There are so many benefits to the vegan lifestyle — not only will you be making a positive impact on animals and the environment, but you may also experience improved health, reduced risk of disease, a stronger connection to animals, a new passion for justice, and so much more.
Read on for answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions about veganism.
What is veganism?
As defined by the Vegan Society: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
Basically, vegans try to avoid the use of animal products whenever possible. This primarily manifests itself at mealtime, when vegans avoid meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal-based products, and instead eat a plant-based diet, made up of fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts, as well as comfort foods like pasta, bread, chocolate, pastries, and candy, many varieties of which are vegan.
Because society uses animals for so many applications, the vegan lifestyle also extends to other facets of life, such as fashion, beauty, and entertainment. Veganism encourages people to buy cosmetics and cleaning products that have not been tested on animals (those that are labeled cruelty-free), to buy animal-free fabrics (avoiding leather and wool, for example), and to boycott places that use animals for entertainment, such as zoo, aquariums, and certain circuses.
Veganism is a social justice movement.
Veganism is often mislabeled as a diet — and while eating a vegan diet is a large part of the vegan lifestyle, there’s so much more to being vegan than eating plant-based food. Veganism is a social justice movement that fights for the rights of animals who are exploited and abused by the animal agriculture industry.
Every day, 200 million land animals around the world are killed for food — per year, that’s about 70 billion land animals killed, plus trillions of fish. Most of these land animals (primarily chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, goats, and sheep) are raised on factory farms in terrible, unhygienic, cramped conditions. They are brought into the world only to live a short, horrible existence, and then killed. Many vegans see this as an injustice, and not only want to abstain from supporting the industry themselves, but to put an end to the cruel and environmentally destructive industry altogether.
Are vegans and vegetarians the same?
What’s the difference between vegans and vegetarians? Generally, vegetarians do not eat animal-based meat, just like vegans. However, vegetarians typically do eat eggs and dairy products, and the label only affects their diet, and they are not as concerned with boycotting animal exploitation as vegans are.
Being vegetarian is a great stepping stone to veganism, but the lifestyle still does support animal exploitation in several ways — so if you've gone vegetarian for animals or the planet, you could improve your impact greatly by considering veganism!
Is going vegan good for the environment?
According to a 2018 study out of the University of Oxford, being vegan is one of the most impactful lifestyle choices humans can make to benefit the environment.
“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” lead researcher Joseph Poore told The Guardian. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he added, because those actions only reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Vegan and environment facts and statistics
According to CulinarySchools.org, a vegan diet requires about 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat eater’s diet requires 4,000 of gallons of water per day. Additionally, not eating one pound of meat would save more water than if you didn’t take a shower for 6 months — so going vegan is a great way to reduce your water consumption and reduce your contribution to droughts.
Animal agriculture also uses up far more land than most people realize — it takes up about 30 percent of the Earth's land mass. If the entire world were to start eating vegan diets, global farmland use could go down by a whopping 75 percent, according to the University of Oxford study.
Statistics regarding animal agriculture’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions vary, but according to a widely-cited 2006 study by the UN’s FAO, animal agriculture produces about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-most polluting industry on Earth.
Why go vegan for animals?
In the animal agriculture industry, animals are treated as commodities (they’re even called livestock). Documentaries like Dominion and Earthlings share undercover footage from the meat, dairy, and egg industries, shining a light on just how horribly animals are treated before they make it to your plate.
Most humans can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet (more on that below), and there are endless plant-based alternatives to every animal-based meal — so why pay for the abuse of animals when it’s just not necessary?
Vegan animal sanctuaries rescue farmed animals.
Animal sanctuaries are places that rescue farmed animals from situations of abuse, neglect, or near-death situations, and give them lifelong sanctuary. On animal sanctuaries, the residents are given plenty of space, proper medical care, and the opportunity to live out their life in peace.
There are animal sanctuaries located all over the world, many of which allow visitors to come on tours and meet the animals in exchange for a requested donation. One sanctuary, Michigan’s Barn Sanctuary, was the subject of the Animal Planet series Saved by the Barn.
Is a vegan diet healthy?
Like with any other diet, it depends exactly what food you’re eating to determine if it’s healthy. But generally, a vegan diet is free of cholesterol and hormones (which are only found in animal products), lower in saturated fat, and higher in fiber and other nutrients (especially if you focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods), as compared to a meat-eating or vegetarian diet.
Well-balanced vegan diets have been proven to prevent, treat, and even reverse the U.S.’s No. 1 killer, heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, according to renowned plant-based MD, Dr. Michael Greger of NutritionFacts.org.
Every nutrient humans need can be found on a vegan diet. For example, protein is often associated with meat; however, protein actually originates in plants. The reason meat contains so much protein is because the animal you’re eating, ate plants. To learn more about this, and other nutrition-related myths surrounding veganism, you can check out the documentary The Game Changers.
One of the most exciting parts about adopting a vegan lifestyle is the food! Luckily, the internet is filled with vegan recipes for any dish you can imagine — a Google search should help you locate whatever you are looking for. Many of your favorite dishes from the past can also easily be veganized by swapping out ingredients for vegan alternatives, and you also may be surprised to find that there are vegan or vegan-friendly restaurants in your area.
Should vegans take omega-3 or other supplements?
There are no nutrients you can’t get on a plant-based diet — but there are a few that can be supplemented with vitamins, to ensure you are at your optimal health.
While omega-3 supplements are not necessary for everyone, Dr. Greger of NutritionFacts.org believes everyone can benefit from eating a plant-based diet supplemented with a contaminant-free, algae-derived (not fish oil) EPA and DHA omega-3 supplement.
Omega-3 can be found in plant-based foods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and certain greens — but the body can more readily absorb this nutrient from a plant-based supplement.
Experts also recommend that vegans take a vitamin B12 supplement. While B12 is often associated with meat, it is actually not made by animals — it is made by microbes in the soil, NutritionFacts.org explains.
Due to the ways humans have treated the soil over the years, the soil no longer contains much B12, so humans need to get it via supplementation. Though some vegan foods are fortified with B12, Dr. Greger (and many others) recommends getting your daily B12 via a vitamin.
Even though some people claim they eat meat “to get B12,” the only reason the meat contains B12 is because factory-farmed animals’ feed is supplemented with B12 — so they are just filtering their B12 through the animal's flesh.
Vegan, cruelty-free makeup is easy to find.
Transitioning your collection of makeup, haircare, skincare, and home care products to be completely vegan and cruelty-free is so easy these days, as numerous brands are certified cruelty-free (meaning they do not test on animals) and offer vegan products (meaning the products are free of vegan ingredients). Blogs such as Logical Harmony, Ethical Elephant, or Cruelty-Free Kitty are great places to discover cruelty-free brands; alternatively, you can simple google “is [brand] cruelty-free?” to find out if your favorite companies abstain from animal testing.
While animal testing may conjure images of lab technicians applying blush to guinea pigs, unfortunately, the reality is far more cruel. In the cosmetics testing industry, chemicals are poured into the eyes of animals, on their skin, and even down their throats. After tests are complete, the animals are killed.
Who is That Vegan Teacher?
That Vegan Teacher is a TikTok account with 1.2 million followers. Run by a vegan educator and activist Miss Kadie, the account aims to “help animals and all who are oppressed.” Miss Kadie has gone viral during 2020 for her videos — but she has also had additional viral fame for making some controversial comments, such as stating that she would not donate her organs to meat eaters.
Don't let controversial vegans scare you away from researching more about the animal agriculture industry — going vegan is an amazing choice for animals, the environment, and yourself.
Image Source: iStock
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