Being Vegan Is About More Than Just What You Eat

 

…It’s about how you live.

For many people who have turned vegan, or who are newly transitioning, there’s a lot to consider when you assess the changes that you’ll be making.

It’s much more than just not eating animal products, as many people may still perhaps think. It is a holistic way of living… a lifestyle.

If you define vegans solely by what they put in their mouth - then this only covers one aspect of veganism, and misses the point of the movement. Veganism is much more than just a plant-based diet, as there are many other non-food products, behaviours and processes that also exploit animals. This can be demonstrated by the irony of leather-wearing vegans, who would really be considered to be choosing a plant-based diet rather than a vegan lifestyle.

Most of the time, defining veganism by food consumption can be due to a lack of information or understanding about what it means to be vegan, or because many vegans choose to make the transition into this lifestyle by beginning with their food choices. So here’s an overview of what a #veganlifestyle actually means, and how to bring your actions in line with your principles. Not only does it do a great amount for the environment, the animals and your health – but also that feeling of aligning with what you believe is wonderful!

First, it’s important to be clear that consumption covers more than just food. There is a large emphasis on ‘diets’ in society and the vegan food movement has received a lot of exposure recently. For example, in Australia between 2014 and 2016, the number of vegan food products rose by 92%!

However, your consumption extends beyond food and beverages. Consumption is the driver for social, economic and environmental change. This is one of the biggest reasons why vegans are so passionate about the movement, as they truly believe that the way that society ‘consumes’ will make a huge difference to the functioning and sustainability of the world.

So when people talk about vegan consumption, they need to not only be talking about what they eat and drink; but also what non-food items they purchase, the events they attend and the processes/actions that they support. Consumption can even extend to the energy we consume, the people we spend time with, the thoughts we think, and the mindset we hold. Below I’ll step through some of the ways that vegan consumption is about much more than just food:


Beverages
There are a number of beverages that contain animal by-products. Some are more obvious such as milk or milk drinks, but some are less obvious. Many protein shake powder is made from whey, which is a by-product from cow’s milk. There are many vegan protein powders available now so that you don’t need to skip on your daily shake! Collagen drinks and powders are also rising in popularity, however collagen is also derived from animals and is not considered vegan. It’s also common for wine to be filtered with animal products, such as eggs. This is not well advertised but you will often see on the back of wine bottles whether any animal products have been used during filtration. There are also a number of vegan wines available and can be researched online.

Personal Care Products
Not only do products often contain ingredients that have been tested on animals, but they can also contain animal derived ingredients. Quick tip - here's some commonly used animal derived personal care ingredients to avoid: Cochineal Dye/Carmine, Guanine, Tallow, Lanolin, Squalene, Ambergris, Collagen, Beeswax, Estrogen/Estradiol, and most forms of Retinol. Many of the skincare or cosmetic products that you own may not be vegan and could contain animal derived ingredients as well as irritating synethetic chemicals. Opt for skincare and cosmetics that are advertised as vegan – such as the entire Buddy Scrub range!

 
Clothing + Accessories
This may be an area of the vegan lifestyle that you haven’t considered, and a great example of how veganism extends beyond food consumption. Clothing and accessories that contain leather, fur, feathers, snakeskin or other ‘skins’ from animals are not considered vegan, and animals are often subjected to significant pain and suffering for the use of their skins. You may think that purchasing leather doesn’t contribute to the death of livestock, however farmers sell their cows for their meat as well as their hides so all of these aspects contribute to the animal’s demise. Fashion brands are becoming more conscious of the ethics behind the materials that they use and many are now going ‘fur free’ or ditching animal materials altogether. There are many alternatives to traditional leather, fur and other animal derived fashion, and simply searching online for ‘vegan fashion’ will give you a whole range of results for brands, companies and sites dedicated to offering this.


Home/Lifestyle Products
Similar to above, there are many household products that contain animal derived ingredients. Examples of this include goose or duck ‘down’ pillows and duvets which use the feathers of geese and ducks, wool blankets or slippers made from sheep’s wool, some brands of mattresses, ivory or leather goods, and even products such as glue or candles can contain animal derived ingredients. Many people who change to a vegan lifestyle will find that they have many more products left over which may not suit their new lifestyle. That's ok. What you can do is donate what products you may already have to charity, so that others benefit. You can then replace them with vegan alternatives to support those companies who are supporting the world!

 
Events exploiting animals
Consumption also extends to the activities and behaviours that you take part in. Again, your purchasing power is a driver for change, and avoiding companies, experiences and activities that add to the suffering of animals will keep you aligned in your vegan lifestyle; you'll be one less person taking part in these acts. Some of the events or activities that involve the exploitation or killing of animals includes animal acts in circuses, sea parks, zoos and hunting. There are so many alternative activities that you can get involved in such as going on a hike, having a picnic in the park, lunch dates at plant-based cafe, yoga, dance, beach days...there are endless options that don’t need to involve animals for your entertainment.


Gifts for others 
Being vegan is more than just being mindful of purchases and consumption for yourself, but also for others. Purchasing gifts or products that contain animal products is generally avoided by vegans, even if they are being gifted to someone who isn’t vegan. The reason for this is they ensure that their money is not going towards funding the businesses that are using animals for their products. Examples of products or gifts could include chocolate, wines, clothing and beeswax candles. This notion also extends to products that are used in conjunction with animal products such as BBQ sauces, ice-cream makers, meat accessories and more. There are many vegan friendly gifts that you can give to those you care about – why not get creative. They might even like coconut chocolate more than normal chocolate!

Mindset/Commitment
Going vegan does involve a large mindset shift and a newfound sense of compassion to consider the environment and animals in all that the person does. It can be quite an adjustment and one that may take place over a number of months to ensure that the lifestyle shift is sustainable and enjoyable. Going vegan involves cultivating a mindset that animals have rights to their lives and that society is able to create a more sustainable future without the exploitation of animals.  If you are considering becoming vegan, not everyone will agree with your choice and that’s ok. Building and strengthening your own mindset and commitment to veganism with a strong sense of your ‘why’, will help you to continue with this lifestyle in a sustainable way. The more that you are able to support and educate people to understand the vegan lifestyle, the more likely we are as a society to move towards more sustainable and kind practices.


As you can see, vegan consumption is more than just what someone puts into their mouth, but also regards products, clothing, experiences, purchases, behaviours, thoughts, efforts and action. It does take a large mindset shift and commitment to embrace a vegan lifestyle, however by embracing veganism beyond just a plant based diet is how real change will begin to emerge and we will see the benefits for animals, the environment and our society.




References:

https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/common-cosmetic-ingredients-derived-from-animal-products/

https://foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/

https://www.vrg.org/nutshell/leather.php

https://foodtolive.com/healthy-blog/go-vegan-diet/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28728684

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