On November the 1st, people all over the world celebrate World Vegan Day. What does it mean to be vegan?
World Vegan Day was first officially celebrated on 1 November 1994, which marked the 50-year commemoration of the first Vegan Society, established in the UK in November 1944. The Vegan Society sought to establish the concept of veganism and kick-start the vegan movement. World Vegan Day not only celebrates the founding of this community but also an opportunity to promote the benefits of veganism.
What is veganism?
In its most basic form, being vegan means not consuming meat or animal products. In addition to this simple dietary definition, however, veganism is also a philosophy and way of living that excludes any form of cruelty to or exploitation of animals for food, clothing and any other purpose. The vegan lifestyle encompasses being conscious about what you eat and the products and services you use, and how your food and lifestyle choices affect other sentient beings and our living environment. It means to show compassion to other living creatures on this earth, and respect for the living environment.
I first considered veganism about five years ago after watching a very graphic and distressing lecture filled with animals in torturous conditions, which brought me to tears. I'd always thought of myself as an animal lover (I'm that person who goes to house parties and hangs out with the pet dog), but hadn't stopped to consider why I excluded some animals and not others.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, almost 700 million animals are killed every year in Australia for human consumption. Many of these animals are kept in permanent and often cramped confinement. The pain and distress of each individual creature is completely disregarded in the face of profitability. The animals we use for food―cows, pigs, chickens, ducks―are intelligent and emotionally complex beings that rarely live a full and free life as nature intended.
We are also uncomfortably aware that the world is undergoing an environmental crisis. Extensive farming and consumption of animal products have contributed significantly to deforestation, climate change, and scarcity of water and other natural resources.
According to a report by the International Humane Society, nearly one billion people are malnourished. Instead of directly feeding these suffering people, we are feeding 50 per cent of the world’s grain crop to animals to be raised for meat, eggs and milk. And this food goes typically to people in wealthy countries to consume. Another study estimates that by 2050, the livestock population worldwide will have grown to the point where the plant food it consumes would be able to feed approximately four billion people.
Four billion. We can actually end world hunger if we choose to do so.
Benefits of veganism
Veganism also has the power to reduce, and even reverse, many chronic diseases. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are noteworthy. A vegan diet can lessen the impacts of arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and Type-2 diabetes. Veganism combats obesity more effectively than any other diet. It reduces the risk of colon cancer and cardiac disease. Those on a vegan diet also consume more antioxidants than those who are not.
With more people than ever embracing veganism, big and exciting changes have been taking place all around the world. Last year, the amount of Google searches for the term "vegan" increased by 90 per cent. A new study expects that a quarter of New Zealanders will be meat-free by 2025. In Britain, there are half a million people who follow a vegan diet. In Canada, the government released a new draft national food guide that favours a high proportion of plant-based foods. Dairy consumption has declined so much that dairy farmers in the US are now converting their farms into almond groves to supply the increasing demand for almond milk. Ben & Jerry's has released vegan ice-cream flavours. And others are following suit.
Veganism in Sydney
Sydney is fast becoming vegan-friendly, with a surge of vegan options in restaurants, cafés and retail shops. There's Soul Burger, home to some of the top-rated vegan burgers in Sydney, even rivalling meat burgers, with restaurants in Randwick, Glebe, Newtown and Parramatta. In St Peters, there's Suzy Spoon, the only vegan butcher in Sydney. The Cruelty Free Shop in Glebe is a vegan supermarket with a range of vegan food, and health, fashion, beauty and household products. And on the third day of each month, the Sydney Vegan Market opens its doors in Moore Park, offering a plethora of all things plant-based, cruelty-free and vegan.
If you wish to see a difference in the world, you can start by exploring your lifestyle choices. Consider the benefits of a plant-based diet. Try "Meatless Mondays", or a 7-day or 30-day vegan challenge. Show compassion to all animals. Lend your support to local products and businesses that are kind to people, animals and nature.
Note: Here is the lecture I mentioned earlier. Some viewers may find it distressing to watch, but perhaps that very distress is a sign that something isn't quite right―and hence worth watching for the important message it reveals.
Do you have an awesome vegan, animal-free or cruelty-free product or service that you'd like me to know and write about? Get in touch with me at stellawrites.net!
Stella Logan is a professional writer and lover of all animals, veggie sausages, coconut ice-cream and almond coffees.
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