Definition of Vegan(ism)
To begin a discussion of why many are choosing to go vegan and adopt Veganism as a diet, lifestyle, philosophy, etc., it may first be helpful to consider a definition or explanation of the word ‘vegan’.
The term vegan was coined by Donald Watson in 1944 and was defined as follows: Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverence for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals.
Understanding that vegans are not monolithic, that we all come from different backgrounds and viewpoints, but we share in the belief that animals are not ours to kill or exploit. This is the reason for veganism and that said, there are many additional benefits to being vegan.
FOR THE ANIMALS
This is the core reason for being vegan. It is the heart of veganism.
“Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends” George Bernard Shaw. Over 10 billion animals are slaughtered every year in the United States alone. For obvious reasons, a vegan diet is much kinder to animals, as vegans choose not to consume animal flesh or enslave animals for their by-products. When you realize you can live without eating animals and their by-products and live healthier as a result, you find very little reason to continue exploiting animals as a food source.
Because cows and pigs are intrinsically no different than cats and dogs. Like racism, which values one race over another, speciesism, which values one species over another, is inconsistent and prejudice.
“A miracle is a change in perception” Vegans reject the paradigm, mentality, or societal perception that animals are resources or things to be used solely for humans. Alice Walker said it so eloquently: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”
FOR OUR HEALTH
There is insurmountable evidence that shows the Standard American Diet (SAD) heavy in meat and dairy is linked to most or all of the major diseases of our times including heart disease, all types of cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and the list goes on and on. Whereas, foods from the plant kingdom have all the essentials for a healthy human existence. It is the plant foods that contain antioxidants and fiber which animal products do not and it is the animal products that contain the cholesterol, hormones, antibiotic residues, and dangerously high levels of saturated fat and protein that vegetable sources do not.
FOR THE PLANET/ENVIRONMENT
An animal-based diet is very detrimental to our planet’s ecosystem. Over half of the nation’s water resources are used in animal food production which is the greatest consumer and polluter of our precious water resources. Livestock produces 130 times the amount of waste that people do. This waste is untreated and unsanitary. Animal food production is absurdly inefficient. For example, one pound of beef requires roughly 2500 gallons of water, whereas one pound of wheat requires roughly 25 gallons of water. Methane is produced almost exclusively from animal agriculture which is more responsible for the warming of the planet than CO2. Methane levels in the atmosphere have risen much faster than CO2 levels, and methane traps heat far more effectively than carbon dioxide. An exorbitant amount of energy goes into animal food production and contributes greatly to our fossil fuel addiction and CO2 emissions. Here are just some of the environmental problems that eating an animal based diet contributes to: water and air pollution, global warming, habitat destruction, rain forest
destruction and fossil fuel dependence.
FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
An inordinate amount of resources are used globally for animal agriculture. Raising animals for food is a grossly inefficient use of our precious resources. Many more human beings could be fed if land were used to grow foods to feed directly to people rather than feeding it to animals to then feed to people. Livestock are simply not efficient converters of protein-it takes roughly 17 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. Think of how much better we could serve humanity if we devoted our precious resources to better ends and distributed our energies more equitably. Veganism is simply another step in humanity’s search for social justice and our expansion of ethical consideration to those that society once viewed as separate or lesser beings. In this way, Veganism follows the same evolutionary path as did the anti-slavery and civil rights movement, women’s liberation, etc.
Veganism simply makes sense on every conceivable level. It is a tool by which we can live a more harmonious existence and help bring about a world with less suffering, better health, cleaner environment, and an end to prejudice. Weighing all these issues and considering the consequences of an animal-based lifestyle, logic and our hearts tell us there is a better way- GO VEGAN!
Click here for more information on Veganism.