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Am I Vegan for the Right Reason?
I have been researching becoming a vegan, but when I tell people close to me that I want to become a vegan, the big question always comes up: Why? I have begun to question my motivations as well. My main reason is to lead a healthier lifestyle. Is that reason enough to become a vegan? I have read about the benefits veganism has for animals raised for food, which is great, but that is not my incentive. Is that wrong? What level of commitment will it require on my part to become a true vegan?
It’s commendable that you want to improve your health and that you feel a diet free of animal products is the best way for you to go. Being vegan, however, involves more than a change in diet. Nevertheless, for many aspiring vegans, diet is commonly the first place to begin, because it is typically viewed as the most clear-cut and all-encompassing aspect of a vegan lifestyle. In addition, diet is often considered a defining feature of veganism (and the singular defining feature of vegetarianism), even though it is not the sole mark of being vegan.
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Almost any rationale that inspires you to become vegan is “reason enough.” But when we are focused exclusively on our own health, there usually is little motivation to make the other lifestyle changes that are part and parcel of veganism, such as selecting cruelty-free personal care products, not wearing leather, wool, and other by-products of animal exploitation and death, choosing entertainment and hobbies that are life supporting, and extending respect and compassion to all living beings (including our fellow humans). The underlying philosophy of veganism is “reverence for life,” and the practical, day-to-day implementation of this philosophy is veganism. Without a doubt, reverence for our own lives and health is a central component of fully being vegan, so starting off by wanting a healthier lifestyle is a sensible launching point.
If you do not as yet embrace all the elements of being vegan outside of diet, then you may want to define yourself another way. You could call yourself “vegetarian” or simply tell others that you are practicing a more healthful diet and are therefore avoiding animal products and are only eating plant-based foods. If your healthier lifestyle includes choosing organic foods and chemical-free clothing and personal care products, you can explain that as well. Of course, these more healthful products do not necessarily mean that they are free of animal testing or ingredients, which is something that vegans would also take into account.
You will need to define for yourself what you mean by a “healthier lifestyle,” and whether the changes you are contemplating encompass vegan issues. If they do, and you wish to “label” yourself as vegan, then go right ahead. If they don’t, you may want to think about why you feel you need to label yourself at all. If you simply want to make positive lifestyle changes, a label isn’t necessary. Just wanting to be healthier is “reason enough.”
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