What is vegan

Veganism is a philosophy and way of life and a vegan diet is a part of it. A vegan aspires to avoid all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives.

In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people. —Ruth Harison, Animal Machines

What’s the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan?

A vegetarian does not eat any dead animals, or parts of them. This means no meat, poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks, etc.), fish or other water animals (like shrimp and crabs), or any by-products of these animals, like gelatin or animal fats or cheeses made from rennet taken from the stomachs of calves.

A vegan will not eat any of these either but will also strive to avoid all animal products for food (milk and milk products, eggs, honey) since these also cause pain and suffering. They also avoid animal products—leather, silk, pearls, wool or even paint brushes made of animal hair, as well as products that have been tested on animals.

The vegan genuinely believes that “Thou Shalt Not Kill” means exactly what it says, no more no less. It certainly does not mean “Thou Shalt Not Kill, except for the pleasure of eating the bodies of the slain or drinking the milk intended by nature for the slaughtered calf; the vain desire to adorn the human body with fur, feathers, or skin of another animal; or because it is a very profitable business to breed or catch animals for the experimental laboratory where they will be starved, burned, gassed, poisoned or mutilated and otherwise tortured and then killed. —Eva V Batt

What does veganism involve?

Veganism involves the openness to change in order to prevent suffering, the willingness to be creative and to cook healthy tasteful meals. It does take some work to learn how to eat and to get used to it. Of course you will miss a few things at first, like cheese and milk chocolate but there are vegan alternatives available, so don’t despair.

In addition to the health benefits, the experience of SHARAN has been that this change in diet brings about a change in the emotional health of the person as well. The accounts of Dean Ornish’s patients in his book ‘Reversing Heart Disease’ also testify to this.

Many of our participants have experienced that fear, insecurity, lack of confidence, forsakenness as well as anger and violence and other stressful emotions dissolve just by making dietary changes, paving the way for personal and spiritual growth. Consuming foods from animal sources even in minute quantities brings back these negative feelings and the difference is clearly perceptible.

This can be explained by understanding the stress and emotions of the animals that we exploit for food. They are raised in stressful, unnatural conditions and slaughter itself is a stress. This raises their levels of adrenaline, which in turn we receive when we consume them or their products.

As long as there is conscious life on Earth, there will be suffering. The question becomes what to do with the existence each of us is given. We can choose to add our own fury and misery to the rest, or we can set an example by simultaneously working constructively to alleviate suffering while leading joyous, meaningful, fulfilled lives. Being a vegan isn’t about deprivation or anger. It’s about being fully aware so as to be fully alive. —Matt Ball, Vegan Outreach