Rham is vegan, married and child-free; she loves nature and wildlife, has two dogs and six, sometimes seven, other four-legged boarders.
The Vegan Society defines veganism as a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
A vegan is someone who -
- does not consume meat, dairy, eggs, and honey;
- does not use any other animal-derived products like leather, silk, fur, and wool, including those that are tested on animals like cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos;
- does not support zoos, any form of sports or entertainment that uses animals, and
- is passionate about the well-being of humans and nonhuman animals and the environment and everything about it
Though veganism is a simple concept to comprehend, many, including vegans themselves, still don't fully grasp the whole idea to the extent of doing, saying, or claiming things about veganism without much thought.
Here are a few.
1. Palm oil or anything derived from palms is not vegan.
Some vegans consider palm oil and other products of palm as unethical because of the destruction that palm plantations caused to the homes of beautiful and innocent animals. Orangutans, for example, have lost their lives at the hands of the palm oil industry. To clear space for palm plantations, the palm oil industry favors the slash and burn technique which destroys any living being, plant or animal, present.
So, does this mean that peanut oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil, among other plant-derived products available don't cause destruction to the animals and their homes? Of course, they do!
Many ethical vegans think that palm oil is not vegan because of the reason mentioned above -palm products murdered and made orangutans and other non-human animals homeless. By this reasoning, these vegans are forgetting that the field, for example, that is now planted with sunflowers for oil production was once a home to many animals. Just because the devastation of the clearing of the land for sunflowers (because the damage was long done) is no longer visible, it doesn't mean that sunflower oil is vegan. The only reason that the concept of the palm being not vegan has become a topic of discourse is that the destruction that a palm plantation does to the inhabitants of once a forest is well-documented. Everyone can see photographs of a wounded baby orangutan lying beside his dead mother. And anyone can see that injustice and that what these animals are going through is wrong.
There is nothing ethically vegan in this world. The human lifestyle itself causes suffering to animals. From the houses or roads we build to the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the electricity and technology we use, all lead to non-human animals getting harmed, being driven away from their own habitat, or worse, being dead.
So, food-wise, as far as the product is from plants, then it is vegan!
2. Coconut oil and other coconut-derived products are not vegan.
No animals should be used for human needs and purposes. But in Thailand and Indonesia, pig-tailed macaques, tied by their neck, are trained to pick and gather coconuts. In a vegan perspective, no animals should be used in any way. This treatment to monkeys is a form of exploitation and slavery and clearly is not vegan.
But exploitation comes in many forms. Many items vegans use or wear are made by people who are paid with meager wages. In India, many farmers use bullocks to carry their produce to mills, wholesale distributors or any other places where there is demand for these products. And though, in developed countries, plowing, planting, harvesting, and transporting of produce are done by machines, they don't necessarily mean that there is no exploitation involved.
The best way to deal with coconut and other coconut products, especially in countries where coconuts are imported and available in cans, is to read labels and, if possible, find the country where they're from. But again, food-wise, coconuts are vegan.
3. Vegan parents feed their young children non-vegan foods and say, "I will let them decide when they're old enough to do the decision for themselves!"
Do we say, "Since my son is still young to decide on his own, I'll let him rob our neighbors, steal from his classmates, kick a dog or cat, or stab someone until he's old enough to decide which is right from wrong for himself!"
No, we don't! It would be ridiculous and unreasonable! And so is the statement above.
Parents or not, we try to teach children to do the right thing. We instill moral values the moment they're capable of understanding. We tell them to be kind to others, to not steal, to not hurt anyone, to not beat a dog or a cat or another human person, etc. So how come, when it is about raising a child as a vegan, parents suddenly utter such nonsense? This is because these kinds of vegans think that veganism is just about food and they have never really understood what veganism is!
It is time to change that. If you are a parent, learn nutrition, read scientific articles and be critical and cautious about them since many health articles are funded by meat, eggs, and dairy industries, watch relevant documentaries and educate yourself more by reading articles and books on children raised by a vegan or a plant-based diet.
4. Some vegans throw away garments, shoes, and other possessions that are made of leather, silk, or wool once they become vegan.
