Veganism, a “strict vegetarian diet,” is a very popular, yet controversial lifestyle to follow today. According to Alina Petre, a registered dietitian, the online search for the term vegan has risen by more than 250%. The word vegan has become more and more popular amongst society and many have gained more knowledge on the lifestyle itself.
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When researching the term veganism, according to The Vegan Society the word veganism can be defined as: A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any 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 it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. Veganism can be thought of as an extreme form of vegetarianism, as vegans ban the all-around consumption or use of any animal product.
Many believe veganism can benefit society in tremendous ways, but many people question if a vegan lifestyle is as beneficial as it is hyped up to be. Majority of those who convert to the strict vegan lifestyle, do so for three popular reasons such as, animal welfare, personal health, and environmental concerns. These three reasonings are often the most controversial to non-vegans. With veganism growing rapidly especially amongst the youth, many people question if the vegan diet is truly beneficial to those following the lifestyle. Veganism is growing very popular in society today, although there are many benefits to veganism there are also many detriments many do not talk about. Vegans follow a very strict diet, as they stray away from the consumption of all animal products. Many like to think you cannot be picky when becoming a vegan, but this is not always the case, in fact the diet of a vegan depends on the types of foods they prefer to eat. Kathryn Wheeler, an Editorial Assistant at Happiful Magazine, states there are five different types of vegan diets, such as ethical, plant-based, raw, HCLF, and there are environmentally conscious vegan diets as well.
Although vegans are restricted from the consumption of animal products, they are still able to eat a wide variety of foods. Many of these foods include, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Since veganism is an ongoing trend, it is much easier to access. There are many vegan options available at restaurants and grocery stores, as well as vegan restaurants. People who are new to veganism often begin this diet because they want a healthier diet, and for many new vegans they experience changes within their bodies, noticeable from the beginning. Non-vegans are so reliant on processed foods, and this highly affects one’s energy output, whereas “the first thing that someone starting a vegan diet might notice is an energy boost with the removal of the processed meat that is found in many omnivorous diets, in favor of fruit, vegetables, and nuts” (Medlin). A vegan diet will have multiple effects on the body, many vegans argue they are beneficial, although many times deficiencies begin to accumulate after a lack of certain nutrients.
The lifestyle vegans follow can often be described as, “doing no harm” This means you can no longer contribute to factory farming in any shape or form, such as purchasing fur, leather, wool, silk, feathers, and other items where animals are kept out of their natural surroundings and forced to be part of the mass production of goods. It means you “consider all life sacred and choose to harm none” (“The Vegan Lifestyle”). Many vegans describe the lifestyle with the word compassion, and nowadays there are inexpensive alternatives to many things, making the vegan lifestyle more compatible with everyday life. Although this lifestyle is becoming more accessible, many still argue that a vegan lifestyle is still very tedious and can easily become very expensive. The conversion to veganism has increased immensely in recent years, three main reasons why people convert to veganism are animal welfare, personal health, and environmental concerns. Many people are beginning to learn more and more about the cruel treatment of animals in factory farming, this has led to many converting to veganism. As they become more empathetic towards the animals, they cannot imagine consuming an animal harshly killed for human goods. “Preventing the exploitation of animals is not the only reason for becoming vegan, but for many it remains the key factor in their decision to go vegan and stay vegan” (“Why Go Vegan?”). Majority of people who convert to veganism strongly believe animals deserve the right to live in freedom, as humans do. There are also those vegans who switched to the diet for health reasons, “Some research has linked vegan diets with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer” (“Why Go Vegan?”).
Some also argue veganism is very beneficial towards the environment, because animal agriculture often causes mass environmental destruction. Vegan blogger, Jasmine Briones argues, “A vegan lifestyle is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint and make a difference daily.” These three reasons are the most common factors in why people convert and remain in the vegan lifestyle. The controversy whether or not veganism is beneficial towards one’s health is an ongoing argument. Those who follow the vegan diet, have experienced many benefits in regard to their health, but there are also many things one can lack from a vegan diet. Many vegans do not talk about the certain nutritional deficiencies they may not be obtaining from their vegan diets. Although the elimination of animal consumption can be beneficial towards one’s weight, cholesterol levels, as well as blood pressure levels, it can also cause many problems with vitamin levels in the body, especially B12, “A vitamin important for the normal formation of red blood cells and the health of the nerve tissues. Undetected and untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and permanent nerve and brain damage” (“Definition of Vitamin B12”). There are substitute ways to obtain these specific nutrients, those following a vegan diet may be lacking.
