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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There were a couple of old threads on the subject, but as time passes, words change their meaning apparently, so I thought it would make sense to start a new thread.

How do you define veganism? Is dietary veganism a type of veganism, or simply a misnomer? Is the ethical component always a requirement for any definition of veganism?

How is veganism defined by relevant organisations in your country, or in other countries whose language you understand? Are you frustrated with definitions given by others such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, news media, cookbooks etc?
 

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Veganism =

a conscious commitment to avoiding animal products in all aspects of your life, with understandable exceptions that are decided by the linguistic community of people who identify as vegans. Examples of such exceptions: products that are central to functioning well in society and for which there are no feasible alternatives (transportation, computers, medication).
 

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According to the French vegan society (http://www.societevegane.fr/) :

VÃGANE [ v e g a n ] nom et adjectif - de l'anglais vegan [ˈ  v i ː g ə n ] (1944)
Remarque : les graphies vegan et végan sont couramment employées.
(Personne) qui essaie de vivre sans exploiter les animaux, pour les animaux, les humains et la planète.
Concrètement, elle exclut tous les produits d'origine animale de son alimentation (viande, poisson, coquillages, lait, œufs ou miel entre autres). Elle les évite aussi pour se vêtir (fourrure, cuir, laine, soie, plumes) ainsi qu'Ã* toute autre fin (cosmétiques, loisirs, etc.)*.
ie

(Person) who tries to live without exploiting animals, for animals, humans and the planet.
Practically, they exclude all products from an animal origin (meat, fish, shellfish, mil, eggs or honey, etc.). They also avoid them for clothing (fur, leather, wool, silk, feathers) as well as for any other purposes (cosmetic, entertainment, etc.)

I like the definition because is says we do our best to avoid, but can't always succeed in avoiding. Unfortunately, nothing is said about ethics, wich is a bit of a shame. It doesn't hint at any reasons why people are vegans.

In French, we have "végétarien" = vegetarian (ie not meat, fish, shellfish, but eggs and dairy), "végétalien"= dietary vegan (no meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy, but use of animal product for clothing, cosmetics...) and a new term, "végan"= dietary vegan who avoids animal by products in clothing, cosmetic and wherever there are used (basically, your "vegan").

So it's a bit clearer in French, at least officially. Vegan encompasses everything, végétalien = dietary vegan.
But that's how it's defined by the French Vegan Society, how it's used among veg*ans, but as it's brand new and hasn't reach mainstream yet, in most people's mind, végétalien is used to describe "proper" vegans as well as dietary vegans.

I'm fine with how things are defined in dictionaries, because it allows to say : no, if you it fish, you are NOT vegetarian !!!!
 

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Originally Posted by Indian Summer View Post

There were a couple of old threads on the subject, but as time passes, words change their meaning apparently, so I thought it would make sense to start a new thread.

How do you define veganism? Is dietary veganism a type of veganism, or simply a misnomer? Is the ethical component always a requirement for any definition of veganism?

How is veganism defined by relevant organisations in your country, or in other countries whose language you understand? Are you frustrated with definitions given by others such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, news media, cookbooks etc?
My definition of veganism is the same as the original one by Donald Watson, who coined the term vegan in 1944:

a philosophy and way of living which seeks to excludeas far as is possible and practicalall 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 humans, animals and the environment.

I think it's just a beautiful definition. There are two things I love about this definition. The first is that it includes all animalsboth human and nonhumanin its scope. The other is that it makes it clear that it isnt about me or you, and it isnt about perfection or some unobtainable level of purity. Its simply about doing what you can to reduce unnecessary suffering.

Veganism touches every aspect of one's life, not just the diet; so someone can eat a vegan diet and not be vegan. I do believe that someone can be vegan for non-ethical reasons (health, environment, or anything else). Whatever the reason for choosing a vegan lifestyle, unnecessary suffering is still reduced.
 

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I define it based on actions, not motivations. A vegan is someone who avoids animal products. I don't care why they do it (the animals don't care either). If they do it for AR reasons, cool. But if they do it For some other reason that's cool too.
 

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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

Veganism =

a conscious commitment to avoiding animal products in all aspects of your life, with understandable exceptions that are decided by the linguistic community of people who identify as vegans. Examples of such exceptions: products that are central to functioning well in society and for which there are no feasible alternatives (transportation, computers, medication).
I agree with this.
 

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"Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose."

http://www.vegansociety.com/about/who-we-are.aspx

I would consider the Vegan Society to be the most authoritative power in terms of what "vegan" actually means, since, you know, they founded the word in the first place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In Norway Vegansamfunnet (which means The Vegan Society) has this to say about veganism:
"Veganism is based on non-violence and respect for life, and rejects exploitation of all creatures. Vegans thus live in a way that don't harm or exploit animals. Veganism is an ethically founded and implemented vegetarianism."

