area. The National Milk Producers Federation has been trying for years to forbid plant-based milk companies from using the word "milk" claiming they have proprietary ownership of that word. Try telling a lactating mother she has to say breast beverage.

Hence, I drink milk. Although water is the only beverage for which we have a physiological need, beyond our own human milk when we're young, it is certainly convenient and tasty to be able to make creamy, nutrient-rich milk from nuts, grains, legumes and seeds.

No cholesterol, no lactose, no casein, no harmful saturated fat, no pregnant female who will subsequently lose her offspring, as well as her life.

I also eat butter, which has more to do with fat than animal fluids – as in "peanut butter" or "cocoa butter." The butter I eat is simply made from the fat of plants rather than animals.

I even eat meat, which comes from the Old English word "mete," which originally referred to solid food rather than a beverage. This history is still evident in our language when we say "coconut meat" or the "meat of a nut," and it is in that vein that I embrace and consume meat made from plants.

Far from fake, these foods reside in the major plant kingdoms from which we derive much of our pleasure and most of our nutrition. In using words that celebrate the plant foods of the world, we normalize the healthful, humane way of eating called "vegan."

With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an Oakland-based vegan author and educator.

  • Lee Ann Thill

    Your perspective on our use of language within a vegan paradigm is so clear and empowering. Thank you!

  • Diana

    Brava, Colleen! Well said, as usual. Yes, we eat real food which is edible, delicious and wholesome. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that the meat I consume has not harmed anyone. No one should ever have to suffer for my appetite.

  • Colleen Talbot

    I am so glad we have your guidance, inspiration and common sense approach to issues. Thank you so much .

  • Andrea

    Interesting food for thought, as always, Colleen.
    When I first heard you express that view on your podcast, I realized that my native language (German) works in a similiar way when talking about plant based milks or meats. I`ve tried to adapt my use of language accordingly – and behold, the food sounds much more appetizing.
    Nice to be reminded of it again. And nice to have a short and concise text on the subject to which I can refer family and friends.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Awesome. Thanks, Andrea. It really becomes second nature after awhile, doesn’t it? And it doesn’t only become more appetizing for us but for others who hear these words, as well. πŸ™‚

  • Kasey DeMeo Staronka

    Love live love your work!! Took your 30 day challenge and have been vegan for almost a year now!!

  • David Cabrera

    Brilliant compassion. Thank you.

  • Shelley Lowther

    I love this— Colleen, I do wish you had given MORE concrete examples— cashew milk, etc etc– and sources for where people can get them. As in brands, stores, links to make it yourself. I know for new vegans or people who are vegan-curious– this helps. Then when I shared this, there is a call to action that the masses can understand. AND– beautiful piece.

    • Thanks, Shelley. I have only 2 minutes to say everything I need to. πŸ™‚

      • Shelley Lowther

        I GET THAT! I just think this was beautifully written AND that you could help people see it’s not as hard as they think. I am forever explaining where I get my protein etc. I think you should EXPAND on this and help create even MORE vegans!!!

    • ES Trader

      “brevity is the soul of wit”. if she was successful in getting your attention then motivate yourself to what they taught in biz school, AIDA, attention, interest, desire, ACTION !

    • C.Lane


  • Grace

    This is great ! Thank you Colleen!

  • veganforever

    I’m with you, Ms. Patrick-Goudreau. I am a real-food eating VEGAN for life: For Animals; For Humanity; For Earth.

  • Crystal Shepard

    The “meat” section here is definitely the weak link. The fact that the Old English ancestor of “meat” included all solid food is interesting, but hardly relevant. “Broadcast” once referred to scattering seeds, and “matrix” used to mean a pregnant animal. That would hardly justify me in arguing that farmers are competing with CNN, or that Keanu Reeves is likely to give birth.

    The more general point that vegans don’t, or at least needn’t, eat imitation or fake foods is well taken. The perception of vegetarians and vegans is still that we subsist on lettuce salads, unprepared tofu, and fake meat. While I can’t say I never eat meat analogues (I like TVP in chili), for the most part natural foods that aren’t trying to pose as something they aren’t both taste better and cost less.

    I do have to wonder, though, if the general thrust of the article is pointed in the wrong direction. To say “We have meat, butter, and milk, too!” seems a bit too much like scrambling to claim we meet an animal product social standard. As if *not* having milk, butter, and meat would be a horrible thing, and we have to show that our diet isn’t so bad as all that. I don’t have durian, oca, or nopales in my diet, yet I wouldn’t have any motivation to write an article explaining how even without those in my diet I’m still not missing out.

    • ES Trader

      there’s always one in a crowd and you crystal qualify as that, ” no the sky isn’t blue ” crowd.

      The point is that as intelligent beings with the ability to think and reason, exploiting other life forms that experience, pain, fear, terror and probably grief should not be victims for human convenience.

      You succeeded in drawing attention, now shut up and consider the misery that you may be responsible for.

