Jordi Casamitjana, the author of the book “Ethical Vegan”, discusses 50 different reasons people can choose to adopt the philosophy of veganism for life.
We are spoiled for choice.
Compared with human life in previous centuries, our modern societies offer to everyone many more options for every choice they have to face every day. Growing capitalism and consumerism have had that effect. Either by providing you many alternatives of what you may need, or by creating many different versions of what you don’t really need and convincing you they are nevertheless necessary for you. To value what we have, we have become accustomed to offer — and being offered — multiple choices for everything. This may give us a false sense of free will when in reality we are manipulated for profit and power, but we kind of know it anyway, and go along with it.
This is affecting ideologies and philosophies too. It even affects ethics. You may only need one good reason to do the right thing, but some people would like to have more than one, to be sure. As many as possible, to be modern. Well, no problem. I am a modern person too. I can do multiple choice.
Veganism is “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 animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” This is the official definition of the Vegan Society which created the term “vegan” in 1944. But the definition tells you what it is, not why people may choose this philosophy to shape their lifestyle for the rest of their lives.
For some (including me) the “why” is a no-brainer, as we consider that veganism is the only ethical choice worth choosing (and if you want to know why do I dare to express it in such an absolutist way, I have written an article about it). We use the general principle behind veganism called ahimsa (do no harm) and apply it to those sentient beings who can be harmed (the animals, including humans). But If you are considering becoming vegan and ahimsa is not enough for you, there are indeed multiple reasons we can easily find to accommodate you.
I thought I would give you a few. Fifty, to be precise — although if I had more time, I could give you double than that. I will provide ten for each of the five gateways to veganism. These are the general subjects of interest that people use to enter the veganism space. Those who entered it not that long ago may think that veganism is just about that gateway, as this is the only thing they have seen and they are still hanging out in the vestibule of the gate they chose, but once they enter deeper into the space and explore all its chambers, they will most likely end up embracing all the five dimensions of veganism. These are the animals, the environment, spirituality, social justice, and health.
Let’s check them out.
When people say they are “vegan for the animals”, they mean they entered veganism by the most classical and traditional gate. They can call it the animal rights gate, the animal welfare gate, or simply the animals gate, and for these vegans, the effect that being vegan has on the human-animal relationship was the most important motivation to choose veganism. They avoid all exploitation of animals for the animals’ sake. They consider that all exploitation causes them suffering, and they don’t want that. They want all animals to suffer the least as possible, and they don’t want to contribute to their suffering or death. This is the gateway I chose to enter veganism twenty years ago, and it remains the closest to my heart.
If you become an ethical vegan (which means following the definition of veganism of the Vegan Society to the full, not only for diet), and you did it for the animals, you should follow these three basic principles of veganism besides ahimsa:
1) you have an anti-speciesism approach (you do not discriminate against individuals because of the species they belong to),
2) you accept all animals of any species are sentient beings (from mussels to humans), and
3) you accept that all exploitation of animals harmed them in one way or another (from killing them to using them for any work).
But if you are particularly keen on some animals and these are the ones who you are more worried about, you can use them as your primary motivation. For instance, the following:
1 Farm Animal Welfare
If you love pigs, cows, sheep or chicks, there will not be a better way to help them than becoming vegan. Every year, billions of these animals are forcibly bred, kept in captivity against their will in horrible conditions, overfed, mistreated, harmed with all sorts of devices and cages, and eventually killed well before their time — and they all suffer almost every day of their lives because of all this. And who does that? The animal agriculture industry. And why do they do that? Because carnists, omnivorous, pescatarians, reducetarians, flexitarians, vegetarians and plant-based people pay them to do it. And why do they pay them? Because they want to eat these animals’ flesh, eggs or milk, or wear clothes or shoes made of their skin, and these industries would happily give them all that for money.
And in this consumerist society we live in, with billions of humans demanding more and more flesh, eggs, milk, wool, leather or fur, humanity had to build thousands of factories where billion after billion of animals are crampedly farmed to death. Only one group of people are not part of this horrible business. Only one group of people do not consume any of the products of the animal agriculture industry. Only one group of people do not pay them money and show others how one can thrive without any of their products. And this group is the ethical vegan community.
If you want to help pigs, cows, sheep, hens, ducks, alpacas, rabbits, geese, and any other farm animal, the best you can do is to prevent them to be born in these industries in the first place. You can do that by helping drive down the demand for the products of the industries which exploit them, so they will be forced to breed fewer. And you can do that by not buying these products, not giving them any of your support or money (even if they sell other things you may like, like a veggie burger), and persuading others to do the same. And this is what a person does by becoming an ethical vegan.
2 Wild Animals Suffering
If your favourite animals are wild animals rather than farm animals, and you care about their wellbeing and want them to live as happy they can live in their own homes, becoming vegan is also the way to go. Vegans do not support any activity that deliberately harms wild animals, such as hunting, shooting, snaring, trapping, baiting, trafficking, capturing them to keep them in captivity, or destroying their homes and habitats.
Ethical vegans even care about the deaths of wild animals in crops, so therefore they would often choose organic produce because most pesticides are not used to kill invertebrates. And although they often cannot avoid buying cereals, fruit and vegetables where some wild animals were accidentally killed during harvesting, if they can avoid it, by only buying from regenerative veganic farms (which minimise any animal killing and don’t use animal fertilisers), they would choose that option if it is available to them.
In any event, most accidental or deliberate wild animal deaths in crops happen not to feed vegans but to feed carnists, as most crops are used to feed animals from the animal agriculture industries. Half of the world’s habitable land is arable land, and 77% of that is used for animal agriculture. So, if enough people become vegan and campaign for a shift to regenerative veganic agriculture, less land would be needed to feed people, so eco-vegan rewilding could restore habitats and countless wild animals could be left alone in their natural homes.
3 Helping Animals in Captivity
Although wild animals in the wild are not free of suffering as there is also suffering in Nature, they are better equipped to cope with it in the natural ecosystems where they evolved than in any human-made habitat we may provide to them. Wildlife belongs to the wild, and no matter how much effort is put in providing good captive care, captivity always deprives wild animals of the right amount of space, stimuli, and choice for them. When this happens for life, it can create a great deal of suffering. After a long time in captivity animals often show stereotypic behaviour, which are repetitive behaviours with no obvious function (such as pacing, neck twisting, rocking or head bobbing) which indicates difficulties in coping with captive life. This can develop into serious mental problems (called zoochosis).
If you are anti-captivity, becoming vegan is your best option. Ethical vegans are against all unnecessary captivity of animals, which means we do not support zoos because they keep wild animals for entertainment and profit (despite their grossly exaggerated claims of conservation, education and research), circuses with animal performances, or keeping exotic animals as “pets”. But we support those situations involving captivity that are temporary for rehabilitation purposes (such as in wildlife rehabilitation centres), to give temporary relief trying to solve a specific problem (such as animal shelters), those needed for the wellbeing of rescued animals who cannot be left in the wild (such as in genuine animal sanctuaries), or those consensual captive situations with domestic companion animals (such as cats and dogs living as part of caring families).
