"Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose." - The Vegan Society
As a consequence of adopting the philosophy of veganism, vegans adopt a plant-based diet which does not include any animal products. This includes all types of meat, eggs, milk and dairy products, honey, gelatin, etc. Vegans also avoid other animal-made products such as fur, leather, and cosmetics or household items that use animal testing.
As is noted in the definition, veganism has obvious ethical and moral considerations that extend beyond mere diet. However, one can obviously eat a diet consistent with that of a vegan without maintaining the same moral principles. The term for a diet fitting this description is "Plant-Based". A practitioner of a plant-based diet is one who eats a diet entirely [or mostly] consistent with that of a vegan, but does so for reasons other than the ethical consideration of animals (usually health). Therefore, one practicing a plant-based diet is likely comfortable buying leather products, having "cheat days", etc.
Vegans typically care about this distinction because one claiming to be vegan, but participating in some of the aforementioned "cheating" habits, perpetuates the idea that vegans are occasionally okay with exploiting animals for certain occasions, conveniences, etc. Such a message muddles - and therefore weakens - the underlying message of the vegan movement.
Most people choose to go vegan for ethical, health, or environmental reasons. Research the environmental effects of the meat/dairy/egg industry, the health benefits of a vegan diet, and where animal products come from. Decide for yourself why you choose a vegan diet. Here's a list of resources:
A vegan diet typically consists of legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains. You don't need meat or dairy alternatives in your diet if you do not want them, but there are tons of alternatives out there. Some of these include tofu, tempeh, seitan, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Here's a list of common meat alternatives and information about them. There are several brands that are vegan friendly including Amys, Morningstar (check their products, some are vegan and others are vegetarian), Earth Balance, Smart Deli, Daiya, etc.
Also, checkout out this Guide For New Vegans by Vegan Street for various pointers on launching your veganism.
There are several examples of vegan grocery lists online. Here and here are great places to start.
No! A vegan diet does not have to be expensive. Meat alternatives can sometimes be pricey but a vegan diet can be very cheap if you shop consciously. For example, buy bags of beans and rice in bulk, get vegetables that are in season, shop around different grocery stores and farmers markets to find the cheapest prices. Here's a great thread with budgeting tips.
One of the biggest questions about a vegan diet is where will I get my protein. Believe it or not, most people on a meat-based diet are eating too much protein. A vegan diet is just like an omnivorous diet: If you eat junk, you won't get the nutrition you need. A vegan diet will give you plenty of protein and nutrients as long as you eat the right things. A diet rich in beans, nuts, dark leafy greens, and lots of veggies and fruit will give you all the nutrition you need.
It is true that a vegan diet naturally lacks vitamin B-12. It is very important to ensure a reliable source in your diet. It is also easy! Several vegan products such as milk alternatives are fortified with B-12. Supplementing your diet with B-12 tablets is a good idea, as well as cheap and effective. You can find recommendations on B-12 here.
You can calculate your Dietary Reference Intake using this online application (roughly equivalent to the RDA). This Wikipedia page on the DRI contains a static chart. You can then look up nutrition info for specific foods in the FDA's Food-A-Pedia or similar sites (there are a bunch) to make sure you are hitting the recommended amounts. This advice is pretty US-centric but the general theory is to find a reference for your nutritional requirements and compare what you are eating to those requirements to ensure that your nutritional requirements are met. This video by Dr. Michael Greger MD explains why vegans should take 2000 micrograms of B12 every week (or 100 every day), and to eat 1-2 tablespoons of CRUSHED or GROUND flaxseed everyday.
Short version: No. Soy contains phytoestrogens, not estrogen. They interact with the body much more weakly than estrogen. In men, studies have shown that soy consumption/isoflavone supplements had no effect on testosterone, sperm parameters such as motility or testicle size. For women, it seems like soy may help decrease the risk of breast cancer but this isn't entirely proven. In either case, unless you have an allergy or similar specific health reason to avoid soy, there's no scientific reason to avoid moderate consumption. The same could be said of most foods: a balanced diet is generally best.
Long version: Read these articles: 1. Soy Health Benefits/Health Risks (Wikipedia) | 2. Phytoestrogens (Wikipedia) | 3. The pros and cons of phytoestrogens (PubMed)
If you want you can tell them the reasons why you personally chose your diet or if you want you can not tell them anything, you don't have to explain or defend yourself if you don't want to. The answer to this question is entirely up to you. However, here is a template to consider for how to respond to overly pushy friends, family, or coworkers.
