I don't exactly walk around preaching veganism, or making a big deal about it. If it comes up over a meal, so be it, and I'm more than happy to answer questions about my choices or things I've learned in the process. I've had some interesting experiences as a result - people reacting funny or connecting with other vegans - but ultimately it's taught me a lot about mindfulness. We all eventually come to realize that life doesn't come with a rule book (D'oh!). Most of us write our own or spend our lives searching for some philosophy we can stomach. Still, rules don't generally jive with the ebb and flow of life. Life is dynamic; rules are rigid and static. So while I set certain ethical guidelines for myself to follow, it takes constant evaluation and consideration to know if what I'm doing is best. And in the end, you never really know, you can just guess and hope that not too much harm was done in the creation of your grand experiment.
When people challenge me on my dietary boundaries, I encourage it with curiosity. Is honey vegan? I don't know. Most people would say no, but I don't have any data to support cruelty to bees (it's what they do, no? make honey?) or that it's bad for the environment or that the industry is corrupt. If I learned about some horrible part of the honey-making process, I'd stop eating it. The point isn't to make yourself a slave, or a victim. The point is to make decisions in your life that uphold what's important to you and that help you fall asleep at night with a smile on your face.
The reason I'm talking about being vegan is because it's something pretty common that I think is often misunderstood. I feel like it exemplifies an oversimplification of ethics that is so prevalent in our culture. People deem things "good" or "bad" with no evaluation, and then they build up a bunch of fears and rules around it. Choosing to not eat animal products is a step in the right direction, sure, but it by no means makes you an ethical or "good" person. I've seen animal activists act extremely violently and even, sadly, destroy their own message through their anti-humanitarian behavior.
In veganism, as in life, things aren't black or white. There are always questions and considerations and my hope is that these continue on beyond the adoption of some trendy label. In promoting veganism, I would like to promote thinking and evaluation above any sort of special treatment of animals. Because I believe if we thought more, considered more, and connected to our true nature and values, we would treat animals better anyway. I mean, why not?
So... the first rule of being vegan? Don't make it a rule.