Is it a diet? A religion? A lifestyle? A cult?
This word has been very controversial in the last few years.
Creating cognitive dissonance or making people angry.
What is the reason for this outrage?
Veganism is the practice of minimizing harm to animals and abstaining from the use of animal products.
A vegan does not eat meat, eggs, or dairy products. A vegan does not wear clothing made from an animal, (leather, wool, silk, goose feather, or fur). A vegan chooses not to support a place where animals are used for human entertainment, (zoos, circus, and aquariums). A vegan often promotes environmental sustainability by recycling, reducing the use of plastics, wasted water, and energy.
Yes, this is not a simple task in modern society. We live in an era of consumerism and waste. Unfortunately, the majority of the time we do not even fully understand the repercussions and how this can affect our everyday lives.
The issue is lack of information. Information about where our food comes from, how our clothing is made, what is really happening behind the scenes?
People do not understand the problems associated with consuming milk and dairy products. Aren't cows supposed to produce milk anyway? People do not understand why eating eggs can be considered cruel. Don't hens naturally lay eggs every day? People aren't fully aware of how a single plastic straw can lead to the death of an animal. And by the way, don't we need meat to survive? Where would we get our proteins from, otherwise?
When it comes to gathering information and placing ourselves out of our comfort zone, everything suddenly becomes very confrontational. We choose not to watch. We cannot stand in front of a screen showing animal cruelty of any kind. But at the same time it's too difficult to make the connection when in front of a delicious meal containing animal products, we think we cannot live without.
Do we ever think about why it's so disturbing watching animals being slaughtered? We grow up in a society that wants and needs us to believe it's absolutely natural and necessary to eat meat and eggs (for protein) fish (for Omega 3) dairy (for Calcium) and so on. But they are also masterminds in hiding how all of these products are sourced and processed. It's easy to go grocery shopping and find the final product on the shelves, ready to be consumed. Advertisement on TV and social media use the very best strategies to make a product look delicious and appealing, and we base our decisions to purchase thinking about the taste and the feeling we get upon consumption. But how does the process behind its production make us feel?
Why do we cry when we see cruelty towards a piglet or a baby lamb? Do we feel the same way when harvesting fruits and veggies? Why don't we want to show our children where meat comes from if it’s considered to be a natural and humane process?
We are all born with some level of compassion. We cannot deny our love for animals. Traditions have brainwashed us, making us believe that eating a pig is ok, while a dog is considered to be a household companion. Where is the line drawn? Why do we feel so horrified by the fact that other countries consume dog meat? Are their traditions wrong?
Why are we considered different or weird if we choose not to eat meat or partake in the consumption of animal products? Why can't we choose what to eat without being labeled or judged? Especially, if we choose to do so while promoting kindness, and compassion.
It's really easy to get a surprised reaction when someone finds out that in factory farming, baby calves are stolen from their mothers the same day they were born so that humans can consume the milk she’s produced for her baby over the last 12 months. The same happens when they learn of cows being artificially impregnated to be able to give birth to a calf, once a year, till they are exhausted and slaughtered at the age of maybe 4-5 years, (Lifespan of a cow is normally around 20 years). Cows have a surprisingly complex social life and mothers cry for days when their babies are taken from them (to be slaughtered). What makes them inferior to humans? Is it our inability to understand the way that they communicate? Should we have the right to treat them as a product, knowing that they are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and emotions just like we do?
Should we have the right to decide the fate for a newborn male chick's life? A choice based on how useless he will be for us? Male chicks are killed for two reasons: they cannot lay eggs and they are not suitable for chicken-meat production. So for the egg industry, they have no value. And millions of them end up being gassed or ground up alive every single day. While their mothers continue to be exploited for egg production, deprived of their freedom. After one or two years, a hen starts to produce fewer eggs than before, therefore 'free-range' farmers, just like intensive farmers, replace her with a younger hen. She could, however, live for ten years or more. Chickens are very sociable creatures, despite the common belief. They like to forage for food, roam in their environment, take dust-baths, nest, lie in the sun and take care of their families. And they suffer enormously when they are unable to exhibit their entire range of behaviors that come naturally to them. How would you feel in the same situation?
These are just examples. Pigs, goats, horses, ducks, sheep, turkeys, fish and billions of other animals can be found in similar situations around the globe. Treated as slaves and products for human consumption. Taken away from their families. Killed for their taste, skin, fur, and feathers. Do you think they would want to live if they could choose? Should we assume that we can use them the way we do, just because they cannot speak for themselves in a language understandable by humans? Do you believe this is necessary and their true purpose?
Can we live without meat and animal products?
In the last few years, veganism has seen a significant growth. Every day more and more people choose to live a lifestyle free of animal products, not only for the animals but for the environment and their health. Many studies have now shown that a plant-based diet can be beneficial for our health. We can find all the nutrients we need in plants without compromising on taste, flavors, and texture. Vegan options and alternatives are now easier to find in restaurants and supermarkets worldwide.
So what would happen to all of the animals if the world went vegan overnight? Would the planet be overpopulated? Would those species go totally extinct? No and no, and no again. The chances that the world would go vegan overnight are pretty much nonexistent. While people would gradually change their lifestyle, farmers would adjust by breeding, raising and slaughtering fewer animals, as the demand for animal products would decrease. And decrease doesn't mean extinction. Plus, there would be a lower demand for GMO corn, soy, and other feed grains, thus less deforestation and pollution, as livestock production is currently one of the main causes of global warming.
But most importantly, let's not forget about the beautiful sanctuaries around the world, which are already working hard to rescue farm animals suffering as a result of factory farming, natural disasters, abuse, and neglect. Where animals receive the very best of care and are given the opportunity to live in a safe and protected environment for the rest of their lives.
Veganism is growing, and more people are rediscovering their lost compassion for animals and our planet. Despite how difficult modern society is making it for us, people are waking up, choosing compassion over cruelty. And for you, which side will you choose to be on?
Born and raised in Italy, Sarah now lives in Sydney, Australia, after traveling around the world for over 20 years. Founder of VEGAN TRAVEL DIARIES, her blog shares what choosing a Vegan lifestyle means, such as ethical ways to travel, cruelty-free meals and activities; sustainability, and how to choose eco-friendly options when looking for accommodations worldwide. In addition, she recently launched her new YouTube channel, sharing useful tips on vegan travel, animal rights activism, simple vegan meal recipes, tips, and educational videos.