Media, general public, government and welfare institutions usually seem ill informed about Veganism. Media articles mislead readers frequently and celebrities are responsible for sowing seeds of confusion in human society. Here are seven facts about how Veganism is different from Plant Based Diet sometimes confused with Veganism in general.
1. Not Just a Diet: Veganism by definition, unlike vegetarianism is not just a diet but a complete moral stand against objectification, abuse or exploitation of animals. The Vegan Society’s current definition is also referred to very often because this charity popularised the term Vegan in Britain in the late 1940s following which several meetings and alterations were drafted to the effect of the term to denote the following: Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” Plant based diet is one of the important key aspects included within Veganism but if someone is only following a plant based diet and still alright with other forms of animal abuse or exploitation, such as leather, silk, wool, animal testing, animal circuses or zoos they are not vegan by definition in entirity. The right term for them is plant based (ethically neutral) in terms of diet and lifestyle if they are in it primarily for consumption related reasons other than eschewing animal cruelty and exploitation in all forms.
2. Not Just a Personal Utalitiarian Choice: Veganism is a philosophy and not just a personal lifestyle choice of convenience. It is about not supporting violence or cruelty and also by extension about promoting alternatives for benefit of animals and the planet. Vegans are not only interested in happily living out their own personal life cycles with a plant based life as and when they can, or by reducing meat, avoiding dairy at ‘most’ times or being ‘nearly’ vegan, ’90 percent’ vegan, ‘almost’ vegan or ‘sometimes’ vegan and the false term ‘veganish’. These terms may apply to Plant Based lifestyle, when you can be ‘nearly’ plant based, ‘almost’ plant based, 90 percent Plant based, ‘sometimes’ plant based and so on. Vegans are also usually interested in some form of activism, by promoting alternatives to not only food but also healthcare and medical products, entertainment and cosmetics to the public and society. Veganism seeks to exclude various forms of abuse that are linked with the system that our current world operates through, a system based on humankind’s perpetration of and normalisation of rape, murder and exploitation against all other sentient living beings. Vegans hope that as more and more people go Vegan and wake up, we all will campaign more effectively to the media, government, corporates and other bodies to completely do away with the disgraceful system of violence and abuse altogether in due course of time as a civilisation, which is the abolitionist approach to activism. Until that juncture we need to at least be Vegan at a morally sound personal level and to encourage others to be Vegan if we can find the time and resources to be an activist.
3. Not Just Welfarism: Veganism is not the same as Animal Welfare. The focus of Veganism is on being against horrendous animal abuse, graphic violence and senseless exploitation, however it does not mean that merely reducing some forms of violence such as cages or non-stun slaughter or promoting so called ‘high welfare’, ‘ethical’ of ‘humane’ farm animal products is legitimate. This is because it is infact practicable and possible to avoid animal products or exploitation in all major aspects of our daily life altogether. For example we can avoid dairy cheese completely and consume either plant based cheese or other plant based nutrients without cheese because cheese is just a flavour, we don’t really need it at all as we can easly obtain Calcium, Protein or Fat through plant based sources. Vegans are not interested in demanding free range or ‘better chicken’ in shops either as Chosen Pechham’s campaign promotes. We do not want zoos to exploit animals in a slightly better way by giving them a bit more space to roam around in their compartments as many conservation based environmentalists would prefer. Vegans would rather that these animal farms and zoos are not proliferated in the first place or are closed down. Compare this stand with domestic abuse, slavery, racism or sexual violence. Would you like to promote ‘high welfare’ slavery or less graphic forms of torture, rape and violence or would you be against violence, racism, rape and abuse in totality?
4. Not Just Eco-activism: Veganism is a philosophy against cruelty and violence. Being eco friendly and against climate change is also part of it, however saying that you are vegan primarily for ‘environment’ is incorrect. Vegans may also at times be involved in environment and health based awareness in intermediate basis but that is not usually their prime motivation unlike that of eco-activists. If you are depressed because of climate change realizing that your future or that of other human descendants is threatened, complain about plastic pollution and greenhouse emissions, but not really as depressed about what happens to animals in slaughterhouses or hell holes of animal farms, zoos or testing industry right now that has destroyed trillions of lives each year for centuries already, you are not in truth motivated as a Vegan. Doing away with animal exploitation is infact the primary focus of veganism with plant based environmental activism being an add-on factor. Having said that if the world went Vegan or even Plant Based it will certainly benefit the environment overall by helping the planet recover its ozone layer and keep the tree foliage lush green in the earth as animal agriculture is of course the leading cause of deforestation and ocean dead zones, acidification and greenhouse effect. But if you say you are Vegan, you are necessarily against animal abuse and graphic violence of slaughter, enslavement and control over sentient beings, whether or not it is done in environmentally less damaging or putrid ways.