      • NeverUpNever In – I do encourage you to edit out the last part; I don’t think it’s necessary, IMHO. πŸ™‚

        • Crystal Shepard

          Wow, NeverUpNever In writes a horribly rude, judgmental response to my post, and your reply is that I should edit *mine*?

          • OOps – no! LOL I read the name wrong. πŸ™‚ I meant for NeverUpNever In to edit hers. I’ll fix it. πŸ™‚

        • ES Trader

          Chivalry lives !

      • Crystal Shepard

        If your goal was to be insulting rather than communicative, congratulations, you’ve succeeded! Starting and ending a post on an ad hominem is an excellent way to do that.

        As to me saying “no the sky isn’t blue”, feel free to point out the fact or facts about the world which I misstated.

        Your central paragraph confuses me a bit. Ignoring the fact that it is agramattical, I agree with it. We oughtn’t exploit other life forms. But I’m not sure what you mean by “The point is…” Are you saying that my post is contrary to this? I’m confident it’s not. Are you saying Colleen’s article primarily makes this assertion? Although she agrees with it, that *isn’t* the primary (or even secondary) point of her article here.

        Your final attack on me as an attention seeker saddens me. Although my post was largely critical, it was polite and on topic. I would like to think that the vegan community is capable of open and content filled discussion, rather than simple cheerleading.

        The ethical evaluation of your demand that I “shut up” is pretty simple. You seem to believe that not only are you the moral arbiter of appropriate and inappropriate conversation, you are also justified in censoring opinions you disagree with. Aside from the fact that cutting off discussion is usually unhelpful, your apparent failure to comprehend my post, and quite possibly the original article, seems to leave you especially ill equipped for this role.

        Finally, is your statement that I am to “consider the misery that [I] may be responsible for” a reductive comment that because I failed to cheerlead appropriately, horrible harm has resulted? Is it another failure in reading comprehension, based on a belief that I am defending a non-vegan position? Or is it a general urging that I as a sinner ought to consider my moral place in the world?

        • ES Trader

          Since you like homilies, hers another…”if you cant say anything nice, dont say it”; because you are the person talking at the movies.

          only the truth hurts is a bonus homily for u

      • It always amazes me that among vegans, who are supposed to be loving and supportive of all beings, and who are already a minority in this omnivore laden world, there are always quarrels and flat out attacks among each other. God forbid there are different perspectives among the group! I don’t understand why there is so much finger-pointing and name calling on Every Single Post and Subject among vegans. We are all on the same side, there is no reason for it. Plus it makes the Vegan term look negative and ugly, which I know personally is the LAST impression I want to leave with following a vegan lifestyle!

    • David in Oakland

      Exactly. It was a silly perspective. Her argument seemed to be that because the words have alternative
      meanings the listener is really not giving up anything by choosing
      veganism.. The valid arguments for veganism (and they are VERY valid) are moral and health-related, not that veganism is as tasty and as easy as omnivorism. It’s not. I know there are zealous vegans who truly believe that their lifestyle choice is as yummy as In-and-Out Burger and the greasy side of the menu at Mel’s Diner, and as compassionate people, we need to be kind to these delusional people. However, we do not have to tolerate dishonesty and selling veganism as easily delicious and requiring minimal sacrifice and inconvenience is dishonest and damages the author’s (and the movement’s) credibility.

      • Crystal Shepard

        I disagree with a couple of points (apparently I’m disagreeable). First, I wouldn’t describe her position as silly or dishonest. Though I think the points are somewhat weak, I doubt neither her seriousness nor her honesty in what she presented. Offering up different viewpoints to help people deal with difficulties they might face as a vegan is a generally a good thing to do. As is her willingness to put herself into the public space, where I’ll question her ideas, you’ll question her credibility, and James T. Kirk will just be rudely dismissive. Not an easy thing to do.

        Oddly enough, I also find veganism provides just as tasty food as I ate when I was an omnivore. Often better, because the lack of available pre-packaged options (or affordable ones, at any rate), has pushed me to make more of my own food, though to be sure an omnivore has just as much opportunity to eat homemade food.

        As for sacrifice, it honestly has seemed pretty minimal to me. It’s a pain at restaurants, and I spend more time looking at labels and cooking than I used to. I eat different things than I used to, that doesn’t feel like too much of a sacrifice. It’s not like I’m going hungry or eating cardboard tasting food along the way. I do miss pizza and sashimi sometimes, but when I was an omnivore I missed Ethiopian food (no local restaurants and I’ve never managed to prepare it quite right) and lobster (just couldn’t afford it). And, like back then, I’ve just accepted that some things aren’t available and moved on.

        • Crystal I agree. This article isn’t “silly” at all. I think that there are many perspectives of veganism, and this is one of them. I am always looking for new ways to look at my decision to become vegan, and this was a perspective I hadn’t thought of in this way. It also focuses on the fact that not all vegans are junk, fried, and processed fake-meat loving vegans. I chose to become vegan for animal welfare reasons, but I was also just as concerned about my health and didn’t want to just live on nutrient-poor “crap” that is a lot of the omnivore food substitutes. I won’t say that I don’t enjoy some from time to time as a splurge. But, the issue is that many omnivores think we live on these things, accompanied by french fries and Oreos. This is a perspective that shows most of us don’t eat this way, and that we aren’t “missing out” by being vegan.

