VeganEasy.org is ALV's new website for all things vegan, including our ever popular 30 Day Vegan Easy Challenge, loads of great recipes and useful resources!
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men. - Alice Walker
But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. - Plutarch (c.AD 46-c.120)
When we learn for the first time about the scale of animal exploitation and abuse in modern day agriculture, it is common to feel anger, sadness and helplessness. We may feel that our individual actions can have no effect against the might of animal industries. But each and every one of us has the power to withdraw our support from the profiteers in animal suffering and death. We can do it right now, without waiting for the government, big business, or any other “someone” to come round to our point of view and “do something”. That power is called veganism, and it is the single most important step that anyone who truly cares about animals can take.
Vegans do not eat, wear or use any product which comes from an animal, and as far as possible and practical, seek to avoid all products and pursuits which involve animal cruelty and exploitation. They do not eat meat, fish, dairy products or eggs, or any of their numerous by-products, and do not clothe themselves in leather, wool, silk, fur, feathers or any other material taken from animals. Instead they feast on the abundant, delicious and healthful plant foods which nature had provided, and make use of many natural and synthetic textiles available to us in the 21st century for their clothing and other products. Most vegans take their commitment further to include avoidance of toiletries, household goods and everyday commodities which contain animal products or have been tested on animals, and they choose not to patronise sports or entertainments which cause animals to suffer.
Veganism is about more than what we do or don’t eat. It is a way of living which encourages justice and compassion towards the myriad of sentient beings with whom we share this planet, and strives to treasure and respect all life. It is based on the philosophy that all animals have the right to live their lives according to their own natures, without fear of exploitation, imprisonment, pain and death at the hands of humans. It recognises that other animals have lives which matter to them, just as we do, and they are not tools or resources to be used as means to human ends. Many highly intelligent and thoughtful people, both past and present, have shared this philosophy. Leonardo da Vinci, Mohandas Gandhi, Coretta Scott King, Benjamin Franklin, César Chávez, Mark Twain, Alice Walker and Sir Paul McCartney are just a few of them.
Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. - Thomas A. Edison
It has been estimated that an average Australian meat eater consumes 92 sheep, 17 beef cattle, 15 pigs, 1171 chickens and innumerable fish and other marine animals over his or her lifetime. In terms of lives directly spared, the power of each individual vegan is immediately and dramatically obvious. But the benefits of veganism go beyond the obvious. Every vegan, whether vociferous or restrained in their beliefs, is making a continual statement to our meat-centred society that it is possible to live a healthy and abundant life without exploiting animals. Simply by example, vegans are giving lie to the myth animal products are necessary for health, providing role models and information sources for people who may be attracted to such a way of life but unsure how to go about it, and whole new concepts for those who have never considered the issues before. Each new vegan creates more demand for animal-free products and facilities, and raises the profile of veganism just that bit higher. Anyone who doubts it need only consider the huge surge in readily available vegan products over the past 20 years, and the increasing defensiveness of meat industry advertisers. Vegans issue a quiet challenge to animal exploiters everywhere, and make it increasingly difficult for them to justify what they do.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Bertrand Russell
That’s all very well, you might be saying, but I could never go vegan. Veganism is about sacrifice and deprivation and giving up all my favourite foods right? Well no, though it can look that way when we first start to think about it. Most of us were raised in meat-eating families and were not encouraged to consider the amazing variety of animal-free foods and products which are out there. There is no need for anyone to go hungry or to miss out on tasty and satisfying food. Veganism is not about denying ourselves, but about embracing a new way of life which aligns with our moral convictions, and discovering a whole new world of tastes in the process.
Our diet is closely tied in with ideas of culture, family and comfort, and changing it can seem a daunting prospect. As with any major life change, new vegans may experience feelings of disconnection and loss. Be prepared for this stage and know that it will pass. Spend it actively experimenting with new ways of eating and living, rather than focusing on the old. Surround yourself with supportive people, and keep a list close at hand with the reasons why you’re making the change. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it all begins to feel natural and right, and the old foods start to lose their attraction.
