Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Maybe you used to think being vegan was pretty simple: you gave up animal products, your friends made fun of you and your family were disappointed, but at least you didn't have all those dead animals on your conscience.
Then you got to meet othe vegans (on the internet, because, you know, who knows another vegan in real life outside of London??) and you realise that they're split into groups. The raw foodie, the Instagrammer, the punk with the tattoos and piercings who posts junk food concoctions with the tag "fuck yeah," the one on the budget who throws everything in a slow-cooker, even that one "vegan" who has fish every once in a while. Maybe you find a niche, or maybe you have a play with everything and then go back to Lidl pot noodles and peanut butter sandwiches because everything else is too exhausting. And palm oil. Whichever side of the debate you're on, you're bound to find the other side exasperating.
So, in honour of our favourite fictional vegan Jesse from The Simpsons (the only other TV or film character I can think of is one of the vengeful girls in John Tucker Must Die) I've compiled a run-down of the levels of veganism. Just for fun -- you don't have to take it to heart or try an aim to "level up." Just going vegan is the best change you can make.
Level 1 Vegan
Had that one sip of almond milk and changed Instagram bio to #vegan. Has a lot of questions and feels embarrassed asking, but everyone's here to help because they remember being the newbie once (yes, even the "are pet chicken's eggs okay?"). Has at least one life-changing documentary, either Earthlings, Dominion, Cowspiracy, or What the Health. "If you wouldn't eat a dog why would you eat a pig?" Doesn't know what they're doing in the kitchen but has a bash at it anyway. Hoped to get a banging bod from ditching dairy but had to try all the vegan treats (and support local-owned vegan businesses, of course) and gained instead. Still occasionally caught out by beeswax in sweets.
Level 2 Vegan
Knows the chemical names for non-vegan ingredients off by heart. Working on getting palm oil out of their life. The same carnist arguments drive them insane with rage but gotta hold it back so they don't become the angry vegan stereotype. Nut roasts are for the seventies: Bosh is their spirit animal. Eating their way methodically through every new Quorn, Oumph, No Bull/Chick/Porkies, and Ben & Jerry's product that hits the market. If it's vegan it's good. Grumpy Panda is what it's all about. Cake.
Level 3 Vegan
Has an arsenal of oils -- olive, coconut, rapeseed, hemp, peanut, sesame, chilli-infused, garlic-infused, anything but palm oil -- for every occasion. Nut roasts are the bomb: you got your carbs, your protein, your healthy fats, what's not to like?? Except they don't photograph very well; rainbow-coloured smoothie bowls get better hits on Insta. Vocal on Twitter, despite the trolls. Might have obligatory photos of themselves topless/in a cross-hatch sports bra doing yoga poses on a beach/mountain at sunset.
Level 4 Vegan
All about that whole-foods plant-based life. Shops at the local market to support small businesses. Second-hand clothing to minimise the textiles thrown out to landfill and as a political F-U to consumerism; any new clothes are ethically sourced and likely have some kind of vegan slogan. 6am weekday slaughterhouse vigils and Saturday mornings in a Cube of Truth. Doesn't trust the takeaways. Unapologetic in their fight for the animals. Unilever products -- Cornetto, Hellman's, Pringles, and Pot Noodles -- are all out because of the parent company's testing stance even if the ingredients are vegan-friendly. Companion animals are probably on a vegan diet. Tries to surround themselves with vegans cos it really sucks to have all that animal-abusing energy constant around you. Dating is hard.
Level 5 Vegan
Won't eat anything that casts a shadow. These are the vegans that probably don't need to eat at all, they're just out there surviving on good karma. I'm talking Earthing Ed (who, let's face it, is probably basking in the glow of all that vegan love and absorbing it like photosynthesis), James Aspey, Joey Carbstrong, Anita Krajnc, and Wayne Hsiung, and Gary Yourofsky (if he's your jam): they're the faces of the animal rights movement, whether it's the direct action of removing farm animals from terrible conditions or appearing on talk shows and somehow miraculously keeping their cool in the face of the same inane questions over again that often skirt the important subjects. Sometimes it feels like vegans are invited to talk just to admit that they are terrorists or that they would eat meat if stranded on a desert island so the carnists can wash their hands of them. But the amazing public speakers keep it calm and logical, and keep on inspiring us to be vocal for the animals.
Do you fit into any of these levels? Drop a comment to let me know if I hit the mark or missed some vital points. All in fun!