Vegans are people who try to avoid consuming animal products as far as possible and practicable. These animal products include meat, diary, eggs, fish, seafood, leather, wool, bristle, silk, honey as well as collagen-derived animal by-products. Vegans usually also refuse to use products that have been tested on animals and using animals for entertainment such as in zoos and circuses.
The belief behind those actions is that all sentient beings deserve the right of freedom and well-being. However, most people share this belief system with vegans. The difference might be that most non-vegans usually are not aware of the connection between the suffering and what they have on their plates and in their closets. There is a lot of effort taken to make the animal suffering invisible to us. Also it is so normal in our culture to consume animal products that it takes a lot of effort in terms of time and energy to question these practices. So by no means non-vegans are less ethical or less caring than vegans. They usually either don’t see the connection, they think it is the natural thing to do or they think it is necessary for their health to eat animal products.
Another reason for being vegan is the environmental effects of animal agriculture. First and foremost a vegan lifestyle generally uses less resources such as fresh water, land and crops and is therefore more sustainable. Taken into consideration the human overpopulation on this planet it seems to be urgent finding a lifestyle that protects recourses. Furthermore animal agriculture is the leading cause of water pollution, deforestation and desertification.
Yet another aspect of veganism is the health benefits of a vegan diet. A vegan diet has been shown to be effective in preventing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and most cancer types. These diseases are among the most common causes of death in developed countries. Many vegans report that after adopting a vegan diet they feel more energetic and have less health issues such as allergies, headaches, menstruation cramps, acne and many more. However, there is not just one vegan diet. Vegan diets span the range of „junk food“ to „whole foods“ and even raw vegan diets. If a vegan diet didn’t work for someone this doesn’t mean it is because of the lack of animal products.
It is true that animal products contain vital nutrients but this is true for all living creatures – plants, animals, fungi and even bacteria – as they basically rely on the same chemistry using similar building blocks and enzymes to work properly. It is important to realize that the presence of a vital nutrient dosen’t make a food healthy. Toxic plants and fungi or wood also contain vital nutrients. So sometimes less is more. When it comes to the vegan diet we can learn a lot from long-term vegans.
However, veganism is not a diet, it rather is a lifestyle and a movement. Veganism also isn’t a cult or a religion. Vegans like the company of other vegans because they can share experiences with one another. Remember that vegans are a minority representing only 1 to 6% of the population in Europe depending on the statistics cited. It is also true that when someone goes vegan it is likely that this person’s relationships with non-vegans will suffer. This is due to the huge shift in consciousness and surely to some extend to the pressure that many vegans put on themselves because they want to change the world. This pressure can lead to exhaustion and frustration as seen for many animal rights advocates and activists. No one, if vegan or not, should ever forget to take good care of themselves – regarding body, mind and soul. Enjoying our lives and focussing on happiness should always be our priority. We should celebrate every step no matter of what size towards making this planet a better place to live.