Veganism can happen overnight or it can be a process of transition where animal foods and products are gradually replaced with vegan alternatives. However you choose to do it, there is plenty of support out there. Contact ALV for a Vegetarian Starter Kit and information on the resources available to vegans. For advice on negotiating potentially tricky situations such as family celebrations and work functions, plus the everyday challenges of living vegan in a meat-centred society, Carol Adams’ Living with Meat Eaters, and Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World by Bob and Jenna Torres, are invaluable resources.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Mohandas Gandhi
Another concern might be “what about health”? Anyone starting to explore veganism is likely to have been quizzed by concerned relatives and friends about where they will get their protein/calcium/iron/B12/etc. The best way to reassure them and yourself is to check out the resources below, and talk to experienced vegans. You don’t need a degree in nutrition to have a healthy vegan diet, but it’s worthwhile educating yourself in the basics so that you can take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge which is out there. Some great internet resources are veganhealth.org, veganism in a nutshell, and staying a healthy vegan. If you’re looking for a book then you can’t go past Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, Vegan Nutrition: Pure and Simple, by Michael Klapper, and The Vegan Diet As Chronic Disease Prevention: Evidence Supporting the New Four Food Groups, by Kerrie Saunders. An internet search will turn up many more, in addition to countless recipe books.
New, and sometimes even more experienced vegans, can fall into a couple of common traps which may cause them to decide prematurely that veganism doesn’t work for them. Being aware of these and knowing how to deal with them can mean the difference between disillusion and success in making the transition.
- As many overseas travellers know, an abrupt change of diet can play havoc with the system. Our digestive processes adapt to handle the foods we commonly eat, but they rarely do so overnight. Transitioning from a standard Western diet to a healthier vegan diet may also cause stored toxins to be flushed from the body, resulting in short-term aches and pains or mild flu-like symptoms. If you experience any of this, don’t conclude that you can’t be vegan. Give your body time to adjust to new foods, and perhaps scale back the pace of change. If necessary, consult a nutritionist, naturopath or doctor who is sympathetic to veganism and discuss how to minimise any unpleasant side effects of your new diet.
- You may know someone who gave veganism a try and found it left them feeling hungry or weak. The primary cause of this is not eating enough calorie-dense foods, and it can happen for a couple of reasons. New vegans may only be aware of low calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables and salads, while the health-conscious may deliberately choose to limit themselves to these foods. That’s fine for some, but others need more higher calorie foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, mock meats, and (if desired) the many processed vegan foods available nowadays in supermarkets and health food shops. A vegan diet can and has sustained athletes and weight lifters, but as with any diet, the key is variety. It’s worth remembering that the largest and strongest land animals on the planet are herbivores. All the nutrients they need to build and maintain their bodies are obtained from plants. The much smaller bodies of humans can easily be sustained in the same way. Once again, it may be wort seeking professional assistance.
Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. - Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
So, is it possible to be 100% vegan? In our society the answer is probably no. As many meat eaters will delight in reminding you, there are animal products in footpaths, tyres, film, book bindings, dyes, paints, medicines, and a host of other things that can be difficult or impossible to avoid. This doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands in despair and do nothing, or that we should make ourselves miserable in an obsessive quest to weed out every animal ingredient from our lives. Veganism should be less about personal purity and perfection-seeking than about our relationship with our fellow animals and the practical and meaningful ways we can improve their lives. The secret is for each of us to focus on what we CAN do right now, and do it to the best of our ability.
Veganism is about putting justice, conviction and compassion ahead of tastebuds, convenience and habit. As a vegan you may sometimes find yourself called a freak and be asked to justify your choices to people who are not really interested in understanding. But you may also find an incredible inner peace and strength in the knowledge that you are living in accordance with your beliefs and have had the courage to act on your convictions. You will certainly find a supportive community of like-minded people and an astounding range of delicious and healthy food. And however far away it might seem right now, you are helping to move the world closer to a time when the intrinsic value of all lives will be respected.
Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore. - Franz Kafka (novelist)