There some interesting and bizarre arguments on this node about how humans are meant to eat meat and how it's all fine and dandy to meat 'cause hey animals eat meat, don't they? However, even assuming that everyone agrees that eating meat is natural and that we should model our behaviour after animals (which is pretty stupid, animals don't use computers, either, do they? Look, look, our long legs weren't designed for sitting in chairs all day! Let's all go hide in trees in the savanna! (*cough* err...) there remain several compelling reasons to pursue veganism:

  1. The environment. Farming animals for food consumes many times the land and resources that farming plants for food does to feed the same number of people. Farming cattle in particular has led to widespread deforestation and pollution. For environmentalists veganism makes a lot of sense.
  2. Health. Factory-farmed animals are often fed really gross shit, not to mention huge doses of antibiotics. But even if you eat free-range organic-fed animals, animal flesh still loads you up with fat & cholesterol. A vegan diet is cholesterol free and it's extremely fucking difficult to have too much fat in a vegan diet unless all you eat is potato chips. Eat meat and dairy products if you will, but the vegans will be laughing their asses off at you when you die of a heart attack at 50 and they're still bicycling around to their activist rallies at age 90. Veganism makes a lot of sense for health freaks. (Yes, even vitamin freaks. Yes, you can even get vitamin B12 in a vegan diet; synthetic B12 has been around for decades.)
  3. Cruelty. Even if you don't mind at all eating animals and animal products from farms where animals are lovingly cared for, perhaps you object to the overcrowded, abusive and cruel methods of factory farms, from which a large portion of the meat and dairy products come from here in North America. Veganism makes a lot of sense for people who care about animals, even if they're not extremists.
  4. Religion. Many religions, notably Buddhism, preach respect for all living things, which teaches the way of Ahimsa, and Jainism, whose adherents go a step further from veganism in to fruititarianism. Veganism makes a lot of sense for hardcore religious types in certain religions, and hardcore compassionate folks in any religion or lack thereof.
  5. Punk points. Veganism makes a lot of sense if you're a wannabe str8 edger punker who wants to impress that cute vegan riotgrrrrl you met at last's weeks all-ages show in the basement of the community centre. This is a pretty vapid reason, but hey, the animals love you if you don't eat them even if it's for bizarre, hypocritical, idiosyncratic reasons.

Now, obviously veganism isn't for everyone. I'm not a vegan. (Anymore, anyhow.) But there are lots of good reasons to be a vegan. Rational reasons. Don't go bashing them because you don't agree; veganism is NOT an intrinsically stupid act. Just eat meat, it's probably just as offensive anyhow.

One who abstains from all animal products in their lifestyle -- not just food. Such items include: meat of all forms, dairy, eggs, leather, fur, wool, honey, silk, products which were tested on animals, etc.

Donald Watson was the first person to use the term "vegan" -- he coined the term. It was derived from the word "vegetarian" (as apessos points out below) when people (lead by Donald Watson) from the Vegetarian Society branched off to form the Vegan Society.

The goal of a vegan is usually to minimize the harm they do to animals and the environment. While total elimination of harm is nearly impossible considering our dependence on animals and animal products in our current society, much can be accomplished. Some people become vegan not for ethical or environmental reasons but for religious reasons.

A person who chooses not to using or consume any animal products. This includes meat, dairy and eggs. They also avoid fur, leather, wool, down or any other material made from animals.

Most have strong tendencies towards protecting the environment and not causing harm to animals. Some vegans are strong advocates of promoting a cruelity-free and healthy lifestyle while others are not. But not all vegans are animal rights activities, as some are most focused on the health benefits. And evidence is mounting linking the consumption of animal fats and proteins to heart disease, colon and lung cancer, and osteoporosis to name a few. But this is still being debated and each side has research and case studies which support their case, respectively.

There is much opposition to this belief causing a heated debate on either side of the issue. Many people consider vegans to have a misplaced empathy towards animals and cite reasons why humans naturally should eat meat, for example, the fact human have canines, the pointy teeth used for tearing food.

Having canines, although, is not a conclusive reason as to why humans should eat meat. Gorillas, who are predominately herbivores, have both molars and canines. If having canines is an indicator of being a carnivore, then gorillas would be meat eaters. Rather then basing an argument on teeth, a better argument could be made for eating or not eating meat by examining the nutrients we need and how we can best get them.

Another argument against vegans are health concerns from cutting out two food groups from your diet. But this is a too literal interpretation of the food pyramid.

