If you’ve got a burning vegan-related question, you can almost undoubtedly get a definitive answer in this FAQ.
Official Vegan.com FAQ:
If there’s something you need to know that’s not covered here, please visit our comprehensive Vegan Reference Directory, which offers detailed information on virtually every topic of interest to vegans.
Vegans avoid eating all foods of animal origin: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, and honey. Veganism was originally defined purely as a dietary choice, but many vegans extend this ethic to shun animal testing and ingredients from all things they consume or wear, including clothing, shoes, personal care items, cosmetics, and medicine.
You can discover the main advantages in my, “Why Choose Vegan?” essay. To summarize, the main reasons people go vegan involve:
1) Prevention of Animal Suffering
Most farm animals are raised on factory farms and experience appalling treatment throughout their lives. Animal slaughter is invariably gory and disturbing to witness, and often the animals are clearly frightened and seem to know their death is imminent.
2) Health Benefits
A vegan diet can eliminate many of your diet’s most unhealthful foods, replacing them with delicious, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
3) Environmental Advantages
Given the staggering amounts of methane produced by livestock, a vegan diet may offer the easiest and most effective way to reduce our contribution to climate change. Vegan diets can also dramatically reduce the amount of land devoted to crops and pasture, since growing food for farmed animals is extraordinarily wasteful compared to growing crops directly for people.
Less than an hour of reading can teach you most of what you need to know. Start with my “How to Go Vegan” essay. After that, this introduction to vegan nutrition will help ensure you don’t come up short on key nutrients.
After you’ve done this reading, the most important thing you can do to gracefully move toward a vegan diet is to try new vegan foods at every opportunity. It’s better to put your energy into making a little progress every day than it is to try to be the perfect vegan all at once. Spending a few minutes reading this list of easy vegan foods will take you a long way. As you incorporate more of these foods into your diet they’ll automatically crowd out the non-vegan foods you presently eat.
Transitioning to a Vegan Diet
Nearly every single vegan you ask will tell you the transition was much easier than they expected. While becoming vegan may sound difficult right now, you’ll no doubt be shocked by how easy this is, especially if you take the time to read up on the topic.
If you’re massively committed you certainly can make the transition overnight. But it’s obviously easier to take your time to acquaint yourself with as many vegan foods as possible, and then cut out animal-based foods little by little as you feel ready.
Great new titles are constantly appearing. We regularly update our pages listing recommended books and cookbooks. Make sure your first vegan cookbook is one that’s entirely devoted to quick and easy recipes. Here are a few top choices:
- Fast Easy Cheap Vegan, by Sam Turnbull
- Plants Only Kitchen, by Gaz Oakley
- Effortless Vegan, by Sarah Nevins
Also be sure to read my Guide to Vegan Cooking.
You can find fantastic vegan alternatives to meat, fish, eggs, and every imaginable dairy product, from ice cream to yogurt to coffee creamer. These vegan products are so appealing that worldwide agribusiness interests have a long history of lobbying to forbid the use of words like milk and beef on vegan items.
Most countries require food products to carry ingredient labels, so it’s usually just a matter of checking the label. Of course, you’ll need to know which of these ingredients come from animals, but that’s an easy task. Our Animal Ingredients page lists substances that are or may be derived from animal products.
You can often get a reliably vegan meal at a wide variety of restaurants, and vegan restaurants are increasingly common. The more you learn about the vegan dishes associated with various cuisines, the better you’ll know your options. Also don’t miss my fast food guide, that takes you through the best menu options from the most popular chains.
You’ll discover that many restaurants go out of their way to offer delicious meals for vegans. Chain restaurants often feature the ingredient list for each menu item on their websites.
Health & Nutrition
With a little attention, it’s easy enough for vegans to eat an extraordinarily healthful diet. Our Vegan Nutrition Guide addresses the key information on this topic, while explaining how to steer clear of the most common nutrient deficiencies. You may also want to check out our Vitamin & Supplement Guide to learn which products are of particular interest to vegans.
