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Hens kept in cramped conditions — the avoidance of animal suffering is the primary motivation of people who become vegans

A vegan is a person who avoids the ingestion or use of animal products. An animal product in this context refers to the body parts of an animal, or any substance derived from an animal without that animal's informed consent.

Many vegans avoid the use of all animal products, including, for example, leather shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, and household cleaners containing animal products, as well as products containing ingredients that have been tested on animals. Some vegans avoid using animals as food, but may nevertheless wear clothes made of materials derived from animals. These vegans are called "dietary vegans."

The term vegan is also used as an adjective to describe the philosophy and practice of respect for non-human animals, and the products that avoid their use.



Veganism is defined by the British Vegan Society as:

[A] philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — 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, including humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. [1] (


The word vegan (pronounced vee-gun, sometimes mispronounced vay-gun) was originally derived from vegetarian in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, frustrated that the term "vegetarianism" had come to include the eating of dairy products, founded the UK Vegan Society. The word starts and ends with the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, representing that veganism begins with vegetarianism, then takes it to its logical conclusion. Therefore the term vegan was originally coined to differentiate those vegetarians who (primarily for ethical or environmental reasons) seek to eliminate all animal products in all areas of their lives from those who simply avoid eating meat.

Those who are vegans for ethical reasons today generally oppose the violence and cruelty they see as involved in the (non-vegan) food, clothing and other industries. Animal products such as leather, silk or wool are avoided. Soap must be made of vegetable oil instead of tallow or animal fat. Toothpaste, hair products, and other toiletries used by vegans must not have been tested on animals. (See also Draize test, LD50 and Animal testing.)

Animal products

The term "animal product" in a vegan context refers to a product derived from human and non-human animals without their consent. Human breast milk is acceptable when used for human babies, so long as the mother has consented to its use. By comparison, a human being drinking a cow's milk for her calves is regarded as consuming an "animal product".

Animal products include meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, fur, leather, wool, and byproducts such as gelatin, rennet, and whey. The Vegan Society and many vegans include insect products such as silk, honey, and beeswax in their definition.

There is some debate on the finer points of what constitutes an animal product: some vegans avoid cane sugar that has been filtered with bone char, and some will not drink beers and wines clarified with albumen (egg white), animal blood, or isinglass, even though these are not present in the final product. Also, some vegans avoid food cooked in pans if they have been used to cook meat or eggs.

As well as avoiding animal products, vegans refrain from supporting industries that use animals, such as circuses featuring caged animals, and zoos. Most vegans also refrain from using toiletries, cosmetics, or other products that are tested on animals.

Other vegan ideals may include sustainable agricultural systems that exclude animal by-products such as blood, fish, bone, and manures. Some vegans view the adoption of vegan organic horticultural and agricultural methodologies as integral to their ethical stance.


Animal suffering

Vegans cite a desire to reduce animal suffering as their primary motivation. Utilitarian philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham, and especially Peter Singer, argue that the suffering of all sentient animals should be taken into consideration when making ethical decisions; thus, by abstaining from consuming products from animals exploited for food, veganism is the application of this system of ethics. Though Singer's ethical theory recognizes the suffering of sentient animals, it does not rely on the concept of rights. However, philosophers such as Tom Regan and Gary L. Francione believe that, because sentient animals are capable of valuing their life, they have the inherent right to possess their own flesh, and that, therefore, it is unethical to treat them as property, or as a commodity.

The vegan philosophy is also connected to the concept of ahimsa, a Sanskrit word central to Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, originally taught by Mahavira and Buddha around 500 BCE, and more recently promoted by Mahatma Gandhi. Ahimsa roughly means "non-killing and non-harming." The American Vegan Society website says: "It is not mere passiveness, but a positive method of meeting the dilemmas and decisions of daily life. In the western world, we call it Dynamic Harmlessness." [2] (

Ahimsa is also used as a backronym: Abstinence from animal products, Harmlessness with reverence for life, Integrity of thought, word, and deed, Mastery over oneself, Service to humanity, nature and creation, and Advancement of understanding and truth.


As with vegetarians, vegans are motivated by the high environmental costs of producing animal products. For example, a large percentage of the greenhouse gas methane released into the atmosphere comes from raising cows; rearing livestock entails a far higher volume of water and land than raising crops alone; most crops grown are used as animal feed; and the run-off from livestock waste into groundwater is especially polluting. Water consumption alone is of such international importance that the World Water Week conference held in August 2004 was told that the growth in demand for meat and dairy products is unsustainable. [3] ( and will cause enormous environmental problems and widespread human distress in the near future.