Those substitutes could be specific vegan foods, or supplements if they are not getting enough nutrients from the food itself. It is often times very hard for vegans to maintain a healthy, nutrient-based diet, which can be the cause to many deficiencies. This is why vegan nutritionists highly stress “well-planned vegan diets contain all the nutrients we need to remain strong and healthy.” Dietitians Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, featured on the Vegan Society explain how sources of calcium can be found amongst multiple food groups. Many vegans struggle with this, because they stick to a fruit and vegetable-based diet, there has to be a mix to receive the right nutrients. The problem is vegans will still pick and choose what foods they want to eat and may lack the nutrients non-vegans receive through the consumption of animal produce. Veganism has become a widespread dietary trend among many nations in the last decade. In the article “The Unstoppable Rise of Veganism,” writer Dan Hancox, shares the thoughts of the newly vegan Louisa Davidson. Louisa is a citizen of the UK and explains the growth of veganism as “We’re riding on that wave of veganism getting into the mainstream” (qtd. in Hancox 1). This shows how fast veganism has grown in the past several years. Vegan diets have been highly encouraged on different social media platforms especially YouTube and Instagram. With very many vegan influencers for people to look to, veganism can be looked at as a “community” and people feel “supported” by those also sharing in the Vegan lifestyle (qtd. in Hancox 1) Social media has left a lasting impression on many, as vegans often share their reasons and how they remain healthy through a vegan diet. This itself has inspired many to quickly convert to veganism.
With veganism gaining more popular day by day, non-vegans ask people who are thinking of converting to veganism, to really think. Veganism can be a great switch for some people, but it is not for just anyone. According to writer Rachel Hosie, “If the entire population switched to a vegan diet it would have a negative effect on public health.” This is an often-controversial argument that happens between vegans and those who believe vegan diets are not the best alternative. Many vegans strongly argue that vegan diets save the animals and the environment, yet some non-vegans disagree. When many people become vegan they often times do it for the sole purpose of benefitting the environment and of course to save the animals. Many do not even think about how veganism can affect a human’s health, especially in a negative aspect. As much as vegans argue they are “saving the world,” they aren’t necessarily doing the environment any good. Some argue that if too many people became vegan, then eventually too many animals would repopulate causing them to need more food, but vegans also eat the same foods as many animals, therefore some animals may starve and die. This may be a far-fetched idea, but it is a valid argument many who are against veganism make. The argument of “ethical omnivorism” and how this supports a “healthy planet” is a very relevant conversation amongst those against veganism. “Ethical omnivorism” strongly supports the idea of local farming and is against “inhumane farming” which is a leading cause of why people convert to veganism. The argument whether or not veganism is all around beneficial is one that many are skeptical of, and although there are many benefits to a vegan diet, there are pros and cons to all diets.
Like all diets veganism can be very beneficial to one’s health but when done incorrectly it can also become very detrimental. Veganism should be a well-planned lifestyle, as many are now taking apart of the “vegan community,” they must learn how to have a balance in the nutrients they need. With veganism becoming more popular, many are accepting vegan’s beliefs, but many are still questioning them. According to Sarah E. Mann, “Controversy regarding the (vegan) diet exists within the public sphere, with those actively supporting and advocating for it, and others questioning its purpose and proposed benefits, even disparaging its existence, perhaps because of a lack of knowledge about the diet.” With the vegan diet continuously growing, there ae more ways to become educated on the diet, and many ways to live out an easier vegan life, since it’s a more accessible subject. Yet the controversy of veganism will most likely always stay at high, because there is still so much research to be done, and many questions to be answered.
“Definition of Vitamin B12.” MedicineNet. Hancox, Dan. “The Unstoppable Rise of Veganism: How a Fringe Movement Went Mainstream.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Apr. 2018, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/01/vegans-are-coming-millennials-health-climate-change-animal-welfare. Hosie, Rachel. “This Is What Would Happen If Everyone Went Vegan.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 20 Nov. 2017, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/vegan-diet-everyone-us-follow-health-impact-meat-nutrients-deficit-supply-scientists-study-a8064981.html. Mann, Sarah E., “More Than Just a Diet: An Inquiry Into Veganism” (2014). Anthropology Senior Theses. Paper 156. Medlin, Sophie. “Vegan Diet: How Your Body Changes from Day One.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 18 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/vegan-diet-how-your-body-changes- from-day-one-100413. Nordqvist, Christian. “Vegan Diet: Health Benefits, Risks, and Meal Tips.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 15 Nov. 2017. “The Vegan Lifestyle.” Holistic Vegan, Vegetarian, and Yoga Cruises. “What Is a Vegan and What Do Vegans Eat?” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-a-vegan. Wheeler, Kathryn. “5 Types of Vegan.” Happiful Magazine, , 1 Nov. 2017, happiful.com/5- types-of-vegan/. “Why Go Vegan?” The Vegan Society, www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan.
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