My spell check does not recognize the word vegan. The
alternatives given are: Vegas, began, Megan, veggie and regain. This got me thinking.
Because English has more than one sound for each vowel
many words have multiple pronunciations. Many people say “vaygan”.
I usually reply that vaygans are people who live in Las
Those of us who do not consume or use animal products
are called “vegans”. The people often ask why we do it and
how we manage to enjoy eating. This allows me to give them the
capsule version – we do it for our health, the welfare of
animals and to protect our environment. If they seem ready for more, I
say more. If not, I leave it alone and hope I have shed a
bit of light so that they will think about the issues and be open to
learning more. If they ask how, I mention a few good dishes and
offer to e-mail recipes.
“How It All Vegan” is the title of a popular vegan
How did this term originate? A very complete answer is
provided by Joanne Stepaniak in “Vegan Living: The Path of Compassion.” Stepaniak writes, “Many people are unaware
that there is a word for followers of a fully compassionate
way of life.
It is the term ‘vegan.’ Although some people who are
familiar with vegan practice think of it as something new or
extreme in many ways, just the opposite is true.
“Throughout human history, there have been people who
have attempted to live as harm-free as possible, but there
was no particular name for their lifestyle until about 60 years ago. The
word ‘vegan’ was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson
who, along with several other members of the Vegetarian
Society in Leicester, wanted to form an alliance of nondairy
vegetarians as a subgroup. When their proposal was rejected, they
created their own organization. To name themselves, they came up with
the word ‘vegan,’ (pronounced VEE-gn, with a long “e” and
hard “g”) from the first three and last two letters of
‘vegetarian,’ because, as Donald Watson explained, ‘veganism starts
with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion. Watson is alive, well and vegan at age 94.
“In late 1944, The Vegan Society was established,
advocating a totally plant-based diet excluding flesh, fish, fowl,
eggs, honey, and animals’ milk, butter, and cheese, and also encouraging
the manufacture and use of alternatives to animal commodities, including clothing and shoes. The group argued that the
elimination of exploitation of any kind was necessary in order to bring
about a more reasonable and humane society. From its inception,
veganism was defined as a ‘philosophy’ and ‘way of living.’ It
was never intended to be merely a diet and, still today, describes
a lifestyle and belief system that revolves around a reverence for life.
“In 1960, the American Vegan Society was born in the
United States, founded by Jay Dinshah. It wholly embraced, and
continues to embrace, the principles of its British predecessor,
advocating a strictly plant-based diet and lifestyle free of animal
In addition, the American Vegan Society promotes the
philosophy of ahimsa, a Sanskrit word interpreted as dynamic
harmlessness, along with advocating service to humanity, nature, and
creation. In other words, in order to practice veganism, it is not
sufficient to simply avoid specific foods and products; it is
necessary to actively participate in beneficial selfless action as well.” As
you can see, being vegan is much more than just being a “strict”
vegetarian, as some people like to call us.
I don’t know anyone named Megan who is vegan, but we
have our very own Reagan (say Reegan which, of course, rhymes
with vegan). Reagan Leonard who serves as our Events
Coordinator is a vibrant, healthy enthusiastic advocate of compassionate living. She and her husband John Bongiorno are raising two very healthy, active and happy daughters, Karis age 6 and Jesse age 3. I wish all
the people who approach me at health fairs and tell me they are
worried about their vegetarian daughter or daughter-in-law and family,
could meet and spend a day with this active, happy and healthy
We have been asked why we don’t change our name to the
Mid-Hudson Vegan Society, as only vegan food is served at
our events and we advocate a vegan way of life. There are two
Many people do not know what vegan means. Also we do not have a test for membership. Some of our members are
vegetarian, but not vegan, and a few still eat meat or fish. As we
often say, “You do not have to be a vegetarian to attend our
events, just eat like one when you do.” Very few of us have been
lifelong vegetarians or vegans. We want to give others the
opportunity to learn more and to help them with the process.
The benefits of a vegan lifestyle are many. It is easier
to return to a normal body weight and to regain the good numbers, not
only on the scale but also in major health assessments,
including cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Becoming vegan won’t solve all your health problems but almost everyone who
adopts a vegan diet finds some significant improvement, such as
relief from allergies, asthma, arthritis, digestive disorders,
and other health problems. For many, knowing that how we live
reduces cruelty in the world and conserves resources is
life-affirming and contributes to happiness and well-being.
Do something good for yourself and for our world. We
hope to see as many of you as possible at our 2005 events.
Roberta Schiff, President