Everything You Need to Know About Veganism

Have you thought about veganism, but don’t quite understand what it is or what it involves? The experts from the Vegan Society explain    

What is the definition of Veganism?

“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.” Definition of Veganism – The Vegan Society

Is Veganism just a dietary choice, or a lifestyle?

As defined above, veganism extends beyond diet to avoid the use of animals as far as possible and practicable for food, clothing or any other purpose. This might mean refraining from wearing animal materials such as leather or wool, avoiding animal entertainment such as zoos and aquariums, and not using animal tested beauty products, including those containing ingredients derived from animals such as beeswax or shellac. The Vegan Society’s latest campaign Conscious Choices emphasises the fact that veganism is more than diet, and compassion to animals can be shown in all areas on your life.

What are the health and environmental benefits of Veganism?

Vegan diets provide an opportunity to explore a variety of plant foods, helping us to eat less saturated fat, and more fibre and healthy unsaturated fats. This is why vegan diets have been associated with lower risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, diverticular disease and certain cancers. The Office of Health Economics recently estimated that a global shift to vegan diets could reduce NHS expenditure by £6.7 billion per year, reducing early deaths from non-communicable diseases and gaining more than 170,000 quality-adjusted life years across the population.

In terms of the environment, research from Oxford University concluded that moving from current diets globally to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential; reducing food’s land use by 76% and greenhouse gas emissions by 49%.


What would be the elements of a balanced vegan diet?

A well-planned vegan diet centres around a variety of whole foods such as nuts and seeds, beans, pulses, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables, with the addition of fortified foods and selective supplementation to obtain all the nutrients we need. Anyone transitioning to a vegan diet should focus on making smart nutritional swaps, for example replacing meat with good quality plant sources of protein such as beans, lentils and tofu, and replacing dairy with calcium-fortified alternatives. The Vegan Eatwell Guide provides a visual format of a balanced vegan diet.

Is there anything missing from a Vegan diet which can be obtained from supplements?

There are a few nutrients that deserve attention in vegan diets, as are less abundant in plant foods. These are iodine, selenium and vitamin B12. Plants do not require iodine or selenium for growth, except for Brazil nuts which provide a rich plant-based source of selenium, and supplementation is the most reliable option to obtain these nutrients. Vitamin B12 is not produced by plants and supplementation or fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, plant-based dairy alternatives and nutritional yeast are the only reliable sources for vegans. The government also recommends that everyone in the UK take a vitamin D supplement between October to March as a minimum due to the lack of sunlight during these months, which this is not specific to vegans.

Is Veganism suitable for all age groups and conditions? 

Well-planned vegan diets support healthy living across the life span, a message that is supported by the British Dietetic Association. As with any diet, nutritional planning is key, and The Vegan Society provide helpful nutritional guidance for every life stage.


What is the Vegan attitude to conventional medicines?

“The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable to avoid animal use in a non-vegan world. Sometimes, you may have no alternative to medication manufactured using animal products. Even if other medications are available, they may be less effective, have more side effects or be unsuitable for your healthcare needs. While it can be upsetting to compromise our vegan beliefs, we encourage vegans to look after their health and that of others, enabling them to be effective advocates for veganism.” For more information about medication, you can go to Medications – The Vegan Society

What is the 30-Day Vegan Pledge?

The 30 day vegan pledge supports anyone to go vegan in 30 days whilst receiving advice on all aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle along the way. People can sign up via email and can also download the VeGuide app for daily videos and tips over the 30 days to help you go vegan.

The Vegan Society also run an environmental campaign Plate Up for the Planet, introducing ‘one little switch’ at a time whilst showing you the environmental benefit of making small sustainable changes.

What’s the story behind Veganism and the Vegan Society?

The Vegan Society was established in England 1944 by carpenter Donald Watson and five other members of The Vegetarian Society who ethically opposed the farming of animals, and use of their eggs, milk and bodies.  They coined the term ‘vegan’, building on long religious and Indigenous traditions, teaching ethical relationships with non-human animals & our shared world.

As The Vegan Society approaches its 80th anniversary this year, we celebrate the growth of the movement, and the increasing acceptance that we can live happily and healthily without eating animals.


Where can I find out more about the Vegan Society?

You can find out more about The Vegan Society including how to become a member, update your knowledge from our news, blogs, research and statistics pages and read all about our campaign and policy work by visiting our website vegansociety.com.

For more information about vegan nutrition, you can go to vegansociety.com/nutrition.

Any queries can be directed to info@vegansociety.com

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