What is a vegan? A controversial view... - Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating
46,551 members8,362 posts

What is a vegan? A controversial view...

andyswarbs
andyswarbs

Many people are reducing their intake of meat, dairy, eggs and fish. But at what point are you actually a vegan. This is important since some of those end up claiming to be vegan and yet, in my book they were never vegan - even if they stopped consumption of animals entirely for some period.

Early in 2016 I went whole food plant based for health reasons, and have never looked back. I called it vegan as a shorthand that people would understand. But it wasn't actually vegan. It was only around six months later after I started watching vegan documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Land of Hope and Glory, Earthlings and Dominion that I began to be truly a vegan.

You see a true vegan has one aim - and that is to reduce harm to animals. In that sentence there is no mention of food choices and indeed healthy food choices.

Being a vegan is about being motivated to help animals. Nothing else. Being vegan is about what you leave off your plate. It is not about how you eat a healthy lifestyle. After all "living" on oreos would be a vegan lifestyle, but only if you adopt that for the animals should you be able to call yourself a vegan.

So these people who claim to have been vegan and then posted a video "I am no longer vegan" were never vegan, because once you "get" the animal horrors that man does to animals, then there is no turning back.

I am active on twitter, and every day I see five or so people asking for help going vegan after watching the Game Changers documentary. But actually these people are not vegan for the animals, not yet.

15 Replies
oldestnewest
Jerry
JerryAdministrator

Hi Andy, I think that this is interesting as different people have differing reasons for choosing a plant based diet. So to me vegan is a way of defining whether food is suitable for a vegan to eat regardless of their ethics.

As for caring about animals we should respect all sentient beings and treat them well. We have fellow humans without access to safe drinking water...

I think that we have become obsessed with pigeonholing ourselves and each other and think we want more non conformists to this self labelling which segregates us from each other.

At the end of the day a plant based diet is a plant based diet and anyone who chooses this is on a vegan diet regardless.

Jerry.

andyswarbs
andyswarbs in reply to Jerry

Actually there are some people who describe themselves as plant-based when they actually consume some meat. I call such a person an omnivore myself, but hey-ho what's in a name.

I am not a vegan but am interested in the vegan lifestyle.

I’m more of, what I call, a rubbish vegan or even a flexitarian because I don’t eat as much meat as I used to or dairy and lean to more fruit and veg.

If I did become fully vegan and had no meat or dairy, I would be doing it mainly for bettering my health, not necessarily for the animals.

This does not mean that I am happy for animals to be slaughtered each day to feed the faces of many ignorant meat eaters, cos I am not happy with that.

And as you pointed out the Cowspiracy documentary, which I have seen too, agriculture is the leading contributor to climate change and for obvious reasons I am definitely not happy with that.

Look what meat eaters are doing to the world... but then again, I am one to talk :).

Whenever I saw the words ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ on a menu in a restaurant when I was little, I always assumed these were the same or similar. They eat no meat. That is ignorant to go and assume and not look into the whole caboodle.

When I started to learn more about veganism, I found they don’t eat meat or dairy but a part of me also thought “Are vegans also pagan?”. I wondered if ‘vegan’ was a combo of ‘vegetarian’ and ‘pagan’.

But upon asking a vegan friend of mine about it, being vegan was all about not harming or exploiting animals as Andy pointed out.

Still, I think the ‘veggie’ and ‘pagan’ combo sounds good though :).

People have thought before that pagan was satanical. It is not satanical. If you have read that it is satanical, that paper that said it is wrong.

Being pagan is basically being at one with nature, hence why I assumed vegans were a combo of ‘veggies’ and ‘pagans’ :).

andyswarbs
andyswarbs in reply to Matt2584

When I first went vegan I made an assumption that dairy-free meant vegan, whereas it often implies it contains eggs. It took a few weeks for my mistake to sink in.

Cooper27
Cooper27Moderator

It's a vast and grey area really.

The thing is, a lot of people out there follow a primarily whole food diet, that includes meat, but there isn't a good term for that (omnivore is the full spectrum of food choices).

Some people follow a vegan diet and eat vegan doughnuts, vegan sausage rolls and ice cream most days, not for ethical reasons, but there isn't a good term for that, as it's not suitable to call it WFPB.

Unfortunately whatever diet people follow, there will likely be a bunch of people who misuse the terms and make it harder for you. I sometimes think the best way to cover it is to have "vegan" and "ethical vegan", as it just leaves no ambiguity and hopefully no scope for others to confuse your reasons.

