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Vegetarian Essays/Vegan Essays


Vegetarians in Paradise regularly presents informative articles by guest contributors on subjects of interest to vegetarians and vegans. This month we feature a commentary by M. Butterflies Katz who is the co-author of Incredibly Delicious: the Vegan Paradigm Cookbook published by Gentle World.


Elevating Our Veganism
By Redefining the Word "Vegan"

By M. Butterflies Katz

I imagine that there were people who understood the "Vegan Concept" long before the actual word vegan was invented in 1944 by Donald Watson of The Vegan Society. My 1988 fattest dictionary known to man does not include the definition of the word at all. My 1987 Webster's dictionary defines the word vegan like this: "(1944) a strict vegetarian: one that consumes no animal food or dairy products." The World Net Dictionary on-line defines the word like this: "A strict vegetarian; someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all." A friend's updated Webster dictionary defined the word as 'A vegetarian who includes no animal products in the diet."

It's the year 2005 and veganism is more alive than ever before and spreading internationally. For a quarter of a century, I've been a proud and committed vegan and have literally watched the growth and blossoming of the inspired vegan message. I believe we should now update the meaning and raise the standard of the word in dictionaries (as well as in our lives) to:

vegan (vee-gun) 1. One who does not eat animals or animal by-products, wear items made of animal skins or use any products that contain animal ingredients or that were tested on animals 2. Does not support industries that exploit animals 3. Does not profit or benefit from cruelty to animals.

M. Katz It is virtually impossible to be completely vegan in this "non-vegan world," with animal derivatives in many practices and products of our everyday lives. For example, animal products may be found in the following:

  • glues used for furniture making and binding books
  • plastics
  • rubber
  • paper containers and cardboard
  • cellophane
  • wax paper
  • ink
  • plywood and drywall as well as the insulation for the walls
  • ceramic tiles
  • foam rubber
  • laundry detergents and fabric softeners
  • refrigerators and air conditioners using Freon, a cooling agent that reportedly contains a derivative from animal fat
  • disinfectants
  • household cleaners and polishes
  • asphalt, concrete blocks
  • steel in trains and planes
  • fire extinguishers
  • brake fluid anti-freeze
  • tires
  • all sorts of mechanical machinery

Less obvious ways animal products are used in clothing is in the buttons and the dye to color the material. Most contraceptives are not vegan. Gelatin helps golf balls roll straight. Animal ingredients may be used to make computers and photocopiers work. Also they are used in making the electrical circuitry and in the ink toners to print. Steel ball bearings and lubricants contain animal products that help machines run smoothly. As overwhelming as the above list is, here is a list of things we CAN realistically do to bring us closer to the "Vegan Ideal."

