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BALL OF CONFUSION: The problem with reducing ‘veganism’ to a lifestyle

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The way we talk about veganism in the media must change. There needs to be a distinction made between veganism and a plant-based diet. Veganism does not exist to make sure people have perfectly thin bodies; it is a way to take care of our planet and all of the creatures on it.

OLGA ALEXANDRU: Merriam-Webster defines “lifestyle” as “the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.” By this definition, people who are vegan are following a vegan lifestyle. Their way of life includes abstaining from eating, wearing or using any animal products whenever possible. These two definitions seem compatible with each other. But there is a lot that gets lost when we reduce veganism to just a lifestyle.

People go vegan for many reasons, the most popular ones including concerns for the environment, animals and personal health. Vegans want to reduce their carbon footprint on the planet while ensuring that animals don’t have to suffer all while trying to maintain optimum health. But often, in the media, the most sensational aspects of veganism are highlighted. We see dramatic weight loss stories or rapid increases of energy brought about by veganism, but nowhere is animal welfare or the environmental impact mentioned. The problem with this, besides the inherent fatphobia, is that when veganism is just seen as a way to lose weight or gain energy, it makes it easier for people to give up if or when they don’t get those dramatic results.

Caring for the environment and animals isn’t something we can just chop and change our opinions on. These are fundamental beliefs and practices that should not be seen as the positive side effect of a weight-loss diet. When veganism is reduced to a lifestyle, it becomes a fad diet that is divorced from its original intention. This mentality also leads to ex-vegans coming out against veganism after it didn’t “work” for them. They, and the media reporting on it, miss the point of veganism. There is nothing for it to “work” on… Veganism does not exist to make sure people have perfectly thin bodies; it is a way to take care of our planet and all of the creatures on it.

So what’s the solution? The key is more education. The way we talk about veganism in the media must change. There needs to be a distinction made between veganism and a plant-based diet. “Plant-based” describes only what you eat, whereas “vegan” describes how you live your life. Not all people who are plant-based are vegan, but all vegans are plant-based. Confusing, right? It’s easy to understand why the people following these diets get it wrong, let alone mainstream media.

Plant-based people will eat vegan food… Vegans, on the other hand, will not eat, wear or use any products that contain animal products or cause any harm to animals in the process of making them. There are obvious exceptions… They will do their best to avoid products that have been tested on animals… This is why language matters… When we reduce veganism to a lifestyle, all of its most important tenets are forgotten. Animal welfare takes a backseat to weight loss or energy gain. Environmental concerns are brushed aside. The way we talk about veganism to each other and in the media is important because it’s not just words at stake — it’s our planet. SOURCE…

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