I'm conflicted about what to do. I really don't want to consume anything that isn't vegan, but practically speaking, I can't stop taking my meds. Do you have any advice?
Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle of compassion that embraces a reverence for all life. However, it doesn't require vegans to be heroes or martyrs and sacrifice their mental or physical health for their beliefs. We each are part of the larger circle of life, and if we exclude ourselves, the circle is incomplete. In fact, if we are incapable of finding compassion for ourselves, we will have a difficult time showing compassion for others, because if our cache of self-love is barren, we won't have anything to give away.
Although there are vegan alternatives for most animal products, a few are still lacking. One of these is pharmaceutical drugs, which are required by law to be tested on animals and frequently contain small amounts of animal by-products, usually in the form of pill coatings, excipients, additives, fillers, or gelatin capsules. Occasionally there are options available, such as a liquid form of a drug instead of a pill, or capsules that can be opened and the contents mixed with food. But more often than not, when we have serious acute or chronic conditions, we are compelled to take nonvegan medications or otherwise compromise our health.
It's futile and antithetical to strive to be a "model vegan" when our world doesn't yet accommodate us in all areas of life. Therefore, it serves no purpose to chastise ourselves or be ashamed or feel guilty about using products that are essential for our well-being and without which we would suffer greatly. Demonstrating compassion toward ourselves and taking care of our health are intrinsic aspects of "reverence for life," the ethical foundation of veganism first defined and advocated by Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
While vegans have a moral imperative to encourage pharmaceutical companies to discontinue animal testing and stop using animal products in their medications, we must concurrently deal with the reality of the situation as it presently exists. Use the medications that have been prescribed for your condition with a clear conscience and a peaceful heart, knowing that as a vegan you are not only helping to relieve the plight of others but are also better equipped to do so because you are wise enough to first take care of yourself.