4 Protecting Endangered Species
Scientists have classified living organisms into different groups and sub-groups, but one of the most well-known is called “species”. When they have looked at the populations of each species and whether their numbers are declining, they set up a kind of alert system classifying those that may disappear soon as endangered. Some people, especially conservationists, are worried about those and have campaigned to protect them. Laws have been passed in many countries, and international treaties have been signed (such as CITES) for this purpose. If protecting endangered species from extinction is something you care a lot about, becoming vegan will help you to achieve your goals, as we vegans care about all animal species and all individuals within them.
Without becoming vegan, it is easy to get confused and think that species are more important than individuals, believing some individuals could be sacrificed for the benefit of the species. This is what trophy hunters want you to believe (so they may entice you to let them kill some animals so they can hang their trophies in their macabre living rooms, with a promise of cash to help the conservation of the species the animals belong to). But trophy hunters, zoos, and many others that make such claims are the very ones that are helping to drive species into extinction. The best way to avoid falling into this deception is to become vegan, as we would never sacrifice any individual. We know they are the ones that matter, not the concept humans created to classify them.
5 Companion animals’ wellbeing
Some people love cats or dogs so much, that their relationship with them is so precious that eclipses any other relationship they could have with other animals. If you are one of these dog/cat-loving people, veganism is also the way to go for you. Vegans who live with dogs or cats (and many do because they rescue them from shelters) care so much about them that they treat them differently. Not as if they are substitute “children” or temporary “possessions”, but if they are permanent flatmates or life companions. Most vegans don’t use the term “pet” precisely because of this, as it denotes dominance and ownership. We prefer the term “companion animal” as we don’t want them to feel “owned”, but to be respected as “equals”. We may be their carers and guardians and decide many things for them, and although legally the governments where we live say that we “owe” them, we reject that notion. We want them to feel better than just satisfied and loved. We want them to feel the dogs and cats they are, and to have the most fulfilling life they can have, feeling respected and valued.
It is precisely because we care so much about them that we reject buying them from puppy mills or pet shops as they are treated as commodities, and we only would live with those we rescued from the many shelters where thousands of dogs are looking for a loving home (and if they will not find it, they may be killed). And we vegans do not want them to suffer congenital diseases that are often associated with pure breeds that have been created with artificial inbreeding for generations, so we are against the concept of “pedigree” and love the dogs and cats that have their natural shapes and colours (not those “designed” by people).
And because we vegans also care about other animals, we would not feel right if we had to sacrifice some to feed the dogs and cats we live with. Luckily, in most cases, we don’t. There is now plenty of nutritionally balanced and complete vegan dog and cat food available, and science has now shown how not only is healthy for them, but they love it as much as any other.
6 Helping Aquatic Life
If you care about animals and have looked at the numbers that are being exploited or killed by humans, you will have learnt that fishes are the number one vertebrate victim of humanity. When we count in billions the number of terrestrial animals part of the animal agriculture industry, we should count in trillions the number of fishes and other aquatic animals as part of fishing industries (including fish farming). We kill roughly 1 trillion to 2.8 trillion fishes every year. And many of these are taken to feed other animals (40% of all the fishes taken out of the ocean are fed to chickens, pigs and domestic salmon).
We vegans not only don’t consume any aquatic animal, but we are against public aquaria and we would not keep fishes in tanks as if they were furniture, not the sentient beings they are. We are the ones who champion their rights and educate the world about how much they suffer. We don’t even consume non-vegan wine that was filtered with chitin (fibre from crustacean shells) or isinglass (gelatine from fish bladder membranes). This is how much we care about aquatic life.
7 Protecting Bees
Bees are very important in natural ecosystems, and many people recognise that. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, approximately 80% of all flowering plants are specialised for pollination by animals, mostly bees. Bees also act as indicators of the state of the environment, as their absence or quantity tells us when something is happening with it.
Many vegetarians eat honey. Many people who define themselves as plant-based also do. But we vegans don’t (although people called beegans do in certain circumstances, which is a practice rejected by mainstream veganism). This is because we care about bees, we don’t want them to be exploited, and we know they suffer when they are. In conventional beekeeping, bees are selectively bred to increase productivity — as in any other type of farming — which changes their genes and increases their susceptibility to disease. Hives are also sometimes killed to keep costs down, individual bee workers are often harmed or accidentally killed during the careless process of removing the honey, and queen bees are sometimes mutilated to prevent them from leaving.
8 Respecting Horses
Not all domesticated animals are farm animals or companion animals. Some are kind of in between these two. For instance, horses. Some people love horses as much as others love dogs and cats. If you are one of them (as opposed to loving the activity you do with horses), you may find veganism will allow you to take that love to another level. You will stop riding horses because you love them.
In addition to rejecting the use of horses to work — as this is clearly exploitation — we vegans are against people riding horses in any circumstance because we think the process of “breaking” a horse (removing their natural aversion of being ridden) is cruel. Besides, horses suffer specific diseases from having the weight of a person on their back, which their bodies have never evolved to accept. Horses sometimes fall from exhaustion if forced to run too much or under the wrong conditions, or they may fall and break their limbs, which often leads to their euthanasia. We, vegans, are against the riding of horses, but not against being horses’ guardians. Those vegans who live with them treat them with great care and compassion, remove the saddle and the metal from the riding gear, and only take out for a walk those who want to go, but without climbing on their back and in doing so exercising their dominion over them, wrongly reinforcing the psychological control which broke them.
9 Supporting Animal rights
If you are concerned about all animals, wild or domestic, in captivity or in Nature, and you think they all have the right to live their full life as they see fit, with total body autonomy and not be forced to do anything against their informed consent, you believe in animal rights. If that is the case, veganism is perfect for you, as it is the only philosophy that fully embraces this concept.
Although many organisations try to help animals in different ways, many, such as Animal Welfare organisations, still accept their exploitation. And others help some animals at the expense of others. For instance, some conservation organisations would look after some species but harm others (such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds shooting foxes in their reserves because they claim they threaten their precious birds) or would harm some wild animals if they are deemed to be from an “invasive species” (such as killing grey squirrels in England or possums in New Zealand). But vegans do not do any of this, as they care about all animal species and all individuals of these species, and are against all forms of animal exploitation.
10 The Best Animal Welfare
If you do not love any specific type of animal, and you do not think non-human animals deserve better rights enshrined in our legal systems, but nevertheless you are against animal cruelty and think the welfare of the animals used by people is important and it should always be taken into consideration, you may realise that becoming vegan makes a lot of sense for you too. Unless you are an animal exploiter in disguise who just tries to find ways to exploit more animals and persuade more customers to buy your products, you will be happy with any advance in animal welfare that comes along. Well, there is no better advance than reducing 100% of all the suffering caused using animals. Not the 1%, 10% or, at the most, 20% reduction that the most progressive reforms can provide, but all of it. There is only one strategy that leads to such bast reduction: abolition. No animal suffers from a practice that has been abolished.
So, if you are a genuine “animal welfare” person with no interest in any animal exploitation industry, you should be happy with people finding alternative products that no longer require animals to be exploited. You should be happy that, against great odds, someone has managed to increase the welfare of exploited animals 100% by stopping their exploitation altogether and allowing them to live the rest of their lives in genuine animal sanctuaries, where they will be looked after with great compassion and caring expertise fitted to each individual needs. This is what the vegan world we want to create is all about, so you may want to join us to start building it.
