I absolutely love the vegan community but it’s no secret that they fight amongst themselves a fair bit… Recently, there’s been one issue that seems to be popping up a lot and causing quite a stir;
‘You cannot be vegan purely for health reasons’
It sounds silly at first, you may be thinking ‘why does it matter, as long as they are vegan?’ and this appears to be a pretty popular first response but you have to go a little deeper, to truly understand why personal health can’t be the sole reason for veganism.
So what is veganism, if not the healthy option?
There’s absolutely no intention of suggesting there aren’t great health benefits of a plant based diet but in short, veganism is not just a diet. If a person stopped eating all animal products due to those tremendous health benefits, that’s awesome and in no way is this statement belittling the health aspects. However, if they stopped there and failed to acknowledge the animals suffering in zoos, circuses, testing labs, “sport” events, shelters, clothing production, etc. and continues to support these industries, they’re simply not vegan. Veganism is so much more than what people eat and it has become increasingly apparent that these poor animals, who are suffering in industries that don’t have an impact on a human’s individual health, are often forgotten.
If they’re causing less harm to animals, why is it important?
If the definition of ‘vegan’ is being diluted to the point people are merely cutting out animal “foods” and considering themselves vegan, then herein lies the problem. Veganism is about causing as little harm as possible to animals and if it suddenly becomes the norm to think a plant based diet alone is causing as little harm as possible, then it’s an extra kick in the face to the millions of animals still being harmed in the whole host of other cruel and exploitative industries out there. Does the suffering of those animals just get forgotten, purely because it doesn’t affect human health? Does that really seem like ‘as little harm as possible’? In order to be truly vegan, all animal abuse needs to be addressed and avoided.
Being vegan for health doesn’t make a person less of a vegan…
In the few interactions I have had recently on the topic, it seems the concept is very much misunderstood until explained fully. It became clear that should a vegan claim health cannot be the only reason for veganism, many take this to mean that a person is not vegan if they first became plant based for health reasons & then evolved to be full vegan, after being exposed to the animal cruelty involved in other industries. No. That is not what it means; If a person initially went plant based for health reasons and then had their eyes opened enough to then go full vegan, that’s great. It is important, however, to note that sometime along the way, their motivations shifted to not only include the health aspects but also the welfare of the animals. After all, you don’t stop wearing wool for health; stop going to the zoo for health; stop buying animal tested cleaning products for health – A person stops doing these things for the animals and if you cared enough to stop doing these things then that’s grand! No one is saying you’re not vegan even if you started out only eating plant based for health. As long as you now avoid all animal cruelty and exploitation, even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on your own health, then that is amazing. If you are still in that place of believing veganism is just a diet then I beg you, look into the other ways you can adapt your life to genuinely cause as little harm as possible to animals, for their sake, not just yours.
Why do vegans try to ‘out vegan’ each other when their goal is the same?
The other common response is to accuse vegans of purely trying to “one up” other vegans by saying this but it couldn’t be further from the truth. As a vegan, I think it is imperative to acknowledge the suffering of animals in EVERY industry, not just the food industry. It’s not about being better than other vegans; it’s about all animals receiving the justice and exposure they deserve. So before you jump to the conclusion of thinking vegans only say this because they somehow think they are the superior vegan, just have a think about the fact they may be saying it to make it absolutely clear that vegans want to eradicate ALL animal cruelty. If someone is only concerned about eating animals and their byproducts due to their health, their goal is not to eradicate animal cruelty from their lives and so the goal is actually very different from that of a vegan.
So in conclusion, veganism is an ethical stance that takes into consideration all animals, whether they are used for food, scientific testing, entertainment, fashion or any other industry humans have forced them into. If a person is only concerned for their health and decides not to eat animal products, that is a plant based diet, not veganism.