Kia ora koutou katoa. Greetings everybody. The Dunedin/Ōtepoti Vegan Society (DŌVeS) would like to wish everyone a very happy World Vegan Day today! And of course today is also the beginning of World Vegan Month. ❤
World Vegan Day was first established in 1994 by Louise Wallis, who was then the chairperson of ‘The Vegan Society’ in the UK. (The original Vegan Society.) The celebration was instigated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation, and the coining of the terms ‘Vegan’ and ‘Veganism’.
Speaking in 2011, Wallis said: “We knew the Society had been founded in November 1944 but didn't know the exact date, so I decided to go for 1 November, partly because I liked the idea of this date coinciding with Samhain/Halloween and the Day of the Dead - traditional times for feasting and celebration, both apt and auspicious.”
This year we celebrate 77 years of the international vegan movement. In the past few years, veganism has finally begun to be accepted by huge parts of mainstream society, as a legitimate movement with something valuable and important to offer the world.
DŌVeS are also very proud to be celebrating our 6th birthday. Our organisation was officially launched on World Vegan Day 2015.
(You can read some more about the history of veganism here.)
Some Thoughts on Veganism…
It is our hope that everyone understands by now that veganism in not a diet, and is much more than merely a ‘personal lifestyle choice’. While being vegan does of course involve food choices and other personal lifestyle decisions, veganism is a social justice movement.
Being vegan is about taking a moral and ethical stance on an important social issue. That is, our relationship with, and our treatment of, the other conscious sentient beings we share this planet with. The non-human animals.
Veganism is inextricably connected to the global Animal Rights movement. Veganism is about putting respect for animals into practice. The animal rights movement is the social and political extension of veganism. The ultimate, long term end goal of the both movements is to create a vegan world. Or something pretty close to it.
Vegans believe that animals matter. All animals. Not just some. And we believe they really matter. That their lives are truly important, and that they deserve real and meaningful respect. Not half-hearted tokenism, or mere so-called ‘welfare improvements’.
We take animals’ lives seriously, and do our very best to avoid causing harm to them. And the activists among us are trying to get other people to do the same.
It is worth pausing a moment here, to put to rest a very outdated, yet stubbornly persistent myth. The myth that ‘animal foods’ are necessary for health. It is disturbing that in this day and age, so many people still believe this redundant, soundly dis-proven fallacy.
It is now well understood and scientifically accepted that a well-balanced vegan/plant-based diet is very healthy and appropriate for all stages of the life cycle. This includes pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, for older adults, and even for athletes.
This position is endorsed by, among others, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the British Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
We acknowledge that some forms of harm to animals are very difficult, or even impossible to avoid. But being vegan was never about being perfect. It’s about doing our best.
The official definition of veganism, from The Vegan Society in the UK is: “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.”
“…as far as is possible and practicable…”
Does this mean vegans believe non-humans are 100% morally equal to humans? It depends which vegan you ask. Some will say, “Yes. Absolutely.” Others will say no, but that other animals should be considered close to equal. Others might disagree with even that position, but they still believe that animals are important.
One thing all vegans agree on, is that an animal’s life is more important than a few moments of taste enjoyment, a pair of leather shoes, a few moments of entertainment, or any other form of exploitation that causes unnecessary suffering and/or death to an innocent animal.
We even believe that ‘culture’, customs, or traditions – as important as those things are to all of us – are still not strong enough reasons to take the life of someone who does not want to die, and who does not need to die. Culture and traditions have always changed and evolved, and they always will.
And make no mistake. Every animal is someone. Not something. A unique individual, with a personality; a persona; personhood. They are conscious and sentient. They have sophisticated thought processes, complex emotions, and important and meaningful social relationships.
They have language and communicate. They remember the past and project into the future. They feel happiness, joy, excitement, pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction. They also experience suffering, sadness, loneliness, boredom, frustration, fear, and pain. And all too often they have these negative experiences at the hands of humans.
They have friendships and family bonds. They love and they grieve. They have a rich, complex internal life, and given the chance they can live a rich and complex external life. They want to live and to enjoy their lives. No animal ever wants to suffer or die.
They are not like plants, who merely respond to stimuli, albeit in amazingly complex ways. In all of the most important ways, the other animals are very much like us. And of course they are. I think we conveniently forget sometimes, we are animals ourselves.