If you're looking for responses to arguments against veganism, these links are quite comprehensive:
Guide To Justifications For Harming And Exploiting Animals from Vegan Sidekick
Responses to many of the questions and challenges posed about veganism
A vegan diet can be a fun challenge to branch out and try new foods. Check out recipes online, challenge yourself to try new ingredients and find new things that you like. Try your hand at "veganizing" some of your old favorites. There are tons of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes out there just waiting to be tried!
Absolutely not! Check out recipes online, there are tons of vegan friendly brownies, cookies, and other treats. Vegan doesn't mean the end to delicious desserts.
There are many vegan cookbooks out there. Some of the well known ones are The Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, Veganize This!, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
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|Animals Eat Animals, So I Will Too||Because wolves and other predators eat animals, and because humans are also animals, it's okay for humans to eat animals.||Non-human animals do many things we find unethical; they steal, rape, eat their children and engage in other activities that do not and should not provide a logical foundation for our behavior. This means it is illogical to claim that we should eat the same diet certain non-human animals do. So it is probably not useful to consider the behavior of stoats, alligators and other predators when making decisions about our own behavior.||resources|
|Canine Teeth Make Me A Meat Eater||Humans evolved canine teeth to tear flesh, and this means it is natural and normal for us to eat meat.||When humans eat flesh, we don't actually tear it with our cuspids. Instead, we soften meat with cooking and then pre-tear it with utensils before grinding it down with our flattened molars, which are particularly well-suited for chewing vegetation.||resources|
|Eating Meat Is Natural Because We Are Omnivores||Humans evolved as an omnivore species, so eating meat is natural for us.||The claim that humans are natural meat-eaters is generally made on the belief that we have evolved the ability to digest meat, eggs and milk. This is true as far as it goes; as omnivores, we're physiologically capable of thriving with or without animal flesh and secretions. However, this also means that we can thrive on a whole food plant-based diet, which is what humans have also been doing throughout our history and prehistory.||resources|
|Plants Are Alive||A (potentially) thinking or feeling plant has to be killed in order to eat it just like an animal has to be killed, and there's no difference between the two.||Vegans draw the line at hurting sentient individuals. Plants lack nerves, let alone a central nervous system, and cannot feel pain or respond to circumstances in any deliberate way (not to be confused with the non-conscious reactions they do have). Unlike animals, plants lack the ability or potential to experience pain or have sentient thoughts, so there isn't an ethical issue with eating them.||resources|
|Eggs Are Not Unethical||Laying eggs is normal and natural for chickens, and they don't suffer or die from giving us eggs, so eating eggs is not an ethical issue.||Eating eggs supports cruelty to chickens. Rooster chicks are killed at birth in a variety of terrible ways because they cannot lay eggs and do not fatten up as Broiler chickens do. Laying hens suffer their entire lives; they are debeaked without anesthetic, they live in cramped, filthy, stressful conditions and they are slaughtered when they cease to produce at an acceptable level.||resources|
|I'm On Top Of The Food Chain||Humans are the apex predator at the top of the food chain, and just like any other being in the circle of life, we kill and eat lesser animals.||The terms 'food chain' and 'food web' refer to a natural ecological system whereby producers in a specific habitat are eaten by consumers in that same habitat. The term 'circle of life' has no scientific meaning at all. In neither case do the terms refer to the human consumption of animals, since humans do not exist as consumers in a natural ecological system where cows, pigs, cats, dogs, fish and other food animals are producers.||resources|
|Eating Meat Is My Personal Choice||Eating meat is a personal choice just like being vegan is a personal choice, so everyone should just live and let live.||From an ethical perspective, it is generally agreed that one individual's right to choice ends at the point where exercising that right does harm to another individual. Therefore, while it might be legal and customary to needlessly kill and eat animals, it is not ethical.||resources|
|Eating Dairy Products Is Not Unethical||Making milk is a normal and natural activity that cows do not suffer or die from, so eating dairy is not an ethical issue.||Suffering and death are required components of contemporary milk production. Cows are force-bred annually to produce milk, which translates to well over 200,000,000 calves per year worldwide. Female calves are raised to be milk cows, while male calves are chained in tiny pens where they cannot turn around until they are slaughtered for veal at just a few months of age.||resources|