(They also mention the Vegan Society (UK) definition.)

In Sweden Veganföreningen (which also means The Vegan Society) defines veganism as:
"Veganism can be described as a way of living that attempts to avoid cruelty to animals and exploitation of animals for food, clothing and other purposes."

The Danish equivalent, Anima, seems to be in hibernation and don't seem to have a definition on their web site.

However, the German society, Veganen Gesellschaft Deutschland, says:
"Common to all vegans is the avoidance of animal foods like meat, fish, milk, eggs and honey. Ethically motivated vegans give up not only animal foods, but they also as far as possible give up other products that cause animals to suffer from their production (e.g. clothing from wool, leather and silk)." (thanks Google!)

So it would seem the Germans would consider everyone following a vegan diet to be vegans. Funny how once clearly defined terms can change meaning like that!
 

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You guys already know where I stand on this. The whole utilitarian thing. It's actually really close to Donald Watson's original definition, more so than these weird hard line definitions including huge lists that so many modern vegans use. And like Elaine said, the animals don't need us to be right or pure. They need us to be effective. When I make purchase decisions I keep in mind where the most suffering is, and what tangible and sustainable efforts I can take every day to help reduce that. The slaughter industry wouldn't be sustained by buying white sugar, for instance. They don't kill animals for that specific purpose. You could make a decent argument for avoiding white sugar that doesn't pertain to animal rights, sure. If you were gonna avoid every little thing that might lead to some animal deaths on some level you wouldn't even be able to live or breathe.

So I keep all that in mind to stay sane and to stay focused. To me veganism is a means to an end. It's not an end or a virtue in and of itself. There's nothing inherently moral about eating plants. The morality comes in where you can effectively support as little cruelty as plausible in your day to day life, especially in a sustainable way that can last your entire life. All the better if you find your niche and are able to and comfortable with actually promoting this type of lifestyle to others. That's why I personally feel compelled to contribute in a small way towards raising awareness about animal issues. It's certainly not a prerequisite of veganism to support a group like the Gentle Barn or Mercy For Animals, but if you do it for any kind of ethical reason there's some really damn good organizations out there that do good work effectively educating people about animal issues. There's something for everybody and they each have their own style. I think advocacy is crucial. I'm not a super activist person or anything. I really only leaflet, and only two or three times a year on average at that. But I feel like if I make a difference in one person's opinion every time I go out, that's really accomplishing something. Who knows what kind of ripple that can create? Any reasons I had for being vegan would be effectively doubled or even multiplied if that person goes on to be an effective voice. My personal veganism is about how my actions affect the world around me. It's a personal choice with inter-personal implications. Therefore to me, I feel that even if I eat white sugar sometimes or don't always memorize lists of enzymes in bread, I can help spare just as many or more animals as super vegan level 5's who don't step on their own shadow or whatever they avoid. So I'm content with myself.
 

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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

I define it based on actions, not motivations. A vegan is someone who avoids animal products.
If veganism is to be defined based on action without ethical motivation, I am no longer interested in defining myself as one. My self identity does not revolve around my consumer habits, but around my deepest philosophical and moral beliefs. I behave as I do for the good of other animals. However, I identify as vegan in order to find other people who shared my values and my reverence for life.

If someone who refrains from eating eggs and dairy for health reasons, and refrains from using wool because they are allergic ( sorry I am having a hard time thinking of a reason why a person would refuse to wear leather or silk for health reasons), and identifies themselves as vegan, this renders the term meaningless to me. Yeah, great for the animals, as long as the phase lasts, but not the kind of person I would have anything in common with or want to connect to as someone who understands and shares my views on life.

I used to think the term "vegan" would serve the purpose of enabling me to find like minded people, but if it is to be watered down this far there is not much point in using it. Seems like it has become more of a trophy or a status word to be rewarded with when you conform to vegan practice, without understanding the one reason why everyone should be vegan. The goal shouldn't be to earn yourself a vegan label. It should simply follow from holding the value of respecting the autonomy of all animals.
 

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Originally Posted by SomebodyElse View Post

If veganism is to be defined based on action without ethical motivation, I am no longer interested in defining myself as one. My self identity does not revolve around my consumer habits, but around my deepest philosophical and moral beliefs. I behave as I do for the good of other animals. However, I identify as vegan in order to find other people who shared my values and my reverence for life.

If someone who refrains from eating eggs and dairy for health reasons, and refrains from using wool because they are allergic ( sorry I am having a hard time thinking of a reason why a person would refuse to wear leather or silk for health reasons), and identifies themselves as vegan, this renders the term meaningless to me. Yeah, great for the animals, as long as the phase lasts, but not the kind of person I would have anything in common with or want to connect to as someone who understands and shares my views on life.