You can get plenty of protein on a vegan diet, but it’s also easy to come up short if you aren’t paying attention. To make sure your needs are being met, check out my article covering protein requirements for vegans.
While many foods contain little or no protein, plenty of delicious vegan foods are rich in this key nutrient. Including foods like beans, nuts, and tofu with most meals will greatly increase your daily protein intake.
No question related to veganism generates more confusion and inaccurate advice as the topic of B-12, so it’s important to obtain reliable information. For most vegans, the easiest way to ensure excellent B-12 status is to take a cheap high dose cyanocobalamin-based sublingual tablet every two or three days.
The meat, fish farm, and dairy industries use staggering amounts of antibiotics. Many of these antibiotics aren’t used by farmers to treat infectious disease, but are rather added to feed in order to boost growth. It’s tough to definitively prove the bacterial origin when someone suffers a life-threatening infection, but MRSA superbugs and related dangerous infectious organisms undoubtedly arise due to overuse of antibiotics by animal agribusiness, and the crowding vast numbers of animals together on factory farms.
Animal Ingredients & Testing
Since honey is produced by bees, it is not vegan. That said, many people who are otherwise vegan will eat honey on occasion, because its production is not associated with the egregious cruelties that are widespread in farms and slaughterhouses. Yet even with that acknowledged, there are nevertheless several good reasons to avoid honey. See my honey page for more information.
As opposition increases to the practice of subjecting laboratory animals to painful tests, the market for vegan cosmetics and personal care items is growing quickly. Many personal care and cosmetics products carry seals indicating that they were neither tested on animals nor made from animal ingredients. No matter what you’re looking for—whether it’s deodorant, mascara, shaving cream, or shampoo—you will find a number of vegan-certified products on the market. Our personal care and makeup pages list top vegan brands.
Alternatives may be available. Sometimes the medication you need will be vegan, but only available in gelatin capsules. In these cases, you can have your doctor write a prescription for the medication to be put into vegan capsules by your local “compounding pharmacy.” This preparation method will of course entail some added cost but it’s usually quite moderate compared to the price of the medication.
If you require an animal-derived medicine to treat or manage a health problem, it makes sense to take it. You can still accomplish enormous amounts of good based on your dietary choices alone even if you can’t be vegan when it comes to your medication. And if you are engaged in even a little vegan advocacy, the contributions you can make by being on earth will certainly far outweigh whatever negative impacts are associated with your medicine’s production.
If the prospect of witnessing or funding animal slaughter makes you uncomfortable, you should know that free-range hens and pasture-raised dairy cows are typically sent to slaughter before midlife. Just like their factory farmed counterparts, these animals are replaced by younger ones as their yields decline to unprofitable levels.
It’s also difficult and inconvenient to verify that a given producer indeed complies with claimed standards of animal welfare. I cover these important topics in detail in my Why Go Vegan? essay.
It’s hard to make a definitive comparison since there is enormous variation in the cost and quality of the foods we eat. But generally, a cheap vegan diet will be less expensive (and much healthier) than a cheap omnivorous diet. And even an extravagant vegan diet will never be as expensive as a diet based on high-priced meats and cheeses produced with the best animal welfare.
If you need to minimize your food costs, I have written a long guide on how to eat vegan on a budget.
The world’s farm animals would gradually disappear, except for a few kept by hobbyists and breed preservationists—and this disappearance would not be a bad thing. Modern farm animals are about as necessary for biodiversity as toy poodles. Not only are most farm animals ill-equipped to survive in nature, they are also predisposed to a number of painful physical conditions due to their having been relentlessly bred for high production and extreme growth rates.
On top of all this, if the world’s farm animals were to vanish, humanity could allow vast expanses of pasture and feed-crop land to revert to nature. We would then witness a spectacular recovery of countless species of wildlife.