I tried to include the vegan diet last week under vegetarianism, but there was just too much information. Begin a vegan is more of a lifestyle choice and a philosophy than a diet.
The general interpretation is that a vegan will not consume any foods of animal origin, not even honey, while a vegetarian might consume eggs, or dairy. Another general interpretation is that Veganism is a subdivision of Vegetarianism. However, some people believe that the only true vegetarian is a vegan.
Virtually all vegan societies also add that a vegan does not use products that come from animals, such as leather, wool, down, cosmetics, or products which have been tested on animals.
The three main reasons people adopt veganism:
- Animal Rights – Vegans do not consume or use dairy products or eggs even though doing so would not kill the animal. Part of the reason is a belief in the absolute right of animals to exist freely without human interference. Also, many commercially-raised egg-laying chickens and dairy cows are slaughtered when their productivity declines with age.
- Environment – Livestock farming can have a devastating effect on the planet. Producing food through animal farming is inefficient, because animal feed production takes up a lot of land, fertilizer, water, and other resources – resources that could be used for feeding humans. More people could be fed on existing land if we all became vegans.
- Health – Eating animal fats and proteins has been shown in studies to raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and a number of other illnesses. The fat and protein content of cow’s milk is very different from human milk, leading some experts to suggest that we are not designed for consuming cow’s milk.
A significant number of vegans say the most successful way to become a long-term vegan is to do so gradually. Most vegans were vegetarians first, and gradually made the transition into veganism.
The list of famous vegans/vegetarians is quite long. I picked a few that I thought might peak your interest.
- Alicia Siverstone (Actress)
- Benjamin Franklin (Scientist and diplomat)
- George Bernard Shaw (Novelist)
- Henry Ford (Founder of Ford Motor Company)
- Mahatma Gandhi (of course, you knew this one)
- Albert Einstein (Scientist)
- H.G. Wells (Author)
- Leonardo da Vinci (Painter, architect and engineer)
- Paul McCartney (Musician)
- Plato (Greek philosopher)
- Prince (Musician)
- Ricky Williams (Professional football player)
- Sir Isaac Newton (Physicist)
- St. Frances of Assisi (Founder of Franciscan order of friars)
- Vincent Van Gogh (Painter)
The Bottom Line:
I admire the individual that adopts a vegan diet for philosophical reasons. It is a much cleaner diet primarily because of the chemical additives we use to raise animals. Clinically, I recommend a vegan diet when treating a hormonal cancer – prostate, breast, etc. It is important to remove all exogenous hormone sources with these conditions. However, a vegan diet requires a lot of work to meet the nutritional needs of the body. One of my vegan patients claims she spends a minimum of four hours a day in the kitchen preparing her food. Vitamin B12 must be supplemented and you must strive to make sure you get adequate protein that contains sufficient quantities of all the essential amino acids.
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein