Since 2014, Veganuary has inspired and supported more than one million people in over 192 countries to try vegan for the month of January, and beyond. The movement’s mission is to facilitate a vegan world, through driving corporate change, and creating a global mass movement which champions compassionate purchasing power. The aim is to end animal farming, protect the planet and improve the quality of human and animal life.
To embody this mission, vegans abstain from consuming animal products, whether it be food, clothing or cosmetics. Vegans also eschew any products tested on animals, and do not attend or support any animal-exploitative events or industries such as rodeos, circuses and zoos. Unfortunately, this ideation of what it means to be vegan has failed to hold remanence in the public domain. According to the Vegan Society, being vegan for the month of January has been twisted into the notion of a trend or fad diet. This has ultimately led to a failure to truly capture the ethical core of what it means to be vegan.
Vegan nutritionist, Taylor Wolfram, provides an interesting contribution to this debate, she finds that often veganism is thematically conceived through the idea of restriction; the restriction of animal goods. This idea of restriction has ultimately led to a negative and false correlation, where the restriction of resources like meat and dairy opens the gateway for a healthier life. The problem here, Wolfram argues is an error to conceive veganism from an ethical and rational perspective. Vegans do not view animals as a source of food, so there is no notion of restriction in their rationale. Also, the elimination of animal goods does not necessarily guarantee, or even sate, the ideal of good health.
The message here is clear; if you choose to participate in Veganuary, ensure that your intentions and motive to join embody the essence of veganism. You’re more likely to stay vegan, and truly make an ethical and environmental impact if you do not conflate your idea of veganism with dieting, social trends or some other ill-founded justification.
To understand what motives truly guide veganism, FURITY informs readers on the two leading principles which have helped inspire, and sustain, the decision to go vegan.
1. Moral Veganism
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.” The fundamental aim of Alice Walker’s famous dictum was to emphasise how every being has the right to compassion, and this compassion categorically prevents them from any harm or exploitation. Their entitlement to this compassion may differ, but ultimately, the end itself is the same, equality and equity for all, including non-humans.
This notion of compassionate decision-making has influenced many arguments for the case of moral veganism. Some notable contributions include:
“If a practice causes serious harms that are morally unjustified, then that practice is morally wrong. The practice of raising and killing animals for food causes serious harms to animals and some human beings. These harms are morally unjustified Therefore, the practice of raising and killing animals for food is wrong.”
– WBI Studies Repository
“The notion that human life is sacred just because it is human life is medieval.” “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.” “We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”
– Peter Singer, The Moral Status of Animals
“To be ‘for animals’ is not to be ‘against humanity.’ To require others to treat animals justly, as their rights require, is not to ask for anything more nor less in their case than in the case of any human to whom just treatment is due.”
– Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights
2. Environmental Veganism
From the tropical rain forests of Brazil to the ancient pine forests of China, entire biospheres are being destroyed to fuel the demand for animal products. According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, seven football fields’ worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them. This trend has contributed to global warming, widespread pollution, deforestation, land degradation, water scarcity and species extinction. As a response to this environmental crisis, environmental vegans advocate for an end to the livestock industry.
“The livestock sector is a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole. Globally it is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases and one of the leading causal factors in the loss of biodiversity, and in developed and emerging countries it is perhaps the leading source of water pollution.”
– Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
“More animals mean more crops are needed to feed them: the planet cannot feed both increasing human and farmed animal populations, especially when there will be between 2-4 billion more human mouths to feed by 2050.”
– The Vegan Society
“Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Producing a little more than 2 pounds of beef causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours and uses up more energy than leaving your house lights on for the same period of time.7 According to the United Nations, a global shift toward a vegan diet is one of the steps necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.”
Although there are many other valid reasons for choosing to go vegan, the main aim of this article is to highlight the importance of making informative decisions. Instead of basing our choices on ill-founded justifications, we at FURITY, encourage readers to go beyond the idea of a trend and view life through a lens of opportunity; an opportunity to make ethical, meaningful and most importantly, impactful decisions.
Written by: Zahira Rafiq
Edited by: Zahira Rafiq