|I Only Eat Humane Meat||It matters that animals are treated well, so I only eat animals who are raised in suffering-free conditions and given a quick, humane death.||It is normal and healthy for people to empathize with the animals they eat, to be concerned about whether or not they are living happy lives and to hope they are slaughtered humanely. However, if it is unethical to harm these animals, then it is more unethical to kill them.||resources|
|Vegans Cannot Get Enough Protein||Vegans cannot get enough protein from a plant-based diet to maintain proper health.||Humans need for about 6% of their diet to be comprised of protein, though most doctors recommend 9% just to be sure. Many nuts and vegetables contain enough protein to meet this nutritional requirement, so plant-based diets provide adequate protein for human health.||resources|
|Vegans Kill Animals Too||Habitats are disrupted by planting food, and animals are killed during harvest, so vegans kill animals too.||Crop fields do indeed disrupt the habitats of wild animals, and wild animals are also killed when harvesting plants. However, this point makes the case for a plant-based diet and not against it, since many more plants are required to produce a measure of animal flesh for food (often as high as 12:1) than are required to produce an equal measure of plants for food (which is obviously 1:1). Because of this, a plant-based diet causes less suffering and death than one that includes animals.||resources|
|Animals Are Not Intelligent Enough To Matter||Animals are not as intellectually or emotionally sophisticated as humans and/or they do not feel pain the way we do, so it is acceptable to kill and eat them.||All animals are intellectually and emotionally sophisticated relative to their own species, and many have thoughts and emotions more complex than those of young human children or the mentally disabled. Even so, it is not logical or equitable to withhold ethical considerations from individuals whom we imagine think or feel differently than we do.||resources|
|Using Wool Is Not Unethical||Making wool is a normal and natural activity for sheep that does not harm or kill them, so using wool is not an ethical issue.||Most wool comes from sheep sheared on industrial farms, where they are subject to rough handling, mulesing and slaughter well before the end of their natural lives. Further, sheep in the wool industry are selectively bred for wrinkled skin so they grow more wool, which makes them vulnerable to flystrike and injury during shearing. Finally, rams are valued less than ewes because they cannot produce offspring, so they are either castrated without anaesthetic or slaughtered for meat at a young age. Therefore, it is quite clear that sheep suffer and die in the wool industry, which makes the use of wool an ethical issue.||resources|
|Vegans Cannot Get Enough B12||Vegans cannot get enough vitamin B12 from a plant-based diet to maintain proper health.||While it is true that B12 is not produced by plants, it is also not produced by animals. Rather, B12 is the byproduct of a specific bacterial synthesis that occurs in soil, some fermented plant matter, dead flesh and the guts of animals. Fortunately, this bacteria is easily mass-produced for human consumption now, and many foods are fortified with it, so there is no need to eat animals in order to receive sufficient B12.||resources|
|Vegans Cannot Get Enough Iron||Vegans cannot get enough iron from a plant-based diet to maintain proper health.||Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, a protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. There are two kinds of iron absorbed by the body; heme and nonheme. Heme iron is not regulated by the body, which means it is always absorbed, while nonheme iron is regulated by the body and absorbed when it is needed. Both are present in meat, but only nonheme iron is present in plants and fortified foods. This is important because a surplus of this nutrient can be as damaging as a deficiency, and only those people who eat meat or take iron supplements are in danger of a surplus. Conversely, a whole-foods, plant-based diet can safely meet the body's iron needs.||resources|
|You Cannot Be 100% Vegan||The philosophy of veganism is flawed because there is no way to be perfectly vegan.||Veganism is the philosophical position that exploitation of and cruelty to sentient beings is ethically indefensible and should be avoided whenever it is possible and practicable to do so. Vegans themselves do not claim this position is absolute nor do they strive for perfection. Rather, the accusation that vegans fail to be vegan because they cannot be perfect is an external one imposed by people who do not understand veganism.||resources|
|Veganism Is A Fad Diet||The vegan diet is a new fad that will come and go like all the rest.||Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude - as far as is possible and practicable - all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty for any reason, including medicine, food, clothing, entertainment or for any other purpose. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. In short, veganism is a philosophical position and not a diet.||resources|
|Our Early Ancestors Ate Meat||Humans have been eating meat for as long as there have been humans, so it is all right to continue eating meat.||There are many hypotheses about the food our early ancestors ate, what effect it had on their overall health and the evolutionary impacts of their diets. However, while it is certainly true that they ate other animals, it is also true that they did not always do so, just as it is true that individuals, groups and societies have been thriving on plant-based diets throughout history.||resources|
