Vegan: One who abstains from consuming and using any animal products and byproducts. It is a pretty simple concept, yet one that has incensed thousands on both sides of the debate.
Even if you aren't vegan, or aren’t planning on becoming one, it is beneficial to be aware of what it means to have a vegan lifestyle. Having guiding principles for your life that help you be more aware and kind is great, no matter what the reason. Learning about different ways others choose to bring that into their lives encourages us all to make conscious decisions, even for the small things in life.
To be clear, we recognize that we are part of the debate as well. We are all about conscious living at SALT, but we still carry non-vegan items from time to time, and we do so mindfully. A leather bag that has the longevity to keep a lifetime of replacements out of landfills is something we feel worth investing in. There are so many ways to live consciously, being vegan is just one of them. Even though it is not a lifestyle we fully adhere to, we think it's important to be part of the conversation so that we can be educated about the different ways people choose to reduce their impact.
There are all kinds of reasons that people choose to be vegan. Regard for animal welfare is an obvious one. Another is not wanting to contribute to the effects that the meat industry has on our environment. Mass deforestation of acres of arable lands to raise food for livestock and to house them, not to mention the waste that is produced contributing to climate change. Many people feel that living on a diet that consists only of vegan sources of food is the best choice for their personal health. These are the top reasons, often times bundling together. Whatever the reason, in the end being vegan focuses on kindness; to animals, to the Earth, and to oneself. Nothing wrong with that, right?
As with many hot button issues, education (or the lack thereof) seems to be at the root of the conflict surrounding veganism. On top of that, with the internet out there, it makes it too easy for proponents of both to find material that supports their viewpoint. Unless you are dealing with trained professionals who have run proper scientific research, we can’t be sure that the information we’re seeing isn’t merely opinion, at least when it comes to the question of personal health.
It is easy to see from the footage in documentaries like Forks Over Knives that on the whole, animals in the commercial industry are mistreated, with terrible living conditions, physical abuse, and the administration of growth hormones. And we can literally watch our limited forests disappear in favour of land for livestock or for raising their food sources, with "livestock or livestock feed covering 1/3 of the Earth's ice-free land"(http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/). If we re-purposed the feed we raise for livestock, there would be enough food to end world hunger. Fresh water takes a hit too. It can take 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef (http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/). So there is no debating that from an environmental or ethical standpoint, consuming animals isn’t a great lifestyle option.
“Rather than think of veganism as an identity, it’s wisest to use it as a concept that can inspire you to remove animal products from your life” https://www.vegan.com/what/
We like that approach because it doesn’t draw a harsh, immediate line in the sand. It is a concept that motivates you to use less animal products, and therefore be kinder to the Earth by respecting her creatures and limiting the impact we make on her environment. We are passionate about protecting the Earth, the oceans in particular, so we are all for choices that decrease the impact on our seas.
What can you do?
- The obvious one: Become vegan! Find vegan alternatives to replace what you would normally get out of land animal and seafood proteins.
- Only eat line caught, local, seafood. Commercial fishing pillages sealife at alarming rates that will leave our oceans a comparable wasteland by 2050. Their long nets wreck havoc, dragging coral, sea plants, and other animals out along with the daily catch.
- Decrease your intake of animal products. Only consume meat once or twice a week from a sustainable source.
- Get your cosmetics from companies who don’t source ingredients like seaweed, algae, sea minerals, fish scales, shark liver, whale oil, and horse pee (yup). Read this list and we promise, you will find all the motivation you need.
- As much as possible, purchase items that didn’t have to travel far to make it to your home, including food, to decrease the use of fossil fuels. Support local!
- Be conscious in all your consumption. Only shop with companies who have verified sustainable, ethical production practices. Not sure about a brand? Ask them!
The biggest thing to remember is that these changes don't have to, and are unlikely to, happen all at once. You shouldn't go home and immediately donate anything in your house that is made from an animal product or wasn't consciously purchased. You already have them, if you get rid of them they will still need to go somewhere, and you will probably need to replace them. Even though you could find a more sustainable option, you are still going to be consuming more than necessary. When you decide to apply new principles to your current lifestyle, ease into them slowly. As long-term vegans will tell you, drastic adjustments are less likely to stick.
To get more in-depth information about a vegan lifestyle, check out https://www.vegan.com. They have a great perspective on how being vegan could be right for you, and a ton of awesome educational resources, like documentaries and cookbooks (some of our faves listed below!) that can inspire you.
Great Vegan Cookbooks:
- Oh She Glows, either version - Angela Liddon
- Thug Kitchen, either version – by Davis & Holloway
- But I Could Never Go Vegan – Kristy Turner