Veganism is a philosophy and 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
Veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism, and though the term was coined in 1944, the concept of flesh-avoidance can be traced back to ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies. Vegetarianism is first mentioned by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras . He promoted benevolence among all species, including humans. Followers of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism also advocated vegetarianism, believing that humans should not inflict pain on other animals.
The meatless lifestyle never really caught on in the West, although it would sometimes pop up during health crazes and religious revivals. The Ephrata Cloister, a strict religious sect founded in 1732 in Pennsylvania, advocated vegetarianism — as well as celibacy. The 18th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed that animal suffering was just as serious as human suffering, and likened the idea of human superiority to racism.
The first vegetarian society was formed in 1847 in England. Three years later, Rev. Sylvester Graham, the inventor of Graham crackers, co-founded the American Vegetarian Society. Graham was a Presbyterian minister and his followers, called Grahamites, obeyed his instructions for a virtuous life: vegetarianism, temperance, abstinence, and frequent bathing. In November 1944, a British woodworker named Donald Watson announced that because vegetarians ate dairy and eggs, he was going to create a new term called “vegan,” to describe people who did not. Tuberculosis had been found in 40% of Britain’s dairy cows the year before, and Watson used this to his advantage, claiming that it proved the vegan lifestyle protected people from tainted food.
Strict veganism prohibits the use of animal product, even if it isn’t food, but like any lifestyle choice that ends in “-ism,” there are plenty of people who cheat. The vitamin B12 is found almost entirely in animal products, so many vegans eat fortified food or take a vitamin to get the right amount. And while American vegetarianism has broken free of its philosophical and religious roots, becoming an accepted health choice — many restaurants offer vegetarian options and most dinner party planners now ask “is anyone vegetarian?” before planning the menu — veganism is still tied to the animal-rights movement and is out there on the fringe.
Vegans can be as strict or lax as they want to be in their food choices: the International Vegetarian Union’s website includes vegan-friendly reminders about baking pans greased with animal fat, grain cereals that include animal-based glycerin, and sugar refined with bone charcoal. Then there’s raw veganism, which is an offshoot of veganism in which none of the food can be cooked. Take that a step further and you get “mono meals,” the idea that the stomach should only digest one type of food at a time. Basically, if you eat it, there is probably someone else out there who won’t
A great deal – you’ll soon find a whole new world of exciting foods and flavours opening up to you. A vegan diet is richly diverse and comprises all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and pulses – all of which can be prepared in endless combinations that will ensure you’re never bored. From curry to cake, pasties to pizzas, all your favourite things can be suitable for a vegan diet if they’re made with plant-based ingredients.
Vegans avoid exploiting animals for any purpose, with compassion being a key reason many choose a vegan lifestyle. From accessories and clothing to makeup and bathroom items, animal products and products tested on animals are found in more places than you might expect. Fortunately nowadays there are affordable and easily-sourced alternatives to just about everything.