Do vegans follow a set of rules? The idea behind this post was born from the need to elucidate people (mostly non-vegans), on how far we’re willing to go for animals.
For example, my mother is a big honey lover. And although she’s aware I’m vegan, early on she didn’t realize my dietary restrictions also excluded honey.
In her head, honey is this sweet ingredient produced by bees, and eating it shouldn’t have any ethical implications, given how bees are not purposefully slaughtered in the process.
Questions like this are normal. And just like my mom, I bet other people would love to learn the reasoning behind it. I assure you, however, that most vegans are understanding, and even though one may hear the same questions multiple times, we will gladly answer. Therefore if you have a question, please ask the vegan in front of you.
Most vegans are prepared to give you an answer, and if they can’t, they will inform themselves right afterward.
In this blog post, I’m going to talk you through the different rules vegans don’t cross. In other words, these are the things we don’t do, that most non-vegans do.
But first, I believe it makes sense to go over the top reasons why vegans do this because it will help you learn where our motivation comes from.
The Reasons Why Vegans Go Vegan.
Vegans become vegans for different reasons. These reasons are usually among the following: Animal-cruelty, environment, and health.
In each one, different, solid, and science-backed reasons fuel a vegan’s motivation to never revert to a “normal” lifestyle.
Let’s start with the first one.
1. Animals Have Feelings.
We were taught that certain animals were raised for food, that’s why we never put a cow, pig or chicken in the same category as a dog or cat.
But the truth is, when you witness their suffering, you grow out of that paradigm.
You understand that every animal feels joy, affection, pleasure… but also terror, grief, and pain. And in this ugly, industrial world, they happen to be victims of a massive genocide.
We vegans solemnly realized this, and began to embrace and perceive them as beings with equal rights. We developed empathy towards them, and through scientific findings, we found out that there’s no need to eat their flesh. It’s quite the opposite.
There’s also a common misconception that animals are not harmed in the production of milk and eggs. What people don’t realize… is that billions of hens and baby chicks, and millions of cows and calves, are put to death every year.
More than 95% of chickens are confined in small cages, after being genetically manipulated to produce between 250 and 300 eggs a year.
These hens used for egg production are then slaughtered after 12-24 months when their production output fades. But before that, they also have their beaks removed to prevent nervous pecking in overcrowded conditions.
A similar style of cruelty also takes place in dairy farms.
Like all mammals, cows only produce milk to feed their babies.
Yet, on dairy farms, baby calves are taken away from their mothers, so that the milk can be removed and fed to humans. Unfortunately, little male calves, are slaughtered for veal. And female calves are isolated, where they sit alone for the following 2-3 months without maternal care or nurturing.
It’s really hard to turn a blind eye to these acts of cruelty, when we know any other animal is capable of demonstrating affection for us, in similar fashion dogs do.
2 – We Don’t Need To Consume Animal Products.
A large body of evidence has (re)surfaced in recent years, supporting the notion that a whole-food, plant-based diet is massively beneficial to people of all ages.
In fact, health organizations are now recognizing that a plant-based diet is effective in reducing rates of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, strokes, and even Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand — an omnivore diet rich in cholesterol and saturated fat massively contributes to both heart disease and diabetes.
Note that heart disease is the leading killer in the United States, and there’s strong evidence revealing that a plant-based diet can stop, and even reverse heart disease. And the same can be said for type 2 diabetes, hypertension the other leading killer diseases.
Just like many others, I believe in the next 10-15 years, an even greater body of evidence will emerge and blow people’s minds.
3 – Animal Agriculture Impacts World Hunger
Unfortunately, 840 million people or 1 in 7 people suffer from chronic hunger.
In addition to that, 6 million children starve to death every year.
And only 10% of hunger deaths are attributed to catastrophic events such as famine or war. Most cases are due to malnutrition and waste of food resources.
When we think about the waste of resources, animal agriculture becomes the main perpetrator due to their unsustainable agricultural practices. To produce meat— you require 10-20 times as much land as a plant-based diet.