Fran182716
Fran182716Prediabetic

Blurred lines, but generally I think of Vegan as being an ethical choice and WFPB as a health choice. Vegans may or may not eat healthily, and WFPB may decide to occasionally include animal products as it is plant based not plant exclusive.

.

"Many people are reducing their intake of meat, dairy, eggs and fish. But at what point are you actually a vegan. This is important since some of those end up claiming to be vegan and yet, in my book they were never vegan - even if they stopped consumption of animals entirely for some period."

.

Agreed, andyswarbs. 👍👍

My layman’s understanding is abstinence from ingesting ALL animal products define one as a "Vegan".

Perhaps it’s more commonly viewed/ defined on a spectrum?

. . . . <——————————>

. . . . . . . . A sliding scale? 🤔

.

If we "perfectly" abstain from ingesting ALL animal products (including honey 🍯 or the occasional "fly in the soup 🥣 " 😁 ), refrain from wearing any animal by-products (leather, fur, … ) & having any animal by-products in our homes 🏡 / vehicles 🚗 . . . (or avoid lapsing into ‘impure lustful thoughts 💭’ of ‘chowing down’ on (the rare/ occasional) fish ‘n chips 🐟 🍟 ), then perhaps we’re at 1 end of the Vegan ‘Virtue’ spectrum? 😁 👍👍

Whereas, if we ingest honey 🍯 or still have leather footwear, wallets, upholstery … then we fall at another point on the "VV" [‘Vegan Virtue’ spectrum (said lovingly tongue in cheek 🙏 😌 )]?

And, if we ingest an animal product once a week, once a month, once a year, once a decade, once a century 💯 , then perhaps we fall elsewhere on the spectrum? 🤔 🤷‍♂️ 🤦‍♀️

.

[The "Santa Clarita Diet" ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa... , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_... ) gives one a whole new outlook on bi-ped, animal consumption, though — particularly for beings who insist meat 🥩 at every meal is essential . . . 😯 😁 . . . The ultimate in recycling — putting ‘expired resources’ to good use? 🤔 . . . And, perhaps even justifying the hastening (or hunting) of those deemed ‘undesirable’? 😁 🤦‍♂️ . . . (Just kidding, just kidding . . . ☺️ )]

.

Kai--
Kai-- in reply to Kai--

.

"Early in 2016 I went whole food plant based for health reasons, and have never looked back. I called it vegan as a shorthand that people would understand. But it wasn't actually vegan. It was only around six months later after I started watching vegan documentaries such as Cowspiracy, Land of Hope and Glory, Earthlings and Dominion that I began to be truly a vegan.

You see a true vegan has one aim - and that is to reduce harm to animals. In that sentence there is no mention of food choices and indeed healthy food choices.

Being a vegan is about being motivated to help animals. Nothing else. Being vegan is about what you leave off your plate. It is not about how you eat a healthy lifestyle. After all "living" on oreos would be a vegan lifestyle, but only if you adopt that for the animals should you be able to call yourself a vegan."

.

Well said, Andy.

Well said, and well observed. 👍👍

. . . "… a true vegan has one aim - and that is to reduce harm to animals. …there is no mention of food choices and indeed healthy food choices."

.

A nuanced but significant point that maybe many of us overlook?

Maybe because we’re laser focused on "healthy food" & getting well (or maintaining health) that the "reduce harm to animals" point slips by us unacknowledged — unemphasised? 🤔

.

Think the (incorrect) ‘shorthand’ use of “Vegan" for the more ’narrowly focused’ (animal-free) dietary change does matter. As the dietary aspect itself — abstinence/ avoidance of animal products — is more along the lines of WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) eating. [And that (WFPB) itself, also appears to be along a sliding scale of degree as well. 😁 🤦‍♂️ ] The distinction/ ‘dividing line’ you’ve underscored — "reduce harm to animals" — is the missing key 🔑 .

It’s the line ” | ” that we knowingly — eyes wide open 👁 👁 — choose to cross (or not) in full awareness of (life & death) consequences once we know what goes on ‘behind closed (barn) doors’. We’re no longer ‘abstractly’ (innocently/ naively) removed from it — in plastic, hermetically sealed ignorance; we are knee-deep participants in flesh & blood, life & death 💀 of sentient beings. . . 😳 🤭 😔

.

Yes, yes, true vegan aim is: reduce harm to animals.