Helping the Environment
If you become vegan mostly for the environment rather than the animals, and you continue to make it the focus of your attention on vegan related matters, you could be classed as an eco-vegan. This has become a popular gateway into veganism in this millennium because more and more people are concerned about the environment and try to do something about it. However, since the creation of the word “vegan” the environment has been part of the veganism philosophy. As you could see with the official definition of veganism of the Vegan Society, the environment is already mentioned there. The vegan pioneers of the 1940s talked about it often. But only recently we have managed to find the evidence that shows how much adopting our philosophy can benefit the environment — or, rather, how much you damage it by not doing it.
Considering that the environment is the home where animals live, if you care about the animals but do not care about the environment, you are being contradictory. This is why, although I entered veganism via the animals’ gateway, I now consider myself an eco-vegan too. But if you are an environmentalist who has not become vegan yet, have you dug deeper to find out why? If you try to recycle as much as possible, do not smoke, prioritise public transport, avoid using plastic and fossil fuels, and try not to waste water or electricity (all these things I do), but continue using animal products, perhaps any of the following reasons may help you to make the final ethical step.
11 Reversing the Climate Crisis
The current climate crisis caused by humanity’s heating up the planet via the production of greenhouse gases and the destruction of natural ecosystems is the most common concern of 21st-century environmentalists. They are all trying to minimise the Carbon footprint they produce, and campaign for others to do the same (especially institutions and governments). But did you know that the animal agriculture industry is one of the leading causes of this climate crisis?
The last report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) concluded that the global surface temperature was 1.09C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900, and the past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850. And this is caused mostly by emissions into the atmosphere of CO2 and methane, both of which the animal agriculture industry is one of the major emitters. An Oxford University study found that cutting meat and dairy products from one’s diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73% (imagine how much more reduction this person could attain by cutting out animal fibres in clothes). The study also found that meat and dairy production was responsible for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, while the products of these industries would provide only 18% of calories and 37% of protein produced around the globe. Switching to a plant-based food production system and rewilding the land — so it can sequester carbon — is the way to go, which happens to be the vegan way.
12 Stopping Water Waste
The animal agriculture industry wastes a lot of water, much more than the plant agriculture industry. A 2014 research found that reducing animal products in the human diet offers the potential to save water resources, up to the amount currently required to feed 1.8 billion additional people globally.” The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said “Western diets, which depend largely on meat, are already putting great pressures on the environment. Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 litres [1,100 gallons] of water a day compared to the 1,000-2,000 litres used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries.”
Animal agriculture is draining ancient aquifers dry. In 2015, NASA satellite imagery showed California’s Central Valley Aquifer being drained to irrigate farm fields, which contributed to two-thirds of California’s water losses (a US state with a huge water scarcity problem). If you care about water waste, your way should be the vegan way
13 Better Land Use
Both animal and plant agriculture use land, but the former uses much more. Animal grazing occurs on approximately 60% of the world’s agricultural land and supports at least 1.5 billion cattle/buffalo, and 1.9 billion sheep/goats. According to research published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a meat-eater’s diet requires 17 times more land than a vegetarian’s (and a vegan diet even less).
Between 1994 and 2004, the area of land used to grow soya beans in Latin America more than doubled to 39 million ha, making it the largest world area for a single crop after above maize (28 million ha). However, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 96% of the soy from the Amazon is fed to cows, pigs and chickens. Cattle ranching now accounts for 80% of current deforestation in every Amazon country. A vegan world would be able to repurpose all this wasted land to produce enough vegetables to feed all humans and return lots of land to Nature.
14 Eliminating Pesticides
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about one billion pounds of pesticides are applied every year to agricultural land and other areas in the United States., not only killing the animals targeted but many more. Malathion, an insecticide registered for use in the US since 1956, is likely to harm 97% of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and plants listed under the US Endangered Species Act. As currently most crops are grown to feed the animals of the animal agriculture industry, most of the wild animal deaths caused by them should be blamed on carnists.
But if you are concerned that many of such deaths will also take place in crops fed to vegans, they do not need to be. Those who only buy organic produce would have a lower Blood Footprint in this regard because they are grown with fewer pesticides. But you can do better than that. You can get vegetables from Regenerative Veganic Farming, which doesn’t use any pesticide and doesn’t kill any wildlife. And if you have the space, you can grow your own vegs using this method.
15 Reducing Pollution
Animal factory farms pollute rivers and lakes with manure from the animals and pesticides to grow their food. The dairy industry is New Zealand’s biggest water polluter. Greenpeace has stated that “livestock is the most significant contributor to nitrogen and phosphorus pollution of streams, rivers and coastal waters worldwide.” One single slaughterhouse in Illinois is the largest nitrogen polluter of waterways in the US, producing every single day more than 2 million gallons of wastewater to kill 20,000 pigs.
According to a report published by the United Nations, the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Cows and sheep also produce methane, which is responsible for almost a quarter of global warming because its impact is 84 times higher than CO2 over 20 years. Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said to The Guardian: “Cutting methane is the biggest opportunity to slow warming between now and 2040.” Shifting the current food paradigm from animal-based to plant-based will do that, and vegans are driving such a shift.
16 Tackling Wildlife Trade
There are many reasons why people trade in wildlife, but it all boils down to customers paying for it. There may be “pet” collectors who want exotic animals, people who sell bits of animals for traditional medicine, zoos and aquaria looking to replenish their cages after their inmates die, trophy hunters looking for a trophy too difficult to hunt, trinket makers looking for a way to increase their profits, and even people looking for an exotic dish. Normally, the most endangered a species of animal is, the most difficult is to find animals belonging to it, and the higher the prices of any trade involving them (to the point of often becoming the business of criminal gangs).
As vegans would never become any of the customers described above, they would never directly contribute to the trade of wildlife. But that’s not all. Vegans do not stay silent when they see wildlife trade happening, and they can often be the instigators of investigations that may lead to arrests of illegal wildlife traders. And vegans can also be at the vanguard of anti-fur campaigning and challenge both the fur industry and fur wearers, which get the animal skins from both fur farms and the wild.
17 Increasing Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the biological variety and variability of life on Earth. Healthy ecosystems have high biodiversity, which makes them more likely to survive catastrophic change and allows life to evolve better to new environments. The loss of biodiversity all over planet Earth is a concern all environmentalists share, and it is mainly caused by the growth of the human population and the wasteful ways we produce food to feed them all. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, about 24,000 of the 28,000 species threatened with extinction, are mainly threatened by animal agriculture.
A report titled Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss by British think tank Chatham House has found that adopting a vegan diet is the best way to protect biodiversity. The report estimates that if everyone in the world switched to a plant-based diet, 75% of the world’s cropland could be freed up and used for other purposes, including returning it to Nature. Another study found that a 95% reduction in animal product consumption would result in a 7% increase in natural land around the world by 2100.
18 Stopping Habitat Destruction
The decline in biodiversity goes hand in hand with the destruction of natural habitats. Do you know who is mainly responsible for it? Yes, that’s right, the animal agriculture industry again. Deforestation is one of the most common types of habitat destruction on land. Species-rich habitats are being converted to pasture and feed crops for grazing animals as people demand more meat.