A process that begins with clearing out forests, and creating feed crops where animals are raised and then slaughtered for food. The growth of feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of the water in the US. On top of that, the production of 1lb of beef costs 2,500 gallons of water, and the production of one gallon of milk requires 1000 gallons of water. Not to mention that livestock covers 45% of the Earth’s total land.
Even if we looked for a more sustainable approach to animal agriculture, cattle would still require almost half the country’s land, and this is excluding chickens, pigs, sheep, and goats.
Just the grains and soybeans fed to cattle in the US alone could provide enough food to eradicate hunger all around the world.
4 – The Impact on The Climate and Environment.
The impact of animal agriculture doesn’t end with health disease and world hunger.
In fact, the primary reason why people adopt a plant-based diet is for environmental reasons. Farmed animals in the U.S generate 65% of the planet’s total human-caused nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, a report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that 14.5 percent of global GHG emissions, or 7.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, can be attributed to the animal industry. This is equivalent to the emissions derived from all the fuel burned by the entire transportation sector.
Animal agriculture is also the leading contributor to global water pollution.
Needless to say, animal agriculture is probably the number 1 reason why climate change and global warming are urgent topics in this time and age.
5 – Theory: It Also Has To Do With Anatomy
This is an interesting perspective on the different etymologies because it allows us to look at the anatomy of each species, and see which one closely resembles a human, and vice-versa.
In every aspect, the human anatomy resembles that of herbivorous animals. Our mouth opening is small, we walk upright, we have prehensile hands, and we have rudimentary, blunt canines.
From an anatomic point of view, we resemble a gorilla (omnivore)… which is something to think about.
Rule #1 – Vegans Don’t Eat Animal-Based Products (Including Honey & Refined Sugar)
Being vegan is more of a lifestyle choice, than an actual diet.
Even so, vegans have restrictions on what they eat.
These restrictions include meat, eggs, dairy and other ingredients where animals are impacted in the process, like honey. Also, most vegans refuse to eat foods that are processed using animal products.
Refined sugar and wine are just a few examples.
Most people don’t know this, but refined sugar (not all), is processed using bone char, which is essentially the bones of cattle. It’s what gives white sugar that white, pristine color.
This is bone char.
In the event you’re inviting a vegan over your house, it is cool to keep that in mind. And again, just ask him whatever question you have, as I’m sure he will gladly answer.
This being said, if you’re shy, and would rather have the answer from Mr. Google himself, here are some of the ingredients included in a vegan diet:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Regular Potatoes
- Pasta (Not all)
The list is endless and I’m sure you would be able to come up with something creative and delicious for your vegan guest…
In addition to these ingredients, many vegans versions of familiar non-vegan foods are also available in many supermarkets. You can find vegan sausages, ice cream, cheese, non-dairy yogurts, vegan mayonnaise, and even vegan burgers.
You are also able to find a variety of vegetable drinks, or milk substitutes such as Soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, oat milk, and cashew milk are some of the examples I can think of. Today you’re even able to find egg substitutes, which are useful for baking.
Another alternative to “scrambled” eggs is tofu. If you want to cook your guest a wonderful breakfast, scrambled tofu gives you the same texture eggs, although you may want to try a different approach seasoning-wise.
Vegan gastronomy is uncharted territory, and therefore when vegans become vegans, they need to re-learn cooking and be creative in their approach.
Rule #2 – Vegans Don’t Use Health & Beauty Products Tested On Animals.
Unfortunately, almost every industry is tainted with animal cruelty, and the health and beauty industry is no different. We still have large corporations (like Unilever), running tests on animals, despite their mixed portfolio of cruelty-free and non-cruelty-free brands.
Fortunately, however, we’re moving away from such practices, but in countries such as China, animal testing is still very much mandatory.
An animal test is a scientific experiment where tests are performed on living animals that are forced to undergo painful experiences, where they are deliberately harmed and killed by the end of the experiment.
These animal experiments include:
- Animals inhaling toxic gases;
- Exposing animals to radiation;
- Surgically removing animals’ organs or tissues;
- Injecting or force-feeding animals with potentially harmful substances;
- And more.
