Vegan Diet


Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle which “seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.” In practice, this translates largely to the abstension from consumption or use of all animal products, including eggs and dairy products, as well as articles made of bone, leather, feathers, mother of pearl or other materials of animal origin. Vegans are also likely to avoid products that have been tested on animals. People who avoid eating all animal products, but who otherwise use animal byproducts (for example, by wearing leather shoes) are commonly referred to as dietary vegans.
People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including a concern for animal rights, health benefits, religious, political, ethical, and spiritual concerns, and out of concern for the environment. A Time/CNN poll published in Time Magazine on July 7, 2002, found that 4% of American adults consider themselves vegetarians, and 5% of self-described vegetarians consider themselves vegans. This suggests that 0.2% of American adults are vegans. A 2000 poll conducted by Zogby for the Vegetarian Resource Group suggested closer to 0.9% of the adult American population may be vegan. In the UK, research showed that 0.4%, approximately 250,000 people, were vegan in 2001.
The British Vegan Society’s full definition of veganism is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.”
In dietary terms the BVS defines Veganism as “the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” The American Vegan Society also gives a similar definition.
The term “animal product” in a vegan context refers to material derived from non-human animals for human use or consumption. Human breast milk, for example, is acceptable when voluntarily used for human babies, but by comparison, when a human being drinks a cow’s milk, it is regarded as the consumption of an “animal product.”
Animal products include meat, poultry, edible marine fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, fur, leather, wool, pearls, and mother of pearl. Byproducts include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, and whey. Items derived from insects include items such as silk, honey, beeswax, and cochineal.
Some vegans avoid cane sugar that has been filtered with bone char and will not drink beers and wines clarified with albumen (egg white), animal blood, or isinglass, even though these are not present in the final product. They may also avoid food cooked in pans that have been used to cook non-vegan foods.
As well as avoiding animal products, most vegans refrain from supporting industries that use animals directly or indirectly, such as circuses and zoos, and from products that are tested on animals. However, the majority of vegans would probably agree that it is very difficult to take part in society without indirectly and involuntarily supporting non-vegan activities to some degree.
Origin of the name
The word vegan, usually pronounced /’vi?g?n/ , was originally derived from vegetarian in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, frustrated that the term “vegetarianism” had come to include the eating of dairy products, founded the UK Vegan Society. “Vegan”, which they saw as “the beginning and end of vegetarian”, started and ended with the first three and last two letters of vegetarian.
Since the founding of the UK Vegan Society, the term veganism has come to mean people who seek to eliminate all animal products in all areas of their lives, as opposed to those who simply avoid eating animal products. Although veganism as a secular movement is a 20th century idea, the principles date back to the 2nd millennium BC in Hinduism (ahimsa).
The ethics of veganism are defined by the British Vegan Society as ” philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
Vegans generally oppose what they see as violence and cruelty involved in the meat, , dairy, non-vegan cosmetics, clothing, and other industries. (See Draize test, LD50, Animal testing, Vivisection, and Factory farming.)
Utilitarian philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer, argue that the suffering of sentient animals is relevant to ethical decisions. Though Singer’s ethical theory recognizes the suffering of sentient animals, it does not rely on the concept of rights. However, philosophers such as Tom Regan and Gary L. Francione argue that some animals are sentient, and therefore are the subjects of a life which they can value. Because they can do this, they argue, these animals have the inherent right to possess their own flesh, and they claim that it is therefore unethical to treat them as property, or as a commodity (see animal rights). Although these theories draw the same conclusion, they are not compatible with one another.
Many people believe that eating only fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, other plants, and fungi is healthier than an omnivorous diet. Many people also believe that additional health benefits are gained by not consuming artificial substances such as growth hormones and antibiotics, which are often given to farmed animals.
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada state that “well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.” Vegan diets bestow several nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, no cholesterol, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, although the same study that found this also found no significant difference in blood pressure rates. Others claim that vegetarians have lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease. A common claim is that many scientific studies demonstrate the benefits of consuming whole plant foods, and concomitantly, the dangers of eating animal-based foods. A 1990 epidemiological study, “The China Study”, claims that even very small increases in the consumption of animal products significantly increases the incidence of certain diseases, on a statistical basis.
Some believe that industry livestock feeding practices pose health threats. According to Dr. Michael Greger in a January 2004 lecture at MIT, which was the basis for Whistleblower, a 2006 documentary film by Jeff Bellamar, each year more than one million tons of animal excrement are fed back to farm animals, which are raised for human consumption, allegedly because it lowers the feed cost. Also, up to 10% of blood from killed animals is mixed into some varieties of cattle feed, and up to 30% of some poultry feed is made up of the blood from killed animals. The Mad Cow disease crisis originated from cows being fed with contaminated meat and bone meal, a high-protein substance obtained from the remnants of butchered animals, including cows and sheep. In most parts of the world, such remnants are no longer allowed in feed for ruminant animals, but the practice persists in a few countries.