      • darncat

        Is your mind as diseased as your body? In-and-Out-Burger? Mel’s diner?

        Yes, my dietary and lifestyle choices are far more “yummy” than this garbage you mention, as I am a chef and professional baker who obviously has a far greater grasp of what makes food “yummy” than you ever will. That’s just a joke; Mel’s diner my butt.

        Even if I were to make you something ‘greasy’, i could make you the greasiest melted grilled cheeses with onions, garlic grilled portobello, turkey and avocado and the thought would never occur to you that it was vegetarian, let alone vegan. Many people eat the cheesecake I bake every day without even realizing it contains no dairy. This is simple stuff. I won’t even bother explaining to you what a real cook does.

        Meanwhile, you are spouting off about some dessicated, msg laden overly salted to cover (hardly) the rot of the 20% earthworm and soy derivative and you want to make an argument about “yummy”? I’m sure your dog thinks his own crap is “yummy” while he is eating that too. Apparently you possess the average intelligence of one of the more inbred, genetically deficient breeds of canine. Brilliant.

        The intellectual prowess of this David in Oakland apparently doesn’t even comprise that of the aforementioned canine who at least would be astute enough to sniff around the grocery store given the opportunity. If he had he would have realized from ice creams to lunch meats to breads pastries and cookies all of these are available animal product free at qualities of “yummy” equal or greater to any comparable animal fat based product. Heck, Oreos are vegan.

        Dave in Oakland: it may be legal to smoke In CA, but not crack. Get your brain unpolluted and get yourself a clue. Do it for yourself. You aren’t getting any younger or healthier the way you’re going about it.

      • Julianne

        I feel bad for you that you don’t feel vegan food is delicious. It’s much better than a greasy cheeseburger or anything from In-and-Out. I’d take vegan food any day over that other stuff.

    • sorryforthetruth

      Considering she implied that lactating mothers are plant-based, I’d say that was a fairly weak argument as well.

      Oh, and no one who cares about the environment, especially in California, should be drinking some of those “milks”:

    • Paul

      This was my reaction too: the argument here is about words, with a hasty “veganism = ethical eating” assertion thrown on at the end.

      I don’t know that the idea that broadening our understanding of terms like “butter”, “meat”, and “milk” will bring anyone to veganism. But maybe spelling out the ethical argument would.

  • ES Trader

    You confused me initially but in principle I am in total agreement with you. How terrific it would be if everyone shared your sentiments.

    If humans were intended to be carnivores our jaws and teeth would resemble big felines and canines.

    Isn’t that a clue ? And we are the only animal that continues to consume milk after infancy and the enzyme, “renin” needed to make milk digestible, diminishes after infancy.

    I succumbed to temptation after 15 years for about 5 years, then returned to a vegetarian diet again this year.

    Hope your eloquence convinced many !

  • James T. Kirk

    Lol. Another planet. Milk is milk. Meat is meat. Have fun trying to change that.

    • Glad you listened and got something out of it, James.

    • Sonja

      With veganism on the rise by all accounts, I’d say her chances are pretty good. πŸ™‚

  • Lora

    The real focus of this argument is that it does veganism and the cause a disservice each and every time we use words like “fake” and “imitation” to refer to vegan foods. I think its a great point that I haven’t heard others really discuss. Think about even the self-messaging and internal thoughts that result from using those words – it could very well contribute to why vegans can have a challenging time staying vegan in our omnivore world. I really like your emphasis on real food for vegans and paying close attention to they intended impacts of our word choices, thank you Colleen for boldly writing this!

    • Thanks, Lora. You gleaned from it exactly what I hoped; thank you for articulating it so eloquently. It is indeed the self-messaging, public-messaging, and impression that results from using such derogatory words. And I do think it’s one of the reasons why vegans have a challenging time staying vegan or why people don’t try in the first place; it sounds like you are outside of the mainstream and not part of the status quo – and as social creatures, we want to fit in and be part of the crowd. So, yes, language plays a huge role in that, and I focus on it a lot in my work. Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

      • Lora

        Oops, I meant *unintended impacts of our word choices. Thanks Colleen! I had to post because it seemed too many of the comments here missed what I think is the main and strongest point you made!

  • Patti B.

    Thanks to KQED for having this compassionate, wise woman share her brilliant thinking on the air. How refreshing to hear that veganism is normal, that vegans eat real food. Please continue to give voice to the vegan perspective.

  • Richard the Big Bunny

    Fantastic, as always. Words are powerful! I’m trying hard to use “plant-based” instead of fake, faux & imitation. I often just say ‘vegan’ when referring to a meat [sausages, tuna, hot dogs, etc] but ‘plant-based’ when referring to cheese & milk.

    • Crystal Shepard

      Plant-based is an excellent phrase. It sounds like “Hey, we’ve figured out how to make hamburgers out of plants!” rather than “We’ve managed to make something that tastes a little like beef, and you should eat it.”

