What exactly does being vegan mean? This is a question I get a lot from people who have known me for several years. In 1979 The Vegan Society became a registered non-profit and defined veganism as:
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—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 it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
The short answer when we are trying to explain to someone is usually, “Being vegan means that you are a vegetarian who has chosen to also eliminate ALL animal products from your diet, including eggs, milk, and cheese. Further, some vegans opt to eliminate ALL animal products from their lives including things like leather, fur, and
even other products that contain materials that destroy animal habitats such as palm oil (you’d be surprised to learn what the harvesting of palm oil does to the habitat of the orangutan and what the companies do to those orangutan to remove them from their homes before harvesting).”
Like the cute little picture above, Nathan and I try to be ‘mostly vegan’ or at the very least cruelty-free vegetarians. What does that mean for us? Well, we do not eat any meat product and we work to eliminate ALL animal products from our diet. We eat (and try to make) vegan cheese, vegan butter, and vegan milks (soy, almond, cashew, etc…) as much as possible. We occasionally still eat eggs, but we try to limit that to only those eggs laid by our own chickens who we know are treated with love and live happy and healthy lives.
Another question we get on occasion is, “Why would you want to be vegan or vegetarian, especially living anywhere close to New Orleans?” That answer is two-fold, but quite simple. First and foremost, we try to live a cruelty-free life and eat a cruelty-free diet because we love animals and our planet. We try to avoid those things that would cause harm to either. Second, I have a long history of heart disease in my family and we want me to be as healthy as possible as I begin to get older. Like the graphic above says, we aren’t perfect at this all of the time. Sometimes in social situations we ultimately have eat something that was made with eggs or cheese, though we try to avoid this, sometimes it is just unavoidable.
In the end striving to live a cruelty-free life fits in perfectly with our values, goals, and vision of living a sustainable, off-grid, and more simple life as modern day homesteaders.