Jordi Casamitjana, the author of the book “Ethical Vegan”, makes a case for celebrating ‘veganising’, the verbal form of veganism that can make everything vegan.
I like English.
Of all the languages I speak, it’s my favourite by a long margin. And one of the things I like about it is how permissible is to make up new words. I like creating words, and if I do it in English, nobody from the language police will knock on my door and arrest me as it might happen if I was trying something like that with French or Spanish.
I remember how much Marie, the vegan receptionist of the animal protection organisation I was working in in the early 2000s, laughed when I use the word “Plastificator” to describe the laminator in the office. I thought my invented word was much more accurate to describe the action to cover a piece of paper with melted plastic than the official term which suggests something will be sliced into thin laminas. English is so versatile for this sort of thing. A prefix here, a postfix there, a hyphen here, and an “ing” at the end, and you can create all sorts of new words from existing ones that everybody would immediately understand, without the need of any dictionary. And some of such inventions may become so popular, that may end up in the illustrious Oxford Dictionary.
Like astronomy being one of the most “democratic” sciences I know (anyone with a telescope can discover a celestial body and be recognised by the discovery), English is also one of the most democratic languages I have experienced. For instance, let’s look at the word Vegan. We know where and when it was created: in the UK in 1944 when the Vegan Society was formed. And we know who created It: the combined effort of Dorthey Morgan, Donald Watson, Fay Henderson and G.A. Henderson (some of the pioneers of that society). And we know how it was created: removing the ‘etar’ from ‘vegetarian’. But that was the adjective “vegan” to describe someone who followed a particular philosophy — and also the name of the society’s magazine.
Once the adjective was created, someone in the society (we don’t know who) must have created the noun to describe that philosophy. And what do you do with words that describe ideologies and philosophies? You ad an “ism” at the end. “Veganism” was created, and after years of perfecting, in 1988 the Vegan Society settle its final definition 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.”
But why stop there? We have an adjective, and we have a noun. Sooner or later a verb would turn up: Veganise (or Veganize in the US). And it’s already close to officially making it into most dictionaries. The Collins dictionary already has it as a “new word suggestion”, under this definition: “To make a vegan version of an animal-based dish. For example, you can veganise a conventional meat taco simply by using beans or soy-based crumbles instead of ground beef and by substituting nondairy cheese and sour cream for dairy-based versions.” But this is quite a short-sighted definition only applied to the dietary aspect of veganism. It’s clearly an insufficient definition. The Cambridge dictionary suffers from the same short-sightedness: “veganize (UK usually veganise) UK /ˈviː.ɡən.aɪz/ US /ˈviː.ɡən.aɪz/: to make food suitable for vegans (= people who do not eat or use any animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs, or cheese).”
In 2016, PETA sent a letter to the editor of the Australian’s Macquarie Dictionary suggesting that the word “veganise” be chosen as its Word of the Year in the “Eating and Drinking” category, and defining it as “to make a vegan version of an otherwise animal-derived meal or item”. It’s an improvement, but why limit it to “items”? It seems that it would be up to me to create the complete definition:
VEGANISE: to change an object, a product, a service, a situation, an institution, a person, or a community by eliminating, at once or gradually, and as far as practicable and possible, its direct links with any form of exploitation of animals, in line with the philosophy of veganism.
It’s a transitive verb that acts on something else, and its action can last some time. As such, the process of veganising something may have started but not finished yet (so, there may still be significant links to animal exploitation in that “something”). I guess that, if the process stops and does not resume after some time, one could say that something was partially veganised, or incompletely veganised. For instance, removing meat, dairy and eggs from a recipe veganises it, but if the person changing it decides to keep honey on purpose, then that veganisation was incomplete.
‘Veganise’ or ‘veganising’ should be in all dictionaries because it is through the verb of veganism that we can change the current carnist world into the vegan world. The term looks good, and it is easy to pronounce. It is unambiguous, and it’s been already used in real life in multiple situations — and with the same meaning. There is no equivalent for vegetarians or plant-based people — well, someone could try vegetarianising or plantbasedtising, but that’s just silly.
