What is Vegan?
Veganism is a diet and lifestyle, in which a person abstains from the use of animal products in their food and food products, household products, and in their clothing. The term vegan is both used to describe the person who follows veganism and to describe the food that adheres to the diet. Many people assume that vegans are vegetarians, which is true. Additionally, the vegan diet requires that participants do not consume animal derived products, such as animal milk, dairy products, eggs, or honey, where as it is considered acceptable to consume these food products in a vegetarian diet.
So what do vegans eat if so much seems to have been cut out of their diet? How do their bodies receive all the nutrients it needs to be healthy? Despite seeming as through there are limited food options available, vegans enjoy a rather wide array of foods. However, as with all diets, all foods should be thoroughly researched so that your diet is balanced and assured to receive all of the proper nutrients for a healthy life. Foods included in the vegan diet includes:
- Grains, seeds, and legumes (especially beans, which are filled with protein).
- Plant based milks derived from soy, almonds, coconuts, hemp, or rice.
- Mock meats made from tofu, soy beans, or wheat.
- Cheeses made from soy, nuts, or tapioca. While many people may want to shy away from vegan cheeses, they actually are very comparable in flavor and meltablility.
- Fruits and vegetable.
There are many reasons why people want to turn to veganism as their chosen lifestyle. Some people want to turn to veganism because of the health benefits it offers. Those who participate in a vegan diet enjoy the Nutritional Benefits of having significantly less risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity, which in itself is sometimes the underlying cause of additional health concerns.
Many people turn to veganism because of it’s principle philosophy: Harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable, and we should live without the exploitation of animals. It is no secret that the farming industry many times does not adhere to treating animals with respect or cruelty-free. As a result, animals live:
- In crowded and poor conditions.
- They are fed food that is not intended for their diets with the sole purpose of making them bigger faster.
- They are injected with hormones and antibiotics that are harmful to both the animal and the person who consumes it.
- They are physically mistreated.
As animal lovers don’t want to see animals abused, many will chose a lifestyle and diet that assures they do not help promote this sort of industry. Switching to a meatless diet is a statement against the mistreatment of animals, but Animals used to Produce Animal Bi-Products are just as exploited as animals used for meat, which means cutting out meat alone is not enough to promote change.
Additionally, vegans who are concerned for the well being of animals are usually concerned for the Environmental Effects and damage caused from industrial farming. Creating and maintaining an area for live stock requires massive deforestation, which destroys the area and claims the homes of the wild life that was living in that area. The methane gases produced from industrial farms significantly contributes to air pollution. Animals in containment generate more waste than non-contained animals, risking contamination of natural water sources in the area. Industrial farms take more water to maintain, including usage for watering crops, cleaning, and providing for the animals, which means natural water resources become depleted an average of three times faster. Feed crops are grown using lots of hazardous chemicals and fertilizers so that the plant matures quickly, but it leaves behind toxins in the soil. Industrial farming is environmentally hazardous and offers no sustainable outcomes.
There are lots of great Books and literature that you can read which address the vegan diet, why we should turn to veganism, how humans are negatively affecting animals, and environmental benefits to veganism.
The History of Veganism
Documentation of vegetarianism can be traced back to ancient Greece and India, including individuals who avoided any animal products in their diet. Those who didn’t include eggs, milk, or dairy products were considered strict vegetarians.
The term, vegan, was later coined in 1944 by Donald Watson of the Leicester Vegetarian Society in England. A few of the members of the society were concerned that the news letter that circulated among the members did not differentiate between those who included animal products and those who did not include animal products in their diets. One of the members of LVS, Leslie Cross, branched off to create a new letter that addressed specifically those who did not include animal products. Watson created the term “vegan” using the first and the last letters in “vegetarian,” which, he theorized, represented the beginning and end of vegetarianism. Other members began suggesting other terms that could be used to define the lifestyle, but ultimately vegan and veganism is what the society chose to use.
Members who partook in veganism were urged to take a pledge to seek the end to the use of animals for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and all other uses involving the exploitation of animal life by man.
In the 19070s, American scientists began arguing that the high amounts of consumption of animals fats in the standard American diet was more harmful than beneficial, and veganism began to gain traction in the US. By the 2000s, the vegan diet and lifestyle began moving from marginal to mainstream. Restaurants began noticing an increasing demand for vegan entrees, and some restaurants began using their vegan entrees in marketing to attract more clientele. Veganism began gaining an internet presence, with more websites appearing that discuss the philosophy of veganism, vegan recipes, and vegan forums. Vegan grocery stores began appearing in more areas, where vegans could shop without concern. Not only are more people turning to veganism, but society is enabling veganism to thrive.
Be Proactive Today!
Veganism at its core involves abstaining from the consumption and usages of animal and animal products, but there are many great ways for people to get more involved for the greater good! Ways to actively participate in veganism include:
- Volunteer with Animals: We need to take care of all animals, not just animals on farms. Animals shelters needs lots of help with cats and dogs. Volunteering at your local animal shelter is a great way to actively participate in veganism.
- Advocacy: Getting involved in local advocacy groups is a great way to get involved, stand up for what you believe in, and educated society about the positive outcomes veganism has on society, health, and the environment.
- Teach Your Children: When you teach children that we need to treat animals with respect, they will grow-up with this value instilled in them, which enables them to make change in this world. Children are likely to want to be proactive as well, and have done some amazing things to promote veganism.
The more we promote veganism, live with the philosophy of veganism, and continuously educate about the effects and benefits of veganism, the more we can make a positive impact in this world!