I have been seeing a lot of stuff going around online lately about whether vegans can have vaccinations and still call themselves vegans. It is an issue that is very much up for debate, even if you are not vegan. Personally, I will always advocate for modern medicine as much as possible and it is something that I feel very strongly about. I do not think it makes you any less of a vegan or any less of an animal activist if you require modern medicine or vaccinations throughout your life time.
One of the biggest issues I have with the vegan community sometimes is the thought that veganism is an all or nothing approach: If you cannot be 100% vegan in every single aspect of your life, then you are not truly a vegan. And it really really REALLY bugs me. It is an impossible standard to try to achieve and it can be hugely damaging to people who are just starting their vegan journey.
Obviously you need to do your own research in vaccinations and medicine and make your own mind up about it all. But for me, I will never and have never advocated that vegans should not take modern medicine or should not take vaccinations. It is a reality of life that you will, at some point, require medication – even if it is just painkillers for a headache or some cough medicine for a cold. While animal testing is – unfortunately – a very big aspect of modern life for the sake of medicine, it is one of those areas that is constantly progressing too. There is constant research being carried out to find alternatives to animal testing and I truly believe that soon animal testing will not be necessary.
That being said, this change – as with all changes in the world – happens gradually., and i think it is even more damaging to the cause to think that the issues within society around animal exploitation can be changed overnight. These issues will take years, possibly even decades, to fully eradicate and it would be naive and dangerous to ignore the reality of this. If you need medicine to cope with day to day life (such as if you are asthmatic, have allergies, depression or mental health issues that need medication to regulate) then I will always encourage you to take that medicine. You need to look after yourself first. If the vegan community does not look after themselves first, then who will be there to fight for the animals and to challenge the practices currently in place? It does not make you a hypocrite, especially if you depend on medication to just get you through the day.
The vaccination for COVID19 is being rolled out very quickly now and I for one cannot wait to get the vaccine. Yes, I know that thousands of animals had to suffer in order for this vaccination to be allowed for commercial use, but once we have all been vaccinated we can get back to demonstrations, talks and protests to continue fighting that fight for the animals. If anything, the fact that animals are the only way to test medicine is a huge issue: If we had multiple alternatives that were correctly funded, researched and utilised within the medical industry, then vaccines and medication could be rolled out way faster and in much larger numbers due to the fact that we are not relying on only one method of testing to green-light any of the products.
Society is constantly evolving, and there have been huge steps forward for animal rights in the last five years. Imagine what we could do in the next five years?! The idea that veganism and activism requires a certain degree of perfection is damaging, illogical and – quite frankly – idiotic. NO ONE can ever be perfect in any aspect of their lives and I think it is horrible to try and force the vegan community to aim for that. You can only do what you can do: The entire ethos behind veganism is to live a life which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. It is about doing as much as possible with what you have, and in some cases that may be something as small as sharing petitions on social media or simply following a plant based diet.
You need to look after you, and in the modern world in which we live that includes taking modern medicine when you need it. I for one will definitely be getting the vaccine (and any other vaccines and medicine that is required of me throughout my life) as it will keep my body healthy and allow me to continue doing the activism work which I am so very passionate about.
Some further reading if you are interested in learning more about this topic:
- Cruelty Free International
- Humane Society
- National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences
- Scientific review of animal alternatives to testing
There are hundreds of resources out there, so if you find any that you find very helpful or informative please do leave a comment below with a link.