    • I do the same. But as you have come across i’m sure using the term “plant-based” only leads to questions, which in the end you end up using “vegan” anyway! I always say I follow a vegan lifestyle and a plant-based diet. That way there is no question my reasoning for becoming vegan, but it explains that I eat REAL foods as opposed to fake, processed stuff.

  • ccvorn

    One of the things I hear the most when someone finds out I’m vegan is, “I could never be vegan, I love (fill in the blank) too much.” Sometimes I say, I used to say that too but look at me now! I like this response that says I love that too, only in plant version.

  • CrueltyFreeEater

    I didn’t like the title of this article. But then I read it. Proof that until we explore something further we shouldn’t make snap judgements. Very well written and wonderfully presented. Thank you!

  • Wade Spital

    This piece really hits the nail on the head by exposing how our language perpetuates a cultural bias towards foods which are born in cruelty and tend not to support our bodies or our future either. My desire is to live a compassionate, healthy and environmentally sustainable life. This doesn’t force me into some back alley of the food world, searching for throwaway scraps of fake meat. I eat real food made from real seeds, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables and it powers my body quite well. The ‘bread and butter’ of the good life is our willingness to live joyfully, beyond our pre-verbal indoctrination into morally problematic consumption habits.

    When we are pragmatic about expanding our dietary choices to include our ethical sensibilities, it’s easy to see how the ‘meat’ of human compassion is probably actually grain-based, rather than birthed in condemning other sentient individuals to lives of torture and hell so we can rip the flesh from their bodies. Likewise, the ‘milk’ of human kindness is likely to be pressed from almonds, or tender little soy beans – not from the brutal wrenching away of a day old calf from his mother so we can steal the food that was meant for him alone, and for them, was the perfect biological expression of maternal connection

    It takes more than a ‘fake’ serving of courage and perhaps a few adjustments to our thoughts and language to embrace a larger, kinder, more everlasting version of who we can be.

  • Thanks Colleen. I enjoyed your session at the Animal Rights 2014 in LA. Keep up the good work. Always a fan.

  • WTF

    Tomato tomato

    • darncat

      You can easily spot those with no discernible intellect.

  • Sylvia Givens

    Who needs words anyway? They just get in the way. I’m a “vegan” and eat beef, chicken and pork with every meal.

  • Johnny Collins

    I became vegetarian 13 years ago but turned vegan over night upon discovering colleen and her podcasts realising that actually I was stopping very little animal suffering (and have subsequently turned a few people vegan with the animal welfare/health information I gained from listening to them). One of her books is actually on my birthday wish list! Language isn’t something I ever really thought about, but is now blatantly obvious in every day situations having listened to said podcasts, from defending barbarity (humane/happy meat for example) and condemning compassion (militant/extreme vegans for example). Fantastically said as always. Splendid human being!

  • Deb

    Lora gets it, but it seems some people didn’t understand the point. Words are powerful, and certainly affect everyone psychologically every day, all day long. I found myself referring to vegan sausage recently, as “fake”, but as I said it, felt it was not helpful to say that to the person I was speaking to. It IS a negative connotation, and the last thing I want to do is to turn anyone off from trying delicious vegan foods.

    • Indeed. Thank you, Deb.

    • sooooConfused

      I am just wondering why if you are vegan you are trying to replicate and eat sausage. There are so many incredible foods out there to eat, why make a fake sausage, or bacon, or whatever. Just eat the natural foods as intended, and stop trying to recreate sausage or bacon, or an omnivore’s versions of the said items. They aren’t good for anyone to consume anyway!!!

  • Stellaa

    I don’t get it. Be vegan, be an omnivore, be a vegetarian, why do you have to justify it, explain it to me or to yourself? I have no problem with any food choice as long as you stop with the righteousness.

    Dear me, my mother and countless old Greek ladies were vegan for 140 days of the year if they followed the ecclesiastic calendar. Sorry vegans, you did not invent it. It was part of the old church calendar and people rebelled to change the orthodoxy of food as a pre-condition to our morality.

    • darncat

      Why are you so defensive and antagonistic towards other people’s lifestyle choices? It seems as if you are over-compensating for something…

      • Stellaa

        Actually, why are you defensive about being a vegan? Why antagonistic against people who are not? I think you are unclear on the words you use. Why justify your eating habits via language. Be a vegan and let others be.

        • Rosa Lea

          It is flesh eaters that do not let others be Stella. Vegans defend all sentients not themselves. To not include all earthlings in the moral equation is selfish and delusional.

        • darncat

          I’m not going to apologize for your lack of education.

    • Joan Taber

      If there is any righteousness, as you righteously observe, wouldn’t it be justified? Vegans don’t support cruelty; carnivores do.

      • Stellaa

        Humans are omnivores. I guess your fight is with carnivores: lions, tigers, dogs, hyenas and tons of creatures in the sea.

        • Joan Taber

          But humans are the only ones who raise their kill in horrific and unnatural environments.

