Vegan in the broad sense of the term refers to abstaining from the use of any animal parts or by-products. This goes way-beyond cruelty-free (which typically refers only to any testing that is not done on animals) and emcompasses a whole lifestyle focusing on food, ethics, as well as the environment.
Veganism on the rise
In the recent past we have seen veganism gaining popularity and even becoming mainstream. According to the Guardian, in the UK “big chains such as Marks & Spencer and Pret a Manger have introduced vegan ranges, Wagamama has a new vegan menu, Pizza Hut recently joined Pizza Express and Zizzi in offering vegan pizzas, while last year Guinness went vegan and stopped using fish bladders in its brewing process, after two and a half centuries”. In the U.S., the number of vegans has grown from just 1% of the population to 6%. While this is still a relatively small portion of the overall population, a 600% increase in just three years represents a cultural shift that cannot be ignored.
“Before you ask someone why they’re vegan, ask yourself why you're not” - Unknown
So what does it mean to be vegan?
There are many different ways to embrace veganism, including:
· ethical veganism
· environmental veganism
· diet-based veganism
“The vegan movement is one of the fastest growing social justice movements in the world today” - Melanie Joy
The biggest ethical question we face in this time, but choose to ignore, is that of animal agriculture. Thousands of animals bred purposefully using massive amounts of land, water and resources just to be slaughtered? It just doesn't make sense to me! Are animals any less of a sentient being than we are? Absolutely not!
We need to make every concerted effort to stop this mindless breeding of animals by adopting a vegan or a plant based diet. Spreading awareness about the harsh realities of the animal agriculture industry is part of achieving our goal of making the world more fair and just for all living beings irrespective of what our pecking order in nature is.
Others are choosing to go vegan for environmental reasons. Modern farming practices are drastically different from the meat-producing industry of the past. In fact, industrial farming is now a major contributor to climate change with large amounts of methane gas released by the animals. Factory farming and clearing land for animal grazing is disrupting the Earth’s ecosystems and the balance that is necessary to sustain all life on earth. Loss of habitat due to deforestation is leading to extinction of wildlife on a scale that has never been seen in recorded history.
Human beings are the only living beings that don’t live in harmony with nature, and we’re all suffering the consequences of our actions. It’s time we took stock of the damage we have done and change our ways before it’s too late.
This is probably the most popular take on veganism. The statistics are in and dietary veganism is definitely on the rise all across the globe. Many are even saying that plant-based eating will be one of the next big consumer trends, and it’s happening right now! One of the top reasons people are cutting out animal-based proteins is because of health. Vegan or not, it is common knowledge that a plant-based diet is better for you, and even the world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases.
“A vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health and the well-being of our planet” - Robert Cheeke
But our health and that of our environment isn’t the only motivation for some vegans. Dietary veganism is also about human rights and global food supply. How does a plant-based diet solve hunger and malnutrition? If the same land we use for animal grazing and to support meat-producers was instead used to produce plants and grains, we would be able to feed millions of more people as well as protect our forests and wildlife habitat.
Is veganism for everyone?
Becoming vegan is a matter of animal welfare, sustainability and health. So even if you choose not to adopt a total vegan lifestyle, you can choose to buy more vegan fashion, personal care products and eat more of a plant-based diet, hence supporting animal welfare efforts, reducing your environmental impact overall and improving your health along the way.