Vegan Australia receives lots of queries about veganism from students and other interested people. Below we answer some of the most common questions we hear.
- What is veganism?
- What is a vegan?
- Can a vegan diet be nutritionally healthy?
- What are the effects of a balanced vegan diet on human health?
- What are the effects of animal production and consumption on the human mind?
- How does animal agriculture affect the environment?
- What are some of the main benefits of living a vegan lifestyle?
- What are some tips for non-vegans who are wanting to try being vegan?
- What foods are richest in protein/iron/fibre/calcium?
- Can everyone can be vegan, even if they have health issues?
- Do you think being vegan is becoming a lot more popular because of social media?
- Is the way the vegan lifestyle portrayed in the media the same as it actually is?
- Is the life of an animal just as important as a human's?
What is veganism?
Veganism is 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". In other words, veganism is the idea that we should avoid unnecessary suffering of animals, as much as possible. Whenever we have a choice to avoid harming animals, we should do so.
Veganism is the understanding that animals: value their own lives and bodies; have an interest in continuing their existence, avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure; and have the right to be treated with respect and justice and not as commodities or property.
Find out more about why animals matter.
What is a vegan?
A vegan is someone who actively strives to bring about a world where animals are not used by humans for food, clothing, entertainment or any other purpose. Vegans put this into practice in their daily lives by eating a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds and other plant foods and by not wearing or using any animal products.
Some people use 'vegan' to describe someone who eats a plant-based diet. Veganism is much more than that - it means respecting animals by not using them in any way.
Can a vegan diet be nutritionally healthy?
Yes. Vegan diets can be healthy and nutritionally adequate and are appropriate for individuals of all ages, supplying all essential nutrients. This is confirmed by Australia's top health body in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. You can find a short summary in our media release "Government recognises vegan diet as viable option for all Australians".
The only nutrient that must be obtained by supplementing is Vitamin B12. This can be obtained either using supplements or eating foods fortified with B12. For more information, see "What every vegan should know about B12".
What are the effects of a balanced vegan diet on human health?
Eating a balanced, whole food vegan diet can be very beneficial to your health and could help you live a longer, healthier life and significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to many of the serious health threats facing Australians today, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and diabetes.
Find out more about why an increasing number of nutritionists and health professionals are acknowledging that animal products are harmful to our health.
What are the effects of animal production and consumption on the human mind?
There are many ways that animal use negatively affects society and the human mind.
The massive scale of producing and consuming countless tortured animals every day requires the desensitisation of billions of children and adults around the world. This in turn sows the seeds of human violence, war, poverty and despair. Read this short extract from the book "The World Peace Diet".
Also see articles on the link between animal rights and human rights, the mental distress of slaughterhouse workers, the cognitive dissonance of meat eaters and how fruit and veggies can make you happier.
How does animal agriculture affect the environment?
The havoc caused to the world environment by the billions of animals we raise and kill for food each year is huge. The U.N. has identified animal agriculture as 'one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems', including global warming, loss of fresh water, rainforest destruction, spreading deserts, air and water pollution, acid rain, soil erosion and loss of habitat. Vast areas of forest are cleared to grow crops to feed farmed animals. The methane produced by these animals is the largest single cause of global warming, larger than all transport worldwide. Large quantities of excrement produced by animal industries leak into rivers and oceans as pollution.
Read more about how to help the environment and how animal agriculture is a major cause of global warming. Other topics on how animal agriculture damages the environment include: land clearing for animal agriculture kills native animals, the Great Barrier Reef, climate change (submission) and case for phasing out animal agriculture (submission).
What are some of the main benefits of living a vegan lifestyle?
The main benefit of veganism is the reduction in suffering of farmed animals. Each person who becomes vegan saves hundreds of animals from short, painful lives. Other benefits include reducing green house gas emissions, improving other environmental problems and making the world a fairer place by reducing the grain fed to animals thus making it more available to the millions of starving people. There are also health benefits for people who eat balanced vegan diets, including a reduction in the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
Veganism is good for animals, good for the environment and good for us.
What are some tips for non-vegans who are wanting to try being vegan?
What foods are richest in protein/iron/fibre/calcium?
You don't need to worry too much about individual nutrients as long as you are eating a wide variety of nutritious foods from the four food groups as given in the Australian Dietary Guidelines:
- fruits and vegetables
- wholegrain cereals
- tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans
- dairy alternatives
Find out more about vegan nutrition.
Can everyone can be vegan, even if they have health issues?
Do you think being vegan is becoming a lot more popular because of social media?
Yes. Before social media, it was more difficult for people to hear about veganism, especially about how much animals suffer in the animal agriculture industry. But now new vegans often talk about what they have learned on social media which then inspires others to find out more. Also, vegan groups on Facebook are multiplying very quickly with numbers growing all the time.
Is the way the vegan lifestyle portrayed in the media the same as it actually is?
There are many kinds of vegans, some even top athletes, sports stars and celebrities. The media often describes vegans as compassionate, caring people. Of course, sometimes low grade media falls back on incorrect stereotypes, such as vegans being weak and pasty, or violent and extreme. If you hear that, then you know the 'journalist' did not do their research.
Is the life of an animal just as important as a human's?
Whatever we may think about this question, it is not a requirement of veganism. We don't need to assume it to be true to know that animals can suffer, which is the important similarity between humans and non-human animals. If we could live happy and health lives without harming others, why wouldn't we?