Note: I don’t intend to ramble on too much here – and by no means do I intend to judge anybody who might not be vegan or vegetarian (or those who are vegan or vegetarian but that are for reasons different to my own) – but I feel, or at least I hope, that a brief overview of my relationship with veganism will be of interest and/or use to readers of The Salty Vegan.
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” (vegansociety.com)
I incorporated the vegan philosophy into my life at the age of fifteen (2006), following three years of vegetarianism (which, in turn, was preceded by a year of pescetarianism) . For me, the decision to go pescetarian then vegetarian was a moral stance against the unnecessary suffering of animals, and so, as soon as I discovered that consuming seemingly cruelty-free animal products (such as dairy and eggs) was contributing to the mis-treatment and death of animals, the next logical step was to turn to veganism and completely eliminate animal products from my diet and life. This move was fundamental in boycotting what I consider to be a barbaric and outdated system of food production – and an opportunity for me, as both an individual and a member of growing global community, to instead support and promote consumption habits and ideologies which put the lives of others and the planet before profit.
(Perhaps human beings will eventually view the enslavement of other members of the animal kingdom as we do the enslavement of fellow humans – and change our behaviours accordingly…)
Although, initially, my adoption of the vegan lifestyle was an exclusively ethical stance (which I still maintain – and is still, by far, the most important factor for me) I now value veganism for several reasons: it’s health benefits, it’s lower environmental impact (than a diet which includes animal products), and, more broadly, it’s advocation of compassion, equality and peacefulness.
I’m not going to delve into facts, figures, research and debates etc here – I think it is up to you to explore and respond to such at your will and in your own time – but I’d like to just provide a few quick examples of the aforementioned benefits.
It is my belief that, when done properly, a vegan/plant-based diet makes for a very good level of both physical and mental/’spiritual’ health. Lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease are just two of the commonly known benefits which people on plant-based diets enjoy (1). A diet free of animal produce is also quite likely to have a lower environmental impact than one which is dependent upon animal protein. In ‘industrialised’ countries/regions specifically, where the demand for meat is high for example, high-intensity production (a.k.a ‘factory farming’) is required to fulfill demand. This method of production can be resource intensive, highly inefficient, and produce a large array and quantity of environmental pollutants (2). I also believe that if humans are prepared to open their eyes to the exploitation and cruelty that we subject other animals to (and are subsequently willing to change their consumption habits in order take a stance against such injustices), then we are more than capable of extending this empathy and compassion to fellow human beings (3).
I acknowledge that veganism isn’t perfect. Some vegans for example may preach about the environmental benefits of their lifestyle, yet they may be overly reliant on ‘super’ or non-seasonal foods (such as quinoa or exotic fruits) which require air-freighting from the other side of the planet (not to mention that the growers of these foods are commonly under-paid for their crops). Veganism doesn’t address all of the world’s problems – and, with its current relatively small (albeit growing) following, it doesn’t necessarily fully resolve the specific problems that it does set out to tackle – but it is, in my opinion, a pretty good start. (finish?)
On a bit of a lighter note, I have veganism to thank for my endless interest in, and enjoyment of, cuisine and nutrition. For it is the vegan diet that has led me to explore, and open my mind to, foods, flavours, cooking and places/cultures that I would have otherwise probably never have encountered. The world of plant-based foods/eating has gifted me with new knowledge, skills and friends – all of which continue to be an integral part of my livelihood.