Can you tell me all the kinds of vegans there are?
Hmm, let's see.... There are big, small, old, young,
tall, short, gay, straight, thin, fat, single, married, wealthy, poor,
Asian, Black, Hispanic, White, brown, "green," Jewish, Christian, Hindu,
Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, democrat, republican,
socialist, capitalist, leftist, rightist, liberal, conservative....
Well, you get the picture. There is no one kind of vegan.
The term "vegan" was created in 1944 by a small group of
people in England who broke away from the Leicester Vegetarian Society
to establish the world's first Vegan Society. Donald Watson coined the
actual term by combining the first and last parts of the word
"vegetarian" because, as Watson stated, "veganism begins with
vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion." The
group championed a totally plant-based diet excluding flesh, fish, fowl,
eggs, honey, animals' milk, butter, and cheese. In addition, they
opposed the use of animal-based commodities and encouraged the
manufacture and use of alternatives. Their mission statement asserted
that the elimination of exploitation of any kind is necessary in order
to bring about a more reasonable and humane society and emancipate both
humans and animals. In 1960, the American Vegan Society was founded in
the United States by Jay Dinshah. It fully supported (and continues to
support) the precepts of the British Vegan Society, advocating a totally
plant based diet and lifestyle free of animal products.
The term "vegetarian" was created in 1847 by the people
who eventually became the first members of the Vegetarian Society of
Great Britain. It refers to individuals who do not eat meat, fowl, or
fish. The word "vegetarian" encompasses strictly what one eats and does
not allude to behavior outside of diet. As a result, there are many
different kinds of vegetarians because there is a wide range of food
choices within these parameters. There are vegetarians who are ovo,
lacto, ovolacto, macrobiotic, raw foodist, natural hygiene, oil-free,
sugar-free, high-protein, low carbohydrate, and so on. Within the
boundaries of the basic definition, the possibilities are limitless.
This is because there is no ideology behind the meaning of "vegetarian"
that consolidates each person's individual perspective or motivation.
Therefore, people may choose to be vegetarian for any number of reasons
and their diets may differ vastly. Because vegetarianism deals
exclusively with food, the concept of a "vegetarian lifestyle" is an
oxymoron. The only thing a vegetarian has in common with other
vegetarians is what they don't eat.
Contrary to vegetarianism, veganism was founded on
deeply held ethical convictions that espouse a dynamic respect for all
life. This philosophy unifies vegans everywhere, regardless of
superficial differences. Hence, a vegan from one part of the world can
relate to and empathize with a vegan from another part of the world
despite their disparate culture and language.
There are no such entities as "part-time vegans,"
"partial vegans," or "dietary vegans." People who merely consume no
animal products, including no eggs, animals' milk, or honey are not
vegans; they are "total vegetarians." Until one's commitment extends
beyond the scope of food, the word "vegan" does not apply, regardless of
how the media or certain individuals wish to employ it. Unlike
vegetarianism, being vegan does not entail simply what a person does or
doesn't eat -- it comprises who a person is.
People who are vegan attempt to imbue every aspect of
their lives with an ethic of compassion. This influences their choice of
clothing, personal care products, occupation, and hobbies, as well as
food. It also colors their political perspectives, social attitudes, and
personal relationships. This is not to say that all vegans think alike,
act the same, have analogous opinions, or view the world and their place
in it identically. Nevertheless, vegans do subscribe to a shared tenet
that builds a collective awareness. It is this coalescence of
consciousness that creates a bond among vegans and has the power to
transcend cursory distinctions. In the final analysis, despite our
diversity, there is only one type of vegan -- a person who is committed
to and practices a reverence and respect for all life.
Joanne is the author of The Vegan Sourcebook.
Go on to Octogenarian
Activist a Role Model For Us All
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