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What is Veg*nism (Veganism and Vegetarianism)?

Jump to Section:
- Motivations
- Related Beliefs
- Types of Veg*nism

"Vegetarianism" is a dietary practice that excludes all body parts of any animal and typically avoids products derived from animals (such as lard, tallow, gelatin, and cochineal) in one's diet. "Vegans" (pronouced vee-guns but sometimes pronouced vay-guns for comic effect to make fun of how most people know very little about veganism, including its pronounciation) additionally avoid dairy products and eggs, and some avoid honey and any/all insect-related products as well. Many "veg*ns" (vegans and vegetarians) also consider the avoidance of products made from animal parts (such as leather and tallow) an integral part of their definition of veg*nism. You can learn more below.

Motivations

People go veg for a variety of different reasons, including:

  • Ethics and animal rights – Some vegetarians believe that the production and consumption of meat and animal products are created through inappropriate treatment of animals. Reasons for believing this are varied, and may include a belief in animal rights or an aversion to inflicting harm on other living things. Some people, for example, philosophers Peter Singer and Michael Berumen, believe that if alternative means of survival exist, one ought to choose an ethical alternative, such as vegetarianism, as opposed to causing unnecessary harm to animals. Other people believe the treatment which animals receive in the production of meat and animal products justifies never eating meat or using animal products, even when few or no alternatives are available. Learn more...

  • Health and weight-loss – According to sources such as the American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British Medical Association, and the Mayo Clinic, vegetarian diets offer a number of health benefits compared to non-vegetarian diets. Vegetarians as a group compared to non-vegetarians have lower body mass indices, lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less incidence of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, renal disease, dementia, and osteoporosis. As for weight loss, in a year-long study comparing Dean Ornish's vegetarian diet to Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, and The Atkins Diet, Dean Ornish's diet showed the most weight-loss. (1) Additionally, high-protein diets are dangerous! Learn more...

  • Environmental – Many people believe that the production of meat and animal products is environmentally un-sustainable. While vegetarian agriculture produces some of the same problems as animal production, the environmental impact of animal production is significantly greater. Over-grazed lands lose their ability to support animal production, which makes further agricultural expansion necessary. Factory farm animal production, while having a smaller land-use footprint, requires large quantities of feed that must be grown over large areas of land. Both free-range and concentrated animal production require large quantities of fresh water and energy, which are currently taken from nonrenewable sources, such as aquifers and fossil fuels. Animal production also creates massive amounts of damaging animal waste. Learn more...

  • World Hunger – Citing the same efficiency concerns as environmentalist vegetarians and economic vegetarians, many vegetarians see natural resources as being freed up by vegetarianism, particularly veganism.

  • Religion – A majority of the world's vegetarians follow the practice for religious reasons. Many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and especially Jainism, teach that ideally life should always be valued and not willfully destroyed for unnecessary human gratification.

  • Aesthetic and emotional – Some vegetarians find meat, animal products, and their production unappetizing or emotionally disturbing.

 

Related Beliefs

While vegetarianism is commonly defined strictly on the basis of dietary intake, many religiously, ethically, or environmentally motivated vegetarians, in common with the animal rights and Green movements, try to minimize the harm done to animals in all aspects of their lives.

Many health-motivated vegetarians are also associated with the organic food movement and/or are concerned about the use of genetically modified organisms in food production.


Types of Veg*nism

The types of veg*ns (vegans or vegetarians) are as innumerable as the reasons why we become veg*n. Here's just a sampling of some types:

  • Economic vegetarians are persons who practice vegetarianism from the philosophical viewpoint that the consumption of meat is economically unsound. Economic vegetarians believe that nutrition can be acquired more efficiently and at a lower price through vegetables, grains, etc., rather than from meat. They argue that a vegetarian diet is rich in vitamins, fiber, and complex carbohydrates, and carries with it fewer risks (such as heart disease, obesity, and bacterial infection) than animal flesh. Consequently, they consider the production of meat economically unsound. Many economic vegetarians also promote the idea that advanced agricultural techniques have made the production of meat outdated and inefficient. Some promote the idea of synthetic or cloned meat. Economic vegetarians frequently contrast themselves with mainstream vegetarians, most of whom abstain from animal products on religious or ethical grounds.

  • Essenes are those whose diet is based on the Essene Gospels of Peace, which claims that Jesus was a member of the Essene sect, and a raw food vegetarian. Diet consists of raw sprouts, wheatgrass, vegetables, and fruit. Use of raw dairy is explicitly authorized by the Essene gospels, so the diet is often lacto-vegetarian rather than vegan. Many Essenes use fermented dairy products, specifically yogurt.