One of the simplest ways to understand veganism is this: Imagine you have two plates of food. They are both quite similar. They are both absolutely delicious, and they both contain all the nutrients your body requires. However, the first meal contains some 'animal products.' The second meal consists entirely of plants.
The first meal, by definition must have involved the suffering and death of at least one animal. Maybe more than one. Even the very best free range, organic farms involve some degree of suffering. And all of the animals, on all of the farms, all end up being violently killed.
Even dairy and egg production involves the killing of the unprofitable juvenile males, and the unproductive older females. The commercial fishing industry is even worse in many ways, than animal agriculture. The numbers killed each year, alone, are utterly staggering.
Yet the second meal, which is 100% plant based, did not involve killing anyone. It did not involve the deliberate and systematic breeding, confinement, restriction, bodily mutilation, neglect, abuse, and/or or violent, premature death of any sentient being.
To co-opt a Hollywood phrase, “No animals were harmed in the making of this meal.” So which meal do you choose?
It’s not a trick question. The choice is obvious. You choose the plant-based meal. Why would anyone choose to cause suffering and death, when there is literally no need to? When a perfectly good alternative, which meets all of your needs exists?
And what if you also learned that the 100% plant-based meal is vastly better for the environment? What if you also learned that, as long as you do it right, the plant-based meal is even better for your own health?
Because those are the facts. That is the truth. When we do our best to eliminate animal suffering and killing by making simple everyday vegan lifestyle choices, our commitment also brings with it huge benefits to the environment and even to our own bodies. It’s a win, win, and win situation, if ever there was one. It’s simply a no-brainer.
So given that this vastly superior option does exist, perhaps a more important question is, “In the 3rd decade of the 21st century, why do so many people still choose to cause unnecessary suffering and death, when a perfectly viable alternative is possible?”
Why indeed, when it is clear that there are millions and millions of happy, healthy long term vegans around the world? Millions of people who provide all the empirical evidence you could possibly ask for, that a plant-based diet is healthy, enjoyable, and even pretty easy to follow these days.
Does that mean that non-vegans are all cruel and heartless? Selfish and indifferent? No. In most cases, it doesn’t mean that at all. The truth is, the majority of non-vegans are not horrible people. They are merely ‘ignorant.'
And by ignorant, we do not mean they are stupid or stubborn. We mean they are uninformed or misinformed. That they lack full and accurate knowledge of all of the complexities of the issue of animal exploitation, and of the vast array of alternatives which are available nowadays.
With only a relatively few exceptions, most vegans alive today were not born or raised that way. Yet somehow we learned the truth about the issues, so we committed to putting respect for animals into practice, and to taking that decision seriously by being vegan.
From a very young age most of us were socially conditioned; culturally programmed; you might even say we were ‘brainwashed’, (metaphorically speaking), into believing that animal exploitation for food and other purposes is a ‘necessary evil.’
And of course all of the advertising, marketing, lobbying, sponsorship, and so on by the animal exploitation industries kept us believing these myths and misconceptions.
It is ironic that some people accuse vegans of ‘propaganda’ or of ‘pushing our beliefs’. Yet the truth is, it is the animal industries who are misleading us and pushing their agenda. How many vegan advertisements have you seen lately? And yet how many ads have you seen lately for KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hutt, and so on? And what is their agenda, exactly? It is, in one word, profits.
We also have an agenda, but ours is far more noble. We are trying to save animals, the planet, and even people. We are trying to educate and inform ordinary people everywhere of one simple but important truth.
In the 3rd decade of the 21st century, in most parts of the world, there is no longer any need to exploit animals. Therefore there is no legitimate excuse to continue to do so.
Someone once asked me, “If veganism is so good, why aren’t more people doing it?” It’s a fair question. Why does it often seem like it’s taking so long to change society? Well first of all we are! We are absolutely, most definitely changing the world. And our movement is growing exponentially now.
In 2016 we hit a tipping point. In December 2018, major international business magazine ‘Forbes’ published an article entitled, “2019: The Year of the Vegan.” That truly was a good year for our movement, and we’ve been going from strength to strength ever since. Veganism has been quite accurately called, “the fastest growing social justice movement of our time.”
Yet sometimes the pace of change still feels so slow. Achingly, heartbreakingly, agonisingly slow. Why? It is because once any idea becomes deeply entrenched within a culture, it is very difficult to change. Very difficult. And that applies to any idea. Not just veganism.
