What Does It Mean To Be Vegan?

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Veganism is currently under the spotlight with the rising number of vegans globally. Such a growing appetite for the vegan trend is mainly driven by the concern for animal welfare, the environment and the desire to eat more healthily.

Therefore, a greater number of people are out there Googling something along the lines of “How to be vegan?”, “Is honey vegan?” and anything in between.

But what exactly constitutes being a vegan?

More than a diet: what veganism really means

When talking about veganism, most people will include the word “diet” as part of the overall conversation. That’s because the most well-known aspects of a vegan lifestyle involve not eating meat, dairy, eggs, or any animal by-products. And yes, that includes the honey that is produced by bees.

So, you may still be wondering, “Is honey vegan?” Actually, it isn’t. Honey is produced by those little stingers and to consume them means to go against the vegan creed. Indeed, honey is meant to be a food source for the bees themselves. 

However, by using diet as the center of the conversation, it might cause a disservice to vegans. You see, there’s far more to it than simply controlling what you put in your mouth.

So, what is the solid definition for “vegan?”

The Vegan Society defines the vegan lifestyle as the way of living that seeks to remove or exclude, as far as is practicable and possible, all kinds of cruelty to and exploitation of animals for clothing, food, or any other purpose.

Vegans lead with intent, doing their best to create a world in which no animals are harmed for the satisfaction and service to humans. Those who lead a vegan lifestyle believe that we can all live side by side with other animals, instead of acting as the “apex predators.”

Vegans have been behind numerous protests that lobbied against animal circus acts and other entertainment venues which forced all kinds of animals to perform for human entertainment. Vegans will also frown at the sight of consumer products made from animal by-products. They won’t wear those wool jackets or buy that fancy leather bag.

In short, a vegan lifestyle involves actively avoiding any activity and practice that harms animal welfare, boycotting any products made from animals (even if said animal is not killed in the process), as well as being mindful of the possibility that a product they may purchase did not harm animals in any way. 

Vegetarian vs. Vegan: What’s the difference?

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For people who do not follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, the difference between these two categories can seem confusing, since they are often used interchangeably by many.

Sure, neither diet includes pork, beef, and chicken, but what about yogurt, pizza, and brownies?

Let’s learn the difference between vegan and vegetarian by looking at the definition of both below.

Vegetarians, according to the Vegetarian Society, are individuals who don’t eat the by-products and products of animal slaughter. This includes:

  • Poultry, such as duck, turkey, and chicken
  • Meat, such as pork, lamb and beef
  • Shellfish and fish
  • Insects
  • Fats or stock derived from animal slaughter
  • Gelatin, rennet and other kinds of animal protein

However, most vegetarians will consume by-products that don’t involve animal slaughter, including:

  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk

They consume a range of veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, pulses, and grains as well as meat substitutes which derive from these ingredients.

In general, vegetarianism is less dietarily restrictive than veganism. Therefore, vegetarianism has several variations, including:

  • Lacto-vegetarian: Don’t eat any fish, meat or eggs but consume dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Avoid all kinds of fish and meat but do consume eggs and dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarian: Don’t eat any meat, dairy products, or fish but do consume eggs.
  • Pescatarian: Avoid all meats except fish and seafood.

Veganism, on the other hand, is the stricter form of vegetarianism. As mentioned before, vegans do not use or consume any animal products and by-products.

They strictly avoid consuming any beverages or foods that contain:

  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish and fish
  • Insects
  • Honey
  • Fats or stock that derive from animals
  • Gelatin, rennet and other kinds of animal protein

Vegans also extend these principles beyond diet and will try to avoid products that involve the use of animals (directly or indirectly). Such products include:

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Latex products, which contain casein from milk proteins
  • Leather goods
  • Beeswax
  • Cosmetics and other products that manufacturers tested on animals
  • Candles, soaps, and other products that contain animal fats

Tips on transitioning to a vegan lifestyle

Honey, Ginger and Lemon

1. Learn, Learn, Learn

Before you even start the transition, you should first familiarize yourself with veganism. This should help you become prepared and knowledgeable as you start changing and navigating your new lifestyle. Here are some of the things worth knowing:

  • Understand the benefits of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and learn about the costs and practices behind animal-derived products.
  • Learn how to optimally nourish your body on this plant-based diet.
  • Start reading some ingredient lists and learn how to tell if a product is actually vegan. That means Googling “Is honey vegan?” and so many other questions. Familiarize yourself with less obvious animal-derived ingredients showing up in unsuspecting products.
  • Research vegan products at a local grocery store and search for vegan-friendly grocery stores, and restaurants in your area.
  • Watch, read, and learn. Seek out vegan documentaries, magazines, books, blogs, websites, people, and forums, since they can offer valuable support and insights to help you feel more confident in your lifestyle transition.

2. Add Before You Subtract

Start adding more whole grains, legumes, beans, tofu, seeds, and nuts into your diet. Familiarize yourself with their storage, uses, and preparation. Then, start experimenting and collecting diverse vegan recipes. Choose a few easy and quick vegan meals that you really enjoy and get comfortable in preparing them. Eventually, your taste buds and your body will get used to the new diet, and you will feel more comfortable removing all meat and animal products and substituting them with vegan replacements.

3. Fuel Your Motivation

There’s a huge difference between embracing a vegan lifestyle and just going on a vegan diet. It is easy to be lured into straying from the diet plan and to start cheating if you are looking to use the diet for temporary personal benefits.

Instead, when you become vegan out of principle and act from those values for the benefit of the collective, it will be difficult to stray from that lifestyle. This is why it is crucial that you learn about the benefits of being vegan as well as the effects of animal products on your health and the environment.

When you become aware of those, there is no going back.

4. Find Support

Change can be quite lonely sometimes. Indeed, many vegetarians and vegans give up the lifestyle because they feel too different. Having the support of others who share the same thinking and values can go a long way in helping to ease your transition to a new lifestyle.

If you have friends or family members who are interested in your new lifestyle, then you can also try to enlist their company and support. While they might not want to go vegan with you, they might be willing to come over and cook a vegan meal with you or be a recipe tester when you’re trying out a new meal.

If you do not have support at home, you can try reaching out to your plant-based community, exploring vegan restaurants, potlucks, eateries, or meetup groups. You can find communities online by reading blogs, joining forums, sharing your recipes, and exploring vegan websites like Ardor SEO!