Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

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From Vegetarian to Vegan

question.gif - 1.4 K I have been vegetarian for over four years and would really love to go vegan. Apart from dairy products and other obviously animal-derived foods, what can't I eat and use?

answer.gif - 1.3 K For most people, becoming vegan is a process -- a series of steps and stages that continually bring the compassionate perspective into sharper focus. Longtime vegans rarely view their practice as a final destination. Rather, it is seen as an endless path -- a stream of consciousness leading to deeper awareness. Nevertheless, there are tangible lifestyle changes that people must undertake before they can legitimately call themselves "vegan" in terms of the definitions set forth by The Vegan Society (in England) and the American Vegan Society (in the United States).

In general, vegans refrain from using animal-based foods, apparel, and any commodities that contain animal products or by-products and those that have been tested on animals. Vegans withhold economic and moral support from any enterprise that involves the abuse or exploitation of animals (such as zoos or circuses) or humans (such as sweatshops). Vegans also reject the use of living creatures as instruments or materials for teaching, scientific inquiry, entertainment, or other utilitarian purposes.

The diet of vegans is exclusively plant-based. Therefore, vegans do not consume meat, fish, and fowl, as well as any foods derived from animals, including eggs, dairy products (whether from cows, goats, sheep, or other animals), and honey. Although at first glance this may seem restrictive, the world of plant-based foods offers endless variety and excitement, and most new vegans find that their diet is more interesting than ever before.

If you eat processed and packaged foods, you will need to get into the habit of reading labels. Often there are animal-based elements in foods we might never suspect would contain them. These "hidden ingredients" include dairy derivatives such as whey, lactose (milk sugar), and casein (milk protein); gelatin; natural flavorings and flavor enhancers that may be animal based; and animal fats, among others. The same is true of restaurant food. Items that are typically vegan, such as rice, may be cooked with chicken boullion, salad dressings may contain cheese or other dairy products or be thickened with gelatin, pasta and rolls may contain eggs, sauces may contain beef broth, and so on. It's important to ask detailed questions and explain your needs precisely because veganism is foreign to many people in food service. Depending on the establishment, the chef may rise to the occasion and be willing to prepare a special vegan dish, so be sure to inquire about this if there is nothing suitable on the standard menu.

Vegan clothing, shoes, outerwear, and accessories are either plant-based or synthetic. Vegans do not wear or use leather or the skins, fur, feathers, shells, or secretions of any creatures. Therefore, vegans eschew wool, shearling, down, mohair, cashmere, silk, pearls, and other products of pain, suffering, or death.

Fortunately, there are readily available compassionate alternatives for virtually any food, wearing apparel, cosmetics, or personal care and household products, so vegans need not feel deprived of familiar comforts and conveniences. Nonetheless, the commercial and industrial use of animal derived commodities is incredibly pervasive, so much so that it is impossible to live a perfectly vegan life if one desires to remain part of our larger, albeit imperfect, culture. There are animal products in tires, making cars, buses, and even bicycles nonvegan. Animal products are used in plastics, making computers, telephones, and other communication tools unvegan as well. Home insulation and building materials, glue used to bind books and nonleather shoes, medicinal tablets, photographic film, many musical instruments, and more, frequently contain by-products from the animal slaughter industries. Thus, trying to avoid all items that contain even minuscule amounts of animal-derived constituents could drive a person berserk.

This doesn't mean that vegans should see the situation as hopeless and hence give up. If vegans accept that the current state of our culture is far from its humane potential, their awareness can be used to establish sensible and achievable goals. Ultimately, we cannot change anyone but ourselves. Broadly speaking, people have control over what they eat, what they buy, how they vote, what they wear, what they invest in and support, what they do for a living, what they say, and how they treat others. By making the most sensitive and aware choices, vegans can set a positive example of the benevolent way of life. In time, with sufficient numbers, vegans could ultimately influence a dramatic shift in our customs and attitudes merely by being models of compassion in action.

Do the best you can, knowing that you will undoubtedly fall short at times simply because you are human and our world is flawed. Being vegan should not be something that is so complex or difficult that it is off-limits to the majority of people. In order for the vegan movement to truly effect change, our numbers must grow with our wisdom. Veganism is not about becoming "perfect." It is a means to create a more loving and just society for all life. Therefore, we must recognize that the widespread availability of animal commodities and by-products is due to the use of animals for food. If we can eliminate the root cause -- meat, dairy, and egg consumption -- the by-product industries will cease to exist.

It is understandable and commendable that you want to avoid anything that contains an animal derived ingredient. But when you start out on the vegan path, it is best not to fret over the minutia. Start with the "big" changes -- food, clothing, and obvious other commodities that are clearly animal derived. As you proceed, you will learn and discover new ways to be more compassionate. Begin where you are with love and patience. But do begin. You don't have to be the "ideal vegan" now or ever. Just strive to do your best and you will succeed.

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