A study published in the Science of the Total Environment shows how animal agriculture is pushing pastures and cropland into areas of high biodiversity, providing a direct link between animal farming and the loss of habitats. A 2016 study found that 10% (3.3 million km2) of wildland has been lost since 1990. Continuing to consume animal products contributes to all this loss.
19 Protecting the Oceans
Animal agriculture and overfishing are killing the oceans, and this is why the ships of Sea Shepherd, the famous ocean protection non-profit, are 100% vegan. It’s not only about the trillions of fishes killed every year, but 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises also die each year after being caught in fishing nets (casualties to be added to the thousands of turtles, seals and birds who also die from injuries caused by nets and tackle).
Fertilisers and antibiotics from animal agriculture land are often released into the surrounding seawater areas, creating “dead zones”, and there are currently 405 identified dead zones around the world.
Ocean acidification is far more deadly than plastic pollution, and it is caused by an increased uptake of carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere. We kind of already lost the Great Barrier Reef because of it, as it suffered its third major bleaching in five years. By becoming vegan you are not contributing to any of this, and if you help enough people to join you, the drop of demand for the products from the fishing and animal agriculture industries could eventually have a positive effect. By switching to a vegan diet, we can reduce the amount of animal agricultural carbon being pumped into the atmosphere and help ocean ecosystems re-stabilise.
20 Stopping the Sixth Global Extinction
There have been five mass extinction events on Earth in the past, but we are now living through the world’s sixth mass extinction, this one entirely caused by humans. One million species are now at risk of extinction while three-quarters of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species. The production of meat, fish and dairy is having a devastating impact on wildlife through overgrazing, overfishing, deforestation, land degradation and desertification. Up to 200 species become extinct every single day (nearly 1,000 times the ‘natural’ rate). A 2020 study published in PNAS found that more than 500 species of land vertebrates are on the brink of extinction and likely to be lost within 20 years.
The 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found overfishing and industrial agriculture are the primary drivers of the current extinction of animal species. And then we have the trophy hunters and wildlife traders. Every year over 30,000 African elephants are slaughtered for their tusks and if current trends continue, African elephants will be extinct from certain regions of Africa within the next 10 years. Vegans are not contributing to any direct causes of extinction of any species, and by promoting a new food system paradigm that uses less land, water and can exist without pesticides or any type of wildlife control, they are contributing less to any indirect cause.
Doing Social Justice
Injustice is one of the main motivators of history. It has fuelled all revolutions, has sparkled many wars, and is the reason for the existence of transformative social movements. Many people have been victims of injustice, so their motivation is very organic and honest. They understand how oppression feels, and they can easily sympathise with other oppressed victims. For instance, I am originally from Catalonia, but I grew up under a Spanish fascist regime that oppressed the Catalan people. I feel that experience started my journey towards veganism as I could empathise better with oppressed and exploited animals.
Like me, many of those who feel passionately about the social justice causes they fight for have also found both the connection with other victims’ ordeals and the understanding of the similarities between different forms of oppression. And some of these discovered veganism precisely because of those connections and similarities, so they entered this philosophy through the gateway of social justice. They understood that the anti-speciesism pillar of veganism not only refers to species, but to any classification of organisms that labels them as the “others”. They understood that humans can also be the victims of speciesism. Although I entered veganism via the animals’ gateway, and I spend a long time exploring the environment rooms of the vegan mansion, I also feel at home in its social justice rooms, and I am happy to label myself as an intersectional vegan. If you care about any social justice issue and are not vegan yet, perhaps any of the next ten reasons to become vegans will do it for you.
21 Helping Feminism
Feminism is a socio-political movement and ideology that aims to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes in societies mostly dominated by men. Feminists defend the female element of society from the patriarchal male-dominated systems — where no female is seen as having ownership of her body. However, male and female are not terms exclusive to humans. In fact, such male dominating societies also exploit and oppress females of other species (hens, cows, bees, etc.), and they often do it in similar ways. This has not been missed by some feminists. Historically, feminism has strong links with vegetarianism and veganism. Many suffragists in the late 19th century were ethical vegetarians who stayed vegetarian even while imprisoned and took part in the anti-vivisection movement.
Ecofeminism is a sub-division of feminism that sees environmentalism, and the relationship between women and the earth, as fundamental. Ecofeminists believe there is a strong connection between the domination of women and the domination of nature, so many have become also vegan. For instance, the scholars Marti Kheel, co-founder of Feminists for Animal Rights, and Carol J Adams, author of the book “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory” have become the inspiration of a fast-growing movement. In Adam’s book, she parallels the patriarchal system with the relationship between humans and animals and says that men who feel a sense of entitlement over animals are like men who abuse, exploit, or degrade women for their bodies.
22 Fighting Racism
Racism is a three-dimensional concept that operates at the individual, institutional and systemic levels. It’s the prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity, but also a social system designed to execute this discrimination, or the systemic oppression of an ethnoracial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another. It is based on the belief in the supremacy of a group over another. Therefore, a non-racist person doesn’t hold that belief, and an anti-racist person fights against the institutions and systems that support it.
As we saw earlier, anti-speciesism is one of the major principles of veganism, and this term, first coined by Richard D. Ryder in 1971, was an attempt to show the similarities with the discrimination of races in racism and the discrimination of species by carnists. An ethical vegan should interpret the concept of speciesism as an extension of racism into anyone else considered belonging to “other” groups, not only related to the biological concept of species. In the same way an anti-speciesist would never say that it is OK to discriminate against an individual for belonging to a particular genus, family, order, or class (other categorisations of living organisms) but not OK to do it for belonging to a species, the same could be said by other categorisations such as sub-species, race, population, or ethnic group. Therefore, a vegan should be anti-racist, and anti-racist people should feel comfortable being vegan.
23 Supporting Pacifism
The most fundamental principle behind veganism is ahimsa, which is often translated as meaning “non-violence”. Indeed, the idea of trying to avoid harming any sentient being is what vegans do. But not only vegans are against violence. Pacifists are too. Pacifism is the opposition or resistance to war, militarism, or violence as a method to resolve disputes. This term is very closely related to the ancient Sanskrit word ahimsa developed in the Indian sub-continent, but it was first used by the French peace campaigner Émile Arnaud around 1901. Some pacifists believe that nonviolent action is morally superior and/or most effective than the opposite, but others tolerate physical violence as self-defence or to protect the vulnerable.
It’s not difficult to see how a pacifist may be drawn to ethical veganism as both philosophies are based on the same fundamental principle. Whether this principle is enveloped into a religious or secular view is irrelevant, as it is an ethical principle capable to stand on its own, but which can be reinforced with dogma or philosophy. For an anti-war pacifist, adopting the philosophy of veganism and expanding the circle of compassion towards more beings should feel very natural.
24 Better Food Justice
In unequal societies when marginalised groups are oppressed, often such oppression has to do with access to food. Either by starving these communities or by providing them unhealthy food, food injustice is a common feature of social struggle. One epitome of this is the comment “Let them eat cake” famously attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution, as her response after being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread.