A very long time ago some groups of humans, living in some of the harsher parts of planet Earth, actually had to kill animals simply to survive. They literally had no choice. Knowledge of human nutrition was also not what it is today, so some groups of humans incorrectly believed they had to eat animal products to be healthy.
And so these groups of people formed a narrative about these actual or perceived 'necessities.' These beliefs and narratives then, in turn, guided and informed their practices. These ideas and practices then became an entrenched part of their cultures, and were passed down through the generations. Eventually entire industries were built around them. And so here we are today.
Vegetarianism and veganism can trace their roots back to ancient Greece, ancient India, and some other times and places. In the English speaking world however, the word and concept of ‘Vegetarianism’ wasn’t invented until the middle of the 19th century. Then in 1944 the modern ‘Vegan’ movement as we know it today was born.
In the grand time-scale of human history, veganism is a very, very new idea! My grandmother was 15 years old when The Vegan Society was formed. She is still alive today. Our movement was born, and has now grown to include millions and millions of people all around the world, all in one human lifetime. If that cannot be considered a rapid change, then what can?
It is normal, and even sensible, for any society to question any idea or concept which is drastically new and different from what they are familiar with. Any idea which seems to fly in the face of hundreds or even thousands of years of what is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as ‘the accepted wisdom’ of their day is bound to raise doubt and scepticism.
But after 77 years of our movement, there can surely be no legitimate reason for anyone to remain sceptical any more. We have conclusively and irrefutably proven our point. Can our species – human beings: Homo sapiens sapiens – really be healthy and happy without eating animal products? Yes we can. And once you accept that one simple truth, that changes everything!
We can no longer plead necessity, nor ignorance. We know better now. And when you know better, you do better.
We know now, that all the suffering and killing we have been doing for all the past centuries and millennia is unnecessary. So it’s time to stop doing it. Right now. Immediately. As individuals; as families; as communities; as businesses, organisations, and institutions; as societies; as nations; and indeed as an entire species.
The future is most clearly and definitely vegan. It has to be. We literally have no other choice. Blundering on blindly and ignorantly, persisting with the status quo is simply not a viable option. For the sake of the animals, the planet, and even for our own health and well-being, the time has come to evolve.
Veganism truly is an idea whose time has come. It’s time to put aside our old, bad habits, and to embrace new ethical, sustainable, healthy ones. To reinvent the cultural practises we have built around food, clothing, and other lifestyle choices. To take a stand on this critical social issue.
If you are already vegan, then we genuinely hope you enjoy yourself today. Our special day. We hope you are able to find some time today to celebrate your commitment to honouring and respecting animals, the planet, and humanity, by being vegan.
Maybe you will simply enjoy some special vegan food today. Maybe you will spend time today hanging out with some fellow vegans. Maybe you will have a discussion with some friends or family who are interested in learning about veganism. Or maybe you will find your own unique and special way to celebrate.
However you choose to enjoy the day, today you should feel extra proud – even prouder than usual – that you are on the right side of history. On the right side of a socially accepted wrong.
You should be proud that you are helping to make the world a better place. That you have the courage and commitment to do the right thing, even when many uninformed people around you give you a hard time for doing so.
And if you are not already vegan, then we would urge you to do some investigating. To make some enquiries. To do some research. Find out what it’s all about, so you can begin making some genuinely wise, and fully informed decisions.
A good starting point can be to watch some quality documentaries. We recommend…
Health: ‘The Game Changers’, ‘What The Health’, and ‘Forks Over Knives.’ (Available on Netflix and some other platforms.)
Environment: ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Seapsiracy’. (Available on Netflix and some other platforms.)
Animals: ‘Earthlings’, ‘Dominion’, and ‘Peaceable Kingdom’. (All free to view online).
And if you’re ready to make the commitment to being vegan right now, but you’re not quite sure where to begin, we recommend taking the 21 Day Vegan Challenge by The Vegan Society of Aotearoa New Zealand (VSoANZ). Go to https://tryvegan.org.nz to find out more, and to get started.
Happy World Vegan Day everyone. Have an awesome day. With love, from the animals, from DŌVeS, and from all the awesome vegans of Ōtepoti/Dunedin. ❤
(The beautiful artwork, used with permission, is by Revers Lab: www.facebook.com/reverslabart | www.instagram.com/revers_lab)
(This DŌVeS Blog post was written by Carl Scott.)