The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines vegan as “a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products.”
This is a fairly accurate but limited definition. Veganism is defined differently by those who practice it because they are often motivated for different reasons. While each person’s decisions and experiences with veganism are different, there are four main motivations behind a vegan diet. Some people may ascribe to all, none, or only some of these reasons.
What is a vegan?
Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. Other commonly used, but perhaps less well-known, animal products are beeswax, bone char, carmine, casein, cochineal, gelatin, isinglass, lanolin, lard, rennet, shellac, tallow, whey, and yellow grease. Vegan Wolf has a great list of animal ingredients to look out for when shopping. It just might amaze you to see the crazy animal parts they put in the least expected products.
Why adopt a vegan diet?
Vegan diets eliminate meat, dairy, and other animal products. This removes a lot of cholesterol, trans fats, and harmful milk proteins such as casein. Avoiding animal products reduces your exposure to animal borne diseases, injected hormones, and antibiotics. Some people choose to be vegan for their own health and the health of their families.
Some vegans chose a vegan diet for primarily environmental reasons. As environmental research has increased, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal consumption is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.
To begin with, per-capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century, even as global population has continued to increase. As a result, the overall demand for meat has increased five-fold. That, in turn, has put escalating pressure on the availability of water, land, feed, fertilizer, fuel, waste disposal capacity, and most of the other limited resources of the planet.
The standard diet of a person in the United States requires 4,200 gallons of water per day (for animals’ drinking water, irrigation of crops, processing, washing, cooking, etc.). A person on a vegan diet requires only 300 gallons a day.
—Richard H. Schwartz in Judaism and Vegetarianism
It takes, on average, 28 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of meat protein for human consumption, [whereas] it takes only 3.3 calories of fossil- fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of protein from grain for human consumption.
—David Pimentel, Cornell University
Ethical vegans choose veganism to remove themselves from the industrial animal farming complex and the suffering that occurs there. Other vegans chose to avoid meat because they believe killing any animal for food is wrong.
Ethical vegans tend to avoid animal products for clothing, toiletries, or any other reason, and will try to avoid ingredients that have been tested on animals. They will not buy fur coats, cars with leather in them, leather shoes, belts, bags, wallets, woollen jumpers, silk scarves, camera film, bedding that contains goose down or duck feathers, and will not use certain vaccines; the production of the flu vaccine, for example, involves the use of chicken eggs. Depending on their economic circumstances, vegans may donate items made from animal products to charity when they become vegan, or use them until they wear out. Clothing made without animal products is widely available in stores and online.
Some people choose veganism for religious or spiritual reasons. Veganism is common among those who practice Jainism, for example.
Freegans are vegans who wish to be removed from the corporate production of animal products. Freegans vote with their money by refusing to support the exploitation of animals. However, freegans often dumpster dive (going through the garbage of grocery stores or restaurants) to find often perfectly edible food that has been wasted. Freegans may consume animal products that they save from the dumpster because it does not contribute to the exploitation of animals and it makes use of animal products that are going to waste.
Why do you chose veganism? Add your comments below.