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Vegans avoid eating all foods of animal origin: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and honey. Veganism was originally defined purely as a dietary choice, but many vegans extend this ethic to shun animal testing and ingredients from all things they consume or wear, including clothing, shoes, personal care items, cosmetics, and medicine.
The key reasons are explained in our, “Why Choose Vegan?” essay. To summarize, they involve:
1) Prevention of Animal Suffering
Most farm animals are raised on factory farms and experience appalling cruelties throughout their lives. Animal slaughter is invariably gory and disturbing to witness, and often the animals are clearly frightened and seem to know their death is imminent.
2) Health Benefits
A vegan diet can eliminate many of your diet’s most unhealthful foods, replacing them with delicious, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
3) Environmental Advantages
Given the staggering amounts of methane produced by livestock, a vegan diet may offer the easiest and most effective way to reduce our contribution to climate change. Vegan diets can also dramatically reduce the land that must be devoted to crops and to pasture, since raising farm animals is extraordinarily wasteful compared to growing crops directly for people.
Less than an hour of reading can teach you most of what you need to know. Start with our “How to Go Vegan” essay. After that, you ought to read an introduction to vegan nutrition to ensure you don’t come up short on key nutrients.
After you’ve done this reading, the most important thing you can do to gracefully move toward a vegan diet is to try new vegan foods at every opportunity. It’s better to put your energy into making a little progress every day than it is to try to be the perfect vegan overnight. Spending a few minutes reading our list of easy vegan foods will take you a long way. As you incorporate more of these foods into your diet they’ll automatically crowd out the non-vegan foods you presently eat.
Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
Nearly every single vegan you ask will tell you the transition was much easier than they expected. While becoming vegan may sound difficult right now, you’ll no doubt be shocked by how easy this is, especially if you take the time to read up on the topic.
If you’re massively committed you certainly can make the transition overnight—thousands of people have successfully done it. But it’s obviously easier to take your time, get acquainted with as many vegan foods as possible, and cut out animal-based foods little by little as you feel ready.
Great new titles are constantly appearing. We regularly update our pages listing recommended books and cookbooks. Make sure your first vegan cookbook is one that’s entirely devoted to quick and easy recipes. A few top choices:
- The Simply Vegan Cookbook, by Dustin Harder
- Real Food, Really Fast, by Hannah Kaminsky
- Fuss-Free Vegan, by Sam Turnbull
Also be sure to read our Guide to Vegan Cooking.
There are fantastic vegan alternatives to meat, fish, eggs, and every sort of dairy product you could want, from ice cream to yogurt to coffee creamer. These vegan products are so appealing that agribusiness interests have resorted to having their lobbyists seek to forbid the use of words like milk and beef on vegan items.
Most countries require all food products to carry ingredient labels, so it’s usually just a matter of checking the label. Of course, you’ll need to know which of these ingredients come from animals, but that’s an easy task. Our Animal Ingredients page lists substances that are or may be derived from animal products.
Not only are vegan restaurants increasingly common, you can often get a reliably vegan meal at a wide variety of restaurants. The more you learn about the vegan dishes associated with various cuisines, the better you’ll know your options. There is a vast variety of satisfying vegan food available at fast food franchises, gourmet restaurants, and everything in between. The websites of most restaurant chains will feature the ingredient list for each menu item.
Health & Nutrition
With a little attention, it’s easy enough for vegans to eat an extraordinarily healthful diet. Our Vegan Nutrition Guideaddresses the key information on this topic, while explaining how to steer clear of the most common nutrient deficiencies. You may also want to check out our Vitamin & Supplement Guide to learn which products are of particular interest to vegans.
You can get plenty of protein on a vegan diet, but it’s also easy to come up short if you aren’t paying attention. To make sure your needs are being met, check out our article titled Protein Requirements for Vegans.
While many foods contain little or no protein, there are plenty of delicious vegan foods that are rich in this key nutrient. Including foods like beans, nuts, and tofu with most meals will greatly increase your overall protein intake.
There’s no topic related to veganism that generates so much confusion and inaccurate advice, so it’s important to obtain reliable information about B-12, and heed the recommendations. For most vegans, the easiest way to ensure excellent B-12 status is to take a cheap high dose cyanocobalamin-based sublingual tablet every two or three days.
The meat, fish farm, and dairy industries use staggering amounts of antibiotics. Many of these antibiotics aren’t used by farmers to treat infectious disease, but are rather added to feed in order to boost growth. It’s tough to definitively prove the bacterial origin of a given severe infection, but MRSA superbugs and related dangerous infectious organisms undoubtedly arise due to overuse of antibiotics by animal agribusiness, and crowding vast numbers of animals together on factory farms.
Animal Ingredients & Testing
Since honey is produced by bees, it is not vegan. That said, many people who are otherwise vegan will eat honey on occasion, because its production is not associated with the egregious cruelties that are widespread in farms and slaughterhouses. Yet even with that acknowledged, there are nevertheless several good reasons to avoid honey. See our honey page for more information.
As opposition increases to the practice of subjecting laboratory animals to painful tests, the market for vegan cosmetics and personal care items is growing quickly. Many personal care and cosmetics products carry seals indicating that they were neither tested on animals nor made from animal ingredients. No matter what you’re looking for—whether it’s deodorant, mascara, shaving cream, or shampoo—you will find a number of vegan-certified products on the market.
Alternatives may be available. Sometimes the medication you need will be vegan, but only available in gelatin capsules. In these cases, you can have your doctor write a prescription for the medication to be put into vegan capsules by your local “compounding pharmacy.” This will of course entail some added cost but it’s usually quite moderate compared to the price of the medication.
If you require an animal-derived medicine to treat or manage a serious health issue, it makes sense to take it. You can still accomplish enormous amounts of good based on your dietary choices alone even if you can’t be vegan when it comes to your medication. And if you are engaged in even a little vegan advocacy, the contributions you can make by being on earth will certainly far outweigh whatever negative impacts are associated with your medicine’s production.
If the prospect of witnessing or funding animal slaughter makes you uncomfortable, you should know that free-range hens and pasture-raised dairy cows are typically sent to slaughter before midlife. Just like their factory farmed counterparts, these animals are replaced by younger ones as their yields decline to unprofitable levels. It’s also difficult and inconvenient to verify that the animal welfare standards claimed by a given producer are indeed being met.
It’s hard to make a definitive comparison since there is enormous variation in the cost and quality of the foods we eat. But generally, a cheap vegan diet will be less expensive (and much healthier) than a cheap omnivorous diet. And even an extravagant vegan diet will never be as expensive as a diet based on high-priced meats and cheeses produced with the best animal welfare.
The world’s farm animals would gradually disappear, except for a few kept by hobbyists and breed preservationists—and this disappearance would not be a bad thing. Modern farm animals are about as necessary for biodiversity as toy poodles. Not only are farm animal unequipped to survive in nature, they are also predisposed to a number of painful physical conditions due to their having been relentlessly bred for high production and extreme growth rates. If the world’s farm animals were to vanish, the vast expanses of monocultured cropland used to feed them could be allowed to revert to nature. We would then witness a dramatic recovery of countless species of wildlife.
There are quite a few A-list vegan celebrities. Some of the most prominent names include: Woody Harrelson, Joaquin Phoenix, Evanna Lynch, Alicia Silverstone, Ellen Degeneres, James Cromwell, Miley Cyrus, Jared Leto, Sia, Ariana Grande, Liam Hemsworth, Stevie Wonder, RZA, and Moby (sources: Bustle and Glamour.)