What is a Vegan?
The Vegan Society defines veganism as follows:
A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—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 humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
So what does this mean and what can we do about it?
I want to explore the three aspects in the definition i.e. food, clothing and anything else.
One thing vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey. This deals with the food aspect of veganism.
We have a lot of vegans coming to stay at Caenwood B&B and also at our Taste of Self Sufficiency experiences. Their reasons revolve primarily around the desire to not exploit animals as well as the real health benefits they find in eating a plant based diet. They are also very savvy about how to get the nutrients they need to build and maintain a healthy body and mind.
The primary concern of would be vegans and vegetarians is how to get enough proteins. In a previous post we talked about proteins and how we get our needs met on a plant based diet. We said we easily meet our protein needs in our diet, however not all our needs are met from our own garden, we rely on purchased products to get enough protein to thrive. So here is the start of the vegan challenge!
A vegan diet is plant based and as such brings many health benefits rather than chores. Plant based diets will bring with them lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol and with it lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The creative skill needed to cook delicious nourishing food brings with it a sense of joy and happiness.
As far as the clothing aspect goes then vegans avoid wearing leather, suede, fur, wool, pearls, and silk.
Alternatives to these products are, for example, organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and jute which sounds pretty good. However some alternatives sound less cool. How about plastics, acrylics instead of wool, vinyl instead of leather? Do these cause suffering for animals? Well plastics are made from oil and oil is extracted from the earth in conditions which usually cause massive disturbance to the living environments of animals, fish and insects. So are these alternatives really vegan?
What about cheap cottons from third world countries? These are often produced in sweat shop factories which are exploiting the animal species which we are most concerned about, humans! So are these vegan?
If eating pet chickens’ eggs are not vegan, and using straw and pooh from pet horses is not vegan, then I might logically conclude that keeping any pet is also challenging for a vegan.
Our desire for independent transport, i.e. our own car and enough fuel to propel it an average of 12,000 miles a year needs a lot of energy. The building of the car needs steel, plastic and energy for the factories. The factories need cheap labour and chemicals for processing parts. Where do these come from if not from our natural environment. We humans cut down forests for industry, we destroy habitats for progress. We evict countless animals through our need for growth of our economy so that we can run these cars.
How much suffering do humans inflict on animals through their need to import foods from all around the world? There is no doubt in our minds that any form of transport is harmful to animals.
And finally, how about the way we treat each other. One animal exploiting another. As a race, the news media is our inspiration, social media is our conduit and our anger is our fuel.
So whilst the vegan society is primarily concerned about food production in terms of meat and fish, and about clothing, it also shows concern about the amount of land used for production of meat compared to plant based diets, and the amount of water needed for meat production. But it is not enough to stop exploitation of animals, it is just a small but very worthwhile part of the bigger picture.
In our own lives we strive to tread lightly on this earth and are constantly looking at how to improve. We do however recognise the impact of all of our actions on the whole of life on this planet and so, whilst veganism is tremendously important, on its own it is too narrow for us. We do feel ready to go way beyond it by:
- Eating only local, seasonal and fresh rather than exploiting the world’s energy resources by buying, for example, a good wine from around the world.
- Reducing our consumption of myriad different gadgets for our lives.
- Employing good listening techniques like Non Violent Communication.
- Dealing with our emotional baggage (including anger) built up through a life time of trauma using techniques like meditation, the Presence Process, EMDR, EFT.
In this way we can have a tremendous impact on reducing the exploitation of animals.
If we haven’t offended you but maybe given you food for thought, then you might like to know that we will be opening our house for vegan half board from April next year, where we will offer half board vegan food as well as an experience in growing vegan food on our vegan small holding. A bit like Taste of Self Sufficiency but for vegans!