What Is A Vegan?

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Bill Clinton announced that he has become a vegan. Veganism is the personal practice of eliminating the use of non-human animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans or strict vegetarians eliminate them from their diet only.

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The term “vegan” was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”; the society also opposed the use of eggs as food.[2] It extended its definition in 1951 to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals,” and in 1960 H. Jay Dinshah started the American Vegan Society, linking veganism to the Jainist concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living things.

It is a small but growing movement. In 1997 three percent in the U.S. said they had not used animals for any purpose in the previous two years, and in 2007 two percent in the UK called themselves vegans.The number of vegan restaurants is increasing, and according to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (2007) the top athletes in certain endurance sports—for instance, the Ironman triathlon and the Ultramarathon—practise raw veganism. Well-planned vegan diets have been found to offer protection against many degenerative conditions, including heart disease. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada regard such a diet as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle, though they caution that poorly planned vegan diets can be deficient in vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids.

The word “vegetarian” seems to have come into use in England in the early 19th century; The Oxford English Dictionary attributes one early reference to the actress Fanny Kemble (1809–1893) writing in 1839. The British Vegetarian Society, led by Joseph Brotherton (1783–1857), held its first meeting on September 30, 1847 at Northwood Villa in Ramsgate, Kent, and in 1886 the society published the influential A Plea for Vegetarianism by the English campaigner Henry Salt (1851–1939)—widely known as the first writer to make the paradigm shift from animal welfare to animal rights. In it, Salt acknowledged that he was a vegetarian, writing that this was a “formidable admission” to make, because “a Vegetarian is still regarded, in ordinary society, as little better than a madman.”

Ethical vegans entirely reject the commodification of animals. The Vegan Society in the UK will only certify a product as vegan if it is free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical. An animal product is any material derived from animals, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Other commonly used animal products are beeswax, bone char, bone china, carmine, casein, cochineal, gelatin, isinglass, lanolin, lard, rennet, shellac, tallow, whey, and yellow grease. Many of these may not be identified in the list of ingredients in the finished product.

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