October 15, 2009

Redefining and Elevating our Veganism

There were people who understood the ‘vegan concept’ long before the actual word was invented in 1944 by Donald Watson (of The Vegan Society, in the U.K). A Webster’s dictionary, published in 1987, defines the word ‘vegan’ like this: ‘(1944) a strict vegetarian: one that consumes no animal food or dairy products.’ Another dictionary published in 1988, and the fattest dictionary I’ve ever seen, does not include the definition of the word at all. The Random House Webster’s College dictionary, published in 1999, defined the word as ‘A vegetarian that omits all animal products from the diet’. In 2004, The On-line World Net Dictionary defines the word like this: ‘A strict vegetarian; someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all’. As we evolve, the dictionary definitions begin to follow suit. In 2007, TheFreeDictionary.com defines the word as “A vegetarian who eats plant products only, especially one who uses no products derived from animals, as fur or leather.” Also in 2007, the Merriam-Webster On-line dictionary defines it as such: “a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also: one who abstains from using animal products (as leather). Most vegans and vegan organizations would define veganism far beyond these dictionary definitions to be more inclusive of what vegans exclude from their diets and lifestyle choices.

Once again, it is time to update the meaning and raise the standard of the word in dictionaries (as well as in our lives) to: (Vee-gun) 1. One who does not eat animals or animal by-products, wear items made of animal skins or use any products that contain animal ingredients or that were tested on animals 2. Does not support industries that exploit animals 3. Does not profit or benefit from turning the life of an animal into a commodity.

It is virtually impossible to be completely vegan in this ‘non-vegan world’, with animal derivatives in many practices and products of our everyday lives. For example, animal products may be found in: glues used for making furniture and binding books, plastics, rubber, cellophane, wax paper, ink, plywood, drywall, insulation for walls, ceramic tiles, foam rubber, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, refrigerators and air conditioners using freon; a cooling agent that reportedly contains a derivative from animal fat, disinfectants, household cleaners, and polishes, asphalt, concrete blocks, the steel in trains and planes, fire extinguishers, brake fluid, anti-freeze, tires, all sorts of mechanical machinery, and clothing dye. Most contraceptives are not vegan. Animal ingredients may be used to make computers and photocopiers work. Also they are used in making the electrical circuitry and in the ink toners to print. Steel ball bearings and lubricants contain animal products that help machines run smoothly. This overwhelming list is information gathered from the internet (meaning it may or may not be true) but here is a realistic list of things we CAN do that will bring us closer to the vegan ideal.

*Elevate our understanding of ‘Veganism’ to embrace a compassion for ALL who live; knowing it to be ‘A Great Truth’ that can heal our ailing planet.

*Be a guardian, care-giver, and protector of animals. Gently escort insects and birds out of dwellings, find homes for abandoned dogs, protect animals from hunters, and help a turtle cross the road by carrying him (in the direction he’s headed) out of harm’s way.

*Eliminate white refined sugar that has been processed through bone charcoal, as well as honey that has been taken from bees. There are many plant-based alternative sweeteners, such as organic evaporated cane juice or agave nectar which is also much more healthy.

*Say NO when relatives pass around a pastry made with animal products. It’s no temptation at all to the vegan who really understands. So many times we’ve heard people who call themselves a vegan except they ate someone’s meal so they wouldn’t hurt them. You can’t really hurt them by enlightening them to a more compassionate and healthy way to live. It is really kinder to not eat their meal. Let relatives and friends know before they prepare the meal that you eat only from the plant kingdom and what that means. Be gentle, but be firm. You may inspire them to eat less animal products, now or sometime in the future.

*When ordering a sandwich in a restaurant, ask the ingredients of the bread. The new paradigm vegan may not care to dine in establishments where animal products are sold.

*Bury old leather shoes.

*Use digital photography rather film made of gelatin.

*Purchase supplements in vege-caps, rather than the more widely used gelatin capsules, and verify the source of all ingredients or look for the ‘vegan approved’ label. Support companies that sell only vegan products. There is an ever-growing list of such companies. Do an on-line search for my article on Vegan Companies and Businesses.

*Read labels. Make phone calls or send an e-mail to companies to verify the source of ingredients they use in their products. For example: a label may say calcium carbonate listed as an ingredient. The company would need a phone call or e-mail asking for verification of the source of the calcium carbonate in this product, because, in some instances, it is from ground oyster shells collected from restaurants. Another example: If a label reads vitamin D3, it is almost definitely from a non-vegan source. There are pet food products claiming to be vegan while using animal derived vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is the plant-based source of the vitamin. To summarize; read labels and question the source of ingredients in order to support truly cruelty-free products. This oftentimes, will bring the concerns of the consumer to the attention of the manufacturer and they change their products to meet the requests. We’ve seen this happen many times by talking with CEO’s of companies about something non-vegan in an otherwise vegan product and the next thing you know, the product comes out altered and with a big VEGAN label on it!!

*Don’t purchase bone china, ivory products, silk products (derived from boiling silk worms) medicines (like Premarin or shark cartilage) made from animal secretions or parts. The new paradigm vegan will know that true health and beauty couldn’t possibly come from wearing cosmetics with animal ingredients or that have been tested on animals. Pharmaceuticals have been tested on animals. Keep yourself healthy with preventative measures and try to avoid pharmaceuticals, if possible.

