Veganism – For a Healthier and Longer Life

Veganism- Something Beyond Vegetarianism

The term ‘vegan’ was coined by Donald Watson by taking the first three and last two letters of the term ‘vegetarian’. The term refers to the use and development of animal free products for living. It is considered as a natural extension of vegetarianism, an integral part of cruelty free life. It emphasizes on better living of humans and animals in this environment. Veganism can both be considered as a diet and a lifestyle. The members do not even use eggs or dairy products or things made out of animal parts like fur, leather, wool, cosmetics etc.

The philosophy of Vegans:

The philosophy behind veganism is that every creature has the right to live peacefully in this world. They view every creature in this world with respect and reverence. Humans are not superior to other living beings. Other creatures are not to be considered as living under the generosity of humans. Every life is valuable as that of humans and all have equal right to live in this world. Humans are to be more kind and generous towards the animals and should not regard them as object of food or fun. Vegans also emphasize on the peace and harmony among humans.

What they eat?

Vegans take animal free alternatives for food. A healthy and sound vegan diet consists of lots of variety and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts etc. Instead of diary products, they use several other substitutions. Instead of animal milk, they use soy milk, potato milk, nut milk etc. They use sour soy milk for butter milk. Soy cheese and non dairy creams are available in some of the stores. Tofu is replaced by cottage cheese and ricotta cheese. Common vegan foods include cereals, toast, whole wheat bread with peanut butter, stir fried vegetables, vegetable soups, fruit juices, salads, fruit smoothies, fruit desserts etc. They also enjoy soy ice creams, soy hot dogs, vegetable burgers, spinach pie, egg less cookies, banana muffins and so on. 

Some of the best vegetarian hotels in United States are:

  • Sage’s Café, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Greens Restaurant, San Francisco, California
  • Bliss, Brooklyn, New York
  • The Handlebar, Chicago, Illinois
  • Kate’s Joint, New York City, New York

Why do vegans opt for such a diet?

There are several reasons for different people to be on a vegan diet. Some opt it to health reasons, both physical and mental, while other due to ethical causes. By eating animal food and animal products, some do not want to promote the meat industry. Some give up animal food due to the circumstances in which they are produced. Others depend on animal free alternatives due to humane reasons. They do not like to hurt animals and consider them to have same right as humans to live in this world.

Changing to a vegan

People who wish to be on a vegan diet can do it through different modes. There is no specific way to get converted. Some people directly change from a non- vegetarian diet to a vegan diet with ease. Some others on the other hand, try to be a vegetarian first and then convert their diet slowly to a vegan one.

Benefits of being on a vegetarian or vegan diet:

Vegetarians tend to enjoy a healthy mind and body and several research studies show that the people who depend on a vegetarian diet tend to marginally live longer as compared to others. Such diet helps to keep the body weight under control and as a result a lower body mass index. They also tend to have lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure and lesser risks of diseases like hypertension, heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer, renal diseases, certain types of cancer etc. They also save the environment by not encouraging the killing the animals.

Hinduism and vegetarianism

Most Hindus are ideally vegetarians. There are several reasons behind their vegetarianism. The principle of ‘ahimsa’ (non- violence) to animals that they follow, the sacrifice of food to their Gods that they intend to be pure, the belief that several forms of animal are incarnations of God etc are some of them. However, the food habits of Hindus vary based on different communities within Hinduism and the regional factors. 

Buddhism and vegetarianism

The followers of Buddhism are not vegetarians by tradition. Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. However, he had asked to avoid meat. Buddha prohibited the consumption of animals which were killed for their own use. Otherwise, they eat meat received as alms, since the animal is already been killed. Buddha has listed certain kinds of meat that are not to be consumed. He had recommended meat broth for certain kinds of illnesses. Some branches of Mahayana Buddhist do eat meat whereas most Chinese Buddhists do not have them. 

Famous Vegetarians and Vegans

Arguments against vegetarianism or veganism

Even though statistical surveys occasionally suggest that vegetarians on average live marginally longer than non-vegetarians, there are no evidence that a healthy vegetarian diet is healthier than a healthy meat-based diet. This may be the effect of vegetarians opting for meals with higher nutritional value, irrespective of meat content.

Meat can not be completely rejected as a bad option since it is the primary source of the eight essential amino acids, vital minerals and trace elements including iron, zinc and calcium.

Another aspect upon which vegetarians and vegans argue is regarding the humane consideration towards the animals. But the truth is that the wild animals too are being killed and eaten by other animals and there death can be assumed to be more frightening and painful than the swift dispatch the farm animals experience in the slaughterhouse.

As compared to the wild animals, average quality of life of farm animals are better as they are well-fed, watered and sheltered from harsh weather; they will also have access to veterinary treatment. The latter will live under constant threat of attack from predators and suffer the hardships of epidemic or drought.

Vegetarians and vegans, along with the rest must draw the line somewhere when deciding which fellow-creatures are worthy of protection. Will they disable the antibody mechanisms in their body to protect the welfare and rights of the invaders like bacteria, virus etc.? 

These arguments do not intend to support the brutality against the animal. It is really appreciable if being a vegan is for a good cause. 

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