When you hear the word "vegan," what comes to mind? Do you think it's just a bunch of hippy dippy nonsense? (Good news: It's not) Or are you curious about what it means to be vegan, but just not sure how to ask?
As I move through my journey of adopting a vegan lifestyle, I become more and more passionate about it, wanting to share with others how it can really transform your life. So, I'm starting a new blog series to share the various ways to level up in veganism and why it's crucial to the health of people AND the planet! I'm kicking off the series with the basics about what it actually means to be vegan.
But let's start with a couple of disclaimers: I am NOT a licensed medical professional, nor do I claim to be an expert on diet, fitness, or nutrition. What I share here are my personal suggestions and recommendations. I will add links to some sources, but I encourage you to do your own research, too!
So, what does it mean to be vegan?
The most basic definition is this: vegan (noun) - a person who does not eat or use animal products. (Oxford) But there are a surprising amount of complexities to being vegan and living a vegan lifestyle.
The first thing to know about being vegan is that it is not a diet. Veganism is designed to be a lifestyle - and that's important! What you do, eat, and use is not meant to be temporary, nor is the main goal of being vegan to lose weight.
The second thing to know about being vegan is that it's not just about what you eat - it's also about the products you use. I'd argue that it's also about the activities you choose to engage in - but more on that in a future post!
And the third thing to know about veganism is that the motivation for people to be (and stay) vegan is mainly for both health and ethics. Pursuing a vegan lifestyle minimizes the impact a person has on the environment and on animals, as well as the impact that animal products will have on their bodies and their overall health and wellbeing. Some things involving animals are difficult to avoid - using transportation (impacts land and habitats), or getting a flu shot (many contain egg product) for example. But living a vegan lifestyle is our way of doing our part in as many ways as we can to live a healthier and more ethical life.
What's the difference between vegan and vegetarian?
,As a basic definition, here are the differences:
Vegans not only abstain from eating meat, but we also don't consume dairy products (cow's milk, cheese, butter, or eggs) or any other products from animals - like honey or gelatin, for example. Friends, if you don't know what gelatin is made of, click here.
There is also a difference between eating vegan versus living a fully vegan lifestyle - for example, you can avoid all of the food items derived from animals, but still be using animal products on your body and in your home.
What do you mean by animal products? There's not animals in the things I use.
Oh but boo, there are. There really really are. This has been one of the more eye-opening areas of my vegan lifestyle journey, because WOW are there animal parts in everything. I'll dive deeper into this subject in a future post, but these are just some examples of things we use every day that are not vegan (Business Insider and Raise Vegan):
So though at first you may think of things made with leather, fur, wool, etc. - there are so many everyday products that are made with some form or type of animal substance. Gross!
While certain things are almost impossible to avoid - computers, for example (LCD displays can contain cholesterol taken from animals (LiveKindly)) - living a vegan lifestyle is all about being conscious of this and trying to minimize the use of animal products as much as possible. It's easy to find alternatives and read labels when you have this mindfulness to do so!
Why be vegan?
I mentioned health reasons and ethical reasons, but here's what that means:
Being vegan for your health:
Being vegan for the animals:
Animals are living beings just like humans are. Many vegans are motivated to give up eating meat and using animals products because they care about the treatment of animals and refuse to support industries that kill, abuse, and exploit animals. Examples of this include:
Being vegan for the environment:
So much of animal agriculture impacts the environment, in turn impacting weather, air quality, and natural disasters. For example:
As with most things, animal agriculture operates on supply and demand. The environment is relevant to veganism because if less people are consuming meat, there is less of a demand, and thus there would be a decrease in destroying our world to breed animals to eat and use. This article from VICE explains the issue related to the Amazon fires last year.
Vegan Society shares some additional info on why people go vegan here.
So these are the basics of being vegan! There's so much more to say, but I hope this summary has been helpful in giving you some main points of information about what veganism is and why people choose this lifestyle.
Easy ways to learn more:
In future posts, I'll be sharing about my personal journey to live a vegan lifestyle, how to get started in going vegan, some easy recipes to try, how to choose vegan products for your body and home, vegan travel, and more! What I'll say in every post is that going vegan is not meant to be a quick process or an overnight life transformation. Things that are different from what we are comfortable with are intimidating and daunting - it's okay to feel that way about going vegan. Taking small steps is great! Any effort to make better choices for your body and for our earth is better than nothing. You can grow through this experience, and it's so rewarding! You just have to start.