The term vegan is perfect to derivate new words from it. For instance, this could well be a genuine sentence: “With an effective veganisation policy, vegans of the most vegan-friendly countries can veganise many communities by providing vegan products which not only will benefit those who fully follow veganism but also eco-vegans and anyone else with a veganish lifestyle who look for a more vegan approach, even repented post-vegans.” How versatile and fertile it is, right?
As many prestigious and popular dictionaries add some examples of usage after their definitions, for those who may be sceptical about mine I will make this article a description of usages of the term in many more situations other than just food. In fact, you can veganise almost everything, so I will now go ahead and tell you how.
Veganising an Object
If an object or item is made of part of an animal (such as an ivory trinket), or it was made with animal exploitation in any way (such as a wine filtered with fish bladders), there is very little that can be done to veganise it, as the past direct link with animal exploitation cannot be severed. One thing that can be done, though, is to ensure that it is not going to be commercialised anymore, nobody will profit by owning it, and there is no value left in it that justifies the exploitation that created it.
Here is an example. When I was working at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in the early 2010s we had a campaign to protect elephants which included a campaign against the ivory trade. Part of it was to ask people to relinquish any item of ivory they had and send them to us, and after we accumulated enough, we would hire a grinder machine and publicly destroy all the pieces. We put the machine in the gardens by the UK Parliament, invited the press to watch, and transformed all those trinkets into dust that would then be scattered on the ground. We had, in fact, veganised all those trinkets, by making it impossible for the exploitation that created them to continue benefiting people.
Other objects can be veganised by removing a component in them that is linked to animal exploitation and replacing it with a more vegan-friendly option. For instance, if you buy a car and replace the leather seats with non-leather alternatives, you are veganising that car. Another example would be to veganise some jeans by removing the little leather label that sometimes they have on the rear pockets. Or veganising a bed by replacing all silk sheets with cotton sheets. Or veganising an old tennis racket by replacing the strings made of guts with nylon ones.
Sometimes, to fully veganise an object, it may need to be rebuilt from scratch with completely different materials, while maintaining the same design. For instance, in early 2022, Padraig O’Dubhlaoidh, a violin-maker from Malvern Hills, in the English county of Worcestershire, made the first vegan violin certified by the Vegan Society. He used natural replacements for animal-based glues, steamed pear for the inlay around the edge of the instrument, berries for dying, and poplar for the main body (vegan violin strings and bows were already available). You can also veganise a theatre, film or TV costume, as vegan actor Sam Corlett managed to do when he wore a non-leather costume for his role in the show Vikings Valhalla.
Danny Rosenthal, an American vegan for almost 30 years, founded a campaign called Make Tennis Vegan when he learnt that the balls used at competitive-level tennis were made of wool. He created Sheeps Tennis intending to produce vegan tennis balls. He has managed to veganise the balls, but he is still trying to improve their quality. Beyond sport, you can veganise gaming too, as the rise of the vegan boardgamers proves. And you can, of course, veganise any dish — but you probably already know how.
Veganising a Product
One of the consequences of the growth of the vegan market is that many manufacturers realise they are losing clientele if their products are not vegan-friendly. The clever ones know that if they do not veganise their products, they will lose to the competition which does.
Some companies only go as far as veganising their products but still offer the older version for those who prefer a bit of cruelty in their life. For instance, the famous alcoholic white drink Baileys produced a vegan version (more expensive than the original) where its whiteness comes from almonds, not from suffering cows. Perhaps they realised that some people chose to make a vegan version themselves, or even that some competitors started to become a commercial threat (i.e. Licor 43 Horchata, or Almondaire Almond-Based Creme Liqueur), but it seems that it was too late, as Bailys Alemade has been discontinued as of autumn 2021.
Another example of a product being veganised is the ice cream Magnum. In 2018, the UK right-wing Daily Mail went into a panic with the headline “Magnum goes VEGAN! Ice cream fans in meltdown after frosted treats get millennial remix with Classic and Almond flavours.” It proved to be very popular, so other companies started veganising their ice cream and creating their versions of this iconic frozen desert. In September 2020, the UK supermarket Aldi launched its ‘Own Brand Vegan Magnums.’ This time, Uniliver/Nestle, the owner of the Magnum brand (which not all vegans support because of their vivisection history), did not give up but pushed further its veganised products by creating new versions. Magnum’s plant-based core range has been awarded the PETA Vegan Food Award.
