People don’t go vegan for health reasons. You may be saying ‘What? Of course they do!’ Ok, let me clarify: people may go plant based for their health originally and then go vegan (and stay vegan) because they discover the ethical angle. Veganism is a belief system, not a diet. Obviously diet forms a large part of that belief system, but vegans don’t use or support the exploitation of animals, for any purpose.
The reason I’m writing this article is that there seems to be a lot of confusion over motivation at the moment. Diet fads are forever detailed in the press (think the Atkins Diet, the Paleo diet and more recently, clean eating). Even veganism is sometimes written about as a ‘food trend.’ I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ‘the rise of veganism’ – an upward trend in the number of people who go vegan. However, the word trend sometimes suggests that it’s temporary. The vast majority of those who go vegan and stay vegan do so for ethical reasons. As I said, those who go plant based for health reasons sometimes realise what they’re doing with diet is part of a larger movement. The vegan movement supports both non-human and human animals and helps them to live better lives. It goes without saying that we also benefit our environment hugely.
I have been known to roll my eyes at those who think that all vegans have to be health conscious. I mean, it’s perfectly possible to be incredibly healthy on a vegan diet, as countless athletes have proven and a whole foods, plant based diet is the healthiest one there is. However, the term vegan refers to those who choose not to support the humiliation, exploitation, torture and killing of innocent animals – and you can do that perfectly well whilst eating a cupcake.
One doesn’t eat leather, or ingest duck down or consume wool. You can’t munch on a circus or chow down on a zoo. It’s also notoriously difficult to scoff a horse race. Sadly, animal abuse doesn’t end with eating them.
As for those who say they won’t go vegan because they don’t want to eat processed foods, my jaw drops every time I hear that one. Do they have no idea how much processing meat, milk and egg products go through before they reach the supermarket shelves? Some seem to imagine that a burger made from plants is ‘unnatural’ where as one made from a cow’s butt couldn’t be more pure. What utter nonsense. They seem to dismiss the antibiotics that are pumped into animals reared for meat; the hormones that rage inside two thirds of dairy cows at any one time (because they’re pregnant) and therefore make it into the milk humans consume; the colouring that is added to salmon to make it look pink; the water injected into chickens to make them heavier (as they’re sold by weight); and don’t even get me started on bacon.
And because you can squish up some plants to make a burger or use coconut oil to make vegan cheese, or mix water with almonds to make milk, this is seen as worse processing than additives the used in sausages which are known carcinogens?
Health and veganism are connected, in that having a whole foods, plant based diet (along with regular exercise and mindfulness) is your best chance of leading a long and healthy life. However, veganism is an ethical choice and non-human animals must be at the centre of it.
Suffering is important and we must do all we can to keep it to a minimum. We can certainly do ourselves a favour by keeping to a healthy weight and eating well, but to say that veganism is all about health is wrong.
So the next time I’m challenged while eating a vegan donut by someone who thinks it’s ‘not very vegan’ of me, I’ll say ‘of course it is’, because nobody had to suffer to produce it. Go vegan and nobody gets hurt.