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Why vegan?

Veganism is a direct action you can take that has an immediate, real-world impact. Learn more.

Published: May 2015
Last Update: August 2022

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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?

Let's explore veganism further.

1. Origins

Where did veganism get its start?

Donald Watson gave it a name

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."

Defining veganism

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. (1)

Is a vegan the same as a vegetarian?

With so much misinformation on the internet, it’s easy to see how people can become confused about what vegan means.

In short, vegans avoid animal and 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, cleaners, clothing, and beauty products.

In contrast, a vegetarian still consumes animals in one way or another.

Rescued cow at Tuulispää Animal Sanctuary in Finland

Rescued cow at Tuulispää Animal Sanctuary in Finland / Source

2. For the Animals

First and foremost, it's about the animals.

The numbers are staggering

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 due to vivisection laboratories, circuses, marine parks, zoos, horse racing, greyhound racing, and blood sports such as dog fighting, cockfighting, and bullfighting.

And it's also not counting the billions of animals who die during transport every year.

These numbers are heartbreaking.

There's hope

Veganism can change those numbers.

But, veganism is a big topic, there's many things you'll need to know. I've built a library of information designed to help you navigate through it with that in mind.

Save the lives of animals one meal, one outfit, one refusal to attend a circus or zoo at a time.

These guides will show you how » Vegan Lifestyle Guides

Cut trees along the water in Seattle, Washington

Cut trees along the water in Seattle, Washington / Source

3. For the environment

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

Our planet needs us

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 significant 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 a big part of the solution. Learn more » Veganism & the Environment

Fresh vegetables at a farmers market

Fresh vegetables at a farmers market / Source

4. For our health

Is a vegan diet healthy? Absolutely.

First things first

Let's 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 good health, and that's okay. By design, veganism isn't about our health at all. Instead, it's about the animals.

Vegan diets can be healthful

There are a plethora of reliable, evidence-based reasons to eat a vegan diet.

Eating a plant-based whole food diet can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

Some people find that eating a vegan diet can help them maintain their weight or even lose weight.

Nutrition from a licensed dietitian

So, what does a healthful vegan diet look like?

I asked Anya Todd, MS, RD, LD, her thoughts to get answers. She specializes in vegan nutrition. Together we created a library of vegan health guides.

It's here, from articles to nutrition guides to answering frequently asked vegan health questions » Vegan Health

Rescued goat at Refuge RR animal sanctuary in Alexandria, Ontario

A sleepy goat relaxes in the shaded barn on a hot summer day at Refuge RR in Alexandria, Ontario / Source

5. Glossary

Because definitions matter.

Veganism isn't a diet

People are continually trying to redefine the word vegan.

Some would have you believe that it can mean many things like:

  • A diet
  • A diet that you follow until 6pm
  • A diet that you follow Monday - Friday
  • A diet that includes "just a little bit of cheese" or products from animals you know personally
  • A diet that includes fish or scallops because "they don't feel pain"
  • A diet that includes honey because bees "aren't animals"

None of these are true.

What is veganism?

Veganism is a:

  • Belief system
  • Philosophy
  • Way of living

It's more than what we eat; it's who we are and how we care for others.

And it's about compassion and justice, kindness and peace, and treading lightly.

But more than anything else, it's about the animals.

Understanding veganism

Definitions matter.

You're going to read that they don't. You might even see articles saying only people who need them are those seeking perfection. These pieces usually claim that perfectionism is harming the vegan movement.

Some will even argue that it's possible to use small amounts of animal products and still be vegan.

Vegans, whenever possible and practicable, don't use products that come from animals, period.

Creating a better world for us all

Do you know who benefits from a clear, consistent definition of 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, how will we know which one was used to determine if a product is vegan?

Know who else benefits from a clear definition of veganism?

Animals.

Turning it into merely a diet erases the animals from the conversation altogether, which is antithetical to the core tenants of veganism.

Perfect is the enemy of good

Finally, one last thing, about perfection.

No one alive is perfect, vegans included.

Having a definition for a significant social justice movement has nothing 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?

Absolutely not. You will; I will, we all will.

We're fallible.

Human.

But to advocate on behalf of a position, one must first be able to define it.

And veganism already has a definition.

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Truth in advertising

I am committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. Meticulously researched, the topic explored in this guide contains the information available at the time of publishing.

I don’t just say it; I source it too.

Please contact me if you find incorrect data.

Article Sources

1. The Vegan Society. (2022). History. https://www.vegansociety.com/about-us/history

Photo Credits

Feature photo / Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Media / Sergei A. / David Vázquez

Rescued cow at Tuulispää Animal Sanctuary in Finland / Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Media

Cut trees in Seattle, Washington / Karsten Winegeart

Fresh vegetables at a farmers market / CA Creative

A sleepy goat relaxes in the shaded barn on a hot summer day at Refuge RR in Alexandria, Ontario / Victoria de Martigny, We Animals Media