You may have been hearing more and more about the vegan movement over the past 12 months due to an increasing interest in this way of life. But what does it actually mean to be vegan?
The word vegan refers to people who consume no animal meat or by-products (such as eggs or dairy) and avoid any animal derived clothing, accessories, skincare and more. The word vegan was initially used in 1944 by Donald Watson who was a non-dairy vegetarian and settled on the first three letters and last two letters of vegetarian – ‘vegan’, to separate this way of life from vegetarianism.
Below are some of the common food or products that Vegans avoid:
- All animal meat – red meat, poultry, seafood, game meat etc
- All animal by-products – dairy, eggs, lanolin (oil from sheep’s wool), honey, caviar, beeswax, whey protein powder
- All animal skins – leather, fur, reptile skin, feathers, wool
- Animal derived products – goose down jackets/bedding, sheep skin ugg boots, silk clothing/bedding, pearls, ivory, feathered accessories, goat’s milk skincare, makeup using animal products like carmine.
- Animals for entertainment/experimentation – circus’ with animal acts, zoos, sea life parks, travelling animal acts, purchasing of exotic animals as pets, animal testing, factory farm pet breeding, rodeos, horse/dog racing.
This list is not extensive, however it gives you an overview of the ways in which animals are used and exploited for the human population and how adopting a vegan lifestyle can aid in reducing the harm, torture and pain that comes to these animals.
So why do people become vegan? People can decide to become vegan for several reasons, but there are three common themes for why people make this lifestyle switch.
- One reason is to prevent animal cruelty and the exploitation of animals for food consumption and other general living needs. Every year, 56 billion farm animals are culled for their meat and this doesn’t include seafood and the many millions more that are culled or abused for their eggs, milk, skin, fur, feathers and more. By switching to a vegan lifestyle, each person can save up to 198 animals from being bred for food or accessories each year, which equates to around 1.4 billion animals per year in America alone that aren't bred for human benefit.
- Another reason for becoming vegan is the environmental impact. The impact that large scale animal agriculture and fishing is having on our climate, oceans and land is now being well documented. The land required to grow grains to feed the livestock industry is responsible for the destruction of many of our rain forests. Imagine what could be achieved with livestock land if the demand for meat was simply not there? The methane and carbon dioxide emissions from the livestock industry is also higher than all of the car and transport emissions put together. These emissions are impacting our atmosphere and leading to climate change issues. Instead of switching to water saving shower heads or riding to work, you could eat vegan for two nights a week and have a larger impact. By adopting a vegan lifestyle, a more sustainable approach to living and land use can be achieved.
- A third reason for becoming vegan is for health reasons. There is well documented evidence of the benefits of adopting a plant based diet for overall well being. A plant based diet reduces the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular issues, and is linked to longevity in countries who eat a mostly plant based diet. A plant based diet involves eating vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts without processed food or excessive oil.
Vegans may relate to one or more of the above reasons, or may have additional reasons for their lifestyle choice. However, the commonalities of vegans are the choices they make to avoid animal derived food & products and the exploitation of animals.
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