Veganism has emerged as the fastest growing lifestyle movement in recent years. It is a lifestyle that evolved from the belief that humans can coexist with all other living beings peacefully, without using or exploiting them in any fashion. Vegans abstain from the consumption of any foods directly or indirectly derived from animal sources and adhere to a philosophy that rejects the co modification of animals. Thus, besides subsisting on a plant-based diet, vegans also avoid products of animal origin or those that are tested on animals, with compassion being a key factor for the growth of the vegan movement.
Veganism has probably existed for thousands of years without having a term to define it. The Brokpa tribe of Ladakh, for example, has thrived by eating vegan for more than 5,000 years in the harsh Himalayan terrain. Several vegan communities were in existence in the United States and England during the 19th century. Donald Watson coined the term ‘vegan’ when he published the first edition of The Vegan News, and co-founded the Vegan Society at London in November, 1944. The Society soon made clear that it rejected the use of animals for any purpose, not only in diet. The World Vegan Day is held every November 1 to mark the founding of the Society. The World Vegan Month was established in 1994 to commemorate the forward movement of the ideology, as well as the creation of The Vegan Society in the UK in November, 50 years earlier.
Veganism is about animals. Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only one reason for becoming vegan, but for many, it remains the key factor. Ethical vegans avoid animal products on the premise that their production causes animal suffering and premature death. In the dairy industry, newborn male calves are use- less to dairy farmers, so they are taken away from their mothers within 24-72 hours of birth. If not killed and discarded immediately, they are sold into the beef industry and raised for their flesh. The veal industry would not exist if it wasn’t for the dairy industry. The female calves are also taken away from the mother only a few hours after birth. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated by artificial insemination and forced to produce up to ten times more milk than they would naturally. The overuse of their udders leads to painful infections such as mastitis, which can also cause pus and blood to be filtered into the milk that humans then drink. A cow with a natural life span of 25 years lives for only five to seven years on a factory farm.
Vegan for health
Consumption of animal products has been linked to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, many forms of cancer, strokes, hypertension, dementia and osteoporosis and many of them can be treated by switching to a plant-based lifestyle. Well-planned and plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fiber and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the biggest health issues.
For the environment
The production of animal meat and other animal products places a heavy burden on the environment. The vast amount of fodder required for meat production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. It takes 15,500 liters of water to produce one kg. Beef, contrasted with 180 liters for one kg. Tomatoes and 250 liters for one kg. Potatoes. Globally, farming uses about 70 per cent of the planets accessible freshwater. This is compared to around 20 per cent for industry, and about ten per cent for domestic use. Making the switch to veganism is one of the easiest, most enjoyable and most effective ways to reduce ourimpact on the environment.
The January month is traditionally a time for new beginnings and resolutions and the Veganuary campaign taps into this. It challenges all the people to try veganism for one month in the hope they will either give up or reduce their consumption of animal products permanently once January is over. The idea was initiated by vegan couple Jane Land and Matthew Glover in 2013 and it has grown to be a worldwide movement.