          • Stellaa

            Ahh, I guess you are not familiar with the cruelty of tilling to million life forms under the earth. Agriculture, has in fact a greater brutality to the life sustaining life forms under the soil. In fact, tilling for agriculture causes a great deal of horrific and unnatural environments. Unless of course you only consume no till vegan diet, I question the non cruelty aspect to only mammals, fish and poultry.

          • Joan Taber

            I don’t wish to continue this exchange with you. Try educating yourself and getting a little heart.

          • Rosa Lea

            If you are so concerned with those beings under the soil why are you eating flesh which requires 15 times the plant life than were you to eat the plants directly. You have only the most flimsy of arguments to support what is no more than an addiction to flesh. You prove only your weakness and conformity. Evolve already.

          • The problem, Stellaa, is that you are operating under the false premise that being vegan is about being perfect or pure, that it’s an end in itself rather than a MEANS to an end. Sadly, I think some vegans and activists have perpetuated this misconception. For me, being vegan is a means to preventing violence against animals where we have the power to do so. And though it’s an imperfect world and I’m an imperfect person, there is so much we can do to achieve this end. Just because we can’t do everything (or be perfect) doesn’t mean we should do nothing.

          • Crystal Shepard

            Amen to that. It’s hardly a deep condemnation of a genuinely good person to point out that they aren’t a saint.

          • Stellaa

            Colleen,I did not say pure, I said righteous. If you want to prevent violence, I would as you to look into buying all your vegetables and food from agriculture that does not involve tilling. Tilling, the basic act of our current agricultural methods, in fact is more catastrophic to life forms and is a greater form of violence than me eating a chicken. If you are against violence, you should be against violence towards all life forms, not just the warm and fuzzy ones.

          • OK – changed to righteous; the rest still stands: The problem, Stellaa, is that you are operating under the false premise
            that being vegan is about being righteous, that it’s an end in
            itself rather than a MEANS to an end. Sadly, I think some vegans and
            activists have perpetuated this misconception. For me, being vegan is a
            means to preventing violence against animals where we have the power to
            do so. And though it’s an imperfect world and I’m an imperfect person,
            there is so much we can do to achieve this end. Just because we can’t do
            everything (or be perfect) doesn’t mean we should do nothing.

          • Crystal Shepard

            In lots of species, the mother will eat the runt of the litter. In others, the weakest member of the pack will only eat when the other animals have had there fill, sometimes resulting in starvation.

            But as humans, we don’t support killing our premature children. We work to end starvation.

            The point is, we may be animals, but we’re not *just* animals. We can achieve over and beyond our animal nature. I don’t condemn the people in Medieval Europe for eating animal flesh – they needed the calories and didn’t have great options, so they couldn’t escape that part of their animal nature. But we’re not them. We won’t go hungry if we don’t eat animal products. We won’t be unhealthy. We won’t even be stuck with unpleasant food.

            Regarding no-till agriculture, you’re certainly right that tilling kills lots of small animals and is harmful to the environment. And I’d be all in favor of moving away from it. But the world isn’t an all or nothing place. If I see someone being assaulted and I can help, it would hardly be a justification for doing nothing that there are lots of assaults taking place that I can do nothing about!

            No, vegans don’t have all the answers to everything. I wish we did. But the fact we don’t know how to solve every problem there is in the field of animal welfare doesn’t justify us doing nothing at all.

          • Stellaa

            Not just animals but billions of life forms bacteria and fungi are destroyed by the standard operations of tilling and agriculture in general: organic and not organic. Simply put, being a vegan does not eliminate your involvement in violence and killing. You just cover it up and don’t show the same empathy for these life forms as you do to mammals. And yes, nice organic small farmers also kill mammals who chew on their new plants. Ever visit a farm?

            All I am saying is be a vegan as a choice. You don’t have to justify it to others. Humans as omnivores, get to make choices, you made the choice of being a vegan. Good for you. You cannot use the nonviolence as a justification, because there is plenty of violence in all food production. It’s just that you choose the not so obvious violence, the invisible violence.

          • Crystal Shepard

            Any informed vegan already knows that being a vegan doesn’t eliminate our “involvement in violence and killing.” If you’d like to propose a way in which we can eliminate that entirely, we’d all love to hear your suggestion.

            However, until that time I, and many others, will take steps to reduce the harm we do. That’s a general principle I and most (if not all) vegans strongly endorse – reduce the harm you do.

            Your belief that we “cannot use the (sic) nonviolence as a justification because there’s plenty of violence in all food production” is a non sequetur.

            In other words, you can’t logically get from:

            Premise) There’s plenty of violence in all food production.


            Conclusion) Trying to reduce or eliminate violence in food production is hypocritical.

            and more than you can get from:

            Premise) There’s plenty of racism in society


            Conclusion) Trying to reduce or eliminate racism in society is hypocritical.

            You can replace the content of the premise with sexism, rape, murder, torture, war, and any number of evil things. And in none of those cases does it justify the conclusion. Your form of argument just doesn’t work.

        • Rosa Lea

          There is nothing in nature that compares to what humans do to animals. Your delusion persists.

