What does it mean anyway? Is it the same thing as a Vegetarian?
With so much better misinformation on the internet today, it’s easy to see how people can become confused about what being a vegan entails. In short, vegans shun animal and animal by-products in their menu, including not only meat and fish but dairy and sugar as well. Vegans will too avoid animal products in household goods and by-products in their food. Not only including meat and fish but dairy and honey as well. Vegans will also avoid animal products in household products like bedding and the cleaners, clothing and beauty products also. In contrast, vegetarians still generally consume animals in one way or another.
So, where did this lifestyle and diet get it’s start? Let’s take a look.
Whole Food, Plant-Based (commonly referred to WFPB) diet can also be considered ‘Vegan’ The word vegan was created way back in November 1944 in Great Britain by Donald Watson. He and his wife, along with four friends, founded the Vegan Society out of a desire to describe a life free from animal products.
Watson suggested the term ‘vegan’ — the beginning and end of ‘vegetarian’ — because “veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.”
Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.
For the Animals
First and foremost, it’s about the animals.
Needless to say, it’s always the animals who pay the highest price for a non-vegan lifestyle. Over 150 billion animals are annually killed each and every year for human food, and that’s not including all the animals who die as a result of vivisection laboratories, circuses, marine parks, zoos, horse racing, greyhound racing, and blood sports such as dogfighting, cockfighting, and bullfighting, etc.
Such heart-breaking numbers and Veganism can change all of them.
It all starts with saying no to meals created at the expense of animals, refusal to purchase leather or fur clothes, refusing to attend a circus or marine exhibition park.
For the Environment
Can veganism save the planet? The short answer is yes.
Raising animals for food is the single greatest human-caused source of destruction to our environment. It is the largest source of greenhouse gases, land use, and degradation; the number one source of water pollution and rainforest deforestation.
Animal-based diets are also a major contributor to air pollution, ocean dead zones, habitat loss, and species extinction. And when we include all the resources that go into raising animals for food– the land, fertilizers, pesticides insecticides, fossil fuels and freshwater – animal agribusiness is a costly and wasteful use of our limited natural resources.
Veganism is the solution.
For our Health
Is a vegan diet healthy? Absolutely.
I’m going to get it out of the way right now: It’s certainly possible to eat a healthful diet that contains some animal products. Veganism doesn’t promise us perfect health, and that’s okay. By design, veganism isn’t about our health at all; it’s about the animals. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of solid, evidence-based reasons to eat a plant-based diet because there are many.
A vegan eating plan can help to eliminate unhealthy foods from your diet. Removing these foods from your diet can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as certain types of cancer. Some people find that eating a plant-powered diet can help them maintain their weight, or even lose weight.
So what’s a healthful vegan diet consist of? Glad you asked, I’m here to help. I have partnered with a registered dietitian, Anya Todd MS, RD LD who specializes in vegan nutrition and sustainable food systems to put together information to help you live a healthier vegan life. From articles to nutrition guides to answering frequently asked health questions, it’s here.
Because veganism already has a definition.
The term ‘vegan’ is unique in that it’s a word that people are consistently trying to redefine. Some words need redefining, and I am entirely in favor of improving definitions that are made archaic with the passage of time. Some words, however, there’s no reason to change.
Some advocates would have you believe that the word vegan can mean many things:
- A diet
- A diet that you follow until 6 pm
- A diet that you follow Monday – Friday
- A diet that includes “just a little bit of cheese.”
- A diet that includes fish or scallops because “they don’t feel pain.”
- A diet that includes honey because bees are insects, not animals
- A diet that includes animal products in the form of clothing, household goods, and personal care products
These definitions are untrue. Veganism is:
- A philosophy
- A lifestyle
- A belief system
Veganism is more than what we eat. It’s who we are and how we care for others. It’s about compassion and justice. It’s about kindness and peace. It’s about treading lightly. It’s about the animals.
Definitions matter. You will hear that they don’t. You will hear that the only people who need definitions are vegas seeking perfection. You’ll hear that these vegans harm the vegan movement as a whole. You’ll hear that it’s possible to use some animal products and still be a vegan.
These things aren’t right. Don’t listen.
A World Where Everyone Benefits
Do you know who benefits from defining veganism? You do. You’ll no longer have to question whether something labeled vegan is genuinely vegan. After all, if there are hundreds of different definitions of veganism out there, how will we know which one was used to determine if a product is vegan?
Do you know who else benefits from a clear definition of veganism? The animals. Turning veganism into merely a diet erases the animals from the conversation altogether, which is antithetical to the core tenants of veganism.
Finally, one last thing, about perfection:
No one alive is perfect, vegans included. Having a definition for the most significant social justice movement since the abolition of slavery has nothing whatsoever to do with perfection. It has everything to do with advocating with a clear and consistent message.