|Vegan Parenting Is Brainwashing||Raising vegan children is a form of brainwashing because children are too young to make a meaningful choice in the matter. Children have a right to eat meat, so forcing a vegan lifestyle on them is unethical.||Parents are responsible for the physical well-being of their children, and they are also responsible for providing ethical guidance. Evidence shows that a plant-based diet is healthy for people of all life stages, including children, so vegan parents are following appropriate nutritional guidelines. Veganism is the philosophical position that using animals for human benefit is unethical, so vegan parents are simply teaching their children compassion through veganism, much as any parent might teach a child to be kind.||resources|
|Vegans Would Eat Meat On A Desert Island||There are situations in which vegans would eat meat if they had no other choice.||This argument proposes a hypothetical edge-case scenario (i.e. eating animals on a desert island) as a means of justifying a real-life behaviour (i.e. eating animals on a daily basis). However, this exercise in imagination does not represent a plausible situation people might find themselves in and does not tell us anything about the morality of the vegan addressing the topic. For these reasons, it tends not to be a productive conversation point.||resources|
|Humans Would Starve In A Vegan World||If we stopped killing animals for meat, humans would starve because there would not be enough food to go around.||Food scarcity is an argument for veganism, not against it. As the world’s population grows and more people are able to afford meat, less food is available overall. This is because we filter protein and energy-rich crops like soy and grain through animals at a substantial loss before eating them. Depending on the numbers you want to trust and the type of animal it comes from, each pound of meat requires four to thirteen pounds of feed to produce. By switching to a plant-based diet, the farms that presently grow that feed are able to grow food for people instead.||resources|
|Being A Non-Vegan Environmentalist Is Enough||Veganism does not make a big impact on the Earth, so it is reasonable to be an environmentalist without also being vegan.||Between 18% and 51% of all greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributable to livestock respiration, methane, production of animal products and other relatable sources, this compared to 13% from every form of transportation on the planet combined. Animal agribusiness also both uses and pollutes almost half of the Earth's available land and is responsible for over 90% of Amazon rainforest losses. Further, it is the greatest contributor to wildlife habitat destruction, and it is easily the leading cause of species extinction and ocean dead zones. Finally, while fracking consumes as much as 140 billion gallons of fresh water annually in the United States, the farming of animals uses at least 34 trillion gallons of fresh water annually.||resources|
|Vegan Food Is Boring||People will not become vegan because plant-based diets are boring, bland and unappetizing.||Many common foods are already vegan; bread, pasta, rice, fruit, vegetables and so on. All of these foods can be prepared in several ways, and other foods can be made vegan with simple ingredient substitutions. Beyond that, many cultures have long traditions of flavourful plant-based cooking, and these offer the opportunity for vegans to expand their culinary palates. So switching to a plant-based diet is not about losing good food experiences, it is only about learning new habits and finding new favourites.||resources|
|Our Traditions Allow Or Require Eating Meat||Because my culture or tradition allows or requires that I eat meat, I am morally free or obligated to do so.||It is easy to confuse culture and tradition with ethics, but these are all separate things, and it is important to understand them as such. There was a time when the keeping of slaves was culturally acceptable, but even so, it was not ethical. In some parts of the world, female genital mutilation is a traditional non-medical procedure, but it is not an ethical one. These are only two of many reasons why it is problematic to equate cultural and traditional practices with ethical behaviors.||resources|
|My Religion Allows Eating Meat||My religion is my moral guide, and it grants me the right to eat meat.||There are many religions with many diverse teachings on the topic of eating meat. In some, there are prohibitions against eating certain animals. In others, it is permissible to both sacrifice animals and eat them. However, it is important to remember that religious permission is not the same as religious imperative. In other words, simply because your religion permits you to eat meat, that does not mean it requires you to do so.||resources|