  • Mike Sage

    In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “meat” always means food (any kind of solid food). Prime example: the first occurrence of the word “meat” is in Genesis 1:29, in which God decreed a vegan diet for homo sapiens:
    “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

  • Ray Fischer

    Very unimpressed with these kind of word games

  • Mike Allen

    I really like this sentence “I even eat meat, which comes from the Old English word “mete,” which originally referred to solid food rather than a beverage.” I’m big on the etymology of words and not just their contemporary cultural meaning. This is also why I’d prefer to refer to animal meat as ‘flesh’ because that helps to highlight the cognitive dissonance as simply seeing ‘meat’ as food rather than what it really is. Excellent and empowering article Colleen and very helpful for a vegan like me surrounded by omnivores who insist that veganism is difficult because they would have to give up their favourite foods.

    • Exactly – in longer pieces (check out my Food for Thought podcast), I do examine the flip side – calling animal-based milks what they are, using flesh and fluids, saying “kill” or “slaughter” and not “harvest” or “dress.” Etc. πŸ™‚

    • Crystal Shepard

      Flesh isn’t so simple, either. We still refer to the flesh of a peach, for example. The phrase “flesh of the fruit” has over 3 million Google hits (was checking to see if my dialect was a linguistic oddity in that regard), which is impressive for an exact phrase.

      There’s always “The innocent cow you supported murdering so you could eat bits of its corpse.” That one is a little harsh for friendly interaction with your friends, though. πŸ™‚

  • Catherine

    Very well written & constructed piece.

  • Maureen

    Powerful, refreshing, articulate, and kind. I have learned to expect nothing less from you, Colleen. What you write, what you speak, and all you put out into the world always leaves me hungry for more! Thank goodness for your podcast, and all your beautiful work! I hope it never ends!

  • Joel

    Language shapes our thought processes day in and day out. Using different wording changes EVERYTHING about the way we think, perceive, and interpret stimuli.
    It is as simple as when following a simple diet, saying “I don’t eat that,” rather than saying “I can’t eat that,” and placing the unnecessary stress of deprivation on our minds.
    I love this article for it’s clarity of that concept in a very verbally brutalized lifestyle choice. With almost every aspect of our language, vegans are diminished, marginalized, and straight-up made fun of.

    Wonderful article, Colleen!

    • Thank you, Joel. I absolutely agree. Language shapes everything about the way we think, perceive, and interpret the world. It also reflects it. Thank you.

  • You just did! But she won’t.

  • SB

    “no harmful saturated fat,” <- an ignorant, uneducated statement, and inaccurate information. Saturated fat is not harmful. It's quite healthful, in fact. Carry on.

    • The saturated fat in animal flesh and fluids is chemically different than the saturated fat in such seeds as coconuts. It’s important to make the distinction between the two. The former is not healthful; the latter appears to be. Thanks for enabling me to clarify that!

  • Laurie

    Thank you, Colleen! You have empowered me to take back the words “milk” and “meat.” Animal agriculture does not own those words!

  • Luke.

    Q. How do you know someone is a vegetarian? A. They’ll tell you.

    • It’s sad Luke that you feel so threatened by the differing opinions of others. So much so, that you would like to stifle their freedom of expression. You’re not into book-burning too, are you?

    • Crystal Shepard

      And why shouldn’t they? If you believe something is morally wrong, and causing harm, why is it so horrible to point that out?

      If you’re talking about the self-righteous assh*les who are always in your face, yeah, they’re out there. We don’t like them either. Most vegans I know are thrilled when someone adopts Meatless Mondays, or goes vegetarian but still eats the animal products we don’t. Why? Because we’re concerned about the welfare of the animals, not self-righteous condemnation.

      My friends know I’m a vegan because I go out to eat with them, and it impacts the choice of restaurant, though perhaps less than you’d think. I promise you, I get more attempts at them converting me (“Seriously? I mean, cheese is *SOOOOO* good.”) than vice versa. They’ve all heard about animal rights from me, because the “ask the vegan to justify!” game is very popular with them, not because I’m an evangelist.

      • sooooConfused

        I agree with the fact that all life should be respected eqaully.
        Tilling does hurt and mame many animals, not only the physical injuries,
        but the loss of homes and habitat. You are still placing yourself
        ahead of other beings so that you can feed yourself and family. I agree
        that we all need to eat, I am just bothered by the holier than thou
        attitude of many vegans. I consume meat. I raise my
        chickens/pigs/cattle humanely, hunt humanely, and garden humanely. I
        don’t apologize for surviving and feeding my family. I know that the
        creatures that are affected by my lifestyle are ALL treated with
        compassion, and allowed the best life possible until harvest/slaughter.
        I don’t sweep my actions under the rug. Animals die so I can eat. BUT
        they are being used and respected, and acknowledged. Vegans don’t
        realize ALL farming kills. Something used to and does live where your
        cucumbers are tilled and harvested. There are casualties with veggie
        farming as well, not just bugs and such, but deer(hideouts… young
        hiding in the crops in mid-juine), fox (dens), bird (nests) etc. Animals die so vegans can eat too.