People do not often go vegan solely for health reasons, because dietary concerns provide no incentive to avoid animal products such as leather or fur. However, the health benefits of a diet low in animal products — such as zero LDL cholesterol and artificial growth hormones intake, and the avoidance of the antibiotics routinely fed to factory-farmed animals — provide a secondary motivation for many vegans.

Dietary vegans

Those who avoid animal food products — for example, due to allergies or high cholesterol, or to protest against factory farming — but who otherwise use products containing animal derivatives, may describe themselves as "dietary vegans".

Vegan author Joanne Stepaniak argues that this term is inappropriate, because veganism is by definition about avoiding all animal abuses, not just food-related ones. For this reason, she says, a term such as "total vegetarian," or "strict vegetarian," would be more appropriate for those who avoid eating meat and dairy products, but continue to buy leather shoes.

Modern veganism in context

Veganism as a secular movement is a modern idea, a reaction to the imposition of suffering on non-human animals. The principles behind it, however, can be found in older ethical doctrines of the East, such as Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism. (See Ahimsa.)

Much stricter forms of diet have been followed for thousands of years by adherents of Jainism, and a strictly bounded diet is an integral part of their religious doctrine, which promotes non-suffering. Jain monks usually follow a much stricter form of veganism where they eat only fruits and beans so that they can avoid indirect killing of plants. They abstain from eating root plants, such as garlic, onion and potatoes, because it requires the death of the plant. Stricter Jains also abstain from walking on grass. There are even those who wear masks over their mouths and noses to avoid any possibility of breathing in tiny insects. In fact, some Jains (usually monks or nuns) have been known to starve themselves to death in order to avoid harming any living creature or plants.

Secular veganism is pretty much unheard of in many parts of the world. In many cultures, though there are notable exceptions, meat and animal products used to be a minor part of the diet. Because raising animals for food takes up far more resources than the raising of crops, regular consumption of animal products has historically been limited to the wealthy; this, in turn, led to animal products becoming "aspirational foods", desirable because of their expense. This situation has begun to be reversed by the rising standard of living in these countries and the associated "westernisation" of their cultures. In many wealthy countries, the greatest volume of animal products is eaten by the poor, and health problems associated with over-eating are on the rise. [4] ( Consequently, there is a small but growing awareness of the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet, mainly amongst the wealthy and well-educated.

One interesting example is the case of African-Americans who chose in the 1960s to express their concept of Black Power through the conscious choice of vegetarian diets: rejecting the traditionally animal-heavy forms of 'soul food' in favour of an African-inspired vegetarian soul food [5] ( was perceived as a potent form of empowerment. This political and health-based veganism is enjoying a renaissance amongst African-Americans, with a number of hip-hop artists becoming vegans. [[6] (

A Time/CNN poll published in Time Magazine on July 7, 2002, found that 4% of American adults consider themselves vegetarians, and 5% of self-described vegetarians consider themselves vegans. This may suggest that 0.2% of American adults are vegans. A 2000 poll suggested closer to 0.9% of the USA' adult population may be vegan. [7] ( In the UK, research showed that 0.4%, approximately 250, 000 people, were vegan in 2001. [8] (

Similar diets

There are several diets often thought of as similar to veganism, though there are significant differences, including the aforementioned fruitarian/fructarian diet, raw foods, and the macrobiotic diet. There are also numerous religious groups that regularly or occasionally practice a similar diet, including some sects of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, as well as some Christian sects such as the Eastern Orthodox church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

More recently, many young people who subscribe to the anarcho-punk or straight edge punk movements have embraced veganism, and corresponding beliefs of the animal rights movement. Straight Edge is a philosophy in which one does not partake in the drinking of alcohol, casual sex, or recreational drugs, and was born out of anger at the cultural excesses of the 1980s. Straight Veg, a term equivalent to vegan, arose as a response to the increasingly popular Straight Edge. Another recent variation of veganism is the "freegan" diet (practitioners sometimes called "opportunivores"), which essentially allows its practitioners to violate the tenets of veganism when a food item is free or of a post-consumer nature (example: discarded food).

An interesting sub-set of veganism, raw veganism, advocates the consumption only of raw foods and the elimination of processed foods from the diet. A small scale study of raw vegans ( found them to be slender and healthy, but noted that they had reduced essential bone mass and lower bone mineral density. The researchers said these results are "strongly associated with increased fracture risk", but noted that the raw vegans they studied had no other biological markers to indicate higher levels of osteoporosis, and that their bone turnover rates were normal.

Vegan nutrition

Main article: vegan nutrition

For most people, a varied vegan diet presents no significant nutritional problems, and on the contrary usually comes with several health benefits, such as decreased cholesterol. However, there are several nutrients vegans should pay attention to. These include Vitamin B12, iron and iodine: deficiencies in these are more likely following a vegan diet, and deficiencies of these potentially have serious consequences, including anemia, pernicious anemia, cretinism and hyperthyroidism. Interestingly, B12 deficiency can be a problem for omnivores, too; aging, for example, can lead to an inability to absorb B12 from food, and supplementation is recommended for over-55s.

Residents of the UK will find themselves iodine-deficient if they rely primarily on local produce. The Vegan Society says, "Iodine is typically undesirably low (about 50 micrograms/day compared to a recommended level of about 150 micrograms per day) in UK vegan diets unless supplements, iodine rich seaweeds or foods containing such seaweeds (e.g. Vecon) are consumed. The low iodine levels in many plant foods reflects the low iodine levels in the UK soil, due in part to the recent ice-age." This demonstrates that location may also be a factor in what deficiencies may be present in any given diet.

Vitamin B12, a bacterial product, cannot be reliably found in plant products, and so vegans are recommended to make sure they eat foods with B12 added (such as fortified yeast extract and margarines or many boxed cereals), certain brands of nutritional yeast, or take supplements (a good multivitamin ought to include B12 in sufficient quantities). Also, British vegans should ensure they get adequate iodine, since in the UK iodine is usually obtained via dairy products rather than iodized salt. No other nutrients present special problems. In the past nutritionists advised that vegans should make sure the plant proteins they ate together formed "complete" proteins, but this "food combining" theory was disproved many years ago, though some vegan cookbooks still propound the theory.

Iron is said by the Vegan Society to be present in many typically vegan foodstuffs, including grains, nuts and green leaves. However, the iron in these sources is in a less easily absorbed, non-heme form. Nevertheless, the Society quotes research to show that iron deficiency is no more prevalent in vegans than in the general population. This research did not account for the fact that many vegans take nutritional supplements that are not found in food alone, whereas other research that excludes this subset of people does indeed show a marked iron deficiency among a majority of those studied. It is important to note that iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the general population, and many nutritionists and dietitians recommend a daily multivitamin because of this.

If the vegan diet is not varied, there may be possible deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals, and nutrients; of course, any diet (irrespective of the inclusion of meat) that is not sufficiently varied is at risk for deficiency. If the vegan is elderly or a younger child, their exposure to the sun may be limited, in which case their skin will not produce Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) as it normally does when exposed to ultraviolet light, as occurs in sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, and is usually found in both supplements and in fortified foods (the prevalence of rickets in the general population helped to spur on the fortification of every day foods, such as breakfast cereals and juices from the 1960s onwards). Calcium may also be a concern if the vegan is not eating a variety of foods, especially leafy green vegetables, fortified products, almonds, soy products, and dried fruits. However, calcium is less of a problem than many think: calcium retention is affected by things such as salt intake as much as calcium intake, and animal protein has been linked to calcium loss. Once lifestyle has been controlled for, there is no conclusive evidence yet as to whether vegan women have a different rate of osteoporosis than vegetarian or meat-eating women. An intriguing study at UC Davis and sponsored by the USDA, though, indicates that osteoporosis is more complex than simple calcium intake. In their study of healthy non-smoking women, it was shown that, while the omnivore and vegan women had similar levels of bone resorption, when put on a regime of weight-bearing exercise the vegan women built bone faster than their omnivorous counterparts ( One of the team noted that the net result is a higher risk of osteoporosis for omnivorous women over time than for vegan women, saying, "If you have less bone formation, the result is the same as if you had an increase in bone resorption. So, even though bone resorption was the same in both groups of volunteers, the lower amount of bone formation in the omnivore women could lead to a decrease in their bone density."

One nutrient that is sometimes overlooked when analyzing the vegan diet is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA can be synthesized from alpha linolenic fatty acids; for omnivores, a good source for this omega-3 fatty acid is seafood and eggs. This healthy fat can be found in soy, walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and canola oil, but many vegans do not include these specific foods in their diets. This fatty acid is very important for brain function, eye function, and for the cellular transport of valuable nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids must be taken into consideration for any diet, and special consideration taken for younger children and the elderly because growing and aging brains need more of these nutritious fats. Luckily, there are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids available to the vegan: flaxseed oil (sometimes called edible linseed in the UK) and hemp oil- which have far higher levels of omega-3s than fish oils - nuts (especially walnuts), and green leafy veggies provide omega-3s and ALA, and algae can provide DHA (algal supplements are widely available).