The "meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts" group is necessary to get protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Soy bean, and hence tofu, are a good source of calcium, iron, B vitamins* and zinc. Getting B12 is a touchie subject as B12 is found primarily in meat, eggs and diary products, also there are plant sources. (B12 is created from bacteria after all). Fortunately the body needs a very small amount of B12. Soy products exist that are fortified with B12, thus meeting the required amount needed for the body.

The "milk, yogurt, and cheese" group provides protein, vitamins and minerals. Soy milk is a good source for protein, vitamins and minerals, and is also fortified with B12. There are other products which vegans can use to get their recommended values of nutrients.

However, vegans can be a risk of having vitamin and mineral deficiencies, if they have a poor diet. (Eating potato chips all day is vegan, but not health.) Therefore, it is important to understand what the body needs and how to get it, for vegans and non-vegans alike. So, as your mother would say, "eat your vegetables," but eat plenty of other stuff as well.

Veganism has roots dating back to 1909 when the ethics of consuming dairy was being debated. But the word vegan, which is taken from vegetarian was created in the United Kingdom in 1944 with the formation of the Vegan Society.

Vegans are individuals not Sheep On Drugs so each have their own reasons for their choice of diet.

Some people choose to be vegan most do not.
Vive La Difference
some people posting here seem intolerant of lifestyles different from their own.

Perhaps it’s a prion thing? ; )

For me being vegan is about being aware of the impact your paterns of consumption have on others and on the planet

veganism is one practical step you can take to drastically reduce how much of the worlds resorces you consume and at the same time greatly reduce the amount of polution your choice of lifestyle produces.

How so?

To expand on what Yam said beef production has been estimated to require upto sixteen times as much land as the equivalent plant based production. This implies that 16 times as much farm machinery required will burn 16 times as much fosil fuel and unless all these fodder crops are grown orgaincally then 16 times as much agrochemicals (fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, fungicide etc) will also be consumed to produce say a McDonalds as compared with say baked beans on toast

Some people disagree with this - see Beef Myths and Facts - Energy Use
but then maybe they just want to sell you some Steamed Beef Dumplings

Reducing agrochemical use has benefits for the environment and for human health and reduces our dependance on the transnational corporations who make the stuff.

It can use up two tonnes of crude oil to produce one tonne of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer in the Haber-Bosch Process so a diet that promotes efficient land use greatly reduce how much carbon dioxide production you are responsible for. Reducing our dependance on oil would have far reaching effect on world politics. People like Bush and Bin Laden might not be quite so important.

Some cattle are grazed on grass lands which are not treated with fertilizer or pesticides.
However over two thirds of the 444 million acres (1.8 million km2) of cropland in the USA are planted with livestock feed (56% of which is for beef cattle).~ 80-90% of all grain grown in the US is used to feed meat animals. 40% of all US farm produce, including grain, is fed to livestock Source: Lynn Jacobs, Waste of the West: Public Lands Grazing (1991)

This represents a vast area of land, which is farmed intensively soley for the production of meat.

So if you are concerned about gobal warming and your government is not following the Kyoto protocol maybe you should consider reducing your meat and dairy intake.

Lots of people seem to think being vegan is just about animal rights.
there is a lot more to it than that.

If you do have any concerns about intensive animal farming one simple option open to everyone is to boycott the industry by choosing a vegan diet.

You do not even need to have principals to be vegan,
if nothing else it is a great way to anoy your non-vegan mother.

You may as well join up now as it is only a matter of time before the world is run by vegans riding bicycles...

I am a vegan for all of the following reasons:

  1. Health.My diet, with its concentration of whole grains, beans, soy products, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and fresh spices is one that is extremely high in protein, and very high in vitamins, beneficial monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants and other micronutrients, while being moderate in sodium and calories, and very low in saturated fat, mad cow prions, e-coli, and chicken manure. Yep, I'm gonna be healthy for a long time. When people try to talk smack about my vegan diet, regurgitating the same tired out old misconceptions, I usually say something like “Look at me, then look at you, and tell me who has the healthier diet.” This gets the point across about 99% of the time.
  2. Ethics. Something seems very wrong about just heading over to a grocery store to buy a chunk of animal or animal derivative while someone else, most likely a migrant laborer, took care of pumping them full antibiotics, cleaning their tiny filthy cages, slaughtering / milking them, and cutting them into convenient little parts. I would feel differently if I went out and killed and cut up some free roaming animal in a fair fight - then I'd probably eat it. But it's just seems wrong to leave all the unpleasant and dirty details of snuffing out a life to someone else.
  3. Aesthetics This one applies to dairy mostly. When you eat that ice cream cone or all that gooey melted plastic on your pizza, you are basically sucking on a cow's tit. Isn't that nasty? It is to me. I stopped nursing at about two years old, and I'm done with it.
  4. Environmental responsibility There is a whole body of knowledge about the environmental impacts of having three times as many domesticated animals as people on this earth, and I'm not going to reproduce it all here. The major points are that for the amount of protein and calories you can get out of an acre of consumption vegetable crops, you need something like ten acres of graze land if you want to get it out of animals. Furthermore, the methane released by all those animals actually competes with the internal combustion engines of the world as a major source of pollution. And, of course, all of the antibiotic use necessary to keep the herds alive under the prevailing filthy factory farming conditions are leading to the emergence of dangerous new strains of resistant microbes.

