Essentially people tend to describe a vegan as a non-dairy vegetarian. Ideologically, a vegan shuns all products that are derived from the labour of animals which include eggs, honey, leather, wool, fur, silk, soaps and cosmetics that contain animal products. The ethics of consuming dairy products started being questioned by vegetarians as early as in 1909. In 1944, Donald Watson held a meeting of six like-minded people who believed in the cause and called themselves nondairy vegetarians. It was on that day that the term ‘vegan’ was coined.
Donald Watson is now considered the founder of the Vegan Society, the oldest and largest society of vegans in the world.
The reasons that vegans give for choosing their difficult lifestyle in an unsympathetic world are first, to create a more humane and tolerant society to live in. They believe that if people stop consuming as many animal products as they use, industries will not be forced to breed cattle and livestock the way they have to now, to meet the demand. In a society where a child is taught to have 2-3 glasses of milk a day, a vegan diet seems very unhealthy. It seems like there is no source of protein but this is not true.
The reason for the success of the vegan lifestyle is the variety that is available all around us. Vegans get their protein from food items like lentils, tofu, chickpeas, potatoes, broccoli, kale. Dark leafy vegetables, such as spinach, provide vegans with iron, calcium and zinc, to name a few nutrients.
But there are some nutrients that vegans don’t get despite their healthy eating. It is of utmost importance, which is why vegans take their daily dose of multivitamins. Vitamin D, for instance, is not available in any vegan friendly fruit. It is recommended that vegans spend time in the sunlight to start producing some Vitamin D for themselves.
The lifestyle as a whole stands for something beautiful - animal protection and shelter - but over the years it has somewhat lost its meaning. Nowadays one just thinks of a vegan as a fussy eater who will drink expensive soy milk rather than regular milk.
Veganism is also being used as a diet to lose weight. This is not what it is all about.
True vegans actually stand for something, and that is the welfare of the poor animals that are beaten, tortured or, worse yet, slaughtered to produce eggs and meat. Cows are injected with chemicals and hormones so that they produce more milk than is natural for them to produce. Such practices are what veganism is essentially against.
Some pseudo-vegans today truly are what people think them to be - fussy eaters. The fad is such that vegans not only think they are above others by being more humane, but also feel that they have the right to convert others by holding conversations that are always about veganism.
Today there are thousands of societies with their very own support groups for vegans. These societies are trying their best to educate the public and be there to guide new vegans in what to put in and on their bodies and also what to wear. These societies have their events and meetings quite regularly.
This movement has become so powerful that now along with the ‘Jain option’ most restaurant also carry vegan options.
There are vegan cookbooks available that have countless recipes - all without any dairy in them. Some of us may understand the point of it all and some won’t, but the fact that there are so many vegans all over the world and more and more join the movement every day makes one believe that humanity exists.
The fanaticism that surrounds vegans is a little putting off but hope still exists that veganism goes back to its roots and once again becomes more than just a diet.