Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Celebrating Veganism

VEGANISM may be defined as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

In dietary terms it refers to the practice of dispensing with *all* animal produce - including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, animal milks, honey, and their derivatives. - Definition from the International Vegetarian Union, at http://www.ivu.org/faq/definitions.html

Tomorrow - Nov. 1 - will be World Vegan Day (www.worldveganday.org). It celebrates the 62nd anniversary of the Vegan Society, which was founded in November 1944 in Great Britain.

Though I don’t know of any local events in honor of World Vegan Day, I thought it might be a good time to address a question I frequently get: What is wrong with milk and eggs?

People generally understand that eating meat involves killing animals, so they "get" the motive behind my vegetarianism. They may also accept that vegetarianism can be good for people’s health, and for the health of the environment.

But many don't understand why I’m striving to go vegan. It's simple: The same reasons apply, only more so…. In fact, it is said that the word vegan was formed "by taking the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, - 'because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.'"

The modern, industrial-style production of dairy products and eggs involves suffering that is at least as extreme as that experienced by animals raised primarily for their flesh. And once their production declines, "dairy" cows and "egg-laying" hens are also sent to the slaughterhouse.

The health and environmental considerations also apply for many vegans, so much so that this year, the World Vegan Day celebration focuses on the environmental benefits of a vegan diet.

There are many sources online to learn more about how and why to go vegan. If you’d like to learn more, in honor of World Vegan Day, here are a couple to get you started:

Farm Sanctuary has a wonderful Veg for Life campaign site at www.vegforlife.org. Three major sections, "For Health," "For Animals" and "For Earth" explore the reasons to go vegan. The "For Animals" section gives the facts on animal agriculture by telling the stories of three animals who live at Farm Sanctuary's shelter in New York, Kari the pig, Daisy the hen and Phoebe the cow.

Veg for Life also includes helpful, positive information on how to go vegan, including a step-by-step transition plan, and this gentle advice: "At the thought of becoming vegetarian or vegan, many people worry about the one or two foods they 'can't live without.' If you find yourself saying, 'I want to stop animal suffering, but I don't know if I can give up ice cream,' then don't. Give up other animal products, but permit yourself to eat ice cream while you are in transition."

And Vegan Outreach, has a wealth of information on reasons to become vegan, including a downloadable pamphlet, at http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/. Vegan Outreach also offers excellent information on vegan nutrition at www.veganhealth.org. Jack Norris, the president of Vegan Outreach, is also a registered dietitian. So the information on the site is especially strong at dispelling some of the myths around vegan nutrition.

Finally, it is interesting to see where it all began. The first issue of "The Vegan News," from November 1944, is reproduced at http://www.ukveggie.com/vegan_news/ and is lively reading. The movement’s founder, Donald Watson, had a dry sense of humor that comes through as clearly as his passion for the cause.

Watson died last year at the age of 95. The story behind the formation of the word vegan and more about his life can be read in his obituary on the Vegan Society's site.


At 10/31/2006 4:30 PM, Blogger Countess said...

The hard cruel fact of dairy products is this: the "dairy" cow has to remain pregnant and birth calves so as to produce milk. The sacrificial calves are left to die (don't want them nursing and taking milk from production). This in itself is enough to make one feel something. In a less-than-perfect world, there are some things we can try to take control of and, I believe, what we eat is one of those things. It truly is a place where the individual can make a difference.


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