Recently there has been a lot of talk around eating a plant-based diet, and more and more people are choosing vegan as a lifestyle. So what is the difference between being vegan and eating plant-based?
So many people I talk to don’t really know what a vegan eats. A lot of people understand that it means I don’t eat any meat, but more often than not I get asked all sorts of follow-up questions.
Before I was a vegan I had no idea what a vegan even was. Like most people, I had an idea of what a vegetarian was-I even knew the difference between a lacto-ovo vegetarian and a pescatarian. But vegan was never really on my radar. I had never met one before.
The basics of eating a vegan diet mean that I do not consume any animal products. This means I do not eat meat, eggs, and dairy-including butter, milk, and cheese. Most vegans (including myself) also do not consume honey. You can read more about why here.
If this is all that vegan meant then the difference between being vegan and eating plant-based would be nothing!
But, calling yourself a vegan does not only define your diet-it also includes the lifestyle you lead.
The definition of vegan according to the Vegan Society is as follows:
“Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
What this translates to in my life is that I:
1) choose to not consume animal products
2) try my best to buy cruelty free cosmetics and body care items
3) do not buy new leather, wool, or down
4) do not solicit circuses or zoo’s, and
5) I do not support the domestic animal market-ie: pet stores and breeders.
From the outside I can definitely see how people would view veganism as a very restrictive lifestyle (especially when you list all the don’t do’s in a row!) but honestly this is just a natural progression of elimination once you start finding out about the industry behind the products.
Now, keep in mind that the definition does state “as far as is possible and practicable.”
To me this means that if it came between starving to death and eating a bird I would obviously eat the bird.
If my children were being attacked by a rabbit-well that would be the last thing that animal ever did-cuteness and fuzzy fur would not save it from this mamma bear protecting her children.
If I was freezing to death and my only option was to wear a seal skin jacket, ya-I’m going to put that sucker on!
But, just because I have access to meat to eat, and leather to wear does not make it my first choice.
I am very privileged to be living in a situation where I actually have a choice of what I feed to myself and my family. And for me, when I have a choice I will always choose the path to the least amount of harm.
Eating a plant-based diet is amazing. It directly impacts the animals because less demand for meat and dairy means less production is needed.
Generally speaking though, a person who defines themselves as eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily subscribe to reducing cruelty and exploitation of animals in the other areas of their life such as clothing or other non-food purchases.
This could be because a plant-based eater is looking at reducing their animal product intake strictly for the sake of their health.
It could even be that they have heard of the devastating effects consuming meat can have on our environment.
Or maybe it’s just that they don’t yet realize there is animal cruelty involved in making clothing or other products we use on a daily basis.
So, the only difference between being vegan and eating plant-based is not found in the diet-it’s the lifestyle.
Whatever the reason why people choose to eat a plant-based diet I fully support them.
Veganism isn’t about being better than someone else. It isn’t about sacrificing yourself or the ones you love to save animals.
Veganism is about trying your best to do what you can in the moment to make a difference. And aren’t we all just trying to make a difference in this crazy world?
Whether your way is building schools in underprivileged parts of the world, buying someone you don’t know a coffee, or rescuing a cat instead of purchasing one from a pet store-we all want to help others and make a difference.
It feels good to live in a way that expresses the morals and values you believe in and being vegan is just another way a person can express kindness outside of themselves.
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Leave me a comment! How do you interpret veganism? What questions do you have about being vegan? I’ll do my best to answer:)