What is this “Vegan” Stuff All About?
Vegans and the vegan lifestyle have long been the bastard stepchild of dietary and lifestyle choices. Thankfully, that time is slowly coming to an end as more and more people have noticed the profound need for environmental and dietary change. Gone is the time of shapeless clothing, tasteless meals and questionable hygiene. Vegans are now culinary masterminds, whipping up gourmet meals that your strictly carnivore friends only wish they had the pleasure of consuming. Vegans now have their choice of incredibly fashionable shoes, bags and clothing made by companies that put compassion and ethics before a profit. Vegans have piles of high quality makeup and bath products to choose from so they can stay looking hot and smelling great. The truth is that vegans have it made. They can have their (dairy, and egg free) cake and eat it too.
What is a vegan?
A vegan is a person who has made the decision to not eat, wear or use anything that is or has come from an animal. The reason for this decision differs from person to person. For most, it is an idea of ethics and not wanting to contribute to the exploitation of innocent sentient beings.
I personally think it should be emphasized that veganism is not a dogma. It is not a set of strict rules with the punishment of breaking them being eternity in vegan hell. “Vegan” is just a word for what we do to try and make the world a better place for ALL living creatures. We are all human and sometimes we make mistakes or lack in will power. It is just important to keep trying and learning and eventually you will become the vegan goddess you long to be. All vegans are different. Some vegans will throw blood on a fur jacket or protest an animal testing facility. Other vegans consider their choices their own personal battle and generally keep to themselves. The point is: we all do the best we can in our own unique ways.
Why Go Vegan?
There are an infinite amount of things that are beneficial to you, and the rest of the world upon practicing a vegan lifestyle. Here are just a few, starting with the most obvious:
- Millions of animals are being tortured in factory farms and slaughter houses right at this very moment. They are kept in tiny, filthy cages, unable to move for the majority of their lives. They are beaten and abused. Surgical procedures like tail docking and beak trimming are performed without the slightest bit of anesthesia. Even “free range” farms have flimsy regulations and conditions that are not much better than the traditional.
- 20% of the world are living in poverty and experiencing some sort of starvation. If the soy, grain and corn that are fed to farmed animals and the land they consume were used to produce crops of fruits and vegetables there would be more than enough food for those living in starvation.
- Slaughterhouses mainly employ those that may have problems finding other employment (ex-convicts, illegal residents) who have no other choice and most likely cannot defend their own rights. The working conditions are 9 times more dangerous than a coal miner‟s. Workers are constantly exposed to sharp objects, high temperatures, and bodily fluids of animals that could potentially carry disease.
- More than 1/3 of all fossil fuels produced in the US are used to raise animals for food.
- It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat.
- The animals raised for food in the U.S. produce 130 times the excrement of the entire human population of this country. Their excrement is more concentrated than human excrement and is often contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and so on. There is no sewer system for this waste and it is contributed to “run-off” that enters nearby bodies of water, and even food crops.
- Vegetarians and vegans are 50% less likely to develop heart disease.
- Vegans have 40% of the cancer rate or meat eaters.
- Meat eaters are nine times more likely to be obese than meat eaters.
- The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and male impotence.
- Many people have successfully used a vegan diet to reverse and prevent disease and chronic illness.
Let us start with the obvious foods that are not vegan.
- Meat (beef, chicken, poultry, pork, etc.)
- Seafood – Fish is actually considered meat since it is the flesh of an animal, but since there is much misconception about this I decided to place it in its own category. All seafood is not vegan or vegetarian.
- Dairy – Cheese, yogurts, milk, butter.
Other lesser known ingredients that are not vegan:
- Whey – a milk byproduct
- Casein – a class of milk proteins often found in items marked „non-dairy‟
- Ghee – a common milk derivative (very common in Indian food!)
- Albumen – protein found in egg whites
- Cochineal/Carmine – a coloring agent made from ground up beetles
- Oleic acid – fat from sheep or cattle
- Rennin/Rennet – enzymes from a calf‟s stomach
- Calcium Stearate – a mineral usually derived from hogs and cattle
- Gelatin – protein from animal bones, cartilage, tendons, and skin
- Glycerides (mono/di/tri) – glycerol from animal fats
- Stearic acid – animal fats and oils
- Lecithin – phospholipids often from animal tissues and eggs
- Pepsin – enzymes gathered from pigs stomachs