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What Is A Vegan
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What Is A Vegan

You hear it all the time, another famous person is, was, has just become or finally revealed that they are vegan. So what is a vegan, anyway? And why are all these famous people getting on board with it? In short, a vegan has nothing to do with anything that will harm an animal. But that isn't at all the end of the story. There are plenty of vegans who don't think of it in that way at all, and here is where the question 'what is a vegan' becomes 'what are the vegan differences'.

To illustrate, I'll share a personal story. In the spring of 2008 I began a very fun journey making cheese at home. After some months of this hobby, I encountered some health information that convicted me I needed to get animal foods out of my diet. Excited and energized by my new lifestyle, I soon began sharing this great new information with my friends and co-workers. I immediately began to encounter confusing comments and questions like "so you don't eat cooked food" or "no more wheat for you" and even "guess you'll have to throw those shoes away". I was almost discouraged from the outset just because of all the perceived challenges that non-vegans presented to me. So I started to dig and research the smaller, more refined meaning and purpose surrounding the word 'vegan'. What I found surprised me, and likely will you, too.

In any community of like-minded people you will always find the occasional rift in the otherwise serene landscape of personal opinion and life position. But on the topic of 'what is a vegan' I've found some very strong positions and emotions. Before I get into that I will share the basic definition of a vegan, and then the two major opposing viewpoints that live under the great umbrella of 'veganism'.

My own personal distillation of the community-accepted definition of vegan is as follows: A person who takes the viewpoint and actions necessary to prevent distress, discomfort, cruelty ,or any other negatively perceived condition, of any living creature be it insect, animal, human etc. What that means for you and me is we should not eat meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or use leather, wool, etc.

Where this happy journey splits into two disgruntled parties is when the question becomes what is a vegan diet. And this isn't so much because we don't know what a vegan diet is, but rather we don't know what else to call a diet free from animal products. This irks the true vegan community, and I can understand why. Imagine if a person said "I'm a truck driver". You would think they drive big rigs. But if that person drove a pickup truck, you can see how that would be a less-than-accurate description of their driving abilities.

In the vegan world, either you are or you are not a vegan and along with that you either do or do not strive to protect and preserve animals' well being as much as you can.

This means that there is no such thing as a 'convenient vegan' or a 'dietary vegan' or any other modified version, according to the strictest definition. Now comes the problem for me and thousands of others who have chosen not to eat animal products, aka eat a plant-based diet. When people ask me 'what is a vegan' I immediately start to talk about food, nutrition and alternatives. Animals don't come to mind Even though I always want to protect all life I simply am not coming from that approach. We 'dietary vegans' need a new word. Vegetarian doesn't cut it, but vegan means more. Perhaps we non-vegan, extra-vegetarians can put our heads together on it.

So next time you are asked 'what is a vegan' perhaps you'll have an answer and can even provide some details, maybe even clarifying what isn't a vegan.


Street Talk

Great article that explained some things. I've been in the bruising battles of this and just decided to stay away. However, I keep changing my diet slowly - I'm not there yet and it may take me a lifetime, but I'm slowly switching (ok a snail may move faster than I do on this). I am working at cutting dairy out of my diet for health reasons and I'm feeling much better as a result. Those little successes will keep me moving forward on this!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
  

Thanks Don. If you do it the way I did, you'll make it in time. I just learned a little and implemented what I was able. I recommend you also watch a brand new film that I reviewed. It's on my thereasonstobeavegan com/products/forks-over-knives. I also wrote an article for it here, but it's not approved just yet. So anyway, have a look at that because it really help in understanding where to start. Just like IM, each little success moves us toward the larger one.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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