But the best way a company veganise a product is when it removes all its animal ingredients and stops commercialising the older versions. For a while, many vegans like myself thought that Quorn, the fake meat company famous for their fungus-based protein, would be veganised as they were testing their vegan products (replacing egg with potato) with the intention to become 100% vegan, but years later they still sell their vegetarian versions. The beauty brand Aveda reporting becoming 100% vegan for ditching honey and beeswax in 2021 may be a better example. Another could be the makeup company Milk. Since its inception in 2016, the brand has been cruelty-free (not tested on animals) but some of its products still contained animal-derived ingredients like beeswax, lanolin, collagen and gelatine, so they were not vegan. But in 2018 they ditch them all and finished their veganisation process.
Dog and cat food are getting veganised too. There are several companion animal food companies that are creating plant-based versions, as they are seeing the rise of vegan competitors entering the market. Now that research has shown that domestic cats may no longer be the obligate carnivores once were, this veganisation is bound to increase.
Veganising a Situation
Each situation can be veganise by veganising its components (i.e. the people, products and objects involved), but it will only be properly veganised if this veganisation is reflected in its defining rules and characteristics.
For instance, work. Unless your job involves directly exploiting any sentient being (including humans), there are many ways you can veganise your work. If you own your company, are a director of a corporation, or have a lot of decision power in your work, then that’s easy. You can start by looking at the food you may serve or keep. Anything with animal products can be replaced with vegan versions. Then you can look at the toilet paper in the office (not all is vegan friendly), the soap (it should not be tested on animals), and other cleaning products. After that, you can look at the furniture of the work’s facilities and buildings. Get rid of anything made of leather, silk, or wool, and if you suspect that something was made with animal glues, you might want to replace that too. Then you might look at your suppliers and look for more vegan-friendly options than the ones you normally use (things like ink, paper, uniforms, etc.).
You might also want to consider hiring staff that are already vegan or make it easier for vegans to apply for positions you are advertising. You might not be able to request only vegan candidates as there may be equality laws in your jurisdiction that don’t allow you to do that (it very much depends on the type of organisation you run and the type of work you require). But if you cannot ensure that everybody applying is vegan, you can veganise your workplace by providing a vegan-friendly environment that is likely to attract vegans — with all their veganising potential — looking for work.
If you’re not the owner or have any control over major decisions, you can always try to veganise work one step at a time. You can, for instance, request to HR that the office kitchen has vegan alternatives such as plant-based milk, etc. You might inquire to see if everybody would be happy to replace all milk from cows with plant-based milk (perhaps using environmental reasoning if the company has a sustainability policy) and you might be surprised to realise that even if not everyone may be vegan they might be happy to do that.
Another thing you might want to try is to see whether your bosses allow you to have vegan outreach materials (i.e. leaflets, posters, stickers, etc.), in the appropriate places — some companies allow staff to have their “social” spaces where they can promote social causes. You will have to consider that, as an ethical vegan, you don’t have more rights to do anything than anybody else that has any other philosophical belief or religion protected. If it’s inappropriate in work for somebody to proselytise for their religion, it will also be inappropriate to do the equivalent for veganism.
The other thing you can do is to ensure that if catering is provided for meetings and events, at least you have vegan options. You can talk to your bosses asking for a fully vegan catering because this is the most inclusive. There is no discrimination if the only food is vegan because everybody can eat it. On the other hand, if the food provided is composed of different items compatible with different diets, with different amounts of calories, or different nutritional values, the offer will never be identical from one dietary group to another. One group, meat-eaters, will have a better deal than the others as they can choose and pick from all the options while vegans only have one. That is discrimination in my book, and if your bosses don’t want to run an organisation that discriminates against anyone (let alone anyone from a protected characteristic, as ethical veganism is in the UK now) you might want to point that out to them.
Another thing to do to veganise the workplace would be veganising office parties (such as Christmas parties), as you want to ensure they provide good vegan options or happen in a vegan venue. Also, ensuring that “morale-boosting” social outings organised by your work are not in vegan un-friendly places. Any outing could be veganised. For instance, better to visit a botanical garden than a zoological garden.
