By definition, Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude as much as possible and practicable all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. What that means is the elimination of all products that came from an animal or was tested on animals. Not just meat but also eggs, dairy products, clothing made from hide (i.e. leather, fur, etc.), products tested on animals, and anything that at any point was created using some part of animal. This includes entertainment where animals are exploited like aquariums, circuses, dog racing, horse racing, or anything where the creature is forced to perform.
But there are many types of vegans to fit every lifestyle:
- Dietary Vegan – Don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs, but will use resources like leather or non-food animal-based products.
- Ethical Vegan – Don’t eat meat, dairy or eggs, and don’t use animal-based products like leather.
- Green Vegan – Avoid animal products because of the impacts on the environment.
- Raw Vegan — Strictly plant-based diet and don’t eat anything that’s been cooked over 105F.
- Plant-Based Vegan — Don’t consume processed foods, but will use whole foods such as beans and legumes.
- The Paris Vegan – Will follow a vegan diet, but in social situations or put in the hot spot will settle for vegetarian options.
- VB6 – Follow a strict vegan diet from 6am to 6pm. Food writer Mark Bittman is the author of the book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health for Good where he encourages a strict vegan diet (including no meat, dairy, or processed food) before 6 pm each day. After 6 pm you can eat whatever you want within moderation. It allows for the health benefits of veganism without having to sacrifice non-vegan foods.
- Weekday/Weekend Vegan – Some people have adopted a lifestyle of being vegan on weekdays and eating whatever they want on the weekends. Following this kind of eating plan may work better for people who are not ready for a full-time commitment.
- Virtually Vegan — Follow a more flexible vegan diet. They will avoid buying eggs and diary products, but won’t be concerned about trace amounts of animal bi-products. This is the group most likely to continue using honey, which is a controversial topic.
- Travel Vegan — Follows a strict vegan diet, but will make exceptions while traveling. The influence being that while exploring new countries and cultures, limiting yourself can take away from the experience of wonder and delving into the local cuisine and past-times. This group often finds this lifestyle easier than trying to find a restaurant everyone likes that upholds to your restrictions.
- Junk Food Vegan – Follow either a omnivore or vegetarian diet, but will substitute snacks, desserts, and treats for vegan alternatives in an attempt to make these morsels healthier.
The difference between vegan and vegetarian is that vegetarians won’t eat meat, however they will often consume eggs, dairy products, white meats (i.e. chicken, fish, etc.), or some combination. Most vegetarians will still purchase clothing, toiletries, and other daily resources that have been animal-tested or contain bi-products. Strict vegetarians will usually omit these items, but are more flexible to ingredients and materials than vegans.
But why would someone want to do this?
For the animals
Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan, but for many it remains the main reason for their decision to adopt veganism. Having emotional attachments with animals is a major influence, while many believe that all creatures have a right to life and freedom. Avoiding animal products is one of the best ways to take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation.
At an all time high of 6% of the US population, people are starting a vegan diet for the health benefits of increased energy, younger looking skin, and eternal youth are just some of the claims. There are certainly many scientifically proven benefits to vegan living when compared to the average western diet. Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and packed with antioxidants helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
For the environment
We’re all aware of ways to live a greener life from changing to energy saving appliances, taking the stairs, riding our bikes, and recycling. One of the most effective things an individual can do to lower their carbon footprint is to avoid all animal products. The amount of waste and resources supplied to one cow in a diary farm is almost twice that of one individual living in their own home. But that’s a post for another time.
Just like veganism is the sustainable option when it comes to looking after our planet, plant-based living is also a more sustainable way of feeding the human family. A plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet. With rising global food and water insecurity due to a myriad of environmental and socio-economic problems, there’s never been a better time to adopt a more sustainable way of living. It’s the simplest way to take a stand against inefficient food systems which disproportionately affects the poorest people all over the world.
For more information, please visit The Vegan Society’s website to learn more about the basics of veganism, the purpose of it, and how to start your own thirty day Vegan challenge the correct way.
Crawford, Elizabeth. “Vegan Is Going Mainstream, Trend Data Suggests.” FoodNavigator-USA.com. American Egg Board, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.
Marley, Namely. “10 Ways to Be Vegan: The Options for Veganism in 2014 – Namely Marly.” Namely Marly. N.p., 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.
“The Vegan Society.” The Vegan Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.