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Vegan Lifestyle - How It Differs From Simple Vegetarianism

Posted Dec 09 2008 11:30pm
The American Vegan Society, referring to a vegan lifestyle:

“Veganism is an advanced way of living in accordance with Reverence for Life, recognizing the rights of all living creatures, and extending to them the compassion, kindness, and justice exemplified in the Golden Rule.”

The term vegan was coined by Donald Watson, the founder of The Vegan Society in London in 1944.

What Makes It Different From Vegetarianism?

A vegan lifestyle encompasses more than simply abstaining from eating meat. Besides adhering to a vegetarian diet, vegans seek to not use animal products of any kind.

In addition to avoiding meat, those who follow a vegan lifestyle also refrain from eating dairy products, eggs, and honey (because its collection exploits and harms the bees). It’s often referred to as pure or strict vegetarianism.

Click here to see a vegan food pyramid.

Vegans also avoid fur, wool, silk, leather (common in the manufacture of shoes, belts, purses, coats, and furniture), gelatin, isinglass (a form of collagen from fish, used in clarifying wine and beer), and shellac (made from lac, a secretion of certain insects).

According to vegan philosophy, animals have certain rights, and it’s immoral for humans to infringe on those rights by engaging in certain activities which are viewed as cruel to the animals, such as:

  • factory farming
  • circuses
  • zoos
  • rodeos
  • animal testing


The term ahimsa is often associated with vegan philosophy. It refers to “noninjury” or not causing harm to other living beings. Mahatma Gandhi based his theory of passive resistance on this ethical virtue. Some people may think it’s a long stretch from not eating honey to effecting political change through ahimsa, but it feels very connected to me.

Research has shown that violent adults often mistreated animals when they were children. If they were taught to respect the life of the lowliest caterpillar, perhaps they would have grown up to be gentle and compassionate adults.

Substitutes and Seeds

I can hear the mumbling and grumbling out there… “But I want to have a leather recliner in front of my giant TV.” Or, “I really need that designer leather handbag.” Do you really? Are we so far removed from reality that we can’t imagine that a sofa was once a living, breathing being, enjoying munching peacefully on grass and soaking up the rays of the sun?

It’s gruesome to me how people go into shops that sell lots of leather products (belts, coats, and purses), breathe in deeply, and say, almost like it’s a religious or sexual experience, “Oh, I love the smell of leather.” These are the same people who might very likely be offended by a woman wearing a mink coat.

Sure, it requires a big leap of consciousness for most people, but when you are ready… just so you know… there are lots of substitutes for leather these days. And for wool and silk.

I really believe that most people are good and gentle. It would be too painful for them to contemplate the pain that animals endure so that life can be a little more luxurious for us. Instead, they choose to go into denial and not allow pictures of animal suffering to enter their minds. I don’t expect to change too many opinions, but perhaps I’ve planted a seed here and there. And that will grow… and that is good.

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