The exciting reality is that veganism is becoming increasingly mainstream, as the awesome Veganuary campaign rapidly grows. But the misconceptions about what it means to be vegan also grow. It can be made to sound complicated and tedious when reduced to reeling off a list of things you don’t eat or buy, and confusion reigns over whether vegans eat honey or the odd egg.
The definition is pretty simple. As the Vegan Society (the very founders of the movement) specify “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”. So what does this mean on a simple day-to-day basis? There is only one phrase you need to keep in mind every time you make a decision as a consumer: how does this action affect animals? If you don’t know, find a good source of information (i.e. not the company profiting from animal use) and educate yourself! Even the most innocuous seeming products like wool or silk, have some hidden realities for animals; inevitable when they exist only for our purpose instead of their own.
Giving the word, vegan, a definition and true meaning is less about having to label yourself and more about the practicalities of doing your very best to live without causing harm to animals.When you clearly understand that every choice you make has an impact on the world and you don’t want the impact to be negative for any animal, it makes each decision very simple. You are making the choice on behalf of those who have none.
Its very clear that, in general, people do not think it’s cool to be a cause of harm to animals, even when they are not an animal “lover”.
So if you’re not vegan, or eat a plant based diet but not for ethical reasons, this simple question, how does this action affect animals?, allows you to understand the view of an ethical vegan. Realising this way of thinking is often described as a flip of a switch or a light bulb going on in your brain; from this point on, choosing animal free feels the easiest and most obvious of decisions to make.
Knowing the truth, that the world is almost entirely geared up to use animals with little or no acknowledgement that their lives should be their own, can be challenging. But at this point the knowledge gives you power. Not a domineering, arrogant, superior power, but power deeply connected to compassion, kindness and being awake to reality. It’s feels like a truly beautiful and peaceful way to exist…especially when you can still eat all the chips!