I used to think the term "vegan" would serve the purpose of enabling me to find like minded people, but if it is to be watered down this far there is not much point in using it. Seems like it has become more of a trophy or a status word to be rewarded with when you conform to vegan practice, without understanding the one reason why everyone should be vegan. The goal shouldn't be to earn yourself a vegan label. It should simply follow from holding the value of respecting the autonomy of all animals.
I don't feel much connection to someone who's veg*n-whatever for purely health or selfish reasons either. But if I want to seek ethically/philosophically like-minded people, I can identify myself as someone who believes in animal rights. But of course, even 'animal rights' means different things to different people.

But then, even among people who are vegans for general philosophical reasons that have to do with animal exploitation, I find I may not be able to relate to them and I may have disagreements with them.

So, to me, the only way to truly become acquainted with anyone sharing my ethical views is to get to know people as individuals.
 

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I find the word Vegan quite unappealing/unattractive sounding. Sounds like some weird praying mantis looking type humanoid beings from star trek that can only exist by sucking the life out of other beings, but maybe that's just me.

Really only useful for quick reassurance on food packages to see if I can eat it.

Definition should be less than 2 sentences. Nobody has time for more.

Like-minded is too important, that one word could ever sum it up.
 

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Originally Posted by Empty_Shell View Post

Sounds like some weird praying mantis looking type humanoid beings
I don't know why you feel the need to single me out in this way, but whatever rocks your boat dude.
 

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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

I define it based on actions, not motivations. A vegan is someone who avoids animal products. I don't care why they do it (the animals don't care either). If they do it for AR reasons, cool. But if they do it For some other reason that's cool too.
I agree that the animals don't care either. If someone totally avoids all animal products I'd be comfortable calling them vegan whatever their motivations may be.

However, I can't imagine why a person would exclude all animal products if it weren't for AR reasons. Even if a person eats a totally vegan diet for health reasons and avoids wool because it's itchy, would they go out of their way to find truly vegan shoes and avoid products tested on animals or containing animal byproducts like gelatin for their own reasons? That seems unlikely. The vegan philosophy of excluding all animals products as much as possible is pretty wrapped up in AR. While it's possible someone could come up with their own unrelated reasons for avoiding all animal products it seems unlikely to me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

But then, even among people who are vegans for general philosophical reasons that have to do with animal exploitation, I find I may not be able to relate to them and I may have disagreements with them.
You may, but I believe statistically your chances of finding someone with compatible opinions/convictions is greater when you're e.g. in a forum with other vegans than if you're in a forum of people who eat a vegan diet (assuming same number of members).
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

Veganism =

a conscious commitment to avoiding animal products in all aspects of your life, with understandable exceptions that are decided by the linguistic community of people who identify as vegans. Examples of such exceptions: products that are central to functioning well in society and for which there are no feasible alternatives (transportation, computers, medication).
Quote:
Originally Posted by thevegancrew View Post

a philosophy and way of living which seeks to excludeas far as is possible and practicalall 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 humans, animals and the environment.


These two say it all, in my opinion, because they don't just say we don't use animal products, but rather why we don't use them.
 

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Originally Posted by SomebodyElse View Post

I identify as vegan in order to find other people who shared my values and my reverence for life.
Would you grant that identity is a complex thing that doesn't mean the same thing to everyone?

For example, the term "woman" means something slightly different to different people. Some people include only the humans who have female chromosomes, hormones, and genetalia wereas others also include anyone who self-identifies as "woman" regardless of whether they have those characteristics or not.

Another example: I identify as white American because it describes me and because it explains some of my privilege and heritage. Others might identify as white American for entirely different (racist and xenophobic) reasons. Does that mean I'm not a white American or that I should stop identifying as such?

The reasons that you choose your identity labels are not necessarily good reasons for others to choose the same labels. Personally, I identify as vegan because it describes my actions. It helps people accomodate and understand me. Having met lots of other people who also identify as vegan, however, I can assure you that the vegan label does not assure that someone shares my values and "reverence for life."
 

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I have met a person who was a hunter, but ate a 100% vegan diet for health reasons.

I also know people who believe that everyone is morally required to go vegan, but who themselves still eat meat because they just "don't have the willpower".
 

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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

Would you grant that identity is a complex thing that doesn't mean the same thing to everyone?
I think there is, and should be, a limit to this. I could go around identifying as Chinese til the cows come home. I'd have to be an idiot to expect real Chinese people to accept my claims though.
 

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I am not a vegan, but I do have some problems with the absolutism in some of this discussion.

For example, Joanne Stepaniak has counseled people who have converted to veganism that they can still use their leather shoes, etc., until they wear out. She would not be a vegan under many of the definitions given here.

Erik Marcus (and Peta) have supported things like McDonald's VeggieBurger, which has a small amount of egg in the bun, on the grounds that the success of this product will help reduce animal suffering overall. Erik would not be a vegan under many of the definitions given here.

I would consider both Joanne and Erik to be vegans. But I'm speaking as a non-vegan.
 
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