But we can see cases of social injustice closely linked to the animal agriculture industry. For instance, as most BIPGM (Black, Indigenous or People of the Global Majority) are more lactose intolerant than white people, any government or institutional policy that promotes dairy and does not provide plant-based alternatives could be considered racist — as the US Dr Milton Mills often says. Tracye McQuirter, a public health nutritionist and vegan campaigner, often says that up until the 1960s, African Americans were the most likely to be eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but after Dr King was assassinated, fast food companies with subsidies from the federal government came into big cities and targeted these communities with fast-food restaurants, leading to an unjust change of diet with poorer health outcomes —I am now wondering if this is what fast-food chains are doing now by enticing vegans to buy their unhealthy plant-based options. She, like many others, are persuading many people to become vegan using these food justice arguments.
25 Supporting Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10th December 1948. It is the most explicit manifestation of the belief that all humans should be equal before the law, and that any discrimination of any human for religion, gender, sexuality, belief, or race, among others, should be avoided. It has a long historical tradition dating back to the French and American revolutions. The idea of equality that human rights promote is behind many social movements that defend the rights of women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, etc.
However, this very same idea of equality is the backbone of the anti-speciesist principle of veganism, which applies it beyond humans into any other sentient being. Both human rights and animal rights advocates try to help the oppressed, discriminated, and marginalised based on egalitarian values, so they are very similar. Animal Rights advocates focus more on non-human oppressed victims, while Human Rights advocates focus more on human communities. Veganism gives them both a common ground to operate, as for a non-speciesist vegan a human is just a member of another animal species, so helping any oppressed human is as important as helping any oppressed dog, cow, or chicken. So, for an ethical vegan, human rights are part of animal rights. Therefore, for animal rights advocates extending their attitude to other species should not be in conflict, as often the human oppressors, and the reasons for the oppression, are the same regardless of who are the victims.
26 More Identity Rights
Identity politics is a term commonly used these days. It’s a political approach wherein people of a particular gender, religion, race, social background, social class, environmental, or other identifying factors, develop political agendas that are based upon these identities. It often manifests itself as a defence against prejudice, discrimination, and hate, but it also has an educational dimension, and a transformative outcome regarding the norms of speech, dress, and access.
Being vegan has also become an identity now. Veganism covers so many aspects of one’s life, and it has such a documented history and concrete outlook of the world, that is easy for vegans to feel part of a distinctive vegan community — or even a distinctive sub-community within veganism, such as Straight Edge Vegans, for example. In the UK, ethical veganism has even been recognised as a legally protected philosophical belief (what in the US is called a protected class) under the Equality Act 2010, after a legal case I initiated. Those who are active in defending their identity should not have any problems in adding their vegan identity as another layer to defend.
27 Supporting Indigenous Rights
Social justice advocates sometimes focus their efforts on protecting the rights of others in need, more than their own rights. And this often involves the rights of marginalised communities who became dominated and oppressed by other cultures after their land was invaded in the past. Isolated indigenous communities still exist around the world, but more often than not they are surrounded by other cultures gradually eroding their ethnic identity and depriving them of their land and resources.
Sometimes, though, some indigenous communities have a view of the world closer to Nature, and they value it more than the industrialised communities that oppress them. Indigenous communities may be on their own journey towards veganism, which might have started much earlier than in the western industrialised societies which may steer them into more unethical animal exploitative practices. Factory farming is a very western industrialised enterprise, which not only may be occupying indigenous land but could be contaminating the natural ecosystems they so much value. Therefore, there are reasons for people fighting indigenous rights to campaign against the animal agriculture industry that is destroying their homes, and joining forces with the vegan movement can help with that.
28 Fighting Imperialism
Throughout history, powerful nations from most continents decided to expand their territories and become empires, with different degrees of success. Some of such empires are notorious for their oppressive attitudes towards local indigenous communities, for their repressive governments, and their ethnic cleansing racists policies. Consequently, anti-imperialism has become an ideology of many social justice advocates who are either still victims of current empires, or descendants of communities oppressed by historical ones.
One could see veganism as an anti-imperialist strategy. Considering that the invading countries often brought with them their own exploited animals — and exported their methods of exploitation — one could view the industries that develop from them as a symbol of the empire we should be moving away from. For instance, all horses, cattle, sheep, chicken, and pigs who constitute most of the victims of the terrestrial animal agriculture industry in America were brought by the Spanish conquistadores building the Spanish empire, or later the English, Dutch and French building theirs. Today, all over Latin America, one of the most common anti-imperialist political stances is to be anti-bullfighting, as this cruel activity is seen as a symbol of the Spanish invaders. It would not take that much to extend this attitude beyond the bulls in the bullring into the rest of the cows and bulls the conquistadores brought, and make from that a vegan stance. Therefore many of my Latin American anti-bullfighting friends are also vegan.
29 Continuing the Anarchist Tradition
Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that is sceptical of authority and rejects all involuntary, coercive forms of hierarchy. Most people don’t know that there is a historical tradition linking anarchism and veganism. In the early 20th century, anarchism also doubled with vegetarianism in anti-capitalist Paris’s anarchist communes. One of its best-known members was Louis Rimbault, who advocated for a vegan diet, and started the végétalisme movement there. Since the term “vegan” was created by the Vegan Society, veganism has been secularised and made accessible to everyone. It has become un-hierarchical and equalitarian per excellence, so not incompatible with some anarchist views.
The sub-group of abstinent vegans called Straight Edge Vegans (who do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs) can be seen as a subculture of hardcore punk committed to a countercultural, nonconformist worldview that combines social justice, self and mutual care, compassion and empowerment, in a broad anarchist framework.
30 Connecting with Intersectionalism
The archetype of the social justice advocate who cares about all oppressed victims is the intersectional. Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of social and political identities (race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination. It was initially used in the context of feminism to highlight how other factors (such as race or sexuality) may intersect with it. Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights activist and legal scholar, first coined this term in 1989.
Intersectionals believe sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, classism, etc., interconnect through what is known as ‘the matrix of domination’, which will never be dismantled by addressing all these issues separately. As you should not ignore the intersection between racism and sexism, you should not ignore the intersection between speciesism and any other cause of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression.
A new type of sub-categorisation has been created: Intersectional vegans. They — and I too, as I consider myself part of them — consider that both animal oppression and human oppression are important and we should fight against both. For an intersectional vegan, fighting for the rights of marginalised groups of humans and fighting for the rights of animals are fights that intersect, and it is, therefore, consistent to fight them together.
Some prominent intersectional vegans are Marti Kheel, who authored Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective; the feminist-vegan advocate Carol J. Adams, author of the influential 1990 book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory; Angela Davis, author of the 1981 book Women, Race & Class; Aph Ko, anti-racist activist and founder of Black Vegans Rock; Dr Breeze Harper, author of the 2010 anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society; and the animal-rights activist Mark Hawthorne, author of the 2016 book A Vegan Ethic: Embracing A Life Of Compassion Toward All.
One could say that although the animals’ gateway to veganism is the most traditional and common, it was not the first. Metaphorically speaking, before the “vegan mansion” was fully constructed and that gate was opened to the public (and one could argue that it was ceremoniously opened by Sally Shrigley, Dorothy Morgan, Fey Henderson, and Donald Watson in 1944), smaller, more exclusive, buildings had been on its site. These are those religious and spiritual communities that manifested earlier incarnations of veganism before the concept became secular (and therefore universal).
