We are vegan because we believe that veganism is the diet with the lowest impact on the Earth’s resources. A vegan diet is a more ecological choice. Producing animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy, is an intensely polluting process, which demands greater resource inputs than a plant based diet. Quite simply, the more distant your food is from photosynthesis, the more ecologically inefficient it is, in resource terms, because the more energy has been lost in converting one foodstuff to another.
While there are certainly advantages to a locally-grown diet, a vegan diet reduces the ecological harm of your food consumption significantly more. The pollution inherent in producing animal products on a large scale exceeds the pollution inherent in shipping food extreme distances. Here in New Zealand, for example, approximately half of our greenhouse gas emissions are methane, from the dairy industry.
We are vegan because we believe that veganism is the only dietary choice that respects animals as sentient, self-aware, experiencing subjects of life. The industrial production of animal products treats animals as nothing more than factors of production. They are reduced to bio-machines, existing solely to produce eggs, dairy, and meat. We are vegan because veganism rejects the instrumental use of animals.
Going vegetarian, but not vegan, is one step. But it is frequently counter-productive. If you do not want to eat the flesh of dead animals, why eat eggs, when male chicks are killed in horrific ways? Pound for pound, milk and dairy typically involve as much or more suffering and death as meat. So, while we certainly respect vegetarians’ decisions, we question the logic of vegetarianism for animal rights or animal welfare. Replacing meat with more eggs or more dairy could quite possibly cause a net harm to animals – which we doubt any vegetarian intends.
We are vegan because we believe that it is a sensible choice for humanity. It has net health benefits, not costs, and because it uses vastly fewer resources, it allows more food to be produces on less land. It is trite to say that if the world were vegan, the world’s people would be fed.
A vegan (pronounced vee-gun) rejects the use and consumption of animal products. The English Vegan Society, founded by Donald Watson, who coined the term, defines veganism as follows:
A vegan is someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, with nothing coming from animals – no meat, milk, eggs or honey, for example. A vegan lifestyle also avoids leather, wool, silk and other animal products for clothing or any other purpose.
Thus, veganism entails both a vegan diet – the consumption of food from only plant, fungal or other non-animal sources – and the abstention from using animal products, such as leather, wool, and silk. Many cosmetics are also made from animal products, and so not vegan. Most vegans also boycott products that are tested on animals.
A vegetarian diet is a diet that involves abstention from meat and similar products of animal slaughter. A vegetarian diet is predominantly based around plant foods, although involves animal products such as eggs and dairy. There are numerous reasons why people may adopt vegetarian diets.
While some semi-vegetarians who consume fish or white meat (such as chicken) do describe themselves as vegetarian, that is an extremely inaccurate use of the term. Indeed, the English Vegetarian Society, which popularised – if not created the word, specifically says that such diets are not vegetarian. Moreover, strictly speaking, vegetarianism involves abstention from other products of animal slaughter, such as gelatin, rennet, and animal fats. This can, for a careful vegetarian, require distinctions between vegetarian and non-vegetarian cheese (as some cheese is made with rennet from cows’ stomach lining). Further, potato chips – for example – are often cooked or precooked in beef tallow.
One can make distinctions between different kinds of vegetarian. A lacto-vegetarian consumes dairy, but not eggs. An ovo-vegetarian consumes eggs, but not dairy. An ovo-lacto-vegetarian, then, is the precise name for a vegetarian who consumes both eggs and dairy.
Unlike veganism, vegetarianism does not involve the abstention from animal products for things other than foods, such as clothing or cosmetics. Additionally, a vegetarian diet does not necessary have an ethical or moral basis; many vegetarians choose their diets purely for taste or health reasons.