Over the past few years, the concept of veganism has become largely popular. Many famous personalities have also started switching into veganism. According to Wikipedia, “Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.” There is a specific pattern of eating involved in it which includes only plant-based food items. Vegan people replace dairy products with plant based milks like soy, scrambled eggs with scrambled tofu, honey with maple syrup and similar other options. They also refrain from using other animal products like clothing from animal products and leather. It is a lifestyle which attempts to decrease animal exploitation as much as possible.
The term “vegan” was first coined by Donald Watson in 1944 when he founded the Vegan Society with a small group of vegetarians, who broke away from the Leicester Vegetarian Society in England. It is said that the term “vegan” was constructed by combining the first and last letters of “vegetarian.” At first it was used to mean “non-dairy vegetarian” and by May 1945 vegans started abstaining from “eggs, honey; and animals’ milk, butter and cheese”. They chose to not consume dairy or any other product of animal origin along with abstaining from meat like vegetarians. In 1951, the Society changed its definition to “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”. It is currently defined as “a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it from food, clothing, or any other purpose.” Interest in Veganism started from the latter part of 2010s as more and more vegan stores opened increasing vegan options. These have started to be increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants across the world.
Reason behind going vegan
Vegans generally choose to avoid animal products for reasons like Ethics, Health and Environment.
People who support the ethics of the practice are called Ethical Vegans who strongly agree to the belief that all creatures have the right to life and freedom. So, they oppose killing a conscious being to simply consume its flesh, drink its milk, or wear its skin — especially when alternatives are available. They also oppose the psychological and physical stress that animals may endure as a result of modern farming practices. For instance, the small pens and cages in which many livestock animals are forced to live between birth and slaughter, the farming industry’s practices of the grinding of live male chicks by the egg industry or the force-feeding of ducks and geese for the foie gras market. Ethical vegans also protest against animal cruelty and raise awareness about ending all forms of cruelty towards animals.
Some also choose veganism due to its health benefits. Plant-based diets may reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and premature death. Lowering the intake of animal products may likewise reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dying from cancer or heart disease. One can also avoid the side effects linked to the antibiotics and hormones which are used in modern animal agriculture. Studies show that there is a relation between vegan diets and lower body weight and body mass index (BMI).
Vegan diets are high in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals; and low in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. There is also the possibility of nutrition deficiency because elimination of all animal products may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Some of these can only be prevented through the choice of fortified foods or the regular intake of dietary supplements. Vitamin B12 supplementation is considered to be very important in some cases.
Some people avoid animal products and shift to veganism for the environmental impacts. It is widely known that animal agriculture is a very water intensive process. The UN report of 2010 suggests that animal products need more resources and produce a higher percentage of greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based options.