Before the creation of the Vegetarian Society in 1847 (from which the Vegan Society split in 1944) the spiritual gateway was the most common gateway into veganism. Some religions adopted fully or partial vegan approaches as part of their doctrines and ethics, and some more lose spiritual movements did the same. In the context of this chapter, I interpret spirituality in the broad possible sense, as meaning the sense or the belief that there is something greater than oneself, or something beyond our sensory experiences, regardless of whether this involves any creator, deity, or supernatural world (and therefore I include here all non-religious “New Age” and pagan beliefs, as well as all practitioners of secular psychological mindfulness practices). Today, there are still people who enter veganism via this gateway, so if you are a religious or somehow spiritual person, here are some reasons for you becoming vegan.
31 Including the Golden Rule
Many religions have things in common, but the Golden Rule is the one we can find more widespread. It is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated. In Christianity, it was proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth during his Sermon on the Mount, but we already see it centuries earlier in the Sanskrit tradition of ancient India, in Confucianism, and even in Ancient Egypt.
It has several forms, including its “negative” form “Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated”. However, if this is the Golden Rule, we could say that there is even a more universal religious maxim that trumps it. I call it the “Platinum Rule” and it’s the simple “Do no harm”. Ahimsa is the word for this concept, and it was an important idea already fully developed three centuries before the Common Era, which ended up being a key tenet of many religions, such as Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. And, as we have already seen, ahimsa is the basic ethical principle of veganism. One can even say that the Golden Rule is part of the Platinum Rule, but the latter is more detached from any selfishness or ego, as it is no longer about “you”, but about “others”. So, by believing in veganism you are already believing in the Golden Rule, which makes such belief compatible with the basis of most religions.
32 Compatible with All Religions
We can go further and claim that not only veganism is compatible with a fundamental universal religious rule, but it is compatible with most— if not all — religions. Although many religions do not ask their practitioners to be vegan, they do not prohibit them to choose to extend their circle of compassion into any sentient being beyond the minimum required. In other words, religions do not prohibit people to become vegan, and although in some of them there may be rituals involving animal exploitation and suffering, most religions would tolerate practitioners abstaining from them if they still follow the fundamental practices of their doctrine.
In almost all major religions, we find denominations, sub-groups, or devoted practitioners who went beyond the orthodoxy of their churches by performing behaviours we could say are more “veganised” (such as abstaining from some animal products). For instance, in Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism we often find monks or nuns who are vegan, going beyond the vegetarian standard of the lay followers or other monastics. In Judaism, the Essenes were an ancient sect advocating vegetarianism, and from them, we find the Christian Ebionites in the 1st Century CE who believe Jesus was vegetarian. In turn, these may have inspired the Cathars and Bogomils of the Middle Ages who also rejected meat, and later the well-known vegetarian Adventists. Many Sufis in Islam may also have been vegan, and from that culture came Abū al-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, a vegan poet of the 11th century.
Veganism is also compatible with many of the New Age views that do not follow traditional religions but may involve the belief in one or more gods, some universal entity which they call ‘The Universe’ or supernatural metaphysics. None of these interpretations of the world is incompatible with veganism and its general principle to avoid harming others. Actually, many of these types of spiritual people are also vegans, as some come from the hippy sub-culture of the 1970s which was, at least, vegetarian.
I am not religious but I consider myself a little bit spiritual — not within any of the New Age paradigms, though. I am an atheist and a Neo-Darwinist scientist, so I take a rational approach to Nature. But I am in awe of the wonders of the planet Earth, and I am aware I am insignificant and unable to comprehend parts of this world. In isolation, I don’t believe in any of the specific metaphysical explanations some people may give of veganism, but I do draw common themes from all of them and I see no conflict between them and the same fundamental aspects of veganism. For instance, the basic metaphysical principle of the kinship we share with all animals, and the holistic view of Mother Nature. I believe that all animals are genetically and ecologically connected so we should treat them as we want to be treated ourselves and that in essence, they are as much “us” as any human from any race or culture. Many New Age people could relate to this.
Yoga has become a popular term used in western cultures, but it is much more than a series of bending exercises you do on a mat with a bunch of friends. Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in ancient India and aims to control and still the mind, recognising a detached witness-consciousness untouched by the mind and mundane suffering (Duḥkha).
Those who practice Yoga often are referred to as Yogis, and many are vegan. In fact, some say that it is not possible to fully embrace yoga without going vegan, as ahimsa is also a yogi concept. Sharon Gannon has written a book about it called Yoga and Veganism: The Diet of Enlightenment. She says “While it’s impossible to be in alignment with ahimsa all the time, when you start to uncover the practices that go into how food gets on your plate, you quickly understand that meat and dairy go against ahimsa.”. She founded Jivamukti Yoga, which defines yoga as a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings.
35 Good Karma for You
Some religions teach you that not harming other sentient beings is not only good for them, but it is especially good for you. These are the Dharmic religions (which include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism) because they use the concept of Karma. It means action, work, or deed, and the principle of karma is the spiritual principle of cause and effect. Good intent and good deeds contribute to good karma and happier rebirths, while bad intent and bad deeds contribute to bad karma and bad rebirths.
They believe that harming sentient beings (acting against ahimsa) would give you bad karma, and you would then face bad consequences in this or later lives. The Jain philosophy gives it an interesting different meaning. In Jainism, karma is referred to as karmic dirt, as it consists of very subtle particles of matter that pervade the entire universe. For them, the karmas are the subtle matter surrounding the consciousness of a soul. Jainism advocates that a soul attracts karmic matter even with the thoughts, and not just the actions, so thinking in harming someone without actually doing it also will bring bad consequences. One of the differences between the Jain and Buddhist application of this concept is that for a Buddhist you will not get bad Karma if you harm someone accidentally, while for Jains you still will do (hence Jain monks and nuns walk around with a bush carefully sweeping away any insects they could accidentally crush). Being a full ethical vegan would give you very good karma under all the Dharmic religions, and because of that more and more Jains are becoming vegan now.
36 Beyond Spirituality
Beyond the edge of the broader meaning of spirituality, we find Naturalism. It is the philosophy that relates the scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe are natural, so all knowledge of the universe falls within the pale of scientific investigation. And around this, we can also find agnosticism and atheism, when one tries to answer the question of whether there is a God. All of these are also compatible with veganism, as this philosophy does not make any claim about gods or the nature of the world. Veganism is far more simple as it does not dwell in metaphysics or complicated explanations of “why” one should not harm any sentient being. It only states as we should not harm them because they can suffer, implying that such harm is wrong. So, it’s a simple ethical paradigm that can be easily incorporated into any religious or non-religious ethical belief, which can fill the gaps with whatever further explanation suits them.
Interestingly, Veganism and naturalism have given birth to a new philosophy that may become popular, as it is taking the strength of both: Sentientism. It is a philosophy that commits to using evidence and applying reason to grant moral consideration to all sentient beings. Sentientism, like secular humanism, rejects supernatural beliefs, and like Veganism, it considers causing harm or death to a sentient as morally negative. As I am an atheist, a scientists and a known ethical vegan, I have been added to their list of Celebrity Suspected Sentientists (to which I only object to the use of the term “celebrity”).
