Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | August 10, 2010

Why Vegan?

A lot of people have asked me (especially hospitality employees) what the vegan restrictions are, so I thought I would dedicate a blog post entirely to the definition of and reasons for being vegan. What is vegan/veganism? What can and can’t vegans eat? Why do people choose to be vegan?

What is vegan/veganism? Straight from Wikipedia (I know, I know): The word “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, who combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form “vegan,” which he saw as “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” Vegans choose not to use and consume animal products of any kind including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and butter.

Why do people choose to be vegan? There are a variety of reasons why people choose to follow a vegan diet. In the “About Veganism” section of the website Vegan.org, the main reasons for becoming vegan are “human health, ethical commitment or moral conviction concerning animal rights or welfare, the environment, and spiritual or religious concerns.” I like to put vegans into three buckets. I’ve noticed and read that there are “health” vegans, “eco” vegans, and “animal-rights” vegans. I would classify myself as a “health” vegan because a “research-based” vegan isn’t one of the top or common reasons. Here is a description of the three:

  • “Health” vegans choose to be vegan purely for the benefit of their personal health. The American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease;… lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer,” (GoVeg.com) Eating a nutritious vegan diet eliminates the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products. The consumption of these products has been strongly liked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and male impotence. Vegetarians are 50% less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40% of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. In addition, vegetarians/vegans have stronger immune systems and are less susceptible to everyday illnesses. Vegans are also less likely to be obese and are said to live on average 6-10 years longer than people who consume meat.
  • “Eco” vegans choose to be vegan for the global environmental benefit. They are concerned about the intensive use of land and other resources for animal farming. When it comes down to it, many studies show that there are global benefits of eating less meat. In 2006, the United Nations came out with a report that summarized the environmental devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The industrialized meat and fish producing industries seems to be tied to the problems of land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortages, water pollution and loss of biodiversity. (GoVeg.com)
  • “Animal-rights” vegans choose to be vegan to show their distaste for industrialized animal cruelty. These vegans are concerned about the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing. “The competition to produce inexpensive meat, eggs, and dairy products has led animal agribusiness to treat animals as objects and commodities. The worldwide trend is to replace small family farms with “factory farms” – large warehouses where animals are confined in crowded cages or pens or in restrictive stalls” (VeganOutreach.org). Read more on animal cruelty and factory farming at: http://www.goveg.com/factoryFarming.asp.

It seems that all three of these reasons are tied to the meat industries. There have been many recent bestsellers on the topic including: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen, Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, and Slaughterhouse, by Gail A. Eisnitz

What do vegans usually eat? Vegans consume plant-based diets and eat mostly vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. Or as a traveling vegan, it’s easiest to eat fruit (you can usually pick up some whole fruit from hotel health clubs), legumes (nuts from airport snack shops, hotel gift shops, or vending machines) and vegetables (many restaurants have some sort of salad or grilled vegetable side on the menu). It is must easier to get creative with vegan meals when you have a kitchen to play with, a luxury unknown to many consultants.

Feel free to ask any “vegan” what, why, and how questions by posting a comment or emailing me directly!

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Responses

  1. Does it help your IBS?

  2. Absolutely! Being vegan eliminates a lot of “trigger” food from my diet that aren’t great for people with IBS. For instance, red meat, dairy, and butter are all trigger foods for me. This is not to say that I’m completely rid of all stomach problems, but I’ve definitely felt better.


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