        • Crystal Shepard

          I actually don’t believe that all life should be treated equally. Bacteria have neither brains nor nervous systems – odds are they neither experience things nor feel pain. Cockroaches experience things, but their nervous system is simple enough they likely don’t experience pain. Or, if they do, as a simple datum that part X is non-functional.

          A field mouse is capable of experiencing the world, feeling pain, and even desiring to avoid pain. A dog not only can experience physical pain, but social and emotional pain as well. They might even understand the concept of death as the cessation of their mind – non-human primates almost definitely do.

          In a world where I’m stuck making value decisions, I’ll value a person over a chimp over a dog over a mouse over a cockroach over a bacterium. My goal is to avoid frustrating their desires or causing them pain or ending their experiences, and the higher up on the scale the more of those there are to avoid.

          Why am I a vegan, then, if I value a cow’s life less than my own? Because I don’t have to value it equally to mine in order to value it. What I’m comparing is its heartfelt desire for life and to avoid pain with my desire to have more food variety. There, the cow wins. Given that it’s an almost completely unimportant desire on my part, even cockroaches win. Now if some supervillain forced me to choose between my mom dying or two innocent hampsters, my mom would survive, hands down.

          Lots of vegans disagree with me, and see all experiencers as equal regardless of the depth of the psychology that has those experiences. And/or see all sufferers as equal, regardless of the depth of that pain. Though I disagree with them, I respect their opinions. Like me, they are doing their best to be decent people in a complex world.

          Others share my view. Still others are vegan for health or environmental reasons.

          I might also point out that if you believe all life is of equal value, most meat is still a bad idea. Perhaps grain fed cattle wouldn’t be so horrible, but most animals require more tilled land for food than the equivalent in vegetables, per pound or calories. Or, in the case of fishes, horrible overcatching or dredging.

  • What a breath of fresh air to hear this eloquent voice of reason and compassion. Seven years ago I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan, along this path I found Colleen’s work that resonated with warmth and truthfulness. It has made all the positive difference on my journey. Always an inspiration!

  • Sara

    These have been my exact thoughts since going vegan! Thank you Colleen for taking the time to express these thoughts with your eloquent, succinct style that is you! πŸ™‚ <3

  • Another Vegan

    This claim could likely surprise inhabitants of planets around the star Alpha Lyrae (aka Vega), but only in the year 2039.

  • Matt Newsom

    I have a different perspective that a few others have voiced below–that suggesting products as ‘alternatives’ needn’t automatically qualify those products as inferior or less-desirable. This is particularly true if your dietary ethics include the idea that “there is a better way” or “you don’t need meat.” I think this brings up a point that I always try to make when in those oh-so-enjoyable conversations (the ones for which we’ve rehearsed at countless parties, Thanksgivings, and pot-lucks): it’s not that I “can’t” eat meat, dairy, eggs, etc., etc.; it’s that I choose not to. I intentionally avoid these products and opt for cruelty-free alternatives instead. I definitely appreciate the identity politics of the author, but opposings view on ‘alternatives’ need not contradict those politics; rather, I think it just shows there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I mean–NO! I mean there’s more than one way to peel a potata’!!

  • Sheelagh

    Ahahaha “breast beverage” — genius! Love your point about coconut “meat” — very true. Lots of great thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

  • Chris J

    I approve of veganism in large part and find that I often end up eating vegan fare by surprise. That being said, vegan bread and burgers are the s##ttiest analogues on the planet. My only problem with veganism generally lay with their proponents. Nothing convinces someone to change less than a strident, opinionated adherent to vegan philosophy.

    • Crystal Shepard

      I’ve had some fantastic vegan bread. But really only the stuff I’ve made myself. There are great recipes out there.

      I agree about the meat analogues. Tried them, found them disgusting. I love tempeh and tofu, though, so long as they are prepared as what they are, rather than in imitation of dead animal. You might try “Beyond Meat.” Their chicken is pretty excellent, and in a stir fry you really could confuse it with real chicken.

  • MikeVeg

    Brilliantly written CPG πŸ™‚

    For tons of delicious plant-based recipes, check out

  • Brandon

    I didn’t even know I was a vegetarian until I read this! If you can process and squeeze almonds until you get butter and milk, I can process grass and water through a digestive process and get ‘steak’. It’s plant based as well! The manufacturing process takes a few years, though.

  • Rosa Lea

    You rock Colleen! Keep up he wonderful work.

  • Marie

    I love when you break down words in our culture and get to the root of their existence! I listen on to these podcasts specifically in awe.

    I am still met with shock and disgust, when I use words like, flesh/muscle/tissue/secretions to address things around me. I am so sick of the veil covering the truths about what “food” is, and I love speaking truthfully and purposefully. Thank you always, Colleen!

    P.S.- “Try telling a lactating mother she has to say breast beverage.” haha!

  • Heather

    Gibbon, after reading your comment, I will just straight up tell you- STFU. πŸ™‚ Cheers!

