What is Veganism?

“Veganism” means living in recognition of the fact that other animals are unique, individual sentient beings, with physical and psychological feelings, who are consciously aware of themselves and their world, and who have interests including an interest in their own lives. They have, therefore, the fundamental rights not to be used, owned or killed by humans. Vegans, therefore, avoid participation in exploitation of non-human animals for food, clothing, research, entertainment, labour or any other use, in so far as is possible and practicable. Many vegans also engage in animal rights advocacy and actively work to develop alternatives to animal use and promote public awareness of animal sentience and animal rights.

Non human animals are sentient and aware. When we hurt them, they feel it. There is hardly an exception to animal use that does not harm them and all animal use is unjustified and unfair.

The only hope for other animals is complete cessation of our use of them.  This defines veganism. The term ‘vegan’ came into being when the word was coined by Donald Watson and others, using the first and last letters of the word vegetarian. Veganism came to be defined 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.”

Being vegan entails becoming aware of all the ways in which we use others, and the harm that our use inflicts on them. Humans are also other animals; part of veganism is the acknowledgement of the connection between the exploitation and oppression of non-humans and that of humans.

Veganism is about equality, fairness and justice for everyone. However, the focus is on other animals because in terms of both numbers and degree to which we oppress and exploit them, the greatest injustice of non vegan living is inflicted on non humans.

When you choose to live vegan you tackle the issue of animal use at its core. The issue is not how we treat other animals while they are alive; it is that we breed them into this life for our use at all.

At its heart, veganism is about how we relate to others, ensuring that we live in ways that accord them the things we wish for ourselves, regardless of any perception of difference to them, or distance from them.

Sandra Higgins

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