Environmental considerations
Main article: Environmental vegetarianism
Many become vegan because of their assertion that the production of meat and animal products using intensive farming methods at current and future levels is environmentally unsustainable. It is thought that current farming methods contribute to the ecological crisis.
Sexual and feminist motives
In the 19th century Sylvester Graham started a vegan movement that focused on the sexual urges caused by meat and milk. He claimed animal products caused lustful urges; Grahamism thus rejected meat, animal products, and alcohol to create a purer mind and body. Very popular in the 1860s-1880s, this movement rapidly lost momentum and is now remembered mostly for its Graham crackers (which Graham created).
Contemporarily, some third-wave feminists such as Carol Adams reject the consumption of meat and analogize the use and objectification of animals to the use and objectification of women within society. This criticism focuses on societal construction of ties between women and the environment.
Vegan cuisine
For recipes and further information see the Wikibooks Cookbook article on Vegan Cuisine.
The cuisines of most nations contain dishes that are plant-based (and therefore suitable for a vegan diet) as are specific traditional ingredients, e.g. tofu, tempeh and the wheat product seitan in Asian diets. Also, according to Sturtivants Edible Plants of the World , there are 2,897 plants that may be used for food. Therefore, the variety of vegan food available can be extremely diverse and satisfying.
Many vegans prefer to cook without reference to meat, instead preparing meals from largely unprocessed ingredients such as pulses, grains, vegetables, nuts and fruit. However, artificial “meat” products (often called “analogs” or “mock meats”) made from non-animal derived ingredients such as soya or gluten, including imitation sausages, ground beef, burgers, and chicken nuggets are widely available. Many recipes that traditionally contain animal products can be adapted by substituting vegan ingredients, e.g. nut, grain or soy milk used to replace cow’s milk; eggs replaced by substitutes such as products made from potato starch.
On one hand, vegan cuisine is not new. It has a well developed tradition that is centuries old due mainly to the influence of Buddhism over societies that culturally do not use a large proportion of dairy products such as China, Japan and Taiwan. On the other, many vegans have adapted their diets to fit in with modern fast food eating patterns.
Similar diets and lifestyles
There are several diets similar to veganism, though there are significant differences, including fruitarianism, the raw food diet, the macrobiotic diet and Natural Hygiene. There are also numerous religious groups that regularly or occasionally practice a similar diet, including Jainism, some sects of Buddhism, Hinduism, and some Christian churches, particularly the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Fasts in the Eastern Orthodox Church resemble a vegan diet, however believers are not expected to be vegan throughout the whole year.
More recently, many young people who subscribe to the anarcho-punk or straight edge punk movements have embraced veganism (in the latter case coining the term ‘Straight Veg’ or ‘Hardline’), and the corresponding beliefs of the animal rights movement. Straight Edge is a philosophy that rejects the use of alcohol, casual sex or recreational drugs, originating as a reaction to what some perceived as the cultural excesses of the 1980s.
There are a growing number of vegan athletes. Vegan athletes compete in a variety of sports, such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, martial arts, long distance running, and many others .
A sub-set of veganism, raw veganism, advocates the consumption only of raw foods and the elimination of processed foods from the diet. A study of raw vegans found them to be slender and healthy, but noted that they had reduced essential bone mass and lower bone mineral density. The researchers said these results are “strongly associated with increased fracture risk” but noted that the raw vegans they studied had no other biological markers to indicate higher levels of osteoporosis, and that their bone turnover rates were normal.
Vegan nutrition
Main article: Vegan nutrition
Nutrition authorities say that a properly planned vegan diet presents no significant nutritional problems. Supplementation is highly recommended, though to a lesser extent this applies to non-vegans, too. Drs. Fletcher and Fairfield concluded, in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) in June 2002, that “t appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.” The British government’s annual survey of nutritional content of food, McCance and Widdowson’s ‘The Composition of Foods,’ notes that the 2002 nutritional profile of foods is seriously lacking in trace elements compared with their 1931 profiles; indeed, a steady decline over the past 60 years has been noted. There are several nutrients vegans should pay attention to. These include Vitamin B12, iron and iodine: deficiencies in these are more likely following a vegan diet, and deficiencies of these have potentially serious consequences, including anemia, pernicious anemia, cretinism and hyperthyroidism. Interestingly, B12 deficiency can be a problem for others, too; aging, for example, can lead to an inability to absorb B12 from food, and supplementation is recommended for those over fifty-five years of age.
Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 besteller Diet for a Small Planet popularized the claim that the protein in plant foods was incomplete and that vegetarians had to “combine” different plant foods by eating both of them (e.g., beans and grains) in order to get a “complete” protein. A large portion of the book was devoted to this idea and ways of combination. A decade later in The McDougall Plan (1983) Dr. John McDougall responded that this idea is incorrect and that common plant foods actually contain complete proteins. In The McDougall Program (1990) he wrote, “Fortunately scientific studies have plainly debunked this complicated nonsense. Nature designed and synthesized our foods complete with all the essential nutrients for human life long before they reach the dinner table. All the essential and nonessential amino acids are represented in single unrefined starches such as rice, corn, wheat, and potatoes in amounts in excess of every individual’s needs, even if they are endurance athletes or weight lifters.” The World Health Organization standard for protein intake is cited in support of this interpretation. Lappé herself renounced the idea that protein combining was necessary in the 10th edition of Diet for a Small Planet, stating:
“In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein … was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the that “animals lack the awareness of pain”, an assertion that is generally disputed.
There are other common criticisms of vegan ethics. Steven Davis, professor of animal science at Oregon State University, claims that the number of wild animals killed in crop production is greater than those killed in ruminant-pasture production. Whenever a tractor goes through a field to plow, disc, cultivate, apply fertilizer and/or pesticide, and harvest, animals are killed. Davis lists field animals in the U.S. that are threatened by intensive crop production. In one example, an alfalfa harvest caused a 50% decline in the grey-tailed vole population. According to Davis, if all of the cropland in the U.S. were used to produce crops for a vegan diet, an estimated 1.8 billion animals would be killed annually. Gaverick Matheny wrote a rebuttal called Least harm: a defense of vegetarianism from Steven Davis’s omnivorous proposal. Matheny claims several major flaws with Davis’ reasoning, including the notion that vegans generally eat at a lower trophic level, therefore fewer crops are required to produce the food vegans eat. Another error, according to Matheny, is the equation of death with harm, claiming that death by thresher is less harmful than captitivty and slaughter. Matheny also claims that Davis’ findings suffer from numerical error; currently nearly 10 billion animals are killed each year in the U.S. for food, more than five times greater than Davis’ estimated 1.8 billion for crop harvesting. Matheny concludes that “After correcting for these errors, Davis’s argument makes a strong case for, rather than against, adopting a vegetarian diet.”
Health criticism
The American Dietetic Association supports a well-planned vegan diet in all stages of life, but a few nutritionists have expressed concerns about the potential dangers in the vegan diet. This, in some cases involving severe nutritional inadequacy in conjunction with a strict vegetarian diet, may be particularly relevant to young children where the failure to achieve adequate nutrition can lead to permanent developmental deficits. In reported comments, Professor Lindsey Allen of the United States Agricultural Research Service declared: “There’s absolutely no question that it’s unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans, unless those who practiced them were well-informed about how to add back the missing nutrients through supplements or fortified foods.” Vegans should be particularly concerned with adequate intake of B-12. Vitamin B12, a bacterial product, cannot be reliably found in plant foods. Vegans are recommended to eat foods with vegan B12 added (such as fortified soy milk, fortified margarines, or many commercial breakfast cereals), certain brands of nutritional yeast, or take dietary supplements (a good multivitamin will likely include B12 in sufficient quantities).
In very severe cases, parents practising what were sometimes described as forms of veganism have been charged with child abuse for not providing adequate nutrition. Vegan mothers who do not obtain adequate vitamin B12 in their diet while breastfeeding can cause severe and permanent neurological damage to their infants. Related studies note importance of early recognition of significant maternal vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy and lactation in vegetarians is emphasized so that appropriate supplementation can be given and irreversible neurologic damage in the infant prevented.
A study by the University of Minnesota school of health found that adolescent vegetarians are at greater risk than others for involvement in unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors. Vegetarian males are at particularly high risk. Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D. claims that “some people use veganism to hide anorexia nervosa”. Vegan dietician Brenda Davis claims current research indicates as many as 50% of people with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa self-proclaim a vegetarian diet as a cover for their avoidance of eating “meat” or other “high fat foods”. Also, Vesanto Melina, a B.C. registered dietitian and author of Becoming Vegetarian, stresses there is no cause and effect relationship between vegetarianism and eating disorders although people who have eating disorders may label themselves as vegetarians “so that they won’t have to eat.” Pro-ana communities have been known to advocate a poorly balanced vegan diet as a cover for anorexia. . A 1987 review of 116 cases found that in only 6.3% did meat avoidance predate the onset of anorexia nervosa. The American Dietetic Association found that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders than in the general adolescent population, and that professionals should be aware of adolescents who limit food choices and exhibit symptoms of eating disorders. The ADA indicates that the evidence suggests that the adoption of a vegetarian diet does not lead to eating disorders, but “vegetarian diets may be selected to camouflage an existing eating disorder”.