Evolution of Vegan Lifestyle

DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this article is to not hurt the sentiments of any individual but to debunk some beliefs.

Veganism is a practice that rejects the idea of subjecting animals to human needs. The followers of this institution adopt a vegan lifestyle as a way of living which prohibits all forms of exploitation and brutality unleashed on animals for the human needs of food, fashion, furniture or any other purpose.

Vegan Lifestyle: Stop Animal Exploitation

The greatest misconception prevalent today is that ‘veganism is limited to diet’. Though diet involves a larger part of it, one cannot ignore the growing importance of adopting vegan clothing, furniture, paints and accessories, as a  measure against animal cruelty.

A Brief History of Veganism

Though the vegan society was established 75 years ago, people preferring a plant-based diet can be traced back over 2000 years. An archaeological survey conducted on the bones extracted from the burial ground of the arena fighters proves that the Roman Gladiators belonging to the 1st century B.C and 2nd century A.D sustained on a grain-based vegetarian diet that aided them to combat efficiently.[1]

The groundings of veganism in philosophy can be tracked down to 500BCE when Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician promoted benevolence among all species and dictated the benefits of a plant-based diet. The 18th century, utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham believed in the equivalence of human and animal sufferings.[2]

The religious roots of veganism are observed in Ephrata cloister, a religious sect founded in 1732, Pennsylvania which advocated vegetarianism and celibacy. Vegetarianism is even intrinsic to the beliefs of Buddhism advocated by Gautam Buddha.

1806 CE marked the earliest conception of veganism when two Europeans, Dr William Lambe and Percy Bysshe Shelly objected to Eggs and dairy products on ethical grounds. The first vegetarian society was founded in 1847 Ramsgate, England, after which New York City also marked the establishment of a vegetarian society in 1850.

Vegan Lifestyle: Donald Watson
Donald Watson

Donald Watson and the other 5 non-dairy vegetarians held a meeting in November 1944 to discuss the benefits and politics of a non-dairy vegetarian diet and lifestyle. Despite the strict opposition faced by this meeting’s committee, the six of them continued with their objective and founded a new vegetarian movement. The word ‘Vegan’ was coined by Watson who explained it as “The beginning and the end of vegetarian” as it carries the first three and last two letters of the word ‘vegetarian’.

The vegan society was then registered as a charity in August 1964, whose assets were later transferred to a new charity in December 1979 when it evolved into a limited company. 

Vegan Diet

Vegan Lifestyle: Vegan Diet

A vegan diet is an extreme form of vegetarianism which excludes any form of flesh, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy by-products and even honey. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) support the fact that a vegetarian diet is beneficial for the maintenance of adequate health and animal welfare.

Vegan Lifestyle: Justus Von Liebig
Justus Von Liebig

The theory of Justus Von Liebig, a German chemist who hypothesized that animal proteins were the only suitable source of muscular energy and that vegetarians were incapable of the prolonged exercise was spread to such an extent that before his statement was formally approved to be false, the stereotype had been conceptualized to a large extent and even sustains today. Whereas, the truth is that the hard-working muscles largely operate on carbohydrates.

It is in recent years that the vegan diet has been popularized as claimed by 2017 statistics  which asserts that the incorporation of vegan food into meals across all American households has risen to 40%. The 2018 Gallup Poll reports that about 3% of the U.S population is full vegan. Even the International food Information council notes that the sales in vegetarian food categories have increased up to 20% in 2017.[3]

The rich nutrients and low saturated fats of a vegan diet reduce the chances of acquiring cancer, prevents heart diseases and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The American Heart Association (AHA) proves that meat-eating increases the amount of cholesterol that accumulates in the body and hence results in heart strokes. Contrarily, plants possess fibre which refines the heart rate. The low-calorie intake provided by the plant diet lowers the risk of obesity by reducing the body mass index (BMI) which in turn decreases the body weight. For this reason and to make their bodies agile, many sports personalities like Morgan Mitchell and Dotsie Bausch have adopted a vegan lifestyle.