37 Right Livelihood
Buddhism has an interesting concept that suggests the animal agriculture and vivisection industries should be abolished. The Noble Eightfold Path is the last of the Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism, and is a list of eight practices leading to liberation from samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth. Buddhist don’t want to keep being born and suffer and hope that, after practising properly following this path, they may no longer be born again and will reach the peace of Nirvana.
The Noble Eightfold Path tells them which steps they must take, and step number five is “Right Livelihood”. This means avoiding and abstaining from wrong livelihood, as these are “immoral” ways of making a living. Avoid living from a profession or activity that deliberately causes suffering to sentient beings by cheating them, harming them, or killing them in any way. The Buddha gives some examples of wrong livelihood: trading in weapons, living beings, meat, alcoholic drinks, or poison. These are the trades of the animal agriculture and vivisection industries. Raising and trading cows, pigs or sheep for slaughter is a breach of the “right livelihood” precept in the Buddhist tradition. But it also means that any profession an abstinent ethical vegan chooses that does not contradict ethical veganism would be the right livelihood from a Buddhist perspective.
38 Fitting All Schools of Ethics
If we look at Ethics as the branch of philosophy that involves systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour, we will find that there a three main schools or frameworks in which it does that from a practical point of view. Normative ethics, concerning the practical means of determining a moral course of action, is mostly divided into Virtue Ethics, Consequentialism and Deontological ethics — there are others but these are the main ones. Virtue ethics describes the character of a moral agent as a driving force for ethical behaviour. Consequentialism refers to moral theories that hold the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action, and Utilitarianism, the ethical theory that argues the proper course of action is one that maximizes a positive effect, is part of it. Deontological ethics determines goodness or rightness from examining acts, or the rules and duties that the person doing the act strove to fulfil.
Veganism is compatible with all these three approaches. In a nutshell, if you are a good person you will become vegan, if all your actions cause more good than bad to others you would become a vegan, and if you do all the right things you would become a vegan. Regardless of the framework you use, veganism fits. You could say that being vegan is a virtue someone possesses from birth (a type of Francis of Assisi person) or after having learnt it from others, you can say that if you try to follow the vegan lifestyle and persuade as many people as possible to join you the consequence would be fewer animals suffering (which is a good thing), or you can say that doing things against the principle of ahimsa is wrong, so an ethical vegan will be making the right choices and avoiding wrong behaviours.
One of the most well known Utilitarian vegans is the Australian philosopher Peter Singer, while one of the most well-known deontological vegans is the American philosopher Tom Regan. I consider myself to be both, but deontological for negative actions (what not to do) and utilitarian for positive ones (what to do).
39 An Upgraded Abstinence
For many religious and spiritual belief systems, abstaining from consuming something is often part of a temporal or permanent feature that helps practitioners to either worship a deity, advance in a spiritual path, or become purer. During lent Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in imitation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice during his journey into the desert for 40 days. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating during the day. Jewish people abstain from eating pigs and non-kosher food all year, but during Passover, they avoid food made from leavened grain. Jains would avoid any meat, fish or eggs all year, and so would many Mahayana Buddhist devotees. Hindus do not eat beef.
In addition to the established fasts and forbidden foods, many of these traditions also praise those who go far beyond and abstain from many more products and actions — or do it for longer. Many of these are called ascetics and we found them in Christianity (hermits), Islam (Sufis), Hinduism (Yogis), Buddhists (ascetic monks), Jains (Digambara monks), etc. It could be argued that if what these devotees do is seen as “good” because they go far beyond what their scriptures told them to do in terms of abstaining from some products and activities, a philosophy like veganism that has the same effect, and that can be applied on top of any religion by abstaining from even more products, should be seen as a “good” philosophy too. Therefore, religious devotees who take their religion very seriously should embrace veganism, as it could help them in their spiritual path.
40 Philosophically Versatile
Throughout history, there had been all sorts of philosophies, beliefs, and even cults that have leaned towards veganism, showing how versatile and widespread this philosophical approach is. For instance, the Pythagoreans in ancient Greece, founded by Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE in Crotone, Italy, believed in the transmigration of the soul after death into a new body (of any species), and because of this, they were all lacto-vegetarians. Or Manichaeans, a religion created by the Mesopotamian Prophet Mani in the 3rd Century CE whose “elect” may have been vegan (definitively vegetarian who did not consume alcohol).
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who thought the world was made of atoms and who rejected supernatural beliefs, encouraged vegetarianism because he thought eating meat was decadent and unnecessary. He believed the greatest good was to seek modest, sustainable pleasure through knowledge and limiting desires, advocating for a simple life. The Neoplatonists, led by Plotinus in the 3rd century CE, who reinterpreted the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, claimed that meat-eating impedes communing with the divine. The idea of avoiding harming other sentient beings by avoiding consuming the products of their suffering and death has appeared all over the world in different manifestations and degrees, attesting to the universality of veganism and its intellectual and spiritual versatility.
Last, but not least, we have the gateway of health, which has been one of the most popular in the last few decades. So popular, that most non-vegans believe that vegans are those who use that gateway alone. In other words, that veganism is a diet people choose for health reasons.
Although there are indeed people who, either by choice or because of medical advice, have chosen to switch to a plant-based diet, even if they may call themselves vegans they only follow a particular behaviour that the philosophy of veganism prescribes. They are often better described as plant-based people, but if they insist on calling themselves vegan without any further qualification (such as half-vegan or dietary vegan), the rest of us would need to keep using the adjective “ethical” to help tell us apart.
But although there are plant-based or dietary vegans only interested in themselves, many others who chose the health gateway into veganism will eventually become ethical vegans once they explore all the other dimensions of veganism. To help them enter the philosophy, I will list ten health reasons why they should go vegan. But before that, the necessary disclaimer. I am neither a physician, a dietician nor a nutritionist, so I am not qualified to give dietary advice.
41 Health Experts Recommend it
Several important physicians and scientists recommend people follow the Whole Food Plant-Based Diet (WFPB), which is a vegan diet that avoids refined and heavily processed food. For instance Dr Michael Greger (author of the influential 2015 book How Not to Die, and his popular evidence-based website NutritionFacts.org), Dr T. Colin Campbell (who wrote with his son Thomas M. Campbell II the influential 2005 book The China Study), and Dr Michael Klaper (who for forty years has helped thousands of people on their journey to reclaim health through proper nutrition and a balanced lifestyle).
Others recommend a high-carb-low-fat vegan diet (HCLF), such as Dr John McDougall and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn. And others just recommend plant-based diets over the traditional standard animal diet, such as Dr Neal Barnard, who founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC in 1985, Dr Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute based in California, Dr Joel Kahn, Dr Brooke Goldner, Dr Kim Williams, Dr Michelle McMacken, Dr Ellsworth Wareham, Dr Milton Mills, and others.
All of them, though, recommend vegans take vitamin B12 either as supplements or in fortified food, and some may also recommend taking other supplements, such as vitamin D or Omega 3 acids, depending on where they live and what they normally eat.
42 Dietary Organisations Approve it
As far as health institutions are concerned, the British Dietary Association has stated “well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages”, the Dieticians Association of Australia said that “with good planning, you can get all of the nutrients you need from a vegan diet to be healthy”, and the position of the American Dietetic Association is that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” The UK National Health Service (NHS) says “With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.” On the other side, the World Health Organization has classified processed meat as carcinogenic.
