Many omnivores have the belief that veganism is just a choice, that accommodating such a lifestyle isn’t a problem until it becomes inconvenient. But when it’s time to plan big holiday dinners, go on a road trip, or visit an amusement park, they believe that’s when vegans need to compromise for the sake of convenience so as to not be a bother.
Veganism is so much more than just a diet, a trend, or a character trait to make the new neighbor on a sitcom seem quirky. However, if you were to ask any vegan as to why they adopted their lifestyle, you’d be met with a myriad of reasons: a diet requirement after major health scares, an eco-friendly way of living, and even as a part of their religion.
Regardless of how Hollywood portrays veganism, what the dairy and meat industry wants you to think, or how you feel about the omission of meat and dairy from your diet, here are five types of people for whom veganism is not a choice, but a necessity.
For Their Health, as Mandated by Their Doctor
Many vegans have only made the switch after experiencing a major health scare, such as a heart attack or breast cancer. Consuming red meat increases your risk of heart disease by 1,000 percent, which is why doctors recommend reducing and eliminating it as treatment. Many women are also told to reduce their dairy intake if they are a high-risk patient for breast cancer or are in recovery.
Imagine if these high risk patients and survivors were in your family. Wouldn’t you want them to reduce their chance of checking back into the hospital? Wouldn’t you want them to live a long and healthy life? Or would you rather they join you for that cheeseburger meal because getting that Impossible Burger seemed like a chump move, was a dollar more, or required they use a separate grill?
Alternatively, there are vegans that have been inspired to practice veganism to improve their own health overall. Whether it be after watching their own families’ health decline or simply wanting to stay healthy and active no matter their age, we need to respect those who chose to have a healthy diet so they then do not become a burden on the community and its healthcare services. The healthier we all are as a community, the stronger we are together.
Allergies to Animal Products
Omitting meat and dairy from your diet because of allergies is certainly a health issue as well. Please note that there are both mild and life-threatening allergies to consider. The aforementioned group may still be able to eat these food groups without immediate harm, but may feel mild discomfort after ingesting animal products; whereas those with a life-threatening allergy can immediately go into anaphylactic shock or have immediate and severe gastrointestinal distress.
There are many people who have lactose intolerance cannot metabolize lactose, yet it is vegans who choose to treat their condition by eliminating dairy altogether. The same goes for those who have rare allergies to meat, as well.
Pop culture — and just rude people, in general — often like to mock this group by portraying them with embarrassingly exaggerated ailments, like flatulence and gross inflammation. Even worse, many of those in this group are undeservingly ridiculed for being “too weak” to process animal products. It’s never a matter of strength, rather, it’s a matter of fact that many animal products have noxious effects on the human body. So, if anyone actually says that they can’t digest an animal product without becoming ill, then please take it as seriously as diabetes or a deathly peanut allergy.
Veganism as a Moral Choice: For the Animals and For the Planet
This is the one that garners the most attention as it tends to be the source of visible contention between vegans and non-vegans. Most vegans acknowledge and accept the health benefits of their lifestyle, yet they also pursue it as a moral choice. The benefits of veganism extend beyond the individual — to their community, the institutions that function within it, and the planet and all of its ecosystems.
Many non-vegans see it as rigid and an affront to their habits and their own character. More accurately, ethical vegans are simply those who observe and acknowledge that all life has the right to exist and that the systems and institutions of our society — especially our current food systems — are detrimental to our health, livelihoods, and quality of life for all on this planet.
Ethical veganism has long been chastised and even mocked, yet more of the global community has been accepting it year after year. In fact, it’s becoming recognized as a legally defensible philosophy in some of the most prominent courts in the world. For those who oppose veganism, understand that it’s not a personal attack but rather a means to address and resolve issues that have been making us and the planet ill.
If you are in the presence of an ethical vegan, please try to understand that while their choices may feel like an affront to your way of life, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to respect their dietary needs any less.
A Religious Choice
Aside from the reasons of personal health, diet, and morality, there are those who follow veganism as it just happens to comply with the dogma of their respective religion or personal philosophy.
Jainism holds that violence should not be done unto the ingredients of one’s meals. Not only is the killing of animals prohibited, it is also for plants who would die once they are picked or uprooted.
Orthodox Judaism requires that meat and dairy may never mix, and that all food must be prepared in a Kosher environment. That said, many Jewish people just find it easier to order vegan meals in restaurants to ensure that.
The doctrines of Islam and Christianity (Romans 14:3) also discourage unjust violence unto animals, so for Muslims and Christians, this is a diet that provides them with practical guidelines to uphold this value.
Keeping a diet based on religious reasons is something that most people would arguably respect. Since veganism can be embedded in those reasons so seamlessly, then there really isn’t any reason for anyone to be chastised.
Veganism Should Be Accepted by All
No matter what one’s reason is for pursuing a vegan lifestyle, we all need to understand that veganism can be more than just a dietary choice. It’s more than just a trendy cookbook on the shelf, a hashtag on Instagram, and a fun graphic shirt. Veganism is a diet and lifestyle required and chosen by millions around the world for the sake of their health, the planet, or their religions. Regardless of their “why”, veganism is about kindness to oneself, to each other, and to our planet. Why would anyone be against that?
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