Although food choice isn’t mentioned, it’s inevitably non-animal with a vast spectrum of healthy & unhealthy (non-animal) choices. Spot on; ‘healthy food choices’ are not necessarily the focal point of animal-welfare focused ’V‘s. 😳 . . . How many ‘V’s think that just because they’ve omitted animal products from their lives (& digestive systems) that by default their diets are "healthier"? 🤔 (Oy vey! 🤦‍♀️ ) . . . [Non-animal "junk foods"/ treats, & heavily processed/ ’manufactured’ vegan-friendly meat substitutes, ready meals, etc. are far from ‘healthy’. Such food ‘swaps’ (exchanges) seem to have us jumping from the frying pan 🍳 & into the fire 🔥 — especially if they become a staple, routine food ‘habit’. 😯 🙃 ]

Oh well, we live & learn along the way — briefly singing 🔥 🥵 ourselves until we learn better through:

. . . . experiential learning 😣🔨 . . . 😖🔨 . . . 🤪🔨

.

[Hopefully 🤞 , if & when ‘we know better, we do better’ ( healthunlocked.com/fibromya... , emilysquotes.com/wp-content... ).]

Yes, animal welfare-focused films bring to the forefront the plight of animals ( healthunlocked.com/healthye... ) for those of us who can bear to watch them. [Some of us can no longer ( healthunlocked.com/veganfoo... ).]

THAT is the very heart ♥️ of veganism.

(Thank you kindly, andyswarbs, for gently reminding us of that. 🙏 😌 )

.

Kai--
Kai-- in reply to Kai--

.

"So these people who claim to have been vegan and then posted a video "I am no longer vegan" were never vegan, because once you "get" the animal horrors that man does to animals, then there is no turning back.

I am active on twitter, and every day I see five or so people asking for help going vegan after watching the Game Changers documentary. But actually these people are not vegan for the animals, not yet."

.

Insightful 👁 👁 , exact, & deeply moving 🙏 😔 , andyswarbs.

Subtle, nuanced points well made & deeply appreciated. 😌 🙏

Once we know (SEE 😳 ), we can’t go back to un-knowing (UN-SEEing 🙈 ).

All we can do is navigate — as best we can — the circumstances/ environments we find ourselves in & continue to be guided by our ‘moral compass’ 🧭 (the better angels 👼 of our nature).

Thank you kindly for raising these thought-provoking concepts, Andy. They really help us refine our thinking 🤔 💭 — gently jostling us out of shallow, sloppy ‘stereotypical’ thinking 💭 💭 & getting us digging deeper (thinking deeper 🧠 🗯🗯 ) about our initial, flawed (superficial?) understandings.

You’re striking at the core — the very heart 💔 ⛏— of the matter, which may be all too often ‘danced 💃 🕺 around’ perhaps because facing the harsh, bare, brutal reality ‘head on’ is horrific. 😨 😰 🥺

.

Kai--
Kai-- in reply to Kai--

.

Yes, I think we each (Inevitably?) “come to it” through different avenues, at different times, andyswarbs. 🤔

[Some directly head on 😯 , some sideways 🤪 , & some even a*se 🌙🌙 backwards. 🙃 ☺️ ]

Whether being initiated by concern for animal welfare, concern for human health, or an individual health scare, etc., our attitudes/ ‘beliefs’ evolve ♻️ , take shape, & re-form along the way.

Think the circumstances, challenges, & a cultural norms that we find ourselves in* — in any particular moment — play a part in what we consider acceptable & unacceptable as a ‘Vegan/ WFPB-er’ — or whatever term we ‘self-label’ ourselves as being (however accurately or inaccurately).

[*For sanity (& survival) we come to understand not only what the ‘rules’/ guidelines of are of ‘being’ Vegan/ WFPB-er, but understand when it is makes sense to bend/ break "the rules"/ guidelines ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inuit... , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasa... , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donne... , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urugu... ).]

Perhaps because a large quantity of people currently occupying the planet 🌍 🌏 🌎 (or at least currently communicating within these forums) aren’t (routinely) in dire circumstances or living in cultures where animal products are our only (or main) food option, the personal choice of living "V"/ WFPB are realistic choices. 👍👍

We are so fortunate 🍀 to have the option of not having to rely on our beloved sentient beings (4-legged or 2-legged) for daily sustenance. ☺️ 🙏

Looking into they eyes 👁 👁 of my beloved 4-leggeds & 2 leggeds (as of late), I’m just not up to slaying them & munching on them (raw 🍖 or cooked 🥘 ). Yet, perhaps over time (or sufficient irritation 🤨 ), if food runs low, cupboards become bare, & all shops are empty, I might entertain the idea of nibbling on a bit of thigh 🦵?

