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Why Vegan?

By KD Angle-Traegner | Updated Feb. 21, 2018

Living vegan has many advantages. First, it’s a direct action you can take right now that has an immediate, real-world impact on animals. Secondly, living vegan is better for the environment. Finally, a properly planned vegan diet can be incredibly healthy.

So perhaps a better question might be, why not live vegan?

FAQ: What is a vegan anyway? Is it the same thing as a Vegetarian?

With so much misinformation on the internet today, it’s easy to see how people can become confused about what being a vegan means. In short, vegans avoid animal and animal by-products in their food, including not only meat and fish, but dairy and honey as well. Vegans will also avoid animal products in household goods like bedding and cleaners, and clothing and beauty products too. In contrast, a vegetarian still consumes animals in one way or another.

Vegan Origins

So, where did veganism get its start? Let’s take a look.

The word vegan was coined 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.”

In the first issue of The Vegan News, Watson talked about veganism as the basis of a new social movement, and then later defined veganism in this way:

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.

Randy, a rescue goat, lives at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York

(Photo: JoAnne McArthur/We Animals)

Without a doubt, it’s the animals who pay the highest price for a non-vegan lifestyle. More than 150 billion animals are killed every year for food, and that’s not counting 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. 

Those numbers are heartbreakingly staggering. Veganism can change them.

Veganism is a big topic with lots of things you’ll need to know. With that in mind, I’ve built a library of information designed to help you navigate through it. 

Save the lives of animals one meal, one outfit, one refusal to attend a circus or marine park at a time. These vegan lifestyle guides will show you how.

Learn More

For the Environment

Can veganism save the planet? The short answer is yes.

Landscape picture of a forest that has been cut down

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.

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For our Health

Is a vegan diet healthy? Absolutely.

Two hands holding a heart next to a stethoscope

I’m going to get it out of the way right now: It’s certainly possible to eat a healthful diet that contains small amounts of animal products. Veganism doesn’t promise us perfect health, and that’s okay. Veganism by design isn’t about our health at all, it’s about the animals first. 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 you 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 help in losing 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 covered here.

Learn More

Glossary

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. On the other hand, other definitions make no sense 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 are not true. Don’t listen.

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. 

Does this mean that you’ll never fail, that you’ll never make mistakes in your veganism? Absolutely not. You will; I will, we all will. We’re fallible. We are human.

But to advocate on behalf of a position, one must first be able to define it. And veganism already has a definition.

 

 

 

Truth in Advertising

I am committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. Intensely researched, the topic explored in this article contains knowledge available at the time of publishing. Reviews and updates happen when new material becomes available.

Please contact me if you find incorrect data.

Photo Credit

Deforestation: Thinkstock
Hands & Hearts: Thinkstock
All of the photos of animals in this guide were obtained from We Animals.

Chances are you’ve seen the award-winning photography of Jo-Anne McArthur. Her documentary project, We Animals, is a project that documents animals in the human environment using photography. The objective, “to photograph our interactions with animals in such a way that the viewer finds new significance in these ordinary, often unnoticed situations of use, abuse, and sharing of spaces.” To view more of this project or to support its mission, visit weanimals.org.

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