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What is a Vegan?

Apple EarthSo what is a vegan? The simple answer is that a vegan is someone who does not eat meat or dairy. But there is so much more to it than that.

First, let's start with a little background information. Once upon a time in the early 1940's there was a growing concern among the well-established vegetarian movement that consumption of dairy was as unethical as was the consumption of meat.

In 1944 a small group of these "dairy-free vegetarians" in Britain decided to formalize their split from the "lacto-vegetarians" and they established the Vegan Society.

Their primary purpose in dropping dairy from their meat-free diets was largely philosophical - In their first newsletter, founder Donald Watson stated that:

"...our present civilization is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilizations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals' bodies..."

So although the original answer to the question of "What is a vegan?" was largely based on an ethical refusal to exploit animals, there was also a strong sense that nutritionally the consumption of animal products was unhealthly. They could not prove this scientifically at the time, but they were sure that science would eventually support their ideas.

Fast forward to 2005 and the publication of The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell's unprecedented study spanned over 20 years and involved data collected on over 6500 human test subjects - The findings were incredible. Dr. Campbell and his colleagues were able to show a very powerful connection between the consumption of animal proteins and the development of disease in humans.

In particular, Dr. Campbell discovered that casein, the protein found in dairy, is particularly correlated with tumor development. The China study was actually able to show that tumor growth could be turned on and off by introducing or withdrawing casein from the diet.

So it appears that Donald Watson and the founders of the Vegan Society have been vindicated. Their belief that veganism is not just a diet, but a choice to live more consciously, has caught on and veganism has now spread worldwide.

So what is a vegan then? A vegan is someone who chooses to live in harmony with the earth rather than in supremacy over it. Vegans make conscious choices every day to:

  • eat only plant-based foods
  • insure that the plant-based foods they eat have not been exploited using genetic modification or poisonous chemicals
  • use non-food products like cosmetics, skin care products, clothing, and shoes that are vegan and eco-friendly.
  • promote green consciousness and sustainable living

If you would like more information to help you answer the question, "What is a vega diet?" be sure to check out the Becoming a Vegan and Vegan Food Pyramid pages.

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