Overall, some nutritionists have expressed concerns about the potential dangers in the vegan diet. This is especially true for young children where the failure to achieve adequate nutrition can lead to permanent developmental deficits. In widely reported comments, Professor Lindsey Allen of the US Agricultural Research Service declared: "There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans" [9] ( She later added "unless those who practiced [vegan diets] were well-informed about how to add back missing nutrients through supplements or fortified foods", which she claims the original reporter inappropriately dropped [10] ( In very severe cases, parents practicing what they described as forms of veganism have been charged with child abuse for not providing adequate nutrition [11] ( [12] ( [13] (

While it is true that special care must be taken, as with any other diet, other nutritionists point to research which clearly shows the health and longevity benefits resulting from a vegan diet. Again, these studies, like so many relating to omnivores and lacto-ovo vegetarians, have not demonstrated that they control for lifestyle: without accounting for factors like exercise and cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and genetic predisposition, health and longevity comparisions are statistically almost meaningless. Critics tend to say that a vegan lifestyle does not guarantee a long and healthy life; vegans, however, do not claim that it does. There are no guarantees of good health, only probabilities based on a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Possible and probable benefits

Besides diminishing animal suffering, a vegan diet is thought to reduce the risk of many health problems, including heart failure, obesity, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, constipation, cancer, psoriasis, and Eczema though this should not be confused with overall health or longevity. The Independent newspaper reported recently that the very oldest people tend to have a large proportion of vegetarians among their ranks.[14] ( The same source quotes research by Dr Pramil Singh, of Loma Linda University in California, showing that vegetarianism provides a 3.6-year survival advantage. The research was based on a 20 year study of people of the Adventist faith.

Some vegan advocacy sites have a tendency to imply that a vegan diet is inherently healthy and an omnivorous diet is inherently unhealthy. It is likely that such a reductionist view, reducing dietary health to the consumption or non-consumption of animal products is essentially unhelpful. A properly planned vegan diet will supply high levels of fiber, micro-nutrients, and anti-oxidants, as well as limiting the intake of harmful fats found abundantly in some meat and dairy products, all of which promise positive health effects. It must be remembered that lifestyle, environmental health, social conditions, medical access, and emotional well being all contribute to overall health, and the attribution of complex health issues to single causes should be approached with caution. The simple elimination of meat from the diet without thought and planning toward providing well balanced nutrition, including protein and mineral intake, is no guarantee of improved health any more than a careless and ill-considered omnivorous diet. With all these caveats in mind, it should be noted that Professor Colin Campbell found the consumption of animal products to correlate with ill health on a statistical basis.(See the China project). His work therefore supports the association of good health with veganism though this outcome should also be understood as the result of an overall change of life style.

Veganism is more environmentally sustainable than a diet based around animal products, and may improve the conditions of low income people in and out of the global south by freeing more food for human consumption. It has been argued that increased demand for crops raises prices, hence impoverishing people who largely subsist on crops. Some livestock, though not those animals generally used for food in the wealthy global north, can graze on land that is unsuited to farming; thus it could be argued that a reduction in the usage of livestock could actually cause a reduction in food available for human consumption. This argument signally fails to take into account that the raising of livestock does not typically take place on land unsuitable for crop raising, that the majority of crops currently raised are raised to feed livestock (usually meaning that food is exported from poor nations to feed animals in rich nations, this export often intimately tied to national debt), or that fewer crops would have to be raised to feed people only than to feed both livestock and people. For most forms of livestock, approximately 10kg of feed-quality grain are needed for every kg of meat produced. This means that ninety percent of potential caloric energy is lost.

Veganism can make for substantial cuts to one's food budget, meat being usually the most expensive thing that people buy, food-wise — beans, rice, nuts, greens and other vegan staples are inexpensive and nutritious. For those vegans who eschew "junk" foods and heavily processed products, the savings are dramatically increased.

See the references below for more detail on these issues.