These experiments serve to understand whether or not a substance (or a product) can be safely used by humans.
While I don’t agree with such practices, I’ve also seen cruelty-free products (creams, in particular), having a negative reaction on someone’s skin.
European animal testing legislation functions differently from the legislation in the United States. While in Europe, animal tested products are currently banned. In the United States, animal testing is still conducted without legal permission.
According to HG.org, across the entire country, there are roughly 70 inspectors to monitor approximately 1100 research institutions. That is hardly a solid infrastructure capable of guaranteeing any type of standards, which is why we shouldn’t look at governments to settle this issue, but external institutions.
And why should we do so?
Well, in March 2013, the European Union banned animal testing and animal-tested products. But unfortunately, this ban has a few flaws:
- Only applies to products and ingredients in the cosmetic space;
- It’s only valid if there’s a connection to the EU.
- Not applicable if the testing is used to determine the existence of environmental repercussions.
- Only applicable if the purpose of the test is to determine consumer safety.
- In other words, testing can still occur, as long as the purpose of the test doesn’t include customer safety.
Given these limitations, the EU ban is still not a foolproof option that we can go by.
That’s why, whenever we’re looking to buy a health and beauty product, we always search for a cruelty-free certificate:
Brands must meet rigorous criteria, before being allowed to carry the leaping bunny sigil.
The criteria are the following:
- Neither the brand nor its suppliers or manufacturers can commission or conduct animal testing anywhere in the world.
- They are required to set up a monitoring system to ensure their entire supply chain complies with cruelty-free standards.
- Their monitoring system must allow independent (third-party) audits to verify if they still comply with cruelty-free standards.
- The entire product line must meet cruelty-free standards.
The leaping bunny certificate is applicable worldwide. For instance, leaping bunny companies cannot sell products in China, which is a country where animal testing is mandatory before products reach the consumer. Yet, the EU ban does not cover that.
Let’s assume you want to offer a cosmetic product to a vegan friend. Please ensure that the product is vegan and cruelty-free.
Rule #3 – Vegans Don’t Wear Clothes Made From Animal Skin.
Vegans don’t wear clothes, shoes or furnishing made with skins, hair or feathers. The list of animal fabrics vegans avoids include fur, leather, wool, feathers, and silk.
Normally, vegans only use fabrics derived from plants like cotton, hemp, or linen, and some vegans may use manmade materials like polyester, acrylic or nylon. The reason I say “some vegans” is because some are vegan for environmental reasons. And buying manmade fabrics like polyester, acrylic or nylon is only furthering air and ocean pollution.
Not many people know this, but washing a piece of clothing made from polyester is very detrimental to the oceans. When washed, clothes containing polyester release what is called microplastics. These small properties are released into waterways, before ending in the ocean where they affect marine life and the food chain in general. (Yes, including humans)
This being said, not many vegans go that far to protect the environment. Some may be okay with wearing polyester since sustainable alternatives tend to be more expensive.
Rule #4 – Vegans Don’t Participate In Activities Where Animals Are Exploited.
Vegans also don’t support activities where an animal is being used for human benefit.
Most vegans are heavily against circuses, bullfighting, zoos, safari parks, aquariums, horse races, and essentially anything else that uses animals as entertainment. As a general rule, all vegans seek to see animals in their natural environment and not being exploited in any shape or form.
Animals in the circus spend 96% of their life stuck in cages or chains. Not to mention how whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools are used to gain an animal’s obedience.
Bullfighting is self-explanatory. Stabbing a bull with banderillas is simply inhuman.
Zoos are still debated to this day. Vegans argue that removing an animal from its natural habitat has some sort of impact on the animal. On the other hand, others suggest that an animal is happy in a zoo. But that opinion can be debated, because animals in zoos often die young, and also show signs of distressed, and stereotypic behaviors.
Safari is also another debatable topic. Regardless of what anyone says, we are trespassing into their natural habitat, and forcing animals to adapt their behavior to our convenience and not the other way around. And this can also apply to aquariums and horse racing.
In all cases, we’re just using animals for our convenience.