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Veganism from an Ethical and Environmental Perspective

Updated on October 30, 2015

More people in today’s society are interested in finding the most effective way to stay fit and in tip-top shape. This is largely because of new diseases that keep sprouting up and the health risks that today’s environment subjects people to. Of course, taking care of one’s health is a must as this can be seen as a person’s greatest asset. Because of this, being very mindful of what a person takes—or more specifically, consumes, is a step that people take to ensure that their bodies are in good condition.

It is a given how having a balanced diet is highly important to have optimum health. There are some individuals however who have a much more disciplined kind of diet which is called as the vegan diet, or vegetarian diet. What sets vegans apart from other people?

Understanding What Veganism Means

Veganism is the practice which vegans or vegetarians are known for adhering to. In its most basic definition, veganism is abstinence from the use of animal products and byproducts particularly in one’s diet. Vegans do not consume products made from animal produce, hence they are limited to consuming fruits and vegetables, and any other consumable item which is not in any way from an animal source, such as tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, and quinoa.

There are different kinds of vegans though, which is why there tends to be some confusion when people discuss veganism. The different categories of veganism include:

  • Dietary vegans – These are the groups of people who are also called strict vegetarians. Their diet consists of purely plant-based products, and they do not eat anything which has animal-derived products in them. Usually, these vegans have the hardest time keeping up with the diet because of the restrictions that come along with not consuming animal by-products as well. Also, they tend to have their own organic sources of products such as the local market or perhaps their very own garden.

  • Ovo-lacto vegans – A little less strict compared to dietary vegans, ovo-lacto vegans do not consume animal produce, but can include in their diet items animal-derived ingredients in them. These items include but are not limited to eggs and other dairy ingredients. These vegans have a less troublesome time maintaining their diet compared to strict vegans since common dietary items such as bread and other baked products usually have eggs in them. Despite the easier-to-maintain diet they have, it is still more difficult to maintain an ovo-lacto vegan diet compared to the usual diet where animal produce and animal-derived ingredients are present.

  • Ethical vegans – Perhaps the purists of the main vegan categories, ethical vegans don’t just follow veganism in their dietary practices but in other areas of their life as well. Their practices are also referred to as environmental veganism and this can be seen as not just a dietary adjustment, but as a kind of philosophy too.

Despite the differences in practices, veganism is a choice and way of life which does not just encompass what a person eats, but the beliefs of a person and how a person values the life of animals as well.

The term “vegan” was coined in 1994 by Donald Watson, a prominent name in veganism. He was the founder of the Vegan Society based in England and the term was initially used to refer to people who do not consume dairy products and animal byproducts as well. Later on, the term was also used to refer to their doctrine which has the idea that man can live without having to exploit animals.

Veganism’s Ethical Point of View

The ethical vegans are the best examples when it comes to being able to understand what veganism is from an ethical point of view. Not only do these people take in purely vegan diets, they also abstain from using any other product which has animal byproducts in it. Avoiding the use of leather, fabric made from sheepskin, and other animal byproducts is something they take part in.

On an ethical point of view, vegans counter speciesism. Simply put, they believe that there is a certain relationship between the consumer and the animal—or the consumed, despite the detachment that most people exhibit because speciesism assigns different values to species.

According to some theorists who support veganism, all sentient beings should have that one right —which is to not be treated as a property of another being. Animals have their own senses, desires, way of life, memories, and even emotions which is why the ethical view of veganism protects these interests of animal life. Because of this philosophy, vegans are often into animal protection rights as well—believing the value of animal life as sentient beings who should not be treated as commodities or properties.

The Environmental Take on Veganism

On an environmental note, veganism supports the idea that animal farming—raising animals for the purpose of being slaughtered, consumed, or used for other purposes is an unsustainable practice. It is said that livestock farming has unwanted effects on the soil, air, and other factors in the environment because of the concentration of a certain number of animals in a controlled environment.

Environmental veganism focuses more on the effects of animal farming to the environment rather than the animal rights and sentience of these beings. Of course, despite the differences in belief, the common denominator between those who are vegan for ethical and environmental reasons is how they abstain from use of animal byproducts. Some vegans may or may not be aware of all of these ideas since veganism has many different facets, theories, and sets of beliefs, but the idea of abstinence from animal products—for whatever reason, is a common practice for all vegans.

Is Veganism the Best Way to Go?

For individuals concerned with their health, veganism gives a healthy alternative to losing weight or maintaining a fit shape. Since less meat is consumed, less unwanted fats are also taken into the body. More fiber from fruits and vegetables are also taken in along with vitamins and minerals which are essential for having a healthy overall system.

Some people are concerned with the lack of meat in the diet and how vegans survive for years without it. The simple answer is that there are always other sources of protein—which is the main factor vegans miss out on from meat. Proper substitution and knowing which plant food sources to consume is the key for keeping a vegan diet.

As to whether veganism is the best way to go, there are several factors which contribute to what is “best” for a person. Finding the balance in having only plant-based sources is crucial, and if one is able to consistently do so, keeping the vegan diet wouldn’t be a problem. Being mindful of eating outside and scrutinizing the food sources of what they are eating is also something that vegans should be careful about.

Before taking the road to veganism, one must be aware of the changes that the body will go through when adjusting to this kind of diet. Having a plan on how to best go about the change is advised, and finding the right balance of your food sources is essential in making the vegan diet work. The “best” way to go can ultimately only be determined by the person who is practicing veganism—or any other kind of health practice for that matter.

Since veganism would take much effort, determining whether a person can keep up with the more demanding aspects of this way of life is also something they should consider. Here is a good video discussing more about veganism.

Would you consider becoming a vegan or at least a vegetarian?

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  • kgmonline profile image

    Geri MIleff 3 years ago from Czech Republic

    @lazydreamer93096 - Thank you for pointing that out! I totally agree with you, these foods are important to a vegan's diet and it seems we haven't mentioned them explicitly in the article rather than just in general. I have now added some of them for even better readability. :D

  • lazydreamer93096 profile image

    Jessica 3 years ago from Southern California

    Interesting hub! Very informative, too. :) Although, I'm afraid you're wrong about vegans being limited to fruits and vegetables. I'm vegan and I eat way more than just fruits and vegetables. There are many breads, rolls, pastas, and pastries that don't contain animal products. There are lots of vegan recipes out there for baked goods that aren't made with animal products. Tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, and quinoa are all vegan foods that are not vegetables or fruits. If you're a raw vegan, however, vegetables and fruits are going to be mostly what you survive on–but even then there's still nuts and seeds as well.