To the Do-Or-Die Vegans/Vegan Police/Vegangelicals:

I’m going to confess outright: I didn’t become a vegan because I love animals. I did it for the totally selfish reason of my own personal health, and because of environmental and economic justice second. Animal welfare was a happy byproduct. I didn’t think this was that unusual. My former housemates were health vegans (they’re mostly raw now too, totally hardcore), as are several of my in-laws. Like them, I saw pretty dramatic results in the quality of my life. I was happy with my choice, and this could have continued uneventfully except for one thing: I started hanging out with other vegans.

I was happy to find community. (And the potlucks! So delicious.) But then they started telling me things like people who became vegans for health reasons can’t be trusted because they’ll go back to meat as soon as they get bored with their new diet. Or that I should throw out the leather shoes I already owned and had been wearing for years, as though prematurely adding an animal’s remains to a landfill somehow avenged its death. Or that it was wrong to encourage people to eat less meat, because only strict veganism was acceptable. In my mind, eight people practicing Meatless Monday saves more animals than one new vegan. But to these folks, it was all or nothing.

I call them the vegangelicals. And they made me hate veganism, even though I was eating a vegan diet myself.

Luckily, I found other friends. Some were vegetarian. Some vegan. Some pescetarians. Some locavores. And while we partied and cooked and sampled pizza with Daiya and veenies with locally made sauerkraut, there was a small shift in me.

I bought a vegan wallet.

I started checking labels to make sure I had cruelty-free lotion.

I started reading editorials from PETA and occasionally (not always) thinking, “Yeah, exactly. Good for you.”

So, vegangelicals, what’s the lesson here?

Sometimes people become vegans for ethical reasons. But sometimes, our ethics change in response to our diets. It’s a place from which to view the treatment of animals without being completely turned off one’s own entanglement in it. Some people don’t do their best thinking from a place of guilt.

So I get it. I get the way you feel about animals. Because I give a crap too.

But give us the time to get there. Love us for our little steps. Feed us tempeh tacos and snobby Joes and maybe show us the best place to order a vegan belt. There are seven billion people on this planet, and each one is different. Remember that, the next time you turn your nose up at another’s first efforts at change. We could be the best allies you’ve got, if you let us.

All you have to do is quit chasing us away.