The term “veganism” means the practice of eating only food not derived from animals and avoiding the use of other animal products as well. While some see this as a current “trend” in western culture, many cultures have been eating vegan far longer than ours.
It has been discovered that ancient Indian and eastern Mediterranean societies have been implementing a diet that avoids the consumption of animal products for a very long time.
“The history of plant-based food does not belong to Western countries. And in some regions, plant-based food has been present for thousands of years. Each nation has its unique version of a meat-free diet, with its history, influences, go-to ingredients, and delicious national dishes,” explained Liam Pritchett, at livekindly.co.
The first mention of veganism and vegetarianism was in 500 BCE by a Greek philosopher and mathematician named Pythagoras of Samos who advocated for compassion towards all species including animals. As of 2020, there were roughly 500 million vegetarians and around 5 million vegans in India. Veganism also aligns with the teachings of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism which are all often seen in eastern cultures.
While religious beliefs can be a big reason individuals decide to follow a vegan diet, it is not the only one. Many people decide to become vegans or vegetarians for humanitarian causes, weight loss, allergies, or simply dislike animal products.
My journey goes back to middle school. I became a vegan when I was 14 years-old. I grew up in a vegetarian household where both my mom and sister were also vegetarian and only ate meat on occasion at my grandparent’s house.
My “conversion” to vegan eating came from slight allergic reactions to certain dairy products, and after watching the documentary Food, Inc. I found myself disgusted with the process of making meat in America and the treatment of animals. This led me to embrace veganism.
Some have asked me if I think being a vegan is hard? It is completely dependent on the individual. Personally, growing up vegetarian and in the company of people that were vegan, the switch to veganism was very easy. Yet, if you’re accustomed to a diet that is focused on animal products, fully changing your diet to vegan could be extremely challenging.
While some may think that it is hard to find good vegan options while eating out, in the Bay Area there are many great restaurants that are all plant-based. Some favorites that are completely vegan include Cha Yah, a Japanese restaurant on Valencia Street in San Francisco, The Butcher’s Son, a vegan bakery and deli on University Ave. in Berkley, and Wildseed, an upscale restaurant on Union Street in San Francisco. All of these restaurants provide individuals,vegan or not, with a taste of plant-based eating.
When thinking of veganism, it is most common to associate it with food consumption. However, the term can also relate to the clothing and cosmetic environment. If a product has the label vegan or cruelty-free, that means that it was not tested on animals and does not contain animal products. While it is sometimes hard to know what exactly went into certain cosmetic products, there are ways to verify whether or not a product is cruelty-free.
Overall, veganism as a concept is an ever-changing belief system that aims to reduce the number of animal products being consumed and utilized. The motives behind this dietary and lifestyle choice are numerous, but the health benefits can’t be overlooked.