Vegetarian vs omnivore diet: cycling stamina

Dr. Per-Olaf Astrand conducted an informal study of diet and endurance using nine highly trained athletes, changing their diet every three days. At the end of every diet change, each athlete would pedal a bicycle until exhaustion. Those with a high protein and high fat meat (carnivore) diet averaged 57 minutes. Those that consumed a mixed (omnivore) diet, lower in meat, fat and protein averaged 1 hour and 54 minutes: twice the endurance of the meat and fat eaters. The vegetarian, high carbohydrate diet athletes lasted 2 hours and 47 minutes, triple the endurance of the high-protein group. (Source: Astrand, Per-Olaf, Nutrition Today 3:no2, 9-11, 1968) [15] (

Vegan cuisine

Vegans enjoy almost as wide a range of foods as animal product–eaters do, since almost any dish containing animal products can be adapted by substituting vegan ingredients. Soy milk works for milk in almost all recipes, as do a variety of nut and grain milks; eggs can usually be replaced by the appropriate egg replacers (one popular version is made from potato starch). Artificial "meat" products, such as imitation sausages, ground beef, burgers, and chicken nuggets are available in many supermarkets, although many are only vegetarian. These products are often marketed to those who are simply cutting back on meat for health reasons as much as to vegetarians, and manufacturers are canny enough to know that many people will not go for a "total diet makeover", but will tend to shop for familiar foods. Some Asian cuisines contain many dishes that are naturally vegan. It is important not to give the impression that vegans are attempting to mimic an omnivorous diet, as many vegans are uncomfortable with that idea - animal products make up only a tiny proportion of the foods that humans can digest, and there is a tradition of meat-free and dairy-free cooking in western nations which fell out of favour when intensive farming became the rage after WWII.

Vegans have several foods that they tend to eat in larger quantities than omnivores: among these are the soy products tofu and tempeh, and the wheat product seitan. Many vegans express concern about reliance on soy products, and prefer to experiment with a range of foods and cuisines.

For a list of vegan recipes complementary to this article see the Wikibooks cookbook section, Vegan cuisine (

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an example of vegan cooking: vegetable sushi



Veganism requires a level of attention to the details of consumption which many non-vegans view as inconvenient, particularly in the area of food preparation. Most dishes prepared in western culture involve at least one non-vegan element — dairy, in particular, is pervasive. And while most people are accustomed to the idea of vegetarianism, it is much more difficult for vegans to simply "eat around" the non-vegan elements in a meal. Unsympathetic non-vegans may resent the extra effort of accommodating the vegan diet. Some vegan substitutions for non-vegan ingredients (such as soy milk for milk) only superficially resemble their animal meat based analogues, according to their critics, but many vegans enjoy these foods as they are, without wishing for too close a similarity to animal products. Soy and nut milks, of course, have been around for millenia. Cooking, as a chemical process, relies on properties (such as the fat content of milk) that plant- and animal-based ingredients do not always share, and so in some recipes calling for animal products, the vegan substitutions do not work well (similarly, vegan recipes in which omnivores insert animal products may fail, at times spectacularly). It is as well that there are so many excellent and innovative vegan cookbooks, and that vegans generally try not to simply replicate the meals they grew up with, but to extend their culinary repetoires.

The lifestyle choices can be somewhat inconvenient at first. For example, avoiding clothing and shoes containing wool or leather, most brands of latex condoms (as latex is often produced with the milk protein casein), hygienic products such as soap and the myriad other animal products that many people are used to using takes skill and experience. This means that shopping for a vegan can be an awkward event filled with questions that sales assistants can't answer, even for a person with experience in these matters. Because of this, many view the practical lifestyle choices as equally or more inconvenient than the actual diet itself. Of course, label reading and looking up ingredients becomes habitual, and many vegans express their pleasure at understanding just what is going into or onto their bodies and come to regard the idea of not doing so as rather horrifying. It is often referred to as an empowering experience. Many vegans find the experience broadens their understanding of how the food, cosmetics, and clothing industries work and leads them into environmental and human rights activism. It is often the case that omnivores have difficulty in understanding that vegans do not feel deprived, that they are not practising a form of aeseticism, and that they find pleasure in their veganism. Omnivores often express the idea that vegans are "disciplined" in their choices, but vegans tend to feel that they have simply adopted new habits. Because many people believe vegans to be practising a form of self-denial, and because self-denial is often seen as morally superior, many omnivores assume that vegans feel morally superior to them. This regrettable misunderstanding often causes difficulties in social interaction, and many vegans feel that it is best not to talk about their veganism for fear that omnivores will feel implicitly criticised. It is fascinating that human cultures, foods, and assumptions about the world are so intimately connected.


