Veganism: Diet or Lifestyle?

Mimi Medeiros

People often shudder away from the word veganism. In dietary terms, vegans avoid any products derived wholly or partly from animals. Some of these products include meat, eggs, dairy, fat, and even honey produced by bees. When vegans abstain from eating animal-derived products, it is because of their belief system. To a dedicated vegan, animal-derived products are not considered food; thus, not consuming them is not a form of diet. Furthermore, vegans believe that ending a sentient creature’s life solely for human consumption or use is unjustifiable.

Some people migrate towards veganism for ethical reasons. They feel strongly that all animals have a right to both life and freedom. Vegans openly oppose the undue physical and physiological stress that animals suffer because of modern farming practices. Vegans will use terms such as ‘other animals’ or ‘non-human animals’ in their language to recognize that humans are, in fact, animals as well. People who exploit other animals often ignore this plain truth. It is easy for people to assume that livestock animals have lived happy, fulfilling lives and have not experienced fear or pain. However, all creatures fear death, just as humans do. Most people acknowledge that harming animals is wrong, so theoretically, separating cats and dogs from chickens and cows should be impossible. The harsh reality is that people have learned to separate a pre-packaged chicken breast sitting on a supermarket shelf from a once-living, breathing animal with a will to live. A chicken may not resemble the family pet in every household, but that does not mean that these non-human animals do not experience the same emotions. Vegans advocate for animals because of this belief that non-human animals deserve the right to live. 

Another fundamental reason some choose to avoid animal-derived products is the environmental effects of animal agriculture. Animal-derived products commonly require more resources and result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based options. Statistically, a plant-based diet requires one-third of the land that is needed to support a meat and dairy diet. In addition, animal agriculture tends to be a water-intensive process. It can also lead to deforestation when forested areas are burned for cropland or pasture. This habitat destruction contributes to the extinction of many species around the world. Furthermore, plant-based living is a more sustainable method of feeding the human family, and the best way to save our planet.  

Vegan activists fight many industries that contribute to various issues, including habitat loss, pollution, deforestation, etc. One prominent issue among vegans is animal testing, also known as vivisection. Over one hundred million non-human animals are used in research, testing, and education worldwide annually. Research on non-human animals is expensive and may result in discomfort, pain, or disease. Surprisingly, research animals commonly do not receive any pain relief. The National Institute of Health has found that ninety-five percent of all drugs shown to be safe in animal tests fail in human trials. With every passing day, more humane and reliable research methods are being developed. For instance, there are in vitro methods (using human or non-human animal tissues or cells), advanced computer-modeling techniques, and studies with human volunteers. Vegans help raise awareness about animal testing through buying cruelty-free products and educating others. 

Annually, nearly sixty billion land animals and over a trillion marine animals are used as commodities for human purposes. These industries operate on supply and demand. If consumers do not buy animal-derived products, these big businesses will be forced to shut their doors. A business cannot justify continued operations if there are no customers. People make a statement with every product they buy, the clothes they wear, and the food they consume. When consumers refuse to buy animal-derived products, they send a clear message to the producers. A crucial part of the vegan lifestyle is refusing to put money into the hands of people who would knowingly harm other animals for profit. More people are embracing the vegan lifestyle every day, and their voices are becoming difficult to ignore. 

People choose the vegan lifestyle to promote a more compassionate life. Vegans fight to preserve our planet for all creatures and their descendants. However, humans are taking up vital resources without thinking about the future and are contributing to a less hospitable world. Veganism is more than just a diet. In essence, veganism is a lifestyle in which people exclude all forms of animal cruelty and exploitation for food, clothing, cosmetics, commodities, or for any other purpose. If you wish to save other animals and reduce your carbon footprint, the vegan lifestyle is something you should consider.

Sources: Healthline, PETA, Vegan Society