Now that Ginnifer Goodwin has announced on the Jimmy Kimmel show that she is no longer “vegan,” it’s time to bust out the scare quotes when referring to her previous supposed veganism, which can’t have been real because no true vegan ever quits.  Goodwin herself implied as much in an earlier appearance on the same show, in which she said that once you watch and read all the vegan propaganda, “you can’t go back.” Apparently you can go back, unless some vegans are right and Goodwin never truly left her carnist leanings behind, even while she avoided all animal products and appeared to be very devoted to her ethical vegan beliefs. 

In that earlier interview, Goodwin certainly gave a convincing impersonation of a real vegan. She made sure to use the world “cruel” when referring to animal use. She didn’t excuse Kimmel’s meat eating as a personal choice that was just as valid as any vegan’s — instead she said she was against humans eating animals. She compared a turkey’s personality to a dog’s, a good tactic for making animal lovers realize that the dog they love is no more adorable than the turkeys they eat. She said that she didn’t give up animal products because she disliked the taste, and emphasized her own past animal use, two things many vegans bring up to show how normal they are and how anyone (no matter how ardent their corpse-munching background) can be a vegan.

What happened to Ginnifer Goodwin? She used to be a good person. She was an ambassador for Farm Sanctuary, she graced the cover of VegNews magazine, and in an interview with Oprah.com, she demonstrated an above-average grasp of mandatory vegan talking points, like that veganism is easy, that it made her skin clear up, that it gave her a feeling of lightness (which Alicia Silverstone has also experienced), and that taste and tradition are feeble excuses for animal use:

I educated myself. I relinquished the safety blanket of my ignorance.

This education about health led to a revelation about animals-as-products. It became so clear: I love animals. How can I eat them or make them suffer for something as selfish as taste or tradition?

I knew that the way to be proactive was to convert to a vegan diet (a vegan lifestyle—which means not using animal products of any kind—quickly followed). I found great resources from the Humane Society and from Farm Sanctuary, an animal protection program. I read wonderful books like Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, about the emotional lives of farm animals.

And in making this life change, I’ve found I have more energy, I sleep better, and my skin has cleared up. My taste buds awoke! I appreciate food in a whole new way. As for my soul, I quickly began feeling a lightness I’d never known before. Now I take responsibility for my actions. I am aware. And it’s easy.

Because of veganism, I find myself embracing all living things, even the trees outside, in unexpected ways. I never feel guilty because of what I’ve eaten or because of the handbag I’m carrying.

When people ask, I always tell them, “I didn’t stop eating animal products because I didn’t like the taste. I loved the taste! But in this life, I want to inflict as little pain as possible.” To everyone who argues that we can treat our fellow earthlings this way and so we should, I like to quote Harry Potter’ s Dumbledore, who said: “It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I adore that.

Sound familiar? Kind of weird that she no longer believes a word of this. Well, all the worse for Goodwin, who should know better than to eat bacon-covered meatloaf, and is now forever on the vegan shitlist. If only she had never gone vegan in the first place!

The vegan blog QuarryGirl, not known for its subtlety, got straight to the point with the title of its entry, “ginnifer goodwin is awful,” in which they say that Goodwin “giggles like an idiot” throughout the “vile” interview (what is there to laugh about when there are millions of animals dying every day?); the commenters on the entry are even less forgiving, and vegan message boards aren’t too happy for Goodwin either.

The vegan reaction to ex-vegan celebrities shows how personally they take veganism and slights against it. Goodwin does not bash vegans in this interview, nor does she say that veganism is stupid, pointless or harmful. The harshest she gets is at the end is when she says it is unbearable to go home to vegan dinners with her vegan family. But since vegans believe that plants have no feelings, there’s no reason for them to think that vegan food is offended by Goodwin’s distaste for it. Vegans are so wrapped up in what they eat that to belittle vegan cuisine is to psychologically assault vegans and all they stand for.

As usual in veganism, it’s not about plants or animals, it’s about vegans. All the comments are about this being a set-back for veganism and how she has betrayed vegans, with a few token references to how the animals are going to suffer due to Goodwin’s new diet. Of course it’s bad enough that she quit veganism, but even worse is that she didn’t slink off to the shadows to eat her scrambled eggs in shameful isolation, and is instead talking about her decision and thus giving validity to anti-vegan claims. What will this do to the popular perception of veganism?, etc. etc. and so on. The reason I don’t write about every vegan celebrity who goes ex is that I would have to write pretty much the same thing every time.

Dumbledore, as usual, was right. Veganism is all about choices, not results. It’s not about the consequences of what you do, but rather why you are doing it. So there are good reasons to be vegan (ethics) and bad reasons to be vegan (health, trendiness, sometimes the environment). Then there are bad reasons to quit veganism, and… bad reasons to quit veganism.

Even though health concerns were one of the first things that initiated her vegan phase, “boring health problems” broke her resolve. Vegans like to talk about how “veganism is not a sacrifice,” and this is an important illusion for vegans to maintain, because the second vegans realize that their lives are irresolvably worse due to their veganism, they start to look for ways out. Ethics are a luxury. Goodwin was able to talk a big ethical game when veganism was easy, but once she could see it was detrimental to herself, she cracked. Being subject to physical realities is a disadvantage veganism has that other ethical beliefs typically don’t. Advocating gay marriage does not necessitate starting a pill regime. Few anti-racists have to actively suppress the urge to attack someone of a difference race. Unlike many other beliefs, veganism entails real sacrifice, and once you realize this, animal suffering starts to seem less pressing.

The decision to swan dive below the moral baseline is not a choice to be made lightly, which helps explain why vegans are so appalled by Goodwin laughing throughout this interview. But it is also not a choice to be made for health reasons in the midst of wrenching, conflicted emotions, which it appears to have been for Goodwin. It’s just not a choice to be made at all. As Gary Francione says, “we have no choice" — we have to be vegan. Except, we clearly don’t, as those pesky ex-vegans keep reminding us.

Ex-vegans are awful, not because of what they do to the animals (most of them consume fewer animals than non-vegans over the course of their lives), but because of what they do to vegans. It’s troubling to think that someone could seem to believe everything vegans do, just as ferociously, and then change their minds as if they never accepted any of it. It exposes vegan ethical philosophy for what it is — abstract and subjective thoughts, with behavioral implications, that are potentially transient. Vegans like to think their daily lives and identities are based on something rather more solid than that.

Well, they are not.