  • What about cheese? Can we claim that word too? I hate feeling like I need to spell it cheeze or “cheese”.

    • Please don’t spell it cheeze! πŸ™‚ Yes, nondairy cheese; nut-based cheese; cashew cheese, whatever kind of cheese. Cheese is a human-made product; it didn’t come from the gods. It can be made from animal milk or plant milk – both are cheese.

      • robby13851

        I can’t help but think that you are justifying, beatifying or explaining the inadequacies of the food on your “OK list” by linking them with foods on your “No-No list”. It’s NOT NECESSARY. Stop it; please! The tree nuts and flax-seed I eat in great quantity do not require a pilfered sobriquet from any animal based food. It just reinforces your inferiority complex. You don’t like terms such as “fake” and “imitation” because they sound what? cheap, low-class, unsophisticated ? OK, how about Β«le Lait en Toc Γ  l’AmandeΒ» or Β«ErsatzkΓ€seΒ». Classy enough for you? Actually the shoe should be on the other foot for those who revere Vegan foods without that nagging reservation of inferiority: the “No-no list-avores” should be pitifully and penitently seeking to link their animal-based fare to the superior plant-based list: it’s the “standard by which all else is judged” which has its place on the pedestal. Thus pork would be “pig-fruit” and cow milk “bovine-juice”. Eggs would be “poultry-figs”, cheese “non-soy tofu”. BTW, when you say “Cheese . . . didn’t come from the gods.” I see that you have not tasted Saint-Nectaire, or GruyΓ¨re, ChΓ¨vre, Coulommier; or Asiago. Or Geit-Ost. And these, my friend, cannot be made from plant milk, unless the plant has mammary glands.

  • Isabella La Rocca

    I was delighted to hear this perspective today. The real point of Ms. Patrick-Goudreau’s commentary (and veganism in general) is that it is not necessary to exploit, enslave, and murder sentient beings in order to live well and healthfully, therefore to do so is wrong. What was not mentioned is that the consumption of animal products is also hugely destructive to our environment – it is the leading contributor to global warming, ocean acidification and dead zones, river and ground water pollution, and mass extinction. If humans are to survive on this earth, we must learn to live in harmony with all Earthlings.

  • maya

    I don’t get it. If you eat these foods, you are not a vegan, so why are you calling yourself one?

  • Biscokid

    With the severe water shortage in California,I read for every pound of beef requires 2,400 gallons of water! Cows drink over 10 gallons of fresh water a day.Millions of additional gallons of fresh water to water the crops that farmed animals eat and hose down the blood & grease from the butchering process.What a good time for more Californians to go vegan!

  • robby13851

    Reduction of the consumption of red meat would benefit the planet immensely; but if every gram of protein or fat not consumed turns an individual to carbohydrates, the result will not be pretty. If you counsel overweight and diabetics 40 hours a week like I do, you know that it’s hard to find something to eat, when milk, eggs, poultry and fish are proscribed; and that it’s too easy to fall back on carbohydrates, which makes it nearly impossible to lose any significant weight. This question is an ethnic/racial one because northern europeans tolerate carbos much better than practically any other ethnic group; for many, many people in the rest of the world veganism cannot work: evidence in the form of laboratory results comes my way every day. Your assumption about the non-Vegan view of what should be called “milk” was peculiar to say the least. Your comment “breast beverage” implies that non-vegans consider human milk unworthy of that name: as if our ancestors, the ones who started herding, did not notice that human and cow milk are pretty much the same stuff? That all furry/hairy animals suckle their young? but not with coconut “milk” or almond “milk”, thistle milk nor milk of magnesia. Every white liquid can be called “milk” casually, I suppose. It doesn’t bother me, but it also does not convert almond “milk” into mammalian “nectar”. And the question of “meat” is similar. (The Proto-Indo-European root I found was “mad-“, thought to refer to the “dripping or oozing of grease or fat from meat roasting”, but probably NOT from coconuts roasting) . Does calling almonds or coconut “meat” justify or bolster the case for eating them? You apparently think that Veganism is somehow better served or of enhanced status when we unnecessarily conflate its foods with similar-looking but unrelated foods? Nuts to that. -Bruce A Robertson MD

  • Alli Hogan

    If you say you’re a Vegan, but you eat meat, then you’re not a true Vegan. You’re not a Vegan at all. You’re not even a Vegetarian. You’re a Locovore. You only eat food grown from your own garden and you buy groceries at local food stores or farmers markets. Being a Locovore is a good thing too.

    • Racquelle

      Clearly you didn’t read the article. Perhaps read something though before commenting; then you’ll actually know what you’re talking about.

  • Donna

    I am also a vegan who loves all the food I used to eat, but now it is cruelty free versions! I eat sausages, milk, pies (aussie), hot dogs, stews and so much more πŸ™‚

  • Joey

    “This history is still evident in our language when we say ‘coconut meat’
    or the ‘meat of a nut,’ and it is in that vein that I embrace and
    consume meat made from plants.” Then why don’t you do the same and acknowledge your eldritch creation as ‘imitation meat’?

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