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But let’s start with the basics. A vegan lifestyle is one in which the person undertaking it is conscientious about the origins of the products they use and the foods that they eat. A vegan views the world with a particular passion to be as animal-friendly as possible. The unfortunate truth about the world is that some practices utilized in order to feed the masses are inhumane and can cause needless suffering to animals. Vegans aim to try and stop that suffering by refusing to support the industries that allow it to exist in the first place.
For example, a vegan who is living the vegan lifestyle will likely do a lot of research before purchasing any products. They will most likely want to know where the product’s origin is located and ensure that no living creature was needlessly harmed or suffered for the making of the product. They want to live with a clear conscience. Many vegans are also humanitarians, who will go as far as researching their clothing and coffee to make sure that the businesses they support are not causing harm to less fortunate people or communities. How far you take your lifestyle is up to you, but ignorance is a choice that can be difficult to live with.
To answer a few other questions, vegans do not eat meat at all. They also do not eat any byproducts of animals. Animal byproducts are foods that are produced with animals involved, such as milk, cheese, eggs, and other dairy items. They choose not to use animal byproducts because practices can often be cruel. Take the egg industry, for instance. When the baby chicks are born, they are sorted into categories of male and female. The female chicks are taken to farms, where they are often fed growth hormones or forced in pens that are lit with artificial daylight 24/7 so they will lay eggs constantly. The male chicks are disposed of in dumpsters, left there to starve to death or suffocate.
This is an inhumane practice. It doesn’t take much to understand how horrifying these conditions are. Vegans do not want to support anything that can cause harm and suffering of this caliber. They do not want to support factory farms or dairy farms where animals are mistreated and not allowed to live their fullest, healthiest lives. The goal is to show the rest of the world that such mistreatment does not need to happen and will not be tolerated. Money talks, and vegans use theirs to support businesses that align with their personal moral code.
It may seem trivial to some people. They may say it’s pointless, because there is no way we will ever change the world enough that people will voluntarily give up their diet choices in lieu of veganism. The animals will still be slaughtered, everything will go on as it was before because there will always be a high demand for meat. And in ways this may be true. But even if the whole world continues to eat meat and support inhumane practices, the choices you make will always make a difference to the animals you chose not to eat that day. And that’s what veganism is all about.
A common question that many people have is, what is the difference between veganism and vegetarianism? A lot of people may get confused and think that they are the same thing, when in fact they are vastly different.
To begin with, there are several different categories for vegetarians. Lacto-ovo vegetarians include lactose and eggs in their diets. However, they will not include meat products or poultry into their diets. Lacto vegetarians will not include eggs in their diets, but they do consume dairy. They also prefer not to eat other animal products. Then we get to vegans, who will not eat any egg or dairy products, or products that have utilized animals in any way whatsoever.
There are many people out there who call themselves vegetarians even though they will occasionally eat meat here and there. Some may not consider eating seafood to be a meat, so if you are going vegan you may find that you get the question, “Do you eat fish?” a lot. Just do your best to be polite when discussing your diet choices. Many people are unfamiliar with the vegan lifestyle, and the more compassion you show to them for being curious, the more likely you will be to receive compassion in return. Isn’t that what going vegan is all about?
A lot of people don’t know the difference between vegans and vegetarians, so rather than asking if a food is vegan, which may cause people to answer in the mindset of “no, there isn’t any chunks of meat in this,” versus, “No, there are no animals or animal byproducts present in this dish.” That can cause some strife, not just for the vegan but for the person who is attempting to be hospitable. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that while you appreciate the good intentions, you are going to be providing your own foods at certain social gatherings or events, that way there is no mistaking what it is that you are putting into your body.
A person who thinks a vegan diet and a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet are the same thing can easily violate a vegan’s boundaries by feeding them things that may have cheese or dairy in it because they misunderstand the meanings of the words or they simply haven’t looked into it well enough. What is a lacto-ovo vegetarian you may ask? A lacto-ovo vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, but who does eat animal byproducts such as cheese and eggs. They have not cut out dairy from their diets the way a vegan would. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially for those who are uninformed.
There are other types of vegetarians as well. Some are called ovo-vegetarians and they eat only eggs and non-meat products. Lacto-vegetarians don’t eat meat or any eggs or egg products. And then of course there is the flexitarian, who eats a mostly vegetarian diet but every so often will include meat in their diet. Another thing a lot of people consider vegetarianism is pescatarian, which actually means a vegetarian diet with the exception of eating fish. That is probably why a lot of people think that being vegan or vegetarian can mean that you still include fish in your diet. So this may be a question you get a lot once you have adopted a vegan lifestyle.
There is no shame in any way you choose to live your life or the diet that works best for you and your body’s specific needs. It is important not to shame others for the way they live their lives, especially if you want to begin to create a more tolerant world that is accepting of the ideologies veganism often stands for. By being receptive, we create a more receptive world that is more likely to listen to our point of view in a way that doesn’t feel threatening to them so they may choose one day to try it for themselves and see how it feels. Even just a single meatless Monday can be a huge step in helping to eliminate needless suffering in animals.
That isn’t to say you have to associate with people who make you feel ashamed to live the way you choose to live and for the way you eat. Treat others as you wish to be treated. And just as no vegan wants to be in the position of the suffering animals, neither do they want to be in a toxic atmosphere where people are making them feel ashamed for the choices they make. If you find that you are in a toxic environment then you would do well to find a way out as quickly as possible so you may begin to live your life in a healthier way.
Once you have decided what label best fits you in terms of your diet, it will be easier for you to explain what your diet is like to those who matter the most to you. Once they understand your specific limitations then there is a high chance they will do everything in their power to accommodate you, which can be a great thing.
Now that we have cleared up the difference between vegetarianism and veganism, let’s move on to applying it to our lives.
Most people assume, wrongly, that a vegan diet is automatically going to be very healthy and good for you. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. If you are eating vegan, sure, you are probably going to be getting more vegetables and fruits and leaner protein sources, but that is only if you are making an active effort to make sure your diet is including the things that are the best for you to eat. Some vegetarians and vegans get away with eating a carb-filled diet that simply includes cutting meat out and still eating the unhealthy Standard American Diet. This diet is also referred to as the “SAD” diet, because it is severely lacking in nutritional content and is high in saturated fats and other things that are detrimental to your body. They think that by living without meat, they are still making healthy choices for their bodies.
Unfortunately, that really isn’t the case. Exempting meat from your diet doesn’t automatically make you a healthier person. In fact, if you aren’t paying attention to your diet, it can become very nutritionally deficient. There are certain nutrients that vegans have to pay close attention to. They need to make sure that they are getting these vitamins and nutrients from sources outside of meat, otherwise their bodies can begin to slowly suffer.
Vitamin deficiencies are no laughing matter. The most important vitamins and nutrients for vegans to pay attention to are iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and omega 3 fatty acids. It would also help to make sure you are getting enough protein from plant sources, such as soy. Diets lacking in animal proteins and other animal byproducts can easily cause deficiencies that, over time, can lead to anemia and heart problems, among other things.Other Details
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