The key difference between ethical vegans and people on plant-based diets is the ideology behind it. While vegans avoid using animal products in every aspect of their lives, those who carry out plant-based diets usually just focus on the food aspect.
People have different aims when they switch to plant-based diets; for health reasons, environmental, spirituality, making a stance against animal cruelty, among others. Let’s explore the three main reasons why someone would eliminate meat and animal by-products from their diets.
The Healthy Vegan
The fact that a vegan diet improves overall health is not a new fact. Many people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, high cholesterol, and several other ailments might transition to a plant-based diet for its health benefits.
Apart from trying to fix a problem, many people will switch diets to prevent future health problems. A vegan diet has been proven to reduce the risk of some types of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes.
Some people who are focusing on weight loss might try out a vegan diet, although it’s important to clarify that a plant-based diet does not equal a low-calorie intake. Just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy! You can still eat vegan cookies, chips, and other vegan junk food, which can be high in calories and low in nutrients.
The Environmental Vegan
If you haven’t watched documentaries like “Cowspiracy” or done research on greenhouse gas emissions, you might not be aware of just how damaging cattle is to the environment.
Because cattle are ruminants, they produce methane when they process food. Methane is a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and it’s released via cow belches and flatulence. These emissions absorb radiation from the sun and can trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
Another big problem that comes with livestock production is habitat loss. In the Amazon, 80% of deforestation comes from cattle ranches.
And, of course, it goes without saying that there is an artificial increase in animals that results in higher water waste. Not only does livestock need water to survive, but water is also used to grow their food source. “Raising animals for food introduces a major extra step of waste relative to the efficiency of us just eating the plant foods directly,” says David L. Katz, co-author of How to Eat. “If you just eat the plants, you cut out the middleman.”
The Spiritual Vegan
When we think about the benefits of a vegan diet, we often connect these to the health of our bodies. However, many people are certain that veganism also has benefits for our mind and soul.
These views go way back! Many Eastern cultural and religious practices, such as Hinduism, promote a vegetarian lifestyle. Nowadays, there are contemporary Western views that have taken these principles and adapted them, but they also consider a plant-based diet as a holistic lifestyle.
According to spiritual vegans, this diet is the most compassionate one and it’s consistent with leading a life of nonviolence, which gives you good karma. A plant-based diet is not only concerned with animal welfare, health, and environmental benefits but also reduced aggression and spiritual benefits.
The Ethical Vegan
Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude —as far as is possible and practicable— all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty from their lifestyle. It goes much deeper than just the food you eat or a desire to help the environment: it looks at the relationship between humans and other animals and tries to stop any sort of harm that can come to them.
This, of course, encompasses a larger number of issues that go far beyond just diet. Some of the other aspects that ethical vegans take into account are:
- Avoiding animal skins, such as leather, in clothing.
- Fighting against vivisection and animal experimentation in cosmetic product development.
- Stopping animal cruelty in sports, including dogfighting and cockfighting, hunting and fishing, bullfighting, rodeos, and dog and horse races.
- Avoiding any animal by-products used in cosmetic products, such as beeswax or lanolin.
It’s very likely that a lot of the people going plant-based for health or environmental reasons care about animals, but they differ from ethical vegans because they don’t necessarily cut out animal products from their diets. Some people even argue that Ethical Vegans should be the only ones who can call themselves “vegan”, but that is a question of semantics and usually causes more division than actual good.
If you want to learn more about veganism and how you can start transitioning into a plant-based diet (we know it can be very overwhelming!) you can check out our vegan resources. To find curated vegan & cruelty-free lifestyle items (and avoid spending time reading labels) browse our Not to Die For marketplace!