These items were in possession prior to becoming a vegan. So, the next thing that some vegans do when they adopt a vegan lifestyle is to throw or give these items away, which is improper because, though, they are animal-derived products, they were purchased before becoming vegan. Since the majority of vegans today were born non-vegans, including me, and grew up consuming meat, eggs, and dairy, part of our muscles are composed of animals. Should we rip off these muscles to get our bodies free from any animal traces? We do not!
What we did in the past was wrong. We realized that now. But throwing those goods away is a waste of valuable resources. Giving them away to people only to replace them with a plant-based or synthetic replacement is an improper way of disposing of them and doesn't make any sense at all. But giving these items away is acceptable as long as we have decided not to replace them - when we choose to go barefoot (in case of shoes or slippers) instead of buying alternative non-leather ones.
The best way to handle these items is to utilize them until they can no longer be used (torn or broken) before replacing them with vegan alternatives. Or give the animal part of the clothing, woolen, or fur hood of a jacket, for example, to animal shelters to non-human animals can use them as their mattresses.
5. Most vegans encourage and support spaying and neutering animals (e.g. cats and dogs).
For population control, spaying and neutering are commonly practiced. Spaying means removal of the uterus. This procedure is cruel and speciesist considering that we don't remove the uterus of any human female as a form of birth control. Rather than promoting the said cruel and speciesist procedure, we should demand tubectomy or tie of the uterus be done to these animals.
Neutering or castration, simply, is the removal of testicles. Again, this is a cruel and speciesist procedure because we don't castrate human males as a means of population control. We do a vasectomy.
So the ethical way to sterilize non-human animals such as dogs or cats is tubectomy and vasectomy -the usual surgical procedures done to human beings and which vets are capable of doing.
In fact, let us stop the demand for spaying and neutering. Rather, let us demand vets to do vasectomy and tubectomy procedures only.
6. Some vegans have non-vegan partners/spouses.
Which should not be the case!
Well, at least after a thorough discussion about the topic and it should not take days or weeks since the core values of veganism are quite simple to understand -killing animals for food or clothing is wrong! It's a no-brainer. And so, the only reason why a person is a vegan is an ethical reason. And that means, vegan for the animals. Anything else than this falls down to someone's food choices, which is about oneself and not about the animals.
People in a relationship share similar goals and values in life. What's the point of living together if both have different paths to take on? So it boils down to "what is important to one must be important to the other." If I strongly hold that animals have the right to live a life in health and freedom, I expect that my partner shares the same sentiment, which only means one thing, he should become vegan as well.
Having a non-vegan partner is like having a murderer in your house and being okay with it as long as the murder doesn't happen inside your home.
7. Some vegans cook for their partners or family.
They can if, for them, veganism is about themselves. But if they are vegans for the animals, they will see to it that they'll only prepare and cook vegan dishes. And this scenario should probably land them in a self-assessment room where, while sitting in front of a mirror, they would ask themselves, "If my partner or family understands how important veganism is for me, why would they ask or let me cook non-vegan dishes for them?" Also, they would ask themselves, "Since I acknowledge that non-human animals are my friends and not food, why would I support their slaughter for the sake of my family?"
So, if you are living with your non-vegan family, here are a few tips that you can do:
- They can help in cutting the vegetables and preparing the spices. Leave the cooking to somebody else.
- Talk and discuss veganism as much and strongly as they could and examine the possibility of their family getting the concept and evaluate their willingness to change.
- Show your family videos and documentaries that tackle the ethics, health, and environmental aspects of veganism.
- If all of the above doesn't work for you, it is time to leave and live in your own apartment.
And all because veganism is a principle.
Veganism is now mainstream
Information about veganism is overwhelming on the internet. Arguments against eating meat, eggs, and dairy have been laid down; questions about it have been addressed and answers are available for everyone's perusal. Hundreds of YouTube videos and a few documentaries about animal exploitations have been made and distributed for free viewing. And when it comes to food, plant-based alternatives are now widely available. In fact, there is no more excuse one can give for not going vegan. But it takes a will to say NO to animal slavery and decide NOT to participate in their exploitation.
Our world needs more kind and compassionate people, and being one begins with what we put on our plate. Be one! Live vegan.