From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Veganism (also known as strict vegetarianism or pure vegetarianism) is a philosophy and lifestyle that avoids using animals and animal products for food, clothing and other purposes. In practice, a vegan (an adherent of veganism) commits to the abstention from consumption or use of animal products, including meat, fish, and poultry, animal gelatin, honey, eggs and dairy products, as well as articles made of silk, fur, wool, bone, leather, feathers, pearls, nacre, coral, sponges and other materials of animal origin. Most vegans also avoid products that have been tested on animals. People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including ethical concerns for animal rights or the environment, as well as more personal reasons such as perceived health benefits and spiritual or religious concerns.
A 2002 Time/CNN poll, 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. Also in 2002, the UK Food Standards Agency reported that 5% of respondents self-identified as vegetarian or vegan. Though 29% of that 5% said they avoided "all animal products" only 5% reported avoiding dairy. Based on these figures, approximately 0.25% of the UK population follow a vegan diet. The Times estimates there are 250,000 vegans in Britain.
The word vegan, usually pronounced [ˈviːgən], 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. They combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan", which they saw as "the beginning and end of vegetarian". The British Vegan Society defines veganism as:
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 society defines Veganism as] The practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
Other vegan societies use similar definitions.
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, seafood, eggs, dairy products, fur, leather, wool, pearls, and nacre (mother of pearl), among other things. By-products include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, and whey. Items derived from insects include items such as silk, honey, beeswax, shellac and cochineal.
Some vegans avoid cane sugar that has been filtered with bone char and will not drink beer or wine clarified with albumen, animal blood, or isinglass, because though these are not present in the final product, they are still used in the process. However, the group Vegan Outreach argues that the rejection of these items because of the process by which they were obtained misses the point of veganism. Vegans also avoid alcohol that contains or is "smoothened" using animal glycerine. Some also avoid food cooked with equipment that has been used to cook non-vegan foods. Vegans also avoid toothpaste with calcium extracted from animal bones, if they are aware of it. Similarly, soap with ingredients which may have been extracted from animal fat (e.g. stearic acid) is avoided.
Most vegans refrain from supporting industries that use animals directly or indirectly, such as circuses and zoos, and will not use products that are tested on animals.
As a strict form of vegetarianism, veganism may be difficult to follow. Evaluating products as vegan or not requires knowledge of food ingredients and production methods which may not be common to the general population. Furthermore, the near ubiquity of non-vegan ingredients in vitamins, supplements, prescription medicine, toiletries and cosmetics can make fully avoiding animal products nearly impossible as these items are not consistently labelled with their ingredients. The extra effort required to replace non-vegan ingredients in traditional recipes, the inadequacy of some vegan substitutes, and the difficulty in eating out at restaurants also contribute to the perception that the diet to which vegans adhere is difficult.
- See also: Ethics of eating meat
Vegans generally oppose the 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)
Some utilitarian philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer, argue that the suffering of sentient animals is relevant to ethical decisions, though they do not rely on the concept of rights and believe that non-human animals only have an interest in not suffering. Others like Gary L. Francione, believe that all sentient beings have an interest in both not suffering and continuing to live. A common argument is that animals have the ability to feel pleasure so killing them is wrong, because it destroys any hope of future pleasure. He claims that it is therefore unethical to treat them as property or a means to an end (see animal rights). Although these theories draw similar conclusions, they are not wholly compatible with one another.
Studies have strongly correlated a plant based diet with better health benefits than an omnivorous diet. Vegans note 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 tend toward several nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, no cholesterol, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, antioxidant vitamins C and E and phytochemicals.
Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, although there was no significant difference in blood pressure rates. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that one small scale study has observed that a vegan diet can reduce blood cholesterol in people with, and significantly reduce the complications of Type 2 diabetes.
There are a number of vegan athletes. Vegan athletes compete in a variety of sports, such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, martial arts, long distance running, and many others. Multiple Olympic gold medallist Carl Lewis has stated that he became vegan in 1990 and felt that his "best year of track competition" was when he ate a vegan diet.
Some studies have found benefits associated with diets rich in whole plant foods, and risks associated with diets rich in animal-based foods. One of the researchers from the 1990 epidemiological study, "The China Study", said "Even small increases in the consumption of animal-based foods was associated with increased disease risk." Studies in Japan found that increased consumption of some animal products coincided with a decrease in risk for some forms of cerebrovascular disease and stroke mortality.
There are also claims that industry livestock feeding practices pose health threats to human consumers. 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 raised for human consumption to lower the feed costs. He also says that up to 10% of blood from killed animals is mixed into some cattle feed, and up to 30% of some poultry feed is made up of the blood. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, is believed to be caused by 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 developed world, such remnants are no longer allowed in feed for ruminant animals, and the World Health Organization recommends a complete ban on ruminant-ro-ruminant feeding, but the practice persists in a few countries.
Resources and the environment
People who adopt a vegan diet to reduce resource consumption or ecological footprint extend the idea of environmental vegetarianism to all animal products. The fundamental rationale is that each additional trophic level in a food chain passes on only a fraction of the energy it consumes, so a diet that consists of plant products rather than animal products will generally use significantly less of all resources, and indirectly cause less environmental damage.
A study by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, compares the CO2 production resulting from various human diets. They find that a person switching from the typical American diet to a vegan diet would, on average, reduce CO2 production significantly more than switching to a hybrid vehicle. They go on to recommend a vegan diet for this reason, as well as the potentially adverse health effects of dietary animal fats and proteins. They go on to support their claims by referencing various studies linking animal fats to cardiovascular diseases and animal proteins to cancer.