  • Flexitarians are flexible about the degree one practices vegetarianism or veganism. A flexitarian might make only vegetarian dishes at home, but eat dishes including meat at the home of family or friends. Ethically, flexitarians tend not to lean towards vegetarianism due to animal rights concerns, as there would be a stringent moral rule involved. Instead, flexitarians are generally vegan or vegetarian for the ethical reason that vegetarian food conserves water and land resources, and feeds more people.

  • Freegans subscribe to a purely environmental mentality: although meat is generally avoided, eating meat that has been discarded by others is acceptable. The environmental impact of this practice is seen as null or perhaps even beneficial (although discarded meat can be safely composted in some facilities). Freegans often prefer discarded food in any case, even if it is not meat. But producing meat is believed to have more environmental impact than other foods, so this is often the focus of freeganism. Freegans believe that wasting already-cooked food does more damage than eating it.

  • Fructarians, more commonly called fruitarians, eat only fruit, nuts, seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant. This typically arises out of a holistic philosophy. Thus a fructarian will eat beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and the like, but will refuse to eat potatoes or spinach. Technically, fructarianism is a kind of vegetarianism, but its much stricter definition is very rarely seen as being the same thing as vegetarianism. It is also hotly disputed whether it is possible to avoid malnutrition with a fructarian diet. Fructarianism is much rarer than vegetarianism or veganism.

  • Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but may consume milk and its derivatives, like cheese, butter or yogurt.

  • Lacto-ovo / ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but may consume animal products such as eggs and milk. Those who are ovo-lacto vegetarians for ethical reasons may additionally refuse to eat cheese made with animal-based enzymes (rennet), or eggs produced by factory farms. The term "vegetarian" is most commonly intended to mean "ovo-lacto vegetarian", particularly as "vegan" has gained acceptance as the term for stricter practice.

  • Liquidarians are those who consumes only liquids and juices. Usually a short-term cleansing diet, extremely rare as a long term diet.

  • Macrobiotics have an oriental-style vegetarian diet based on elements of ancient Chinese philosophy. Behind macrobiotic thinking stands the idea that food, and food quality affects our lives more greatly than is commonly thought. It affects our health, well being and happiness. Therefore it is better for us to choose food that is less processed, more natural, use more traditional methods of cooking and cook for ourselves and families and friends. Macrobiotics emphasizes locally grown, whole-grain cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruit, seaweed and fermented soy products, combined into meals according to the principle of balance between Yin and Yang properties. Some people try and extend the diet into a macrobiotic lifestyle. People who practice a Macrobiotic lifestyle believe they try to observe Yin & Yang in everything they do. They strive for balance and happiness in their daily lives and living in harmony with nature and their physical surrounding.

  • Ovo-vegetarians do not eat meat but may eat eggs.

  • Pescetarians (usually pronounced as English, not Italian), is a variant of pesco-vegetarianism that dates back in print to at least 1993 [1] . As of August 2004, "pescatarian", "pescotarian", "piscatarian", and "pollotarian" can all also be found on the internet, but "pescetarian" is the most popular. "Pescavore" is also somewhat common, formed by analogy with "carnivore." "Fishetarian" was also used in print as early as 1992, but is no longer very prevalent.

  • Pesco/pollo vegetarians, pescetarians, and semi-vegetarians are those who don't eat certain types of meat (most commonly red meat such as beef, pork, or lamb) while allowing others, such as seafood (pesco) or chicken (pollo). There are usually no restrictions on non-flesh animal products such as dairy, eggs, or leather. Those observing such a diet often do so for health reasons although many do practice for ethical or religious reasons.

  • Raw Foodism involves food, usually vegan, which is not heated above 115°F and has not been frozen; it may be warmed slightly or raw, but never cooked. Raw Foodists argue that cooking destroys enzymes, and/or portions of each nutrient. Some raw-foodists, called living-foodists, also "activate" the enzymes, e.g., by soaking in water, a while before they plan to eat the food. Some spiritual raw-foodists are also Fructarians and some eat only organic foods. Most can agree that if someone eats 75% or more of their food as raw, they are a raw foodist.

  • Sproutarians eat predominantly sprouts. Those eating only sprouts are extremely rare; most sproutarians have a varied raw food diet.