5. Not Just Health: If you are Plant Based mainly for physical health or personal psychological gains you may not be really a Vegan. Health is a wonderful benefit of eating plant based food and this is part of your healing if you are Vegan besides the inner one of the satisfaction that you were on the right side of history by being against animal exploitation and violence. Raw plant based or whole foods plant based diet although healthier than plant based junk food such as crisps, fries, plant based cheese or plant based pizzas or plant based sausage rolls would still be called a plant based diet and not Veganism if the chief motivation of your lifestyle is physical or personal wellbeing and you are not interested in animal justice. Veganism is about being in it for the animals, to not add to their misery in any way you can or to avoid contributing to massive injustices. Vegans are still vegan even if they eat vegan junk food and are not in physically top form.
6. Not Just a Temporary Stint: You are not just Vegan temporarily but for life, because you care about animal suffering and want to not be part of that crime under any circumstances hereinafter. Would you stop causing slavery and domestic violence one day and retract afterwards by saying it was too hard for you to not be domestically violent or racist later on? Would you slogan against Female Genital Mutilation and then suddenly start claiming that it is alright to mutilate babies and young girls. Many plant based celebrities do exactly that when it comes to their so called stint into ‘Veganism’, justifying later on that ‘they are no longer vegan because of xyz reasons’. They were never vegan in the first instance as they were merely plant based and flexible about moral values, and may regard human as superior to other animals overall. Some of these celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Ellen GeGeneres are spreading misconceptions that they went ‘vegan’ for planet, animals or health but resorted to eating animal products for Omega, B12, energy or other nutrition because they are lying. A plant based diet is nutritionally sufficient if well planned just like any other diet can be.
7. Not Just Spirituality: Veganism is not the same as a spiritual or religious philosophy although you can say it is at par with or akin to any other spiritual philosophy or religious belief. You cannot be discriminated against as a Vegan at the workplace, college, school, family simply for your philosophical belief and lifestyle, which is why Jordan Casmitjana campaigned for Veganism to be recognised at par with religion as a philosophical or ethical belief in work culture. Yet, Veganism is not a religion or spirituality in itself. Non harming or ‘ahimsa’ as a philosophical core value of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Wiccan religion can be compared to the philosophy of Veganism but does not match it exactly. This is because the definition of non harming or ‘ahimsa’ (non -violence) is not limited to veganism. Veganism limits itself as it is not always practically possible to not unintentionally cause harm to insects, snails, worms, microbes or by pulling out weeds or roots that leads to killing plants while gardening. It is also not always morally wrong to defend ourselves from other animals from attack, to control household pest infestation or protect oneself from injury caused by wild animals or insects. Vegans may also unintentionally or accidentally be harming living beings by way of housing, crop farming, walking, consuming animal tested essential medical products or driving on the road, simply because we are born in a system where we as individuals do not always seem to have our say or be able to break free from the system instantly. Veganism is primarily about not intentionally exploiting or causing cruelty towards animals as sentient beings by the way of avoidence of using animal products, animal entertainment or animal testing as far as practically possible.
In short while Vegans are always Plant Based too in their diet and lifestyle, not all Plant Based people are Vegan. You cannot be Vegan if you are not against animal exploitation in your moral philosophy and lifestyle overall. In addition to being Vegan you can also be into health, environmentalism, eco-conscious sustainable lifestyle or spirituality. Veganism does not mean you cannot go over and above that basic definition. However if you say you are ‘vegan’ or ‘semi-vegan’ for health, for environment and for spiritual reasons and not primarily for standing against animal torture, enslavement, exploitation and cruelty, then you are likely to be Plant Based instead of Vegan. Moreover being ethically neutral, morally flexible, reductitarian, sustainable, semi-vegan, welfarism oriented or temporarily vegan and then falling out of the lifestyle was not really Veganism in the first place. You may however at times transition into Veganism through a Plant Based Lifestyle as you gain awareness and educate yourself.