However, you can see that these statements don’t just give a green light to any plant-based diet, but use terms such as “well-planned”. This tends to mean avoiding junk food and ensuring that the diet is nutritionally balanced. If vegans just choose to eat highly processed food — such as what is normally offered in fast-food restaurants — high in fat, salt, and sugar, and keep taking intoxicating substances such as smoke or alcohol, few or none of the health benefits you will read here may occur.
43 Zero Cholesterol
Many modern health problems have been associated with a high level of cholesterol in the blood, which is a sterol (or modified steroid), a type of fat produced by the liver. It is needed to make hormones, vitamin D, and other substances, but your liver provides enough for that. Other cholesterol ingested with food is not used and may end up clogging blood vessels and causing all sorts of cardiovascular problems.
Although some people are genetically predisposed to have too much cholesterol because their liver produces a lot, most vegans don’t have high cholesterol because they don’t ingest any. Only animal foods have it (including eggs and milk, so vegetarians can still get in trouble for that). By avoiding all animal ingredients (i.e. eating a fully plant-based diet), you will avoid eating cholesterol.
44 Best Fibre for Gut Health
Dietary fibre is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. One type is called soluble fibre because it dissolves in water. Doctors recommend increasing the amount of soluble fibre in the diet because this helps the good bacteria you need in your lower digestive system. And vegans eating a WFPD diet have the highest intakes of soluble fibre.
Dr Greger says the following in one of his videos: “Prebiotics are the food components that feed and nourish the good bacteria in our gut, like fibre and resistant starch. In general, eating high-fibre plant foods is a good foundation for a prebiotic-rich diet. The reason for lower systemic inﬂammation in plant-based eaters may not just be due to the abundance of anti-inﬂammatory molecules in plant foods or the avoidance of proinﬂammatory molecules in animal foods, but from the production of anti-inflammatory molecules from scratch by our good gut bugs when we feed them fibre. Indeed, the benefits of fibre are supported by more than a century of research. Prospective studies show striking reductions in death from all causes put together, including total cancer deaths, total cardiovascular disease deaths and incidence, stroke incidence, and incidence of colorectal, breast, and oesophagal cancer. We have coevolved over millennia with gut bacteria to the point of reliance on our good gut bugs, a kind of symbiosis for ﬁbre digestion and the production of short-chain fatty acids, and even certain vitamins.”
45 Full of Beneficial Phytonutrients
Plants have many molecules that are deemed beneficial for health, even if they may not be essential nutrients that are needed for survival. These chemicals, also known as bioactives, evolved in plants to help them fight against germs, fungi, and other threats. Humans only have discovered about 1% of these important molecules, so there is still lots to learn about them, but many of the medicinal properties of plants that both herbalists and pharmacists have known for a long time come from these molecules.
A vegan who eats lots of fresh vegetables as unrefined and unprocessed as possible can fully benefit from all these mysterious components, which may explain the results of the studies where vegans outperform other groups of people with other diets. A 2019 study by Fayth L. Miles et al. found that of 840 people following five different diets (vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians and meat-eaters) consumers with a high intake of fruit and vegetables had more carotenoids in their bodies (an antioxidant indicator of good health), and the vegan participants showing the highest level. They also had the highest levels of other indicators of good health, such as anti-carcinogenic enterolactone and omega-3 fatty acids (interestingly, the levels in flexitarians were not too different from those in meat-eaters).
46 Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular diseases (such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, strokes, etc.) are the number one cause of death in most Western countries. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the world’s biggest killer is ischaemic heart disease, responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths. Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 2019.
The good news for vegans is that plant‐based diets are associated with a lower risk of incidents of most cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all‐cause mortality in a general population of middle‐aged adults. This is the conclusion of a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, among others.
47 Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a debilitating disease that affects how the body regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. It is also a disease that is growing in many countries. The WHO says that the number of people with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation. In 2019, diabetes was the ninth leading cause of death with an estimated 1.5 million deaths directly caused by diabetes.
Again, vegans are lucky, because studies show type 2 diabetes is less frequent among people in a full plant-based died, especially WFPB. The saturated fat in animal products can lead to inflammation and heart disease, which makes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes more likely. A healthy vegan diet, on the other hand, is high in unsaturated fats, and plant-based foods are also high in fibre, antioxidants, minerals, and polyphenols. All these protect against diabetes and can help control glucose levels.
48 Lower Risk of Some Cancers
Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs. Although medical advances have improved the treatment, cancer remains a leading cause of death, especially in developed countries, and it’s very common (in the UK 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime).
Several studies have shown that plant-based diets can reduce the risks of some cancers (not all). The 1999 EPIC-Oxford study was carried out at Oxford University as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). It found that, overall, non-meat eaters had a lower risk of at least some cancers. Another 2017 Study concluded “This comprehensive meta-analysis reports a significant protective effect of a vegetarian diet versus the incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease (-25%) and incidence from total cancer (-8%). Vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (-15%) of incidence from total cancer.”
49 Less Obesity
Like diabetes — and quite linked to it — another modern epidemic growing in industrialised developed countries is obesity. The WHO says that in 1995, there were an estimated 200 million obese adults worldwide and another 18 million under-five children classified as overweight. As of 2000, the number of obese adults has increased to over 300 million.
Compared with other groups, vegans are less likely to become obese, but this would probably only be true if they follow mainly a WFPB diet, an HCLF diet, a raw vegan diet, or a macrobiotic diet. Indulging in vegan junk food and eating lots of vegan cheese and fried fake meats can easily lead to obesity too. A 2005 study showed that self-identified vegans had a significantly lower risk of overweight or obesity.
50 Tackling Pandemics
Before 2019, not many people knew what the word “pandemic” meant, but now it has become the word of the decade. There is still speculation about what the exact origin of the Covid-19 pandemic was, but all the leading hypotheses involve activities vegans opposed.
But we definitively know about other diseases that came from animals (zoonotic diseases). It is believed at least 60 per cent of the emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses. Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats, typhoid from domesticating chickens, whooping cough from domesticated pigs, leprosy from water buffalo, the cold virus from cattle or horses, HIV from apes, and both SARS (2002) and MERS (2012) from bats. Becoming vegan will not protect you from any of these pandemics once they are out there, but if enough people became vegan, animal wet markets, factory farms, zoos, and other places where new zoonoses are more likely to emerge could be closed, reducing the overall global health risk.
You have now seen 50 different reasons to go vegan from five separate gateways, but all lead to the same philosophy. They all lead to Veganism. After twenty years since I decided to stop harming anyone, I have now explored the five dimensions of this philosophy, and I feel at home in all of them (even the spiritual one, which is the latest I have been visiting). I expect those who have been vegan for long enough would do the same.
It’s only when you haven’t started this journey that you expect to find a particular landscape, but once you embark on it, you will be pleased to discover that it is far more varied and beautiful than you imagined. And it doesn’t matter from where you come from and which route you chose, as you can enjoy it all.
You only need one good reason to go vegan, but I have given you 50. You can choose the one that works better for you.
But if you choose more than one, you can be sure you will never go back.
They all reinforce each other.
They all make you a complete vegan.