Summarising veganism is to describe it as a lifestyle choice, with those who choose it standing against what they believe is exploitation and/or cruelty of animals, for food, clothing, and other reasons. A vegan will often begin by making changes to their diet, to exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, honey, and an array of animal by-products. These products are usually replaced with a balanced mix of plant based and processed ingredients, which are used to create a surprising variety of dishes. Strict vegans also exclude other animal products from their lives, which could include clothing, furnishing, and beauty products. Replacing items like leather and silk with man-made fibres is commonplace for many vegans.
To fully understand veganism, it helps to understand people’s backgrounds, and the reasons why they adopt a vegan lifestyle. Preventing and lessening exploitation and suffering of animals is at the core of vegan beliefs. This means not just discouraging animal testing, but holding the view that animals are exploited for food and other products as well. Many people also have ethical or environmental concerns, or religious beliefs, that every life form is sacred. The teaching in some religions also follows the belief that adopting a vegan diet promotes spiritual peace, humility and compassion. The Vegan Society in the UK has a directory on its website of all the spiritual and faith organisations across the country that follow vegan beliefs and lifestyles.
The vegan diet is also long believed to have health benefits, as the ingredients at its core are low in fat and rich in fibre. With health and diet inextricably linked, it should come as no surprise that there is increasing evidence that a vegan diet can help to lessen the chance of anything from life threatening illnesses like heart disease, to problems like diabetes and obesity. A vegan diet can also be a viable alternative to those suffering from food intolerance such as that linked to dairy and meat products.