The vegan lifestyle has become a popular one in recent times, and although it’s always been followed by a small minority, it appears to have burst into the mainstream.
As people make the switch to a plant-based diet, they might hear about the different levels of veganism that one can follow.
Are there really different levels of veganism? Although there’s no technical classification, some believe that there are varying levels of veganism determined by their commitment to being 100% vegan.
A level one vegan might occasionally eat animal products but follow a mainly plant-based lifestyle, whereas a level five is fully committed and usually an activist for vegan causes.
There’s no right or wrong way to be a vegan, as everyone has to take the journey for themselves and make it work for their lifestyle.
However, it’s interesting to look at the different levels of veganism that one might class themselves as and what that means for how you live.
Why Are There Different Levels of Veganism?
A vegan is someone who does not consume any foods that involve the exploitation or cruelty of animals, but it’s not always so simple.
As anyone who has made the switch to this lifestyle knows, being 100% vegan can be hard to stick to at all times, for reasons like food availability, a lack of information about products, or simply human nature and cravings for certain things.
The levels of veganism are by no means definitive but simply a way to categorize how one might live the vegan lifestyle.
There’s no right or wrong level to be on, and most people probably find themselves changing through the different levels at different points of their life, so it’s all to be taken with a grain of salt.
The goal of any good vegan should be to do as much as possible to reduce the exploitation and cruelty of animals in their everyday lives, but there’s no need to be extreme just to do it well.
Even the smallest change in your diet can make a huge difference on the planet and animal kind, and it’s not the goal of the vegan way of life to live perfectly and piously.
The Levels of Veganism
As a whole, veganism is about eliminating the consumption of foods that have come from the exploitation of or cruelty to animals, whether it’s eating meat or drinking cow’s milk.
Within that definition, there are five different levels that a vegan might be classed at, depending on how committed they are to doing it 100%.
A level one vegan is someone that occasionally eats a piece of cheese or even a small amount of meat over the holidays.
This person still lives around 90% of their life following a plant-based diet and likely has great respect for animals, thus their commitment to this way of life.
Although they might not be following it 100%, a level one vegan is still making a drastic difference for their health and the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants.
They’re comfortable with how they eat and know that the occasional bite of turkey leg isn’t going to make a huge, negative impact.
A level two vegan is one that never eats meat, but might occasionally have some dairy products.
This goes further than being a vegetarian as they never eat meat, poultry, or seafood, but they also usually don’t eat any other animal products.
These level two vegans will occasionally have a sneaky non-vegan snack but they don’t make it a regular occurrence.
The level two vegan might not be concerned with the minor products that are sometimes found in foods that claim to be vegan, like refined sugar, as long as they are sticking to their mostly vegan lifestyle.
They could even still have leather furniture or wear leather boots, depending on their preferences. This is the level where many vegans find they live comfortably, especially when just starting.
When you’re a level three vegan, the chance that you’ll occasionally eat a bit of cheese or have some gravy at Thanksgiving is nil. These people will not be eating anything that comes from an animal, but they also understand they have a lot to learn still.
A level three vegan will find out about obscure animal byproducts in certain foods and then swear off them for good, and they’re strong in their convictions.
However, they’re not pushing the lifestyle on anyone else and aren’t as confident about trying to persuade others to join in, rather doing it for their own good.
A level four vegan is close to becoming the strictest type of vegan there is and will only eat plant-based foods. However, they’ll take it a step further and avoid eating at any establishment that serves anything but vegan stuff.
They likely also don’t use products tested on animals or wear leather, but they don’t obsessively scan products for hidden ingredients.
At this level, the vegan is confident about what they can and can’t eat, has a deep understanding of the products that might contain animal products, but isn’t as fixated on being a perfect vegan.
They understand that it’s hard to avoid walking on the grass and potentially killing a bug, unlike the next level of vegan that would usually steer clear of it.
Contrary to the popular episode of The Simpsons where Lisa’s activist friend claims being a level five vegan is not eating anything that casts a shadow, this rank of vegan is not as intense as that.
Level five vegans are those that are fully committed to not eating animal products, intensely checking all labels for things like food coloring and white sugar, and not using anything else in their lives that might have been made from animals also.