Other examples of situations that can be veganise are the circus performances (by banning any animal in them), weddings (by having only vegan food and ensuring the dress of both groom and bride are made without animal fabrics), blind dates (ensuring that they happen at a vegan eatery), Christmas (Tofurky and nut roasts have done a lot for this), or even movie-making (by using digital instead celluloid, getting a full vegan cast, crew, catering, costumes, and only using CGI animals) —the film Noah from the vegan director Darren Aronofsky went a long way towards getting veganised.
Veganising an Institution
An institution will have statutes and policies written somewhere, so if they are amended to eliminate materials or activities directly linked to animal exploitation, the institution is being veganised. A recent example would be the Oxfordshire County Council, in England. In 2021, Ian Middleton, a Green party councillor, called for all official council meetings to provide solely plant-based food. He also urged for more plant-based options to be served in schools across Oxford. His motion was approved, and they indeed stopped using animal products in their catering. But they went further. On 15th March 2022, the Council’s Cabinet also approved for officers to begin work on a broader approach to plant-based and locally sourced food as part of a new food policy. They are indeed getting Oxfordshire County Council veganised.
Some universities have gone in the same direction. In 2018, the London School of Economics Students’ Union passed a motion to ban beef from all menus on campus. The previous year, Goldsmiths University also removed beef from all of its menus. The University of Cambridge (UK) removed all beef and all lamb from their menus and replaced the flesh options with plant-based ones — and, naturally, Oxford University followed suit. PETA has written about the most vegan-friendly universities in the UK. However, the process of getting universities fully veganised has yet to produce a university where 100% of its catering is vegan
New York has been veganising its educational and health institutions too. In 2018, Eric Adams, the current plant-based Mayor of NYC, championed The Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program, which provides whole-food plant-based nutrition to critically ill patients. In 2019, Adams helped implement Meatless Mondays at all 1,700 NYC public schools. And since February 2022, he implemented Vegan Fridays at the same schools (the day of the week when most of the menu items offered to students are vegan). Although he hasn’t finished veganising himself yet, Adams is certainly veganising the city’s institutions.
The English Fire Brigade Service also got veganised when ethical veganism became a protected philosophical belief in Great Britain in 2020. They started to automatically issue vegan boots to their vegan firefighters. In 2021, the Hayek Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, become the first in the world to offer its patients a fully vegan menu. Georges Hayek, the hospital co-owner, and founder of Lebanese Vegans said, “it is well about time to tackle the root cause of diseases and pandemics, not just treat symptoms; for our health, for our planet, and our fellow earthlings.” And then we have the vegan Dale Vince, the CEO of Ecotricity, the UK energy company he veganised by stopping using biofuels from the animal agriculture industry (making it the first registered as vegan by the Vegan Society), who also veganised a football club when he bought it (the Forest Green Rovers).
Veganising a Human
To veganise the world we need to veganise people too, and we have to start by veganising ourselves. When you choose to follow the philosophy of veganism, you become a vegan right there and then, but your veganisation process has just started. You now need to apply the philosophy of veganism to all your future decisions, and you may need to learn how to do that. You will get better at it with time and practice, and with all the new information you will be getting along the way. The first thing you must do is to get rid of all the food you have at home that contains any animal products (or an animal has been used in its production). Then you should look at your clothes, your fashion accessories, your cosmetics (if you use any), and ask if there is any animal involved in their production so you can veganise them all. And then all your household products, furniture, etc. — if you have control of this where you live, that is.
But that’s not enough. By the messages on them, are your clothes, tattoos or accessories promoting harm to other sentient beings even if they don’t have animal products in them? or are they using denigrating symbols regarding anyone from any species (including humans)? Do you still have images of exploitation decorating your house (such as a painting showing farm animals)? What about the language you use? Is still speciesists? What about racism, sexism, ableism or homophobia? What about violence? Have you got rid of all your violence from your hard? The process of veganising oneself may take much longer than just becoming vegan. Even experienced decades-long ethical vegans don’t stop getting veganised. We all can be better vegans tomorrow than we are today.
