When people think of vegans they automatically begin to think of the vegan stereotype. They imagine someone who eats boring plain vegetables alone all day. Someone who must have no social life or taste buds. But this is just a crazy stereotype. Yes, vegans eat a lot of veggies, but in reality there is so much more to being a vegan than what one chooses to eat. Being vegan is more accurately described as a lifestyle, not just a diet. The vegan lifestyle is one that incorporates ethics and morals into everything. Into each and every daily choice regarding: what to eat, what to wear, and what beliefs to stand by. This means no meat or meat products for food consumption or clothing.
The generalized vegan diet consists of fruit, vegetable, rice, legumes, and faux meat products. Excluding all animal (land or marine) products and all animal byproducts (dairy). This means no cow, pig, chicken, duck, fish, insects, ice cream, yogurt, eggs, cheese, milk etc… Vegan’s wardrobes exclude all animal products as well including: fur, leather, wool, silk and down. To some this diet and clothing style seems very limiting, but vegans see it as liberating. Liberation from animal cruelty is what makes vegans differentiate themselves from vegetarians. To vegans, what they eat or wear is a way to express their beliefs.
Vegans believe strongly in animal and environmental rights. From the meat packing/food industry to harmful pesticides used in mass farming. They see meat packing industries/plants as a place of reoccurring mass murder. Some even go as far as to compare the meat industry to the holocaust “When Nazis rounded up Jews, babies were ripped out of their mothers’ arms. In the dairy industry, calves are stolen from their mothers after birth. Other animal mothers, such as sows, rabbits and ewes, have their babies taken within days, weeks or months after birth. Separating families is a psychologically devastating tactic used to weaken one’s pride and inhibit their desire to retaliate and fight back. Nazis swiped this technique from the meat, dairy and egg industries. Jews were tattooed to mark them. All animals in the meat and dairy industries are branded with hot irons, or ear-notched with a numerical tag. Jews were sent to the concentration camps in the same extermination trucks that still send animals to slaughterhouses. The Nazis constructed human slaughterhouses to massacre millions, while these torture-buildings have been strategically built all over the planet to massacre billions of animals. Jews have been, while animals still are, treated like nothing, as if their lives don’t matter” author of Ethics Laws and Traditions. This strong statement towards the meat industry is a clear example of how passionate and invested vegans are towards this issue, going as far as to call it the “animal holocaust”.
Vegans are comfortable making these strong accusations because they revolve their lives around having strong values in compassion and understanding. And also having such strong empathy and compassion towards the animals used for slaughter, therefore they feel they are able to understand what they are going through from the animal’s point of view when no one else will even try to and thus, are obligated to fight for them. As the author of Ethics Laws and Traditions puts it “This is why vegans are the utmost humanitarians. We indiscriminately seek justice for all by doing unto others as we would have done unto ourselves. As an ethical vegan, it’s logical for me to proclaim that the only nice slaughterhouse is an empty slaughterhouse…To deny every animal’s inherent right to fly, swim and run freely is cruel and dishonest. If given an option, no animal would choose pain or death. To understand the compassionate movement of animal rights, empathy must be used to examine the issue from the animals’ point of view. This isn’t a radical concept either. Abolitionists looked at slavery through the eyes of subjugated blacks, just as the Allied Forces looked at Nazism through the eyes of Jews…Empathy allows people to understand the injustice without over-analyzing the issue.”-author of Hitler and Vegetarianism. Showing just how truly understanding vegans strive to be on every issue they fight for. Rebutting against the stereotypical being vegan is just a modern day hippie who hates the man. This excerpt shows how vegans are much more than that. They are a well organized group of educated individuals who fight battles for the beings they believe don’t have a voice. And they fight that battle in every abstract way possible: their food intake, what they chose to wear, sit-ins, online discussions, conventions, legal petitions etc.
A more detailed look into the everyday vegan lifestyle is one girl’s story. Her story of why she became vegan, what motivates her, and the ups and downs that come with the lifestyle. Her full name will not be used, so for all intents and purposes her name is Hailey. Hailey first became interested in veganism in the 11th grade. She had been suffering from severe shin splints and was forced to step back from the soccer, basketball, and track teams that season. Hailey had always been athletic and in shape her whole life, so the idea of not being active for three months worried her a bit. She began to research healthy diets that could keep her in tip top shape while she sat the season out. She stumbled upon veganism off a website online called “vegancoach.com” the website raved of all the benefits of being vegan. Starting with the aesthetic /health benefits going vegan would bring “glowing complexion, brighter eyes, stronger hair and nails, easy weight management, high energy all the time” etc. So she tried it, fell in love with the results, and began to transition into being vegan. First cutting out red meat, then cutting out chicken and fish (all other meat). Next was cutting out eggs, ice cream and yogurt. And last and what she claimed to be the most difficult to give up: cheese. (Fitting given she grew up in Wisconsin). She began to see positive results including: healthier looking and feeling skin, less brittle hair, waking up with more energy, and weight loss. So even though it was more so the aesthetic appeal to veganism that made her join the lifestyle, she has certainly adopted a “vegan attitude” towards ethical and moral issues regarding animal rights. She explains why she adopted these views by saying “I have always been an animal lover but what made my love more extreme was being surrounded by other vegans (online) who spoke so passionately about animal/ environmental rights. Eventually I began to see things how they did” she was inspired so much she is planning to major in environmental engineering so she’ll be able to help the earth’s environment by providing clean and sustainable water in third world countries someday in the near future. She described the biggest ups and downs that come with the vegan lifestyle as: explaining yourself to critics (friends and family) being the most difficult and the delicious food being the best part! “The hardest thing about being vegan was explaining it to my German grandparents. To them it isn’t traditional and just doesn’t make much sense. So it does kind of make me the black sheep of the family…and the best thing about being vegan is the food tastes so good. I’m able to enjoy food that is better for me and the environment. Like to me a quinoa stir fry with avocado is the best tasting thing ever” So veganism like anything comes with its struggles and standouts. But to the vegans like Hailey who live the lifestyle, it is 100% worth it. The health/aesthetic benefits are amazing and unlike any others that come from a change in diet. Even more so, the vegan lifestyle is about standing up for important causes. Causes like being a voice for animals who can’t speak for themselves and protecting the environment when nobody else will. These pressing issues aren’t going to resolve themselves, and are a huge commitment to take on.
The vegan lifestyle is a big commitment that is only for a select group of people who can take on that commitment. Those who do take this commitment on are so proud to call themselves vegan. No other diet/lifestyle group takes so much pride in what they stand for. That is what makes vegans stand out. They are so passionate towards the issues of animal and environmental rights and strive to make such huge radical changes in the world; a subculture like that is almost contagious. Which is why veganism is so popular worldwide and also dominates the online community. So many blogs, YouTube sites, and documentaries exist for this lifestyle. Each bringing awareness on a variety of issues to the public eye. Such a powerful and passionate subculture like veganism is only going to continue to grow as they spread awareness, love and understanding.