Vegans take personal responsibility for making the world a better place by giving up meat, dairy products, eggs, and other animal-derived items. By doing so, vegans don't contribute to the needless suffering of animals.
Living a vegan lifestyle is the best thing you can do to help animals. On average a person switching from the standard American diet to a vegan diet will prevent the abuse and killing of about 100 animals per year.
If you are not already vegan, please work to cut all meat, egg, and dairy products out of your diet. If you don't feel you can go vegan "cold turkey," you may want to try reducing your animal product consumption by a set amount every week, until you are completely vegan. Remember, it's not an all or nothing. Every time you choose vegan food over animal products you are making a difference. If going vegan seems too difficult right now, start simple. Eat veggie dogs, use soy milk on your cereal, increase the portions of the vegan foods you already eat.
For more info on veganism please see our literature page.
What is Veganism?
The following is an exerpt from Vegan Vittles written by Joanne Stepaniak, M.S.Ed.
Simply stated, veganism is the conviction and practice of compassionate living. Although this way of life has been followed by a number of individuals and groups throughout history, it wasn't until 1944, when the first Vegan Society was formed in England, that the term vegan (pronounced VEE-gan) was coined to differentiate vegans from vegetarians. This was the beginning of the vegan movement.
By definition, a vegetarian is one whose diet consists of vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, and sometimes animal products such as eggs, milk, or cheese. A total vegetarian is someone who lives solely on the products of the plant kingdom without the addition of eggs or dairy products.
The term "vegetarian" refers only to what one eats and does not pertain to any other aspect of one's life. The impetus for becoming a vegetarian may be based on ethical, religious, health, environmental, or economic concerns, or any combination of these. The motivation for becoming vegan, however, is fundamentally rooted in a compelling set of ethical beliefs. Both total vegetarians and vegans abstain from eating all meat, fish, or fowl, as well as any other foods of animal origin such as butter, milk, yogurt, honey, eggs, gelatin, or lard, and any prepared foods containing these ingredients. But veganism encompasses far more than just diet.
The Vegan Society in England defines veganism as follows: "Veganism is a way of living which excludes all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, the animal kingdom, and includes a reverance for life. It applies to the practice of living on the products of the plant kingdom to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, animal milk and its derivatives, and encourages the use of alternatives for all commodities derived wholly or in part from animals."
Therefore, in addition to adopting a total vegetarian diet, vegans make a conscious effort to avoid all forms of exploitation, harm, and cruelty to animals regardless of any "beneficial" end result or any perceived "value" to society. Thus, vegans do not hunt or fish and abhor the unnatural confinement, cruel training, and degrading use of animals in circuses, zoos, rodeos, races, and other forms of "entertainment." Vegans oppose the unnecessary and barbarous testing of cosmetics, drugs, and household products on animals. They also denounce experiments performed on animals. The use of animal products for adornment such as pearls, ivory, or tortoise shell; or clothing including items made from silk, wool, leather, or fur is also shunned. Furthermore, vegans do not use soaps, cosmetics, or household products which contain animal fats or oils, perfumes which are made from animal products, brushes made of animal hair, or pillows, comforters, or parkas stuffed with feathers.
Although this may appear to be a lengthy list of "don'ts," it illustrates the extent to which human beings have come to rely on animal-based products and will advocate animal exploitation when it involves making a profit.
Some people might argue that it is impossible to be totally vegan in today's modern society, and technically, they would be right. The use of animal products and the byproducts of meat, dairy, and egg production are, sadly, tremendously pervasive. For instance, animal fats are used in the production of steel, rubber, vinyl, and plastics. Hence, cars, buses, and even bicycles are not vegan items. Animal products are used in bricks, plaster, cement, and many home insulation materials. They can also be found extensively in everyday products including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, glue, antifreeze, hydraulic brake fluid, videotape, photographic film, tennis rackets, musical instruments, and innumerable other items. Even wine may be clarified with fish meal or egg whites.
Vegans acknowledge that purity in an industrial country is not only unattainable but unrealistic, and to maintain the impossible as an objective may very well be counterproductive. Participating in a society which is founded on animal exploitation places vegans in a continual ethical dilemma. The goal, in effect, becomes trying not to capitalize on, promote, or in any way contribute further to this anthropocentric perspective. Vegans are, at times, inevitably forced to choose between the minutia of ethical consistency, and a realistic approach. Embracing veganism compels practitioners to confront their attitudes towards all forms of life. According to the American Vegan Society, founded in 1960, the primary motive behind veganism is dynamic harmlessness, the tenet of doing the least harm and the most good. This philosophy encourages vegans to search for options which will protect and improve the lives of all living beings on this planet, eliminate suffering, bring about the responsible use of natural resources, and inspire peace and harmony among people. Consequently, veganism is not passive self-denial. On the contrary, it instills active and vibrant responsibility for initiating positive social change by presenting a constant challenge to consistently seek out the highest ideal.