  • Straight-Edge Vegans are vegans who adopt a "straight-edge" lifestyle where, intentionally, and in the face of actual opportunities, one does not drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, use recreational drugs, or engage in promiscuous sex (although this is sometimes omitted). It also generally involves some affection for hardcore punk music. Typically, the lifestyle is used as a stepping stone to allow one to be more involved with one's mental and physical health. In doing so, many straight-edge people do not take in caffeine, or they choose to be vegetarian or vegan. Straight-edgers also have reservations about medication, particularly psychoactive medications. Many also feel having a clear mindset is a better way to approach life and/or spirituality. "Straight edge" is sometimes abbreviated "sXe," although it is still pronounced "straight edge." Straight edge is also symbolized by large black X's marked on a person's hands. (At punk rock shows, it became common to mark an X on the hands of under-aged concert-goers to ensure that the bouncers would recognize a minor attempting to drink alcohol. Early adopters of the "straight edge" lifestyle voluntarily marked their hands to show their commitment to refusing alcohol.) A "straight edge" lifestyle is not a philosophy and is not associated with or based on any religion.

  • Strict vegetarians avoid consuming all animal products (e.g., eggs, milk, cheese and honey). Today, strict vegetarians are commonly called vegans, though some reserve this term for those who additionally avoid usage of all kinds of animal products (e.g., leather and some cosmetics), not just food. See Vegans.

  • Some individuals regard the suffering of animals in factory farm conditions to be their sole reason for avoiding meat or meat-based foods. These people will eat meat, or meat products, from animals raised under more humane conditions or hunted in the wild. Some of these people refer to themselves as vegetarians.

  • Vegans (also sometimes casually called "herbivores" among each other) are persons who follows a strict vegetarian lifestyle (i.e. avoiding animal products, eating a plant-based diet that contains no animal products, and using only products that contain no animal products and were not animal tested.
  • The word "veganism" denotes 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, including humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. – British Vegan Society (2004)

Those who are vegans (pronounced vee-guns, sometimes mispronounced as vay-guns) for ethical reasons today generally oppose the violence and cruelty they see as involved in the (non-vegan) food, clothing, and other industries. Though vegans are often accused of placing more importance on non-human animals than on their fellow humans, most vegans are aware of human rights issues and seek to avoid companies and organizations that exploit others and to be "ethical consumers"; many find themselves becoming increasingly active in the fight for human rights as a direct result of embracing veganism.

    The group argued that the elimination of exploitation of any kind was necessary in order to bring about a more reasonable and humane society. From its inception, veganism was defined as a "philosophy" and "way of living." It was never intended to be merely a diet and, still today, describes a lifestyle and belief system that revolves around a reverence for life. – Joanne Stepaniak (author of The Vegan Sourcebook).

Vegans avoid all animal products, including all forms of meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, fur, leather, wool, silk, and byproducts such as gelatin, rennet, whey, and the like. The Vegan Society and most vegans include insect products such as honey and beeswax in their definition as well. There is some debate on the finer points of what constitutes an animal product; some vegans avoid cane sugar that has been filtered with bone char and some won't drink beers and wines clarified with egg whites, animal blood (this is exceedingly rare today), or isinglass—even though they are not present in the final product. Further, some vegans won't eat food cooked in pans if they have been used to cook meat. An exception is human milk, when freely given by the lactating mother.

Besides diminishing animal suffering, a vegan diet is thought to reduce the risk of many health problems, including heart failure, obesity, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, constipation, poisons, toxins,cancer, psoriasis, and Eczema.

Vegans also by and large promote conservationist environmental and energy policies and sustainable agriculture, not least because such policies are seen as steps toward achieving the aims of veganism on a grander scale, in part by reducing the amount of inefficiently mass-produced meat. Veganism is also more environmentally sustainable, and may improve the conditions of low income people in and out of third world countries by freeing more food for human consumption.

The primary, ethical argument against veganism attacks the concept of "indirect responsibility" stating that it is impossible to avoid all harm: animals are sometimes killed in the process of producing vegan food, whether by accident during harvest or intentionally, as pest control. Extensions of this critique assert the individual's moral responsibility in terms of economic connection: those who participate in a socioeconomic structure share accountability for its products. Vegans tend to accept that it is impossible to entirely eradicate harm, but believe it is absolutely possible to minimize harm.

There is some perception that vegans believe themselves to be morally superior to non-vegans. Vegans are typically aware of this and often make extensive efforts to avoid this perception.

Some of the above information was derived fully or in part from an article on Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia created and edited by the online user community. This information is distributed under the terms of GNU Free Documentation License.


References

  1. Dansinger, M.L., Gleason, J. L., Griffith, J.L., et al., "One Year Effectiveness of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets in Decreasing Body Weight and Heart Disease Risk", Presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions November 12, 2003 in Orlando, Florida.

 


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