What is Veganism?

The word veganism spelled out in blocks
Veganism is more than just a plant-based diet.

Veganism is a way of life and philosophy. It excludes all animal products from diet and lifestyle. The underlying belief is kindness to all creatures.

Veganism seems to be the word on everybody’s lips lately. With the number of people all around the world pledging to go vegan steadily rising each year, the trend is unlikely to die out anytime soon.

But what is veganism and what is its history? Keep reading for a brief overview of the past and current state of this revolutionary belief.

If you are new to veganism or just finding out more information, you might like: What is Vegan Food? You can also find out more information in How to Become Vegan

A heart made out of fruit and vegetables
Veganism is about living a cruelty-free lifestyle

Origins of Veganism

When we ask what veganism is, we are more often than not met by the Vegan Society’s classic definition of the term:

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.

The term was first coined in 1944 by British woodworker Donald Watson, as an attempt to differentiate between vegetarians that consumed dairy and eggs and the ones who did not. Watson is now considered the pioneer of Veganism, founding the aforementioned Vegan Society in the same year.

In recent years, the word “veganism” has started to become a synonym for “plant-based,” a dietary choice where all animal products are excluded from one’s diet.

However, if we take a closer look at the original definition, one thing is clear: Veganism is a philosophical and ethical belief going way beyond diet alone. It seeks to exclude all animal exploitation from our consumer choices and lifestyle, including clothing, furniture, beauty products, entertainment and much more.

So what is veganism, really? We’ll break it down for you one aspect at the time.

Kindness on your plate

The mainstream’s focus on plant-based diets (also known as dietary veganism) makes sense. Food is an extremely important component of our lives.

Three meals a day, every day, we are faced with a choice of meat-based vs plant-based foods.

Selection of fruit and nuts that can be eaten on a vegan diet
You can choose to eat vegan for every meal

A self-identified vegan will choose to make their meals and snacks out of ingredients free from animal products. They won’t buy or consume meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey (even though the latter is still a debated topic among many vegans).

To read more on the subject: Is Honey Vegan?

So, what does that leave us with? A whole variety of products you might already have sitting in your cupboard: fruit, green vegetables, root vegetables, pasta, beans, lentils, oats, bread, rice, nuts… the list goes on.

Not to mention, new meat and dairy alternatives suitable for vegans are coming out every day. Just take a closer look at your local supermarket’s stock and you’ll be surprised at the amount of meat and dairy-free replacements.

Read more in: What is Vegan Cheese and How Is It Made?

Following a vegan diet is incredibly healthy for you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your favorite junk food anymore. Vegan ice cream, chocolate, burgers, cheese, and yogurts are becoming more and more readily available worldwide.

For starters, try this Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Some of your favorite snacks, such as chips and crackers, might already be suitable for a vegan diet – just read the ingredients label to make sure! Here is our Huge List of Accidentally Vegan Foods that will help.

A closet free of cruelty

Veganism also seeks to exclude the purchase and use of animal products when it comes to clothing. Vegans will not buy leather, silk, wool, down, suede, fur or any other material derived from an animal.

Cotton is a pure plant-based fabric.
Vegans choose pure plant-based fabrics.

This aspect of veganism is often the hardest to adhere to. Animal-derived clothing is everywhere and alternative options for shoes and coats are often not easy to come by.

However, the online market for vegan clothing is booming with more and more established brands embracing the lifestyle and providing options suitable for vegans, such as Dr. Martens.

We are definitely moving towards a world where vegan clothing is just as accessible as vegan food.

Read more: What is Vegan Leather Made of?

Beauty without the beast

Veganism also strives to exclude the use of beauty products that are tested on animals or that contain animal ingredients. In the last few years, animal testing has been universally condemned by non-vegans too, with cruelty-free cosmetic brands slowly becoming the new normal.

However, vegans will also choose not to purchase beauty products containing ingredients such as carmine, beeswax, and lanolin. Unbeknown to many, these ingredients are often used in lipsticks, mascaras, and eyeliners.

We recommend these Top Must-Have Vegan Beauty Brands

Sign that says, "No animal testing" surrounded by flowers
Vegans use products that are cruelty-free

Cruelty-free fun

Many forms of entertainment are considered to exploit animals as well. Circuses, zoos, aquariums, and horseraces are considered to be inherently exploitative and more often than not, unnecessarily cruel and abusive to animals.

Vegans choose not to partake in any of these forms of entertainment as either consumers or active participants. We can safely say that it would be quite unlikely to come across a vegan working at Sea World.

Why vegan?

As viral videos such as “Do all vegans think the same?” suggest, vegans around the world all have different personal opinions about certain topics.

Still, what is veganism if not an informed choice?

If you’ve made it this far, this is what you might be wondering: Why do some people choose to adopt veganism as a lifestyle in the first place?

The reasons why some people choose to embrace a vegan lifestyle are varied.

Why you should consider being vegan

The most common reasons for going vegan are related to animal welfare, environmentalism, and health, with the latter mostly referring to dietary veganism.

It is quite obvious to say that adopting a vegan lifestyle can prevent a tremendous amount of animal suffering. When it comes to climate change, veganism can offer a powerful way of reducing one’s environmental footprint.

In addition to that, it’s been proven that a balanced vegan diet can reduce the risk of various chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s also been shown to sometimes even reverse those conditions.

Find out more: Is a Vegan Diet Healthy?

With vegan food becoming more and more readily available each passing year, and with more celebrities embracing veganism, the belief is now more popular than ever.

What about you?

So, what is veganism for you? Or what could it be if you decide to start incorporating more vegan meals into your diet or avoiding animal-derived clothing?

If you don’t know where to start, our article What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian is a good place to start! After all, the best time to start is now.