There are numerous misunderstandings and misconceptions when it comes to living on a plant-based diet. Let us first address the definition of vegetarian and vegan.
Vegetarian. A vegetarian diet means that one eats everything, but the flesh of animals. It does not matter whether the animal is from land or sea (this means no fish).
Vegan. Vegan is pronounced VEE-gun. This diet is where one does not eat the flesh or secretions of animals (no milk and eggs).
There are different types of vegetarians. However, we will discuss this in a future post. As of now, we will begin to dig deeper on what it means to be a vegan.
History of Veganism
In 1944, a British activist named Donald Watson (1910-2005) coined the word vegan. He was the first founder of a vegan organization. Watson was frustrated that being vegetarian also meant consuming eggs and dairy products. He then constructed the word vegan by using the beginning and end of the word vegetarian.
To Watson, vegan was defined 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.”
Less than a century ago, Watson coined this term. For centuries throughout the world, the principle of compassion has guided all religions and secular philosophies. Ahimsa (causing no harm) is not a new idea. In fact, veganism is just a simple extension of that principle.
This is why many people use vegan and compassionate interchangeably.
However, many people have associated the word vegan with suffering or deprivation of sacrifice. In other words, they believe it is about eliminating things and saying no. To a point, this is correct. However, vegans are saying no to suffering, exploitation and violence.
It is also refusing unhealthy and unnecessary foods. To take this one-step further, it is also turning down the wasteful abuse of natural resources and the demolition of the remaining wild places in the world.
The core of being vegan is about accepting and saying yes. It means one is saying yes to their values. How much do one’s values mean if they do not manifest in our behavior? Being vegan is a kind way of saying one is against cruelty and violence.
After all, most of us are against these horrid things. However, how many of us take these values and put them into action? By making a decision to eat life-giving rather than life-taking foods, this is saying yes to compassion, kindness, peace and simplicity.