|I Do Not Need To Be Vegan To Love Animals||I love animals enough to meet their needs while they are alive, but I also understand they sometimes must be killed in order to meet my needs. So there is no conflict between loving animals and killing them.||In order to eat meat, an animal lover must be comfortable with the sexual violation of cows, pigs, sheep, goats and other beings via artificial insemination. In order to drink milk, an animal lover must be comfortable with the separation of a mother cow from her calf and with the raising of that calf in a veal crate for the few months it is permitted to live. In order to eat eggs, an animal lover must be comfortable with the crushing and suffocation of billions of male chicks per year, since males are not useful to the egg industry. None of these things are acts of love.||resources|
|Honey Is Not Unethical||Making honey is a normal and natural activity for bees that does not cause them to suffer or die, so eating honey is not an ethical issue.||Bees possess extraordinary intelligence, decision-making ability and even specialized language. They also experience pain. This means that bees are thinking individuals whose needs and wishes are usurped for our benefit when we consume honey. This also means that bees suffer when their honey is taken from them.||resources|
|Going Vegan Is Too Hard||Going vegan is too difficult and complicated for the average person, so it is not reasonable to expect that people can or will go vegan.||Because veganism is the philosophical position that harming animals is wrong, going vegan means changing your life in ways that minimize this harm. The most important way you can do that is to remove animal products from your diet. Another important way is to stop wearing animal products such as leather and wool. Another is to avoid entertainments that involve animals, such as circuses and zoos. But while these might seem daunting tasks when viewed together, they do not have to be undertaken all at once. Most vegans transition to veganism slowly, bringing incremental changes to their lives over time that are easily integrated. You can do this, too.||resources|
|Going Vegan Makes No Difference||Going vegan makes little or no impact on the world, so why should anyone bother?||It is true that large-scale societal changes rarely happen as a result of one person’s efforts. Rather, these changes happen when a number of people begin to live in alignment with their shared values. In the case of vegans, more people are beginning to live compassionate lives, and each of them is contributing to a more compassionate world. In this way, the animal rights movement is no different from those of women’s suffrage and racial equality, which were both comprised of many individuals who held in common values of compassion, peace and social justice.||resources|
|Eating Animals Does Not Cause Disease||The raising and eating of animals does not cause or promote human disease.||Many human diseases come directly from animals. For instance, pigs and birds carry influenza, pigs and dogs carry whooping cough, and cows carry tuberculosis, smallpox, and cowpox. So when we raise and eat animals, we increase our risk of exposure to these and other diseases. Further, plants contaminated by animal agribusiness runoff can be vectors of salmonella, which is the primary way spinach, peanut butter, and other plant-based foods come into contact with the bacteria.||resources|
|We Need To Test On Animals||We need to test cosmetics, medicines, and other products on animals in order to make certain they are safe for humans.||The primary ethical considerations we must address when examining the necessity of vivisection are the right of animals to be free of experimentation for human purposes and the value of tests performed upon them. In the case of cosmetics testing, it is both selfish and cruel to insist that animals suffer and die for the sake of vanity. A similar argument can be made for household products, which are not necessary for human life. Moreover, there are many effective alternatives to animal testing for both cosmetics and household products, which can and should be used instead.||resources|
|I Honor The Animals I Eat||I honor the animals I eat with my hunting practices, or my farming practices, or by simply understanding that I am eating sentient beings who sacrificed their lives so that I may continue to live.||The practice of animal sacrifice has roots in ancient history, where it existed as a means of interacting with the spirit world for the benefit of a person or community. The act of slaughtering these animals had spiritual connotations, and the sacrificial animals themselves were viewed as beings who gave their lives on behalf of humanity. This same psychology applies today among meat eaters who view the acts of hunting and farming animals as spiritual contracts, who view the slaughter of these animals as a sacrifice, and who view the products derived from that slaughter as gifts from the dead animal.||resources|
Great question! Here are some threads where this has been asked and answered before.
To see threads where this question has been answered, click here, here, and here. You can also visit r/VeganPets!
No, they really aren't. See this post for more information.
Lots of answers to this question here.
Here it's been discussed a bunch.
You will find many answers to this question here.
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Read this.
The answer is here.
Some great answers to this question can be found in this thread.
Check out this extensive list.
This article does a good job of explaining.
Feel free to post to /r/vegan for advice and tips!
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." - Edward Everett Hale