- For recipes and further information see the Wikibooks Cookbook article on Vegan Cuisine.
The cuisines of most nations contain dishes that are suitable for a vegan diet, as are specific traditional ingredients such as tofu, tempeh and the wheat product seitan in Asian diets. 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. Additionally, artificial "meat" products ("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.
Similar diets and lifestyles
There are several diets similar to veganism, though there are significant differences, including raw veganism and fruitarianism. 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.
The American Dietetic Association says that a properly planned vegan diet presents no significant nutritional problems. Vegans are potentially at risk for being deficient in several nutrients, such as vitamin B12, vitamin A, iron and iodine. These deficiencies can have potentially serious consequences, including anemia, pernicious anemia, cretinism and hyperthyroidism. Vitamin supplementation is highly recommended for vegans.
Criticism and controversy
Steven Davis, professor of animal science at Oregon State University, argues 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 gives a small sampling of field animals in the U. S. that are threatened by intensive crop production, such as: opossum, rock dove, house sparrow, European starling, black rat, Norway rat, house mouse, Chukar, grey partridge, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, cottontail rabbit, gray-tailed vole, and numerous species of amphibians. In one small example, an alfalfa harvest caused a 50% decline in the gray-tailed vole population. According to Davis, if all of the cropland in the U. S. were used to produce crops for a vegan diet, it is estimated that around 1.8 billion animals would be killed annually. 
Gaverick Matheny, a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural economics at the University of Maryland, claims that Davis' reasoning contains several major flaws, including distorting the notion of "harm" to animals, and miscalculating the number of animal deaths based upon areas of land rather than per consumer. Matheny claims that vegetarianism actually kills less animals, promotes better treatment of animals, and allows more animals to exist.  Other critics have questioned the validity of the ethical claims put forward by vegans, stating that "the belief that all life is sacred can lead to absurdities such as allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria, or vipers to run loose on one's premises."
The American Dietetic Association says that a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate in all stages of life, but "individual assessment of dietary intakes of vegetarians is required."
Vegans should be particularly concerned with adequate intake of vitamins like Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. However, adequate amounts of vitamin D may be obtained by spending 15 to 30 minutes every few days in the sunlight. Vegans are at a higher risk of vitamin A deficiency because in its true form (also called retinol) it is found only in animal foods such as fish oils and liver. This form is readily absorbed by the body. Plants do not contain vitamin A, but rather provitamin A and despite consumption of such provitamin A rich foods there might be vitamin deficiencies because of the consumption of insufficient amount of fat together with carotene-rich vegetables, and dietary deficiencies in iron and zinc.
Vitamin B12, a bacterial product, cannot be reliably found in plant foods. While it may take one to five years to exhaust some individual's reserves of vitamin B12, serious health consequences are a very real risk and many people do not have such reserves. Additionally, mild B12 deficiency (elevated homocysteine levels) can develop even with such reserves. In a recent laboratory study, 60% of the strict vegan participants' B12 and iron levels were compromised, as compared with the lacto- or lacto-ovo-vegetarian participants (who were able to acquire vitamin B12 from these animal sources). In addition, lower counts of lymphocytes (the white blood cells responsible for immune system responses) and platelets (responsible for blood coagulation) and alterations in the iron metabolism and transport, were demonstrated.
Another B12 study was conducted in rural Africa, partially backed by the U.S. based National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which demonstrated a dramatic improvement in the health of individuals who had, prior to the study, been on diets completely lacking in animal products. The study concluded that the added nutrients, especially vitamin B12 contained in the meat and milk improved the health of the children in the study. The author of the study, Professor Lindsay 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." However, the British Dietetic Association contended that the findings of the study were not applicable to vegan children in the developed world. They note that B12, reliably found only in animal products, is now included in many fortified foods generally available. Noting that the impoverished children in the study had diets deficient in zinc, B12 and iron, they concluded, "There is no evidence that our vegan and vegetarian children in this country suffer impaired development". They did note, however, that young children, pregnant and nursing women are vulnerable as vegans, urging parents to review their children's diets to be sure that they have a well-balanced diet.
Vegan mothers who do not obtain adequate vitamin B12 in their diet while breastfeeding can cause severe and permanent neurological damage to their infants. The US Food and Drug Administration in its report states that vegetarian women of childbearing age have an increased chance of menstrual irregularities, and that vegetarians run the risk of not consuming enough micronutrients like copper, iron and zinc in their diet.
One study noted the 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 has shown that boys born to mothers who consume relatively large amounts of soya products (such as Tofu and Soy Milk) and vegetables containing pesticide residue were more likely to suffer from a specific genital defect, called hypospadias. Naturally occurring chemicals called phytoestrogens, found in soya products, are implicated as one cause. Another study also observed that a maternal vegetarian diet in pregnancy had a fivefold higher risk of producing infants with hypospadias.
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". Other studies and statements by counselors and dietitians support this conclusion.
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- List of vegans
- Raw veganism
- Raw food diet
- Animal rights
- Farm Sanctuary
- China Study
- Vegan Action
- American Vegan Society
- Vegan Society (UK)
- Vegan Society of Australia
- Vegan Outreach, creators of the popular "Why Vegan?" pamphlet
- Movement for Compassionate Living (the Vegan Way)
- American Dietetic Association position on vegetarian diet
- The Vegan Society (UK) webpages on nutrition
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- The Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
- ChooseVeg.com, reasons to become vegan
- Farm Sanctuary