The documentary ‘The Game changers’ illustrates a research which compares the nutrient intake of meat-eaters with that of plant-eaters. The analysis ascertains that an average plant-eater not only gets enough protein but 70% more than required. Even the belief that plant-based proteins are inferior in quality is a misconception proven by researchers which state that plants contain all the essential amino acids, in the adequate quality and quantity required by the human body.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that red meat is “probably carcinogenic” and increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Whereas the fibre, vitamins and phytochemicals (the biologically active compounds) present in plants helps to prevent cancer.

Note : Vegans need to supplement their diet with these 7 essential nutrients that they might not obtain from a conventional vegetarian diet. The seven nutrients are Vit-B12, Vit- D, Long-chain omega-3s, Iodine, Iron, calcium and Zinc. Do not panic! These nutrients are easily provided by alternate sources like spirulina, D3 supplements, DHA, seaweed, cereals, broccoli and sprouted breads respectively. A well planned vegan diet and a few supplements are all you need to head on the journey of a vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Clothing

Vegan Lifestyle: Vegan Clothing

Yes, you read it right. Veganism is not only restricted to your kitchen but also extends to your wardrobe. Ethical fashion focuses on the ‘social impact’ of the fashion industry and carries forward the belief that no animal should be harmed in service to humans.

The emergence of sustainable fashion began in the 1960s when the consumerist society was met with rebellious movements, beginning with the hippie revolution that embraced natural fabric. The late 1980s anti-fur movement was followed by the 1990s wave of democratization in fashion. This time also marked the beginning of the ‘eco-fashion’ movement where companies like Esprit launched its E-collection; Patagonia and Katherine Hamnett raised awareness about the environmental aspects of the fashion industry.[4]

The commercial production of clothing involves unethical practices to obtain animal hair, skins and feathers which are outsourced by the companies from developing countries where businesses have lower accountability for animal welfare.

Vegan clothes wearing people have widespread awareness that the fur, leather, silk and exotic skins used for making clothes are the products of human performed animal cruelty and contribute to the multifaceted environmental crisis. The fashion industry acknowledges this belief and has started making responsible choices by manufacturing their clothes with recycled, cruelty-free and sustainable material.

Vegan leather jackets are the cruelty-free versions of leather jackets made from plant fibres and recycled materials. Pineapple leaves, mushrooms and dehydrated apple peels produce synthetic leather namely Pinatex, Muskin, Pellemla, respectively. Stella McCartney, one of the pioneers of vegan leather claims that their leather produces 24 times less environmental impact than their traditional leather counterparts.[5]

Vegan Home Decor

Vegan Lifestyle: Vegan Home Decor

A strict follower of vegan lifestyle would not exclude his home decor from the adopted vegan lifestyle. We often ignore the fact that the leather used to fabricate our couches, curtains that adorn our windows, wall paints and laminated furniture are the products of brutality unleashed on animals.

Discarding the conventional Home decor does not mean that you will have to live without a couch or curtains, rather their rejection comes with better and animal-friendly alternatives. Faux leather is the best substitute to animal leather which gives a similar luxurious look to your home. Wood polish can be wielded in the place of laminated wooden work and reclaimed wood can be utilized to furnish a vintage look.

Silk curtains can be replaced with cotton and linen that come in all colours and patterns. Wall paints which generally contain shellac that is derived from the female lac beetle are now being made available in vegan options that neither contain animal-derived products nor are tested on them.[6]

Veganism is an attempt to unravel the belief that there exists zero need for humans to subsist as ‘apex-predators’ when they can harmoniously coexist with other species. 

The choice of embracing a vegan lifestyle remains with you! As far as our experience is concerned being a vegan is a joy and not a penance.

“Being vegan is easy. Are there social pressures that encourage you to continue to eat, wear, and use animal products? Of course, there are. But in a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, and ableist society, there are social pressures to participate and engage in sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism. At some point, you have to decide who you are and what matters morally to you. And once you decide that you regard victimizing vulnerable nonhumans is not morally acceptable, it is easy to go and stay vegan.”

Gary L. Francione

Liked this piece? Also read, Why Is Self-Care An Absolute Important?

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