What is Veganism?

It may seem a silly question given the rising popularity of the movement. But the truth is, over the years we’ve learned that one of the greatest barriers holding people back from making the switch to a healthier, more sustainable vegan diet is a lack of understanding of what the term really means. 

For some, the concept of “vegan” can be a little intimidating, as if the label marks some exclusive and high-brow club that is unfriendly or difficult to integrate for the majority. Without further understanding, veganism can seem to some like an unobtainable or even uncomfortable way of life. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the beauty of veganism is that simply by beginning the journey- you are immediately making an impact on the world. 

At its core, veganism is a commitment to sustainability, conservation, and a sense of respect for ourselves and the environment we share. Though it can often be reduced to little more than a trendy diet, at Conscious Market- we know that veganism is far more than that. It is a philosophy, it is a way of living and being, and it is an avenue to ultimately bettering and deepening our time on this planet. 

In the simplest terms- veganism is a way of living that seeks to eliminate both products and services that stem from the exploitation of non-human animals. It, therefore, encompasses much more than simply eliminating meat, dairy, fish, eggs, or the derivative by-products of these foods. In truth, veganism is about making a conscious decision to live more deliberately in harmony with our environment and to ensure that our practices are not harming or exploiting our fellow species for food cultivation, clothing manufacturing, entertainment, sport, or any activities that are non-essential to human survival. 

Though the label veganism first comes into our lexicon during the mid-1940s when British woodworker Donald Watson coined the term as a way to separate the practice from the vegetarian consumption of eggs and dairy, the practice of meat and flesh avoidance dates back to ancient Indian and Mediterranean societies and cultures. The Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras cites the concept in his many writings and philosophies from 580-500 B.C.E., promoting in his work an intentional behavior of benevolence towards our fellow species and admonishing his fellow countrymen to move towards a vegetarian lifestyle. As societies continued to evolve into the modern era, many world religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism began adopting these principles.

Veganism as a lifestyle would not reach the West until considerably later, though the practice did make an appearance in the United States during the time of 19th-century religious revivals and also served as a remedy to various health crises throughout early American history. 

However, as time continued, the practice of veganism would only grow and grow in worldwide popularity. When Donald Watson, the inventor of the original term, passed away in 2005 at the age of 95, there were at that point in existence over 250,000 self-identifying vegans in his home country of England, and over 2 million in the United States. Today, that number has grown to a staggering 9.6 million. 

For newcomers to the concept, there is always one inevitable question; “what do vegans even eat?” And the answer is pretty simple...a lot!

As long as the food item is not produced from a non-human species or the by-product of a non-human species, then it is absolutely considered a part of the vegan lifestyle. And while this can sound quite limiting on the face of it, the range of non-animal options available to us in our modern world is astoundingly vast. 

A vegan diet includes all types of grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and the huge amount of foods that can be created by combining any of these groups together. Further, to meet the demands of the ever-increasing amount of new vegans, food specialists and chefs are constantly innovating new methods and techniques for turning some of our favorite American food staples into vegan-friendly options. From vegan ice cream to vegan hot dogs to even vegan BBQ, the list of options for vegans is only growing vaster with each passing day. 

Ultimately, veganism is not nearly as scary of a term as it can seem when encountering the concept for the first time. It’s not some exclusive club, and it certainly isn’t a way to deny you the joy of your favorite foods. Veganism is a way of living that creates more harmony, more balance, and ultimately more enjoyment within your daily existence. By living more consciously and intentionally with the world around us, we find that our joys become brighter, our tastes become sweeter, and our experience of the world around us grows deeper. 

At Conscious Market, we invite you to continue learning more about this lifestyle and encourage you to begin a gradual transition to living more intentionally with yourself and your surroundings. There is no better step to take than to start now- no matter how small. Even adapting a mostly plant based diet will make a considerable impact on the health of our world, so take the plunge in whatever way is most appropriate to you and your situation. Veganism has brought a greater purpose to our lives, and we know that it will serve the same role in yours.

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