😬 🙏 🍀 🌺 🌞

.

A vegan does not want to hurt any life on earth, does this include insects and pests like slugs?

I should think it would because insects are life after all.

It just makes me think, if we were all vegan and didn’t hurt anything that lived then we probably couldn’t grow our own food or would find it very difficult too.

Unless of course there are ways to encourage other animals/insects to get rid of slugs and pests so that you don’t have to harm them.

But wouldn’t this be similar to hiring a hitman?

I can picture it now.

“Oh no, my plants are getting eaten by slugs.”

No fear, why not plant something to encourage birds and while they are in your garden they can feast on the slugs too.

My friend who says she is a vegan can’t actually be a true vegan after what I have read in comments above.

She used to own a vegan bakery and of course in the Summer she would have flies visit the bakery.

She doesn’t particularly like flies and although she is vegan still had a device to kill them (a bug zapper).

Agoodenough
Agoodenough in reply to Matt2584

We are both professional gardeners and we do not kill slugs. Being vegan is being sympathetic to giving every animal including slugs space to live their lives. Whether the person we are working for kills slugs or shoots rabbits for example as they consider them a pest is up to them and for them to justify to themselves but as a vegan you would not kill them or ask another person to do so on your behalf. Ali 😁🌱

andyswarbs
andyswarbs in reply to Matt2584

The keyword is "minimise" harm to animals.

Janism is famous for some of its adherents sweeping ahead as they walk so as not to kill insects. I don't go that far.

In fact with the possibility that an animal may hit my car as it travels at say 70mph, that is not something I am going to stop by not driving ever again.

Every human, by their very existence, implies the death of other animals. I need to eat to survive. That means distorting the planet from what it would be without my existence continuing. That means growing enough produce for my body to exist.

I will not kill slugs, but otherwise I will through slugs over the fence into the ditch at the back of my allotment plot. I won't use insecticide, but accept that some crops will be completely destroyed by infestations. I won't kill rabbits but capturing and rehoming them in fields well away from my allotment makes sense to me.

In nature animals kills and die as part of the circle of life. What I don't accept is that modern animal farming methods belong to the circle of life. Actually in a western society we don't even need the word modern.

Matt2584
Matt2584Star in reply to andyswarbs

There is actually a very neat trick in how to trap slugs without hurting them.

Slugs are attracted to beer.

You get a plastic bottle, cut the top half off, below the neck and then turn that half into the bottom half off the bottle. Bit hard to explain it really so sorry if you get lost.

Bottom half of the bottle is filled with a little beer. Maybe do that before you put the top part of the bottle in :).

Anyhow, the slugs will pile in after the beer and won’t be able to get out of the bottle.

Unless of course so many fill up that they crawl/slither over one another?

You should be able to find a video or article that explains it way better than I could :).

But yes, you are right. We definitely don’t really need modern implements in life.

A lot of the modern things we buy, if not all, is mainly for the seller to make money.

Why buy compost/fertiliser when you can make your own organic compost with no additives?

Hi Andy,

This is an interesting point. I would say I am vegan. I do not eat meat or wear animal products including wool. I would say I am the best vegan I know how to be. I do it purely for the animals. I like meat and seafood and would enjoy a meat based diet if it wasn’t made of animals but I think it is wrong to eat animals for various reasons but mainly it’s because I do not feel I have the right to. I also do not earn as much money as I could because I give up time to walk dogs where the owners work and although I am paid I could be earning more money else where so that is a sacrifice I have chosen to make for those animals. I would say I am vegan through and through. I can’t think of a single thing that would contradict me being vegan and I will never be anything else. It’s really important to me and it’s purely because of the animals which is why I post recipes on vegan food for life in the hope of making it easier for someone who may want to become vegan.

My partner on the other hand would agree with all of the above and we live our lives very much side by side but he would say his main reason for being wholefood vegan is the planet so I would say being vegan isn’t all about the animals. Although it is for me but I can see why it isn’t for everyone. People have different reasons for being vegan. I think maybe some people would misinterpret plant based to be vegan. Plant based is a type of diet and veganism is a lifestyle.

Ali 😁🌱

You may also like...