  1. Elevate our understanding of veganism to embrace a compassion for ALL who live; knowing it to be "A Great Truth" that can heal our ailing planet and set the whole world free.
  2. Be a guardian and protector of animals. Gently escort insects and birds out of dwellings, find homes for abandoned dogs, protect animals from hunters, help a turtle cross the road by carrying him (in the direction he's headed) out of harm's way.
  3. Feed pet dogs a balanced vegan diet, which they thrive on. (See Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm by Gentle World for instructions on how to feed your dog vegan.) Replace a bone for chewing with a SAFE hard stick or a synthetic/plant-based alternative.
  4. Do not feed cats meat. If you let a cat outside, it will instinctively hunt and there is no stopping it, except by keeping the cat indoors. They can, reportedly, under these circumstances be fed a vegan diet. A considerable amount of care and caution is involved. Cats are metabolically carnivores, whereas a dog is metabolically omnivore. Some vegans choose not to live with cats in order to avoid feeding them animal products. To feed cats a balanced vegan diet, see the following web sites:
  5. Don't feed pet rabbits (or other natural vegan animals) store-bought pellet mixes that contain animal derived vitamins, whey, etc. Instead, feed them the green vegetables, hay, vegan kibble, sprouts, and other foods that species needs.
  6. Read labels and make phone calls to companies to verify the source of ingredients.
  7. Use Have-Heart-traps (purchased on-line by mail order catalogs) to catch unwanted rodents and relocate them to an appropriate location.
  8. Use synthetic art brushes to replace sable bristles. Alter drums and other musical instruments to free them of leather, catgut and other animal by-products. Don't use sporting goods made with leather.
  9. Eliminate white refined sugar that has been processed through bone charcoal, as well as honey that has been taken from bees. There are many plant-based alternative sweeteners such as organic evaporated cane juice that is much more healthy.
  10. The new paradigm vegan may even attempt growing his/her own food, '"veganically" without bloodmeal and bonemeal, fishmeal, animal sludge or manure sourced from the exploitation of animals. Instead he/she will use plant-based compost and mulch, rock dusts, crop rotation, nitrogen-fixing cover crops, and other non-animal based and chemical-free fertilizers to replenish the soil; a more sustainable, compassionate and healthier method of growing.
  11. Bury old leather shoes.
  12. Use digital photography rather film made of gelatin.
  13. Purchase supplements in vege-caps, rather than the more widely used gelatin capsules, and verify the source of all ingredients or look for the "vegan approved" label. Support companies that sell only vegan products. There is an ever growing list of such companies. (See Incredibly Delicious for an extensive list of cruelty-free companies or it is posted to the Gentle World web site at http://www. Vegepet.com)
  14. Say NO when, relatives on vacation together, pass around a pastry made with animal products. It is not a temptation at all to the vegan who really understands.
  15. The new paradigm vegan will not claim to be vegan while having a fur coat (bought in the past) in the closet. Instead, he/she will come out of the closet, and donate the coat to P.E.T.A. or other animal rights organization for use in an anti-fur campaign.
  16. Squirrels
  17. When ordering a sandwich in a restaurant, ask the ingredients of the bread. The new paradigm vegan may not care to dine in establishments where animal products are sold.
  18. Order a vegan meal on airlines just to make a statement, even if the fruit plate is preferred. Pack your own meals.
  19. Refrain from saying 'Go Fish' when playing the child's card game, but change the words to "Go jump in the pond." The evolved vegan won't use derogatory phrases towards animals (or anyone for that matter!)
  20. Don't choose books for young children that express cruelty or apathy towards animals. Be sure to put gentle and kind vegan thoughts into the minds of children via words, books, visits to Farm Sanctuary, Gentle Barn, or other rescued animal sanctuaries. Children will meet and naturally learn to love animals this way.
  21. Don't give support to circus animal act shows, zoos with cages, horse/dog races, marine parks, Las Vegas animal act shows, horses pulling carriages of people, etc. Never give monetary support to ANY business that is involved with animal exploitation or imprisoning innocent beings, including pet stores that support puppy mills.
  22. The new paradigm vegan will rescue a dog from the pound or elsewhere when seeking a pet.
  23. Don't purchase bone china, ivory products, silk products (derived from boiling silk worms) medicines (like premarin or shark cartilage) made from animal secretions or parts. The new paradigm vegan will know that true health and beauty couldn't possibly come from wearing cosmetics with animal ingredients or that have been tested on animals.
  24. Convey the vegan message with Love, always having in mind to SAVE THE ANIMALS, first and foremost.

Veganism brings with it friendship with animals. Recently, a dream came true; I pet a wild deer of a national forest. I pet her from head to behind! This was not a national park where deer have no fear of the hunter, but in a forest where deer are, in fact, hunted. As the years go on and the more vegan I become, the closer to animals I get. There are many other species to Love!

A vegan does not ever cheat!! The vegan diet is not like a raw food diet that you can cheat with. Being a vegan is a way of life. It's a character-defining quality. It's a solution to world hunger. It's a health plan. It's a panacea that even encompasses our spiritual health.

I've noticed the word "vegan" is losing popularity and "plant-based" is being substituted more often. I love the word vegan! Let's keep the word alive with this, updated, more real definition! I implore all vegans (including myself) to raise their standard of veganism. If we are 'all one' and all connected, then elevating our veganism is perhaps a way we can elevate the whole world. The desire not to cause suffering to other living beings is a soulful endeavor that should forever be nurtured.


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