A level five vegan is also committed to activism for the cause, and without being pushy, they like to educate and inform others on the benefits of this lifestyle. This person’s entire life is devoted to being a vegan, and they make choices that solely align with it.
What Level Vegan Should You Be?
The truth is, there’s no right level for any vegan to be at, and what works for one person might not work for another. You might be happy living vegan most of the year but treat yourself to some chocolate or gravy for a special holiday.
Likewise, you could read every label and join every cause in an effort to never let any animal by-product touch your lips because that’s what makes you happy.
The vegan way of life should be able to reduce our impact on the planet and its animal inhabitants, however we choose to do that.
As long as you’re making a conscious effort to follow a plant-based diet and eliminate animal products from it every day, there’s no need to categorize yourself into one of these levels of veganism.
Tips for Living a Vegan Lifestyle
A successful vegan is one that does things at their own pace and in a way they’re comfortable with.
Rather than focusing on the levels of veganism, which mean nothing, follow these tips to develop a plant-based lifestyle that’s tailored to you.
Know why you’re going vegan
There are many reasons why someone might want to go vegan, so you need to tap into yours and consider this when you feel your commitment wavering.
Is it because you care about the wellbeing of animals, you’re looking for a healthier way of living, want to reduce your carbon footprint or something different altogether?
Take small steps
When you’re ready to switch to a vegan lifestyle, it’s best to swap just one thing at a time. You might try the first week to cut out meat, then poultry, then eggs, milk, and other dairy products.
You’ll have more success if you do it gradually and give yourself time to adapt rather than rushing it all in one go.
Have some easy go-to meals
As your vegan cooking skills develop, it’s good to have a handful of go-to meals that you can make without much effort when you need to.
One of the biggest challenges with plant-based diets is knowing what to eat every day, and if you have some quick and easy ones to rely upon, there’s not much effort required to stay vegan.
Treat yourself occasionally
There’s such a thing as vegan junk food and once you discover it, you’ll find it easy to treat yourself now and then.
Being vegan should be about eating more whole foods and fresh vegetables, but there’s no rule that states you can’t splurge on some dairy-free ice cream occasionally.
There are some nutrients you can’t get from a vegan diet alone, so it’s worth checking in with your doctor for regular bloodwork to make sure you’re not missing anything.
The most common nutrients that vegans need to supplement are vitamins B12 and D, iron, zinc, and iodine, so you have to get enough in your diet to stay healthy.
A great mantra to live by when following any kind of eating plan, especially veganism, is ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’.
Preparation is key to getting it right, so do regular meal prep, have vegan-friendly snacks always ready, and check the menus of restaurants for vegan food before you get there.
Be kind yourself
It’s never going to be perfect when you transition to vegan living, and even those with years of experience still find that they mess up now and then.
Rather than beating yourself up when you make a mistake or eat something that’s not in a standard vegan diet, see it as a minor blip in a major lifestyle change you’ve made that’s doing great things for the planet.
Vegan Your Own Way
The vegan lifestyle is one with loads of benefits, not just for the animals you’re helping but for your own health and wellbeing as well.
While it’s fun to look at the levels of veganism, they shouldn’t be used in any real way to classify people and how effectively they’re doing it, as it takes away from the true meaning of being vegan.
Vegans enjoy lots of benefits from their plant-based lifestyle, as well as the satisfaction of knowing they’re doing their part for the animals.
If you’ve been thinking about switching to a vegan way of life, there’s a bit to learn first, so check out these commonly asked questions before you do.
Do Vegans Need Multivitamins?
Following a plant-based diet can sometimes restrict your access to important nutrients, and people may find they have to supplement with vitamins B12, or things like iron and iodine.
Sometimes a multivitamin can help them cover all of their bases if there’s more than one thing missing from their nutritional needs.
Can Vegans Eat Pasta?
Most packaged kinds of pasta at the store are 100% vegan and only contain ingredients like wheat and water, so you can eat them without worry. However, any fresh pasta or those made with eggs will not be vegan friendly, so it’s worth scanning the ingredient list before you purchase them.
Is Becoming Vegan Difficult?
Most people find that the biggest change when becoming vegan is removing the meat from their diet, with the removal of dairy and eggs close behind. If you take the process gradually and try to eradicate just one or two things at a time, you’ll find the transition a lot easier to manage.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.