I asked myself this after reading author and feminist psychologist Harriet Lerner assert, "There is simply no one right way to be a family." I agree, and after having concluded many years ago that there isn't one right way to be a feminist either, I think the same applies to veganism. There probably isn't even one right way to become vegan, and while I personally may feel that ethical concern for all species is the most important and compelling reason to embrace veganism, the pragmatist side of me figures that as long as the end result is the same, then so what if health or environment is the motivating factor that draws a person in? I like to think that once a person becomes vegan, then those issues become interrelated anyway, and it becomes clearer that veganism is better for the planet and for all of her creatures.
Obviously there is the minimum requirement of abstaining from using nonhuman animals for food or any other purpose (although I draw the line at not being able to enjoy the company of animal companions), and it's important that the term vegan doesn't become so diluted that this isn't the case, but are there right ways to be vegan beyond that? I'm not so sure. Like any movement that seeks radical change (think feminism, civil rights), there's the danger of not accepting divergent viewpoints and of believing that one ideology or person has all the right answers. Maybe I'm too old, or too jaded, or haven't been vegan long enough, but I get downright uncomfortable when arguments are presented in black and white or all or nothing terms, and when it feels as if certain small but vocal parts of the animal rights movement are trying to bully me into toeing their prescribed party lines.
What it comes down to for me I think is that I'm more interested in how we can actually get members of the general population (those who think we're nuts anyway because the belief that it's okay to use animals is so strong and ingrained) to become, and stay, vegan. What are the most effective approaches? What approach will work with what group? Because we need to remember that people don't like being told that they're wrong or cruel, and that people tend to defend their current belief systems and behaviours until there's a shift either within themselves, or within society. And while I don't want to be part of the infighting as such, I think it's important for vegans who don't feel that they're adequately represented to feel free to say so, because we have a monumental effort ahead of us in helping everyone make the shift to a vegan world.