*Don’t give support to circus animal act shows, zoos with cages, horse/dog races, marine parks, Las Vegas animal act shows, horses pulling carriages of people, etc. Never give monetary support to ANY business that is involved with animal exploitation or imprisoning innocent beings, including pet stores that support puppy mills.

*Feed pet dogs a balanced vegan diet, which they thrive on. Replace a bone for chewing with a safe hard stick.

*Cats are a difficult issue for vegans as they are carnivores. Some vegans choose not to live with cats in order to avoid feeding them animal products and supporting that system. Others keep cats indoors and reportedly feed them a supplemented vegan diet. I've heard both successful and non successful reports of this. Male cats may not be able to thrive on a vegan diet due to painful urinary tract disorders. Their urine ph levels need to be monitored. You can feed cats vegan meals (some suggestions are: mashed tofu, nutritional yeast, and seeweed bits. They like squash and Tofurky!) and let them outside to fend for themselves. Cats are metabolically carnivores, whereas a dog is metabolically omnivore. For instructions on feeding cats a balanced vegan diet supplemented with taurine and other nutrients that they must have when being fed a vegan diet, visit the site of 'Vegan Pet' in Australia.

Don’t feed rabbits (or other natural vegan animals) store-bought pellet mixes that contain animal derived vitamins, whey, etc. Instead, feed them dark green leafy vegetables, (Timothy) hay, weeds such as dandelion, clover and plantain, vegan kibble if you can find it, sprouts, 1-2 t. selected fruit as a treat, and a small amount of other vegetables like carrots and beetroot, also as a treat.

*The new paradigm vegan will rescue a dog from the pound or elsewhere when seeking a companion animal. Don’t pay money for an animal. This is something we are working to end. No sentient being should be reduced to a commodity that can be bought or sold. There are plenty of nonhuman animals that need rescuing.

*Use ‘Have-Heart-traps’ (purchased on-line by mail order catalogs) to catch unwanted rodents and relocate them to an appropriate location.

*Use synthetic art brushes to replace sable bristles. Alter drums and other musical instruments to free them of leather, catgut and other animal by-products. Don’t use sporting goods made with leather. In these times, there are synthetic alternative to leather for most products (such as ballet shoes, sporting equipment, shoes, bags and accessories) when shopping on-line.

*The new paradigm vegan may even attempt growing his/her own food, ‘veganically’; without blood and bone, fish meal, animal sludge or manure sourced from the exploitation of animals. Instead he/she will use plant-based compost and mulch, rock dusts, crop rotation, nitrogen-fixing cover crops, and other non-animal based and chemical-free fertilizers to replenish the soil; a more sustainable, compassionate and healthier method of growing.

*The new paradigm vegan will not claim to be vegan while having a fur coat (bought in the past) in the closet. Instead, he/she will come out of the closet, and donate the coat to animal rights organization for use in an anti-fur campaign.

*Order a vegan meal on airlines just to make a statement, even if the fruit plate is preferred. Pack your own meals.

*Don’t choose books for young children that will indoctrinate them that nonhumans are made for human use.  Be sure to put gentle and kind vegan thoughts into the minds of children via words, books, visits to Gentle Barn or other rescued animal sanctuaries. Children will meet and naturally learn to love animals this way.

*Refrain from saying ‘go fish’ when playing the child’s card game, but change the words to “go jump in the pond.” The evolved vegan won’t use derogatory phrases towards animals (or anyone for that matter!)

*Some vegans make a stand not to make-love with non-vegans, as they find it unappealing to be intimate with someone whose body is made from dead carcasses or animals’ bodily fluids. Others don’t want to have sexual relations with someone who doesn’t see eye to eye on the compassion of the vegan concept. This has inspired some to become vegan who might not have! Love is a powerful tool for helping to change someone (for the better, of course!)

*Convey the vegan message with Love, always having in mind to SAVE THE ANIMALS, first and foremost. Don’t let our anger towards the treatment of animals lead us to be violent in any way, in order to save animals. This will only make vegans look bad in the eyes of non-vegans and hurt the movement.

Veganism brings with it FRIENDSHIP WITH ANIMALS. As the years go on and the more vegan we become, the closer to animals we get. There are many other species to love beside humans!

A vegan does not ever cheat!! The vegan diet is not like a raw food diet that you can cheat with. Being a vegan is a moral stance. It’s a character-defining quality. It's a statement in protest of slavery. It’s a solution to world hunger. It’s a health plan. It’s a panacea; that even encompasses our spiritual health.

Let’s keep the word ‘vegan’ alive with this, updated, more real definition! I implore all vegans (including myself) to raise their standard of veganism. If we are ‘all one’ and all connected, then elevating our veganism is perhaps a way we can elevate the whole world. The desire not to cause harm or suffering to other living beings is a soulful endeavor that should forever be nurtured.

1 comment:

Vegan Maven said...

Although written nearly three ago, this article is still light years ahead of most articles we see on the topic of veganism. You have written an eloquent and powerful mini-manifesto of how we, as vegans, should maintain high standards of morality and behaviour. This was a joy to read. Thank you and many blessings!