Veganism is a 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.
What is veganism?
People become vegan because they care about animals. This means that in practice, they no longer use anything that comes from an animal. Vegans eat a 100% plant-based diet, wear shoes, accessories and clothing that are not made of animal skin or hair. Vegans use cosmetics, personal care and household products that are free of animal testing and ingredients. Vegans also chose forms of entertainment that do not use animals.
Because a vegan diet is healthy, tasty and nutritious, some people are motivated by health reasons. Others will be drawn to veganism for environmental reasons. As they learn more about veganism, they also learn about respect, justice and compassion for all sentient beings.
Speciesism and oppression
Each year around the world, billions of sentient beings are caged, mutilated, poisoned, trapped, tortured and killed so we can eat them, use them as clothing, entertainment, and as tools and “models” for dissection and vivisection, etc.
We do this not because we need to do so, but because we want to do so. The reason we do this is called Speciesism, which means discrimination towards members of other species. A speciesist mentality leads to a society in which humans feel superior to other animals and treat them merely as items of property – resources to be used as we wish. Rarely are their fundamental needs and their basic rights recognised and respected. Members of other species are seen to exist only to serve humans interests, the same way women were (and still are in some parts of the world) considered the property of men, or individuals of different colour, race, country, were regarded as the slaves of other humans (and still are in some parts of the world).
Because speciesism is deeply ingrained in the fabric of society, most of us have never really thought much, beyond the concerns of traditional animal welfare, about our use and treatment of other animals for our habits and interests.
What can we do to change this?
On a societal level, for things to change, humans have to realise that other animals live for their own reasons, they are not things or slaves to be used and disposed of as means to our ends. They are sentient beings who have the same ability as humans to experience pleasure and pain, and suffer from boredom and deprivation. They have their own personalities, likes and dislikes and most importantly, an interest in pursuing their lives, just like we do.
Veganism is an ethical position against all forms of oppression inflicted upon any sentient being. A vegan will, then, be opposed as much to speciesism as to racism, sexism, ageism, classism, etc, since all forms of oppression have the same roots: “prejudice, ignorance, and generational transmission through the institutions of society.”
If you believe that it is wrong to force animals into lives of servitudes for humans interests, by becoming a vegan, you will help create a social structure based on respect, justice and compassion for all sentient beings. Only with a greater number of vegans can the recognition of animal rights issues be brought up on a global scale.