But the most compelling reason might be:

  • The food! It’s just better. When you cut out all of that sensory overwhelming vulgar stuff – the kinetic gorging on meat, the fleeting comfort of the gooey cheese – you really start to appreciate the flavors of food. Nature has given us a bounty of wonderful flavors that most of us then mask with all of this smokey, salty, fat-laiden garbage. As a vegan, you really get to experience the subtleties and beauty of all of the world’s great cuisines - Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Southern Indian, Thai, Mesoamerican, East Asian, East African - and all of the wonderful ingredients form the Earth that make them unique. Plus, on those occasions when you really have to fit into that barbeque or tea party, we have soy meats and soy ice creams that are just as good tasting and way better for you than the animal-based versions.

While I'm at it, here's what I don't like about being a vegan:

Peoples' misinformed / ignorant-ass attitude. I would say about half the time that I have to inform somebody that I don't eat animal products, like for instance when they are strongly suggesting I eat something with meat or dairy, they get either defensive or offensive. Either way their comments go one of three ways.

In one tack, they might try to tell me that I am not getting enough nutrients, especially protein. Most of the time these people don't even know what an amino acid is, let alone that there are six essential ones that humans need in our diet, and that grains and legumes in combination provide all of them, and so does soy by itself. Somehow it hasn't occurred to them that I have carefully researched the protein content of various foods and generally planned my eating accordingly. Ditto for iron and calcium - I've got those figured out too, what with all the beans and fortified soy products in the world. And sometimes they bring up vitamins. Aren't I worried about getting all my vitamins? That's a killer! Where do vitamins come from, sherlock? Vegetables!1

In another tack, they take it upon themselves to try to poke holes in what they suppose my ethical reasons to be. Now, I do welcome debate and I believe that people should always have their assumptions challenged from within and without. But people always have to say things in a smug tone that as though in my blind tree-hugging idealism I haven't thought of their brilliant revelations before. Yes, gasoline is essentially just dead dinosaurs, so I'm using animal products in that case. So the fuck what? Ya gotta drive (at least here in California), but you don't gotta have processed animal parts for dinner. And yes, I swat away mosquitos. I still don't want to eat them, or their more sentient cousins elsewhere in the animal kingdom.

Oh, and I don't care what my hunter-gatherer ancestors were 'meant' to do. Refer to item #2 above before being the umteenth person to bring this up. Furthermore, maybe it's not the greatest idea to emulate the diet of a people whose life expectancy was in the low 30s.

The final possible tack is less malicious, but still annoying. "Oh my god!! What do you eat??" they say as their jaws hit the floor. How can you explain to someone in a short conversation that there is more to food than mac & cheez, hamburgers, and ranch dressing? It's just so hard.2

The lack of vegan options many places. This is definitely improving, along with the general state of food in America. I have had wonderful food experiences as a vegan living in Brooklyn, Cincinnati, and Santa Barbara. Still, I shudder to think about the problems I've had on some camping / road trips, and what it must be like for any vegans unfortunate enough to be living in these towns. Also the propoganda factories known to some as 'schools' do everything in their power to prevent young people from discovering this wonderful diet. It must be extremely difficult to have to take your meals in a cafeteria setting where the only thing on the menu is that day's way of preparing pieces of Secretariat and Man O' War.

1 Yes, I know, vitamin B12 seems to come mostly from animal sources. Well, that's what fortified soy milk is for.

2Especially because their ability to concentrate on what I am saying is compromised by those mysterious chest pains and that abdominal discomfort.

Well, I've been told that my writeup is very much like some musician's CD liner notes. I've really never read the notes in question, but if they really are too similar to what I wrote above, I welcome feedback from an editor.

Vegan \Ve·gan\, n. (Astron.)

adj : of or relating to the star-system Vega, A brilliant star of the first magnitude, the brightest of those constituting the constellation Lyra

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