What is Veganism and Vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is now quite common in the UK, but has a very long history, dating back to a practicies of Indian and Greek philosophers over a thousand years ago. It means choosing a diet that is free of meat, fish, and products derived from slaughtered animals. It is commonly just associated with animal welfare, but people have a variety of reasons to make this choice. One other reason is that the food chain produces a third of the carbon dioxide emissions on the whole planet - so by cutting out meat from your diet, you are reducing your carbon footprint by a massive amount! The other is that people often have healthier diets as a vegetarian, and it's also cheaper. Even people who just take up vegetarianism for a short time often find that it renews their interest in cooking, as it forces people to think of new recipes to cook. Vegetarians have a much lower risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. There are other reasons people become vegetarians too, such as political or religious reasons. There are a number of other diets that allow certain animals, for example, pescitarians are vegetarians that also eat fish.

Veganism is choosing to have a diet that is entirely free from any animal derived products. So this means for example that milk, cheese, eggs, and honey, is not part of your diet.

Alice Nicolay's experience of being vegan

I became a vegetarian when I was eight. My mother was a vegetarian and, as I asked her more questions about it, I remember finding myself very upset by the way animals were treated in farms and abattoirs. I soon realised that I did not want to eat meat.

At the age of seventeen I saw a talk by Viva! about the impact of agriculture and the livestock industry on our planet and resources. It was the first time I had ever made the connection between meat and the environment. Notably, issues such as climate change, deforestation (in particular land used for animal feed), land degradation, water pollution, and the increased use of land and resources within the industry, were new and alarming to me. As I looked further into veganism, I realised that it would not only help to reduce my carbon footprint but that it also had important health benefits, as well as being a more ethical choice in terms of animal welfare standards. Unfortunately, I didnít feel that being vegetarian was enough for me, as farm animals can still suffer terribly if being reared for their by-products, as well as for meat, and they usually end up in an abattoir anyway.

For me, thus, veganism was the most ethical choice in terms of animal rights and the environment, as well as being better for my health. You just need to read up a little bit on nutrition to make sure you are getting all the right nutrients in your diet. You usually end up knowing more than most people as a result anyway! Becoming vegan had other, less obvious, benefits also. Since becoming a vegan I find I buy very few processed foods and tend to shop locally for the bulk of my food. This is, again, much healthier, but also supports local trade, and is remarkably cheaper than shopping in a supermarket. I also cook next to all my meals from scratch.

I do not find being a vegan at all difficult. It does limit me, in some ways, but not in negative ways! As mentioned, I am not able to buy as many processed foods as before, but that has only been a benefit to me; it is healthier, and I can now actually cook! When eating out, it can be a bit of a problem, again, but if you go to a decent restaurant you often get great and very exclusive service, to the envy or your meat-eating friends! I would recommend this lifestyle to everyone.

  1. For more information about veganism and vegetarianism, check out the Vegetarian Society website
  2. To find out about more about the massive impacts meat production has upon the environment, look at Friends of the Earth's Fix the Food Chain campaign