We are at a pivotal awakening point in humanity. Each day an increasing number of people are choosing a conscious way of life based on compassion, peace, sustainability, and wellbeing on ALL levels. More of us are becoming aware of how our choices and actions impact other humans, animals, and our entire Earth. More of us are expanding our boundaries of who and what we care for to include other living beings and all of nature. We are choosing not to participate in any kind of racism, speciesism, or violence. We are speaking out about so many world justice issues and taking a stand about things that matter to us. We are making choices that consider the greater good of all, rather than choices that only satisfy our own selfish desires. We are discarding the mentality of competition and separation and embracing a love paradigm based on cooperation.
Each day, more and more of us are choosing to connect back to nature and live in a way that sustains us, other living beings, and all humans in a more positive way. We are making more choices from the heart and fewer choices from the financial or social benefits we can attain. All of this includes and touches upon our food and lifestyle choices. And today there is no choice more important than what we choose to eat, as this, directly and indirectly, impacts the greater good and the wellbeing of us, other humans, all living beings, and our entire Earth.
This is where the lifestyle of veganism comes to the forefront, and this article will help you understand what veganism is, what it isn’t, how it works, and why it is so beneficial for all involved.
What is Veganism?
Veganism, in the most traditional sense of the word, is a lifestyle that encompasses not consuming or using any animal products. Hence, no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey are consumed. No leather, fur, or wool is worn in articles of clothing. No supplements based on animal products are taken. No household items made with or based on animal products are used. No products that were tested on animals are considered. Vegans also do not participate in hunting or fishing.
Now, while this may seem extreme to some, it is simply a deeply compassionate approach to living. But we also have to note, that not all vegans are created equal and hence live out all of the above habits or do it for the right reasons. Some vegans may define their Ego through it, and make all other vegans look like some crazed activists.
So going back to the overall definition, some vegans simply choose to avoid all animal products in their diet, giving little or no thought to the presence of animal products in other parts of their life. Some vegans eat honey or wear leather. So the biggest thing to note about this word, like any other, is not to generalize, make prejudices or assume you know what a person is all about by defining them through one word. For more about this check out also an article I wrote called, “Breaking Free From Limiting Dietary Lifestyle Labels.
History of Veganism
Although vegetarianism is as old as the dawn of recorded time (or older), the word “vegan” was only officially coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, who was also the founder of the Vegan Society. He simply wanted to differentiate the group of vegetarians, who chose not to eat any animal products like dairy and eggs, which are normally eaten by vegetarians.
It is believed that vegetarianism has come from the East thousands of years ago, having included the Buddha, and been brought over by Pythagoreas – considered the ‘Father of Vegetarianism’. Throughout the years, it has included people like Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Rachel Carson, to many famous celebrities today and regular people just like you and I!
What Do Vegans Eat?
When people think of the word vegan or hear no animal products, one of the main myths and fears is that all of a sudden a person’s diet it severely restricted, and many cringe thinking, what in heavens would they eat…
Well, a properly handled vegan diet cannot be any more bountiful, varied, rich, and diverse! It includes:
VEGETABLES (of which there are thousands of varieties)
FRUITS (of which there are thousands of varieties)
MUSHROOMS (of which there are hundreds of edible varieties)
BEANS & LEGUMES (of which there are actually thousands of varieties)
GRAINS (of which there are tens of thousands of different varieties)
SEA VEGETABLES & ALGAE (of which there are hundreds of different varieties)
PLANT OILS (of which there are hundreds)
NUTS (of which there are thousands of different varieties)
SEEDS (of which there are thousands of different varieties)
HERBS & SPICES (of which there are thousands of different varieties)
And to add to all these, a perhaps infinite multitude of products, recipes, and dishes that can be made from combining the above in various natural ways! These include anything from soups and stir-fries, to all-natural frozen desserts and smoothies!
Are Vegans Healthier than Non-Vegans?
The health of a vegan is very much determined by the quality and variety of foods they choose to eat, as with anyone else, whether they are a vegetarian or an omnivore.
Anyone eating a processed food diet is not doing themselves any favors, no matter which lifestyle choice they make. Thus, vegans who rely on imitation or “mock” meats, cheeses, milks, pastries, or any other not-naturally vegan foods, are not any healthier than an average vegetarian or omnivore, and can in some cases be worse off, depending on the quality of the omnivore or vegetarian diet.
Generally speaking, however, if veganism is based on a balanced, wide selection and variety of whole, natural, unprocessed, unrefined foods, especially leafy green vegetables, then it can be one of, if not the healthiest ways to eat. The reasons for this are that it is extremely nutrient-dense, very high in fiber, naturally low in calories and avoids any and all the health problems associated with animal foods (of which today there are many).
Reasons Why People Become Vegan
The main reasons for going vegan can include any or all of the following:
Health reasons – when approached properly, vegan diets can be extremely healthy and be preventative for every chronic disease, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Likewise, they can reverse and heal many underlying or current health conditions that a person may have.
Animal Welfare reasons – even though one can be optimally healthy on a mostly plant-based diet, with some animal products, most vegans choose to eliminate all animal products, due to an animal welfare perspective. Each day, hundreds of thousands of animals are tortured, abused, living in horrifying conditions, and slaughtered for food – a food source that we simply do not need to survive or thrive.
Environmental reasons – each day we are wasting water, food, and land to farm animals, resources that could be put to much better use, like for helping people in underdeveloped countries live and survive. Each day, the water, air, and land are heavily polluted due to animal farming, with animal farms being the greatest source of increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Spiritual reasons – some faiths simply do not believe in or condone the killing of ANY species on this planet. However, regardless of a specific faith or religion, more and more people today are simply evolving to open up their hearts wider than ever before, and dropping the superiority complex that has existed on this planet for hundreds of years. That being, that we are better than animals, that we have the right to enforce our will on theirs, that they are here to serve us, and treating animals as a product or commodity to be used as we please.
The above are just some of the general reasons, for more specific reasons, please refer to my article 15 Reasons to go Vegetarian, For You, the Animals and the Planet.
Ultimately, veganism should never be influenced onto someone, and it definitely should not be forced, such as in the case of family members, friends, romantic partners, health professionals, or organizations. Decisions based on these sources, always tend to be short-lived and not properly understood.
This is why in all of my speaking or writing, despite the fact that I am a vegan, I never recommend that to people, and in fact rarely even use the “V” word. My intention and purpose are simply to teach others how to have optimal health and not suffer on any physical level, and I know one need not be a vegan to have that.
This is why, when it comes to veganism, one should evolve to this choice on their own, or be inspired to make this lifestyle choice not just for their health and/or environmental benefits it can offer, but for the love, compassion, peace and spiritual balance it offers. It should come directly from one’s heart.
When this choice is made from the place of love, one never goes back or reconsiders. I have personally been a vegan for almost 2 years (vegetarian for over 3) and I have never once regretted or reconsidered my decision. If anything it has helped me become a more peace-filled and compassionate person, in every other area of my life.
Thus I leave you with the following words from Leonardo da Vinci, which I know ring true for me very much, as I see more and more people’s hearts open to embrace compassion on all levels.
The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals, as they now look upon the murder of men.
Leonardo Da Vinci