Most of the fad diets out there—such as the Paleo Diet, The Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Mediterranean Diet, and so on—are just that: diets. When you adopt one of the above programs, which I do not recommend, you simply have to change what is allowed to enter your mouth, and that’s it. You can still wear the same clothes, go to your favorite restaurants, and wash yourself with the same hygienic products you used pre-diet.
Veganism, in the broad sense, is not just a “diet” because it’s a lifestyle that reaches far beyond the plate. While the foundation of adopting a healthy, sustainable, and ethical vegan diet starts with food, it is not just focused on diet, as vegans do not use or support any form of animal product.
The use of animal parts has made its way into every nook and cranny of consumer culture and industrial production. Here are a few mainstream items that are often times not vegan: clothes (leather, down, wool, silk), hygienic products (shampoos, conditioner, soap), paintbrushes (horse hair), toothpaste (Crest and Sensodyne), and even mattresses can be made from animal products. Factory farms sell the nonedible remains of slaughtered animals to brands that use products such as leather, hair, wool, blood, and hooves. By wearing leather, for instance, you are contributing to the factory farming industry just as much as eating a burger.
There are also products that don’t contain animal parts in the item you purchase, but may have been tested on animals in the making of the item. Most conventional hygienic products and makeup have to go through rigorous legal testing to prove that the product is safe to apply to human skin. While there are many alternatives to testing this without the use of animals, the old school and barbaric system of animal testing is still the cheapest method and still very prevalent. So what does “animal testing” really look like?
I have had the disturbing experience of exposing myself to films such as Earthlings and Speciesism, which takes the viewer through the life of the over 60 billion confined land animals that are at the mercy of human abuse at any given time. Animals such as dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits, mice, and birds are strapped down in a laboratory as scientists expose the animals to the given hygienic product in the eyes, mouth, ears, nose, and even genitalia to watch the reaction. These animals have no escape from this slow torture, and often times die in the process.
Another interesting aspect of veganism off the plate has to do with raising our beloved companion animals. While dogs and cats are natural carnivores out in the wild, we have the choice to raise these animals vegan or not. I would argue that practicing a vegan lifestyle yourself but buying animal products for an animal you own is a violation of your own cruelty-free lifestyle. People have been raising domesticated dogs and cats for over 30 years on an entirely plant-based diet. There are even dog food brands, such as Natural Balance, that offer plant-based dog foods to the mainstream market. There are thousands of testimonials of dogs and cats living full, healthy lives fed on a 100 percent vegan diet.
There are even clothing and hygienic brands, such as New Balance, with vegan lines in addition to their conventional styles due to the demand for cruelty-free products. Going even further, there are now tons of brands that only offer vegan alternatives. Vegetarianshoes.com, for instance, is an awesome website that has mastered the fake leather look. Vegetarian Shoes sells high-quality designer boots, dress shoes, and sneakers made without any animal products whatsoever. Some more online vegan clothing and designer resources include MoosShoes, Tom Bihn, and Matt & Nat.
It is hard for a lot of people to transition to a vegan diet because food is emotional, and abruptly expelling a comfort food can be difficult. Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can begin off the plate, as you continue to educate yourself on other reasons to adopt a vegan diet as well.
Diets usually don’t work. By their nature, diets are temporary. You lose weight, quit the diet, and go back to eating the same way, returning back to the place you started. What is so great about lifestyle change is that the change happens for good. Veganism is not a phase or a fad; it is a way to achieve your health and fitness goals for the rest of your life, while also reducing your carbon footprint and practicing compassion.