Being vegan is about living a lifestyle that does not cause suffering, harm or death to animals, and allowing animals to be free to choose the way they want to live. Other animals are sentient beings like us, with their own needs, desires and interests. We now know that like us, they can experience a wide range of sensations and emotions such as happiness, pain, pleasure, fear, hunger, sadness, boredom, frustration or contentment. They are aware of the world and what happens to them matters to them. Their lives have intrinsic value - they are not inferior beings nor just here as resources or tools for human use. Discriminating against non-human animals or believing them to be inferior solely because they belong to a different species is known as speciesism and is as unscientific and unjust as racism or sexism. Find out more about speciesism here.
All use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, pets or experimentation involves utilising animals against their will, and - in the vast majority of cases - involves their suffering and deaths. We are brought up to believe in our current society that we need to consume or make use of other animals but this is neither ethical nor necessary. Instead, vegans choose to live a lifestyle that respects other animals as sentient individuals whose lives have meaning and do not consume, wear or use animal products or take part in activities which exploit animals. Today, being vegan is easy, proven to be healthy and needn't cost more. Find out more below.
Vegans do not eat foods that come from animals, which includes meat, fish and shellfish, dairy, eggs and honey. They can eat all plant foods, including cereals (such as oats, wheat or corn); pulses (such as peas, beans, lentils and soya beans), all vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, algaes, herbs and spices, and products made from any of these foods. A vegan diet can be very varied, and as limitless in possibilities as your imagination. Nowadays, as more people are turning vegan, and as vegan chefs are becoming more experienced and creative, the range of recipes, foods in cafes and restaurants, and products in supermarkets is expanding rapidly, both in quantity and quality. This includes vegan 'substitutes' for products such as sausages, burgers, milk, cheese, ice-cream and cream which you might miss at first. A well-planned vegan diet is healthy and suitable for everyone. The world's largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals, the American Dietetic Association states: "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.… suitable for everyone. The American Dietetic Association, 2009 www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8357 More information on vegan nutrition at the UK vegan society www.vegansociety.com
Vegans do not wear or use clothes, shoes or furnishings made with the skins, hair or feathers of other animals, including fur, leather, wool, feathers and silk. They can wear and use plant fabrics such as cotton, linen or hemp, and manmade materials such as polyester, acrylic or nylon. Vegan shoes are much more widely available now than in the past and the range of styles and the quality has increased dramatically in recent years. In addition to being free of animal exploitation, vegan clothes can be green too. Hemp and linen have seen a resurgence as strong, durable and versatile fabrics, vintage and secondhand clothes are on the rise, and synthetic materials are increasingly being recycled.
Animals exist for their own reasons and belong in their own habitat with other members of their species, not in artificial environments created for human entertainment and profit. Vegans do not visit circuses with animals, zoos, safari parks, aquariums, horseraces, or any other places where animals are kept for the benefit of humans. Vegans generally support animal sanctuaries however, where the animals have been rescued from places of exploitation, as well as wildlife rescue centres and wildlife reserves, and it is also possible to respectfully observe animals in their own habitats.
Vegans do not believe in the breeding of domesticated animals such as horses, dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, birds or fishes. Domestication is not in the animals' best interests, as they are dependent on humans for everything that is important to them in their lives. Humans decide what and when they will eat, where they will live, whether they receive affection or exercise, if they are allowed to socialise with members of their own species, and as property, they can be bought, sold, given away or abandoned. 'Pets' may bring us pleasure, but the animals themselves belong in their world, not ours, with the freedom to live as they choose. Vegans do rescue and adopt abandoned animals however, seeing them as refugees deserving of care while they are in this world, but they do not perpetuate the institution of 'pet' ownership.
Vegans do not buy cosmetics or household products that have been tested on animals, instead choosing cruelty-free and vegan products. They also try to minimise their use of medicines which may have been tested on animals wherever possible. The BUAV run the Humane Cosmetics Standard and the Humane Household Products Standard certification process in Britain and products conforming to these standards receive the 'leaping bunny' logo, although their products may not necessarily be vegan. www.buav.org The Vegan Society's Trademark sunflower symbol can be found on a wide range of products, including soaps, shampoos, perfumes, moisturizers, cleansers, sunscreens and shower gels, guaranteeing that these products do not contain animal products, nor have been tested on animals. www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/cosmetics