Perceptions of veganism are often influenced by ideological associations with a variety of other movements and organizations, including environmentalism, anti-globalization, and especially more outspoken animal rights activist groups such as PETA. Vegans also find themselves the butt of jokes on TV and in film, usually depicted as unattractive, humourless idealogues, and their food as bland, uninspiring, or revolting, regardless of whether they are or not. Many vegans find themselves struggling with anger at being misrepresented, or with having to be consistently nice to people who are rude, or even aggressively hostile to them; it can be hard to maintain a compassionate outlook under such circumstances, but whenever a vegan loses her/his temper under pressure, they are aware that this will often be interpreted as vindication of the initial provocation.


The primary ethical criticism of veganism is against the perceived underlying philosophy of "indirect responsibility" via reductio ad absurdum. First of all, say these critics, a vegan diet does not stop the killing of animals in the production of food. Field animals such as rodents, snakes and rabbits as well as worms and insects are routinely killed in the course of producing crops. This argument depends on the perception of the critic that vegans have fallen into the trap of the Perfect solution fallacy or results from the critic themselves falling into said trap. Proponents of Veganism would argue that the intent is to avoid suffering, realizing that there is no way to live without infringing on some other life, and point out that environmentally sustainable farming methods greatly reduce the number of animals killed through the application of herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilisers, the use of monocropping, and the use of huge harvesting machines. Critics further argue that, though daily recommended protein intake obtained from a vegetarian diet is generally less bloody than a diet consisting of meat, it is theoretically possible to take fewer lives if one eats meat from free roaming animals (such as fish or meat obtained by hunting). In this instance the consumer is not responsible for living organisms consumed by such an animal while it is growing up. Vegans would argue that there is not enough space and resources on the planet Earth to allow Free Range farming to meet the dietary desires of the current human population.

Critics also point out that any act of consumption is likely to involve proxy killing. When we purchase books (timber), switch the light on (to use electricity) or drive a car (gas, plastic, steel, electricity), we indirectly contribute to the destruction of the environment and therefore the taking of life. In essence, human existence causes suffering. Vegans would respond that minimizing suffering is their goal, as eliminating it is unrealistic. Further, they argue that they seek to both minimize the inadvertent and eliminate the deliberate. When presented with the choice of minimal inadvertent suffering and deliberate suffering, the vegan chooses the former. One implication of the critic's position is that one should not procreate, so as to avoid proxy killing by one's offspring and their descendants, so one who has led a strictly vegan diet all his/her life but failed to practice contraception would have caused infinitely more (indirect) suffering than a man who led a life of greed and gluttony but avoided producing children. Yet, this argument, which could arguably be seen as a Straw man, ignores the fact that people who are driven by greed and gluttony have not been shown to not procreate or that vegans, in any official position, advocate avoiding contraception; indeed, while many straight-edge vegans abjure casual sex - or, in some cases, sex itself — there is also a proportion of vegans who believe in zero population growth and take steps to ensure that they will not reproduce. Veganism generally does not take a reproductive stance, leaving that decision to each individual vegan, as reproductive choices are made by all individuals. A vegan parent would argue that raising vegan children involves less cruelty than raising omnivorous ones, and that the more vegans there are, the more pressure there is on industry to minimize cruelty in their products. If a shampoo manufacturer eliminates animal products and testing from its products, they are eliminated for all consumers, vegans and non-vegans alike.

In essence, critics claim that veganism merely serves as a symbolic gesture while obscuring the nature of human activities; yet these activities are exactly what vegans are seeking to change. The underlying principles of veganism indicate that one should consume less. For example, one may be more careful about the quantity of food one consumes rather than the type of food. Vegans would take this one step further and argue that food consumption does not have to be an either/or situation. A responsible consumer can control their quantity and type of food consumption and enjoy the benefits of both decisions. Critics argue that veganism is not exactly wrong but misguided, while vegans argue that the same can be said about their critics.

See also



Environmental issues

  • Prof. V. Smil, Rationalizing Animal Food Production, in Feeding the World: A Challenge for the 21st Century, MIT Press, London, 2000. This provides evidence for the amount of grain required to raise livestock.
  • C. de Haan, H. Steinfeld & H. Blackburn, Livestock and the Environment: Finding a Balance FAO, USAID, World Bank, 1998. Provides evidence of environmental damage caused by animal farming, mainly factory farming.

External links

Vegan organizations


General articles

Vegan websites

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