QUESTION: What is the exact definition of veganism?
This isn't the first question people usually ask when I tell someone that I am a vegan, but it should be. They usually ask, ''Are you healthy'' or ''Where do you get your protein?'' That sometimes gets us off on the wrong foot. It's much better if we can define something first, then it's much easier to discuss it, and explain it.
Let's start with the standard definition. Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and with it, an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.
Sometimes, a vegan may further explain that they are an 'ethical vegan', also known as a "moral vegetarian". This is someone who not only follows a vegan diet, but extends their philosophy to other areas of their life, and opposes the use of animals for any purpose. Increasingly, however, it is becoming understood that being a vegan means that we eschew all forms of animal use and abuse, making veganism an ideology or belief system. (See Beyond Carnism)
The standard encyclopedic definition can be a bit boring and even confusing so I will answer this way:
There can, and are many different ways to live a vegan life. But, the one thing ALL vegans have in common is a plant-based diet that avoids ALL animal foods like meat fish, shellfish and insects. We also exclude dairy, eggs and honey. AND (this can be overlooked especially in some plant-based circles) we reject animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.
In short, a vegan is one who strictly adheres to the Golden Rule, applying that tenet to all living creatures -- our neighbors.
Michael Corthell, The Village Vegan
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