Don’t Buy the Lie
While hens used for cage-free, free-range, and organic eggs live slightly better lives than hens on battery-cage egg farms, the treatment and conditions are in no way humane or cruelty-free. In most cases the hens are still confined, usually packed into filthy sheds or in raised wire-floored enclosures with thousands of other birds. No federal law regulates cage-free or free-range egg production, so producers can get away with labeling eggs as “humane,” “cage-free,” or “free-range,” even if the hens are still crowded together by the thousands in deplorable conditions. In other words, the terms are more of a marketing ploy than an indication of how well the animals are being treated. Hens used for USDA Organic eggs are required to have some outdoor access, but regulations do not define the amount or how fresh the outdoor range must be kept. Most organic egg farms simply have a small opening in the side of a large shed where some hens can get out to a small, manure-filled plot of land. California and Michigan have passed laws requiring that hens have enough room to turn around and spread their wings, but these laws have not yet gone into effect. They also do not implicitly ban cages, so egg farms can simply use larger cages to comply with laws in these states.
While cage-free, free-range, and organic egg farms have less confining conditions than battery cage operations, they still engage in the following inhumane activities that are standard in the egg industry:
-- One- to two-day old chicks have their sensitive beaks sliced off with a hot blade to reduce loss from stress-induced fighting. This painful process leads to deformed beaks, causing some hens to die of starvation or dehydration, and making it painful for many hens to eat and drink.
-- Hens are kept in artificial conditions, where they cannot scratch or dust bathe in clean pasture, feel the warmth of the sun, or breathe fresh air. Many cage-free operations confine hens in wire-floored enclosures that cut into their feet.
-- Hens are force molted—a standard egg industry practice of removing their food and water for up to two weeks to force their bodies into another egg-laying cycle.
-- When no longer “useful” for egg production, hens are violently packed into cages, loaded onto transport trucks, and shipped off to be slaughtered.
-- At slaughter, hens are brutally slammed upside down into shackles and moved by conveyor through whirling blades that cut their necks. The hens who miss the blades are scalded alive in the feather removal tanks.
-- The hatcheries that supply replacement hens kill the male chicks at a day old by grinding them up alive, suffocating them in trash bags, or simply tossing them alive into the dumpster because the males are unable to lay eggs and are not the right strain to be raised profitably for meat. Several hundred million male chicks are killed by hatcheries every year in the U.S. alone.
-- Live baby hens are mailed from hatcheries to egg farms via the postal service. Every year millions of chicks die en route from rough handling, dehydration, and starvation.
As you can clearly see, the only way to know you are not supporting multiple forms of cruelty, the eventual slaughter of hens, and the immediate slaughter of baby male chicks is to not consume commercially-produced eggs or foods containing eggs.
What about backyard hens or small family farms?
Anyone who buys hens from the farm supply or a hatchery is responsible for the deaths of the baby males. Also, consuming eggs from backyard hens or family farms tends to lead to consumption of commercially produced eggs, often as ingredients in non-vegan foods. Making the commitment to be vegan, on the other hand, eliminates this slippery slope effect that eating certain animal products may have.
While having backyard chickens sounds appealing, and certainly is much less cruel than supporting commercial egg production, many people find taking care of chickens is much more work than they anticipated. Hens have a ten-year lifespan, and like cats and dogs, require love, attention, and veterinary care. Very few small family farms can afford to care for hens for ten years and take each one to the vet for check-ups or when they need medical care, especially after hens stop producing eggs regularly. While individuals with backyard hens may be able to do that, when you calculate in the time and money involved in properly caring for companion chickens, it really does not make economic sense to keep them for egg production. Egg substitutes are not only healthier, but much more cost-effective.
Show Your True Compassion
By becoming vegan, you will save the lives of over 100 animals every year and show your commitment to living without exploiting other sentient beings. Vegan foods are not the product of systems that objectify, torture, confine, and kill animals—and by choosing vegan foods you are making a powerful statement of compassion that will spread to people around you. Your veganism will have a ripple effect and you will become a positive example and beacon to your friends, family, colleagues, etc. Many people become vegan because they know someone else who is vegan, so by being vegan you not only remove your support for the abuse and killing of animals, you inspire others to do the same.
Instead of scrambled eggs, try tofu scramble. Search online for recipes or buy Fantastic Foods Tofu Scrambler box mix. In baking, try Ener-G Egg Replacer, an easy-to-use box mix. One box replaces 113 eggs and costs around $7. Bob’s Red Mill also makes a powdered egg replacer. Both are available at many grocery stores or online. Also try one of the following in place of one egg for binding and moisture: 1 T water plus 2 T arrowroot flour, 1 T water plus 2 T corn starch, 1 T water plus 2 T potato starch, ¼ cup applesauce, 1 T ground flax blended with 3 T warm water, or ½ banana. For leavening, add 2 tsp baking soda plus 2 tsp water. For more alternatives to eggs, search “egg substitutes” on the web.
For more information on why and how to become vegan, including recipes and nutrition facts, please request a free vegan starter pack at VeganStarterPack.com.
Visit YouTube.com/actionforanimals to view free-range and hatchery investigations. Please also visit HumaneMyth.org for more information.
What's Wrong With Dairy and Eggs?
The "Free-Range" Myth
The Reality of Organic and Free-Range Animal Products