What is a Vegan? (Vegucation 101)

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Since I’ve been writing for this blog, I’ve made the wrong assumption that everyone knows what a vegan is and what vegans can or can’t eat.

During my time as a vegan, I’ve had a handful of people skiddishly say to me, “Uh, I don’t know what you can eat here,” “Can you eat XYZ?” or “Is this vegan?” without really knowing the definition of veganism.

No one is at fault for that; the term “vegan” was coined in 1944 and has only become a more mainstream practice over the last 10-20 years.

So, it dawned on me, it’s time to talk vegucation 101 for those who are either clueless on what veganism is or for the people out there who may need a refresher.  Personally, I completely understand the confusion.

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There was a time when I couldn’t tell the difference between paleo, gluten free, vegan, pescatarian, lacto-ovo, or ketogenic diets.  There are so many parameters, restrictions, stipulations, and allergies associated that I was just glad I could eat anything I wanted (bar a few dairy-induced stomach aches).

After vegucating myself on veganism and committing myself to the lifestyle, I’ve become much more familiar with different eating habits and choices.

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Okay, let’s get into it.

According to the Webster Dictionary, the definition of vegan is:

a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals

also: one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)

If you’re curious how the word vegan was developed, it is essentially the shortening of the word vegetarian.  A group of individuals who wanted to differentiate themselves from vegetarians (people who consume the byproducts of animals) as a group of people who abstained from the consumption of any animal products whatsoever decided in 1944 that they needed a name for their community.  Consequently, the word vegan and the concept of veganism were born. 

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According to Healthline, “veganism was originally defined as ‘the principle of emancipation of animals from exploitation by man,’” which means vegans commit to a life free of exploiting animals for food, fashion, beauty products, decoration, entertainment, or anything other than what is intended for their natural life.

Since the inception of mankind, cows, pigs, chickens, fish, sheep, whales, rhinoceroses, elephants, horses, dogs, cats, buffalo, crocodiles, deer, turkeys, sharks, clams, snails, rabbits, minks, bats, silkworms, bees, tigers, lions, rats, mice, octopuses, and many more animals have been used, exploited, and/or forcefully reproduced for our benefit, some to the point of extinction.

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Evolving from basic survival needs to total overconsumption and abuse, our history of animal exploitation has increased dramatically as a people in the last few centuries.  Vegans are the minority group of humans who have committed to a life abstaining from such actions.

Here are a few basic vegan questions I have been asked before along with their answers:

If not eating meat, fish, dairy, or poultry, what do vegans consume?

A vegan diet is a plant-based diet, meaning vegans get their nutritional sustenance completely from plants, nuts, seeds, grains, and starches.

Do vegans get enough protein in their diets?

This is one of the most common questions asked by non-vegans; it is also the most common misconception that vegans are protein deficient.All proteins derive from plants, thus, when meat eaters consume an animal, they are getting a plant protein in secondary form (that was one of the craziest facts I learned when I went vegan).Vegans get their protein from most of the food they eat (see the previous question).

How can you tell if something is vegan?

If it isn’t obvious like a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cheeseburger, I generally read the nutrition label or ask the person who has prepared the food if there are any animal products in it.  By law, food manufacturers are required to note if something contains an allergen or animal product or if it has been produced on the premises of these things.

To summarize, vegans don’t eat/use/wear anything that comes from an animal and do eat/use/wear things that come from plants in their stead.


Is there anything else about being vegan that you want to know?What other questions do you have?Tell me below!

Kelsey PowellComment