Do you know what veganism means? Did you know that veganism is not just restricted to the diet? Do you want to learn about the core principles of veganism?
We live in a world with easy access to information. These days, information is just a click away. Despite such easy access, not a lot of people truly understand the essence of veganism. From vegans being subjected to several thoughtless jokes to extreme apprehensions and skepticism about the diet, there seems to be a lot of misinformation. The only way to rectify this situation is by learning more about veganism.
What is Veganism?
What is the first thought that pops into your head when you hear the word vegan? You might visualize a diet devoid of meat, or it might conjure images of PETA protesters. Well, these things don’t do any justice to the notion of veganism. Veganism is not just a diet; it is a way of living. A vegan diet is devoid of all animal products and by-products such as meat, honey, eggs, dairy, and so on. Veganism is a lifestyle which eliminates all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty for the sake of satisfying human wants for food, clothing, entertainment and so on.
History of Veganism
World Vegan Day is celebrated on the 1st of November. The tradition of celebrating this animal-free holiday was started in 1994 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the vegan Society.
The term veganism was coined in 1944, and it merely furthers the ideas of vegetarianism. A vegetarian diet includes dairy products and eggs, unlike a purely vegan diet. The concept of avoiding animal products is nothing new, and its history can be traced back to ancient civilizations in India and Eastern Mediterranean regions. The first physical record of vegetarianism can be found in the teachings of the popular Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras around 500 BCE. Different religions around the world, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism are strong proponents of vegetarianism and believe humans shouldn’t inflict any pain or suffering on another sentient being.
During the 18th century, Jeremy Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher professed the idea of animal suffering to be as grievous a problem as human suffering. He also went ahead and suggested the biased sense of human superiority over everything in the living environment is similar to racism. Despite all the harsh words, the idea of a meat-free lifestyle never really caught on in the Western civilization. In 1847, the first of vegetarianism society was created in England. The American Vegetarian Society was established by Rev Sylvester Graham, accredited with the invention of Graham crackers, in 1850.
In November 1944, Donald Watson, a British woodworker decided there was a need for a new term and coined the word vegan to describe a diet devoid of eggs and dairy products which were consumed by vegetarians. In the year before Watson coined this term, about 40% of the dairy calves in Britain suffered from tuberculosis. He used this idea to promote the concept of a vegan lifestyle that could protect humans from tainted food while improving one’s overall health.
Watson went on to further explain what he meant by a vegan diet and veganism. There were more than 250,000 and 2 million self-identifying vegans in 2005 in Britain and the United States, respectively.
Principles of Veganism
There are different ways in which one can embrace veganism. Some avoid meat because of the cruel and inhumane treatment inflicted on factory-farmed animals. Others might turn to veganism to improve their health or maybe do their bit for the environment. Irrespective of the diverse reasons, there are three unwritten rules that all vegans abide by, and they are as follows.
Principle #1: Not to harm other sentient beings
Any animal capable of feeling and experiencing emotions such as pain, happiness, and so on shouldn’t be harmed, and vegans live by this rule. From avoiding animal-based products such as leather or cosmetics tested on animals, vegans try to reduce the scope of animal cruelty.
Principle #2: Preserve and protect our environment
Vegans believe in preserving and protecting the environment. The environment and all the resources we have been blessed with are not truly ours. It belongs to all the species which inhabit this earth. It isn’t just about meeting the needs of the present generation. It is about opting for a sustainable form of living which helps protect the environment for future generations.
Principle #3: Enhance and optimise our health
By eliminating all animal-derived products, it becomes easier to optimise one’s overall health. Meat and other animal foods weren’t readily available in the past as they are today. The easy access to these foods is also the reason for the increased risk of several chronic illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, high levels of cholesterol, inflammation, and even some types of cancer. The simplest way to fix this issue is by eliminating animal foods from our usual diet.
The concept of veganism and the principles it is based on are extremely practical. In a way, the simple principles of stoicism tie in with the idea of veganism. The philosophy of stoicism is quite simple. It suggests the only things within our control are our thoughts and actions. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all the different external factors outside the purview of your control, concentrate on what you can do to make your life better. By choosing to go vegan, you are not only helping yourself but are doing your bit for the environment too.
The best way to understand more about veganism is to try this lifestyle once. The different health, environment, and ethical benefits it offers are merely perks of this brilliant lifestyle. So, why don’t you try the vegan lifestyle for a week to fully understand what it means.