Then we have the process of veganising another person. The term “vegan outreach” is often used for this sort of thing, but this can also mean disseminating information about veganism in a much more passive and wider sense, so I think the verb ‘veganise’ is more precise. It’s not quite the same as proselytising, as veganism is not a religion, so vegans do not seek others to “convert” to it. Veganising another person is something that can only be done with the consent and willingness of the other person (it’s as impossible to shove veganism into someone’s throat as it is to do so with feminism or pacifism), who is open-minded to becoming vegan but needs some help to make the final steps. It is, essentially, to support people on their journey to veganism, aiming to help them — and everyone else involved — to make the process as smooth and quick as possible.
There are many things that a vegan can do to veganise other humans. For instance, educating them by providing facts regarding animals, the animal exploitation industries and vegan products; debunking myths that those indoctrinated into carnism are propagating to discourage people to become vegan; helping to acquire a taste for vegan products by letting wannabe vegans try them; helping to overcome the other person’s obstacles to veganism by finding non-judgemental practical solutions; or giving encouraging positive feedback for any progress they make in getting veganised (and not be discouraging about any setbacks). Being as good and kind as a person you can be showing how veganism is helping you to grow morally will go a long way to make others want to be the same.
When vegans try to veganise friends and family (I am thinking of my friend Nelson who has a Twitter account under the name Veganised By My Wife), this can be very rewarding. But it can also be frustrating, as their response may not be the one they hoped for. This may be even depressing, but it is useful to look at this not as a failure to veganise them but as wrong timing. Let time pass and let other vegans try, as it may be easier that way. Also, vegans should not feel that they HAVE to veganise their friends and family members — or anyone else for that matter — as they may be busy enough veganising themselves, and it may take a while to be comfortable to start talking about veganism to others.
And remember, when veganising other people, you don’t make vegans from non-vegans. You make vegans from pre-vegans, helping them to veganise themselves.
Veganising a Community
What happens if enough vegans are using vegan objects and products in vegan situations run by vegan institutions? Well, if you have enough of those in the same place, you could veganise entire communities. They have existed throughout history. For instance, we could say that the Jain religion was veganising the communities in Northern India several centuries before the Common Era. Or the Essenes, a Jewish sect at the turn of the Common Era that was veganising Judaism as they were vegetarian. Or the Elect of the Manichean religion from 3rd century CE, who got veganised for spiritual reasons. Or Christian communities such as the Dorrelites, the Grahamites or the Concordites that we found at the turn of the 19th century. Or the early 20th-century vegan anarchist communes in Paris.
We have some today, like Gentle World in new Zealand, or the Garden of Vegan Intentional Community in Belize, which operate in relative isolation in a self-sustainable way. But you can also find vegan communities within our mainstream worlds in the form of vegan clubs, vegan meetup groups, or even vegan online communities (with their own echo chambers). But if we want to solve the major global crises, we need to aim a bit higher than that. We need to veganise the world.
In the and, if ‘civilisation’ is the process humans underwent to become “civil” with each other and live in harmony when their numbers grew, now that the human population has grown even more and is dramatically affecting other sentient beings all over the planet, ‘veganisation’ should be its natural evolution.
The planet will not get veganised overnight (but if it did, I don’t think it would be a bad thing), and to get there we would need to veganise first an awful lot of institutions and systems. We would need to veganise politics altogether into something more than the accumulation of vegan political parties — which are growing around the world, by the way. We would need to create ahimsa politics, no longer based on power but on not harming anything that can be harmed (humans, other animals and the environment). We would need to veganise the legal system too, by creating laws or legal precedent that advance the protection of vegans (such as my legal case that ruled ethical veganism as a protected belief in Great Britain, or a case in the Italian city of Bologna where a judge ruled in favour of a discriminated Italian vegan teacher), that ban more un-vegan activities (i.e. animals in circuses, bullfighting, vivisection or trophy hunting), or that guarantee vegan options to consumers (as Portugal making it compulsory to have vegan options in public schools). We would also need to veganise the economy and move away from selfish and unjust capitalist or communist systems that still consider sentient beings as goods. And we would need to veganise the planet by replacing animal agriculture with regenerative veganic agriculture, and rewilding as much as we can as this can stop our current climate crisis.
Once we transform the word vegan into a verb, the sky is the limit. Nothing gets worse if it is changed into its vegan form, because that is the least harmful form, the most considerate and respectful form, and the form that is better for humans, the rest of the animals and the planet. That is the power of this magical word.
Let’s make ‘veganise’ the verb of the 21st century.