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Various fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains; some basic ingredients of a vegan diet.
Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind. The most common reasons for becoming a vegan are ethical commitment or moral conviction concerning animal rights or welfare, the environment, human health, and spiritual or religious concerns. Of particular concern to many vegans are the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources for animal farming.

Vegan diets (sometimes called strict or pure vegetarian diets) are a subset of vegetarian diets. Properly planned vegan diets are healthful and have been found to satisfy nutritional needs. Poorly planned vegan diets can be low in levels of calcium, iodine, vitamin B and vitamin D. Vegans are therefore encouraged to plan their diet and take dietary supplements as appropriate. Various polls have reported vegans to be between 0.2% and 1.3% of the U.S. population, and between 0.25% and 0.4% of the UKmarker population.


The Vegan Society was founded in 1944 by Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley, in response to the broadening of the term "vegetarian" to include the eating of dairy products. The first vegan society in the United States was founded in California in 1948 by Dr. Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz, and was subsequently incorporated into the American Vegan Society after its founding in 1960 by Jay Dinshah. In 1984, a 'breakaway' group from the Vegan Society, the Movement for Compassionate Living was founded by former Vegan Society secretary Kathleen Jannaway to promote sustainable living and self-sufficiency in addition to veganism. Today, there are many vegan societies worldwide, including national societies in Australia, India, New Zealand, and South Africa. In 1993, the advocacy organization which would become Vegan Outreach was founded by Matt Ball and Jack Norris.

In 1994, the annual World Vegan Day was established on November 1st, the day of the Vegan Society's founding.


The word vegan was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, who combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan," which he saw as "the beginning and end of vegetarian." Vegan is or , although Watson considered the latter pronunciation to be incorrect. The Vegan Society defines veganism in this way:

Other vegan societies use similar definitions.

Animal products

The term "animal product" in a vegan context refers to any material derived from animals for human use. Notable animal products include meat, poultry, seafood, egg, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Common animal by-products include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, isinglass, and shellac.

Animal products are ingredients in countless products and are used in the production of—though not always present in the final form of—many more. Many of these ingredients are obscure, also have non-animal sources, and may not even be identified. Although some vegans attempt to avoid all these ingredients, Vegan Outreach argues that "it can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to shun every minor or hidden animal-derived ingredient," and therefore that doing what is "best for preventing suffering" is more important than identifying and excluding every animal ingredient.

Although honey and silk are by definition animal products, and although abstaining from honey is a requirement for membership in the American and British Vegan Societies, some vegans consider their use and the use of other insect products to be acceptable.


Data regarding the number of vegans is available in some countries.

United States

A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 4% of Americanmarker adults consider themselves vegetarians, and 5% of vegetarians consider themselves vegans, which implies that 0.2% of American adults are vegans. Harris Interactive conducted surveys in both 2006 and 2009 in the US which listed specific foods and asked respondents to indicate which items they never eat, rather than asking respondents to self-identify as vegetarian or vegan. In 2006, 1.4% of respondents reported never eating meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy products, or eggs and were therefore essentially vegan in their eating habits. In 2009, 1.3% reported never eating these products, with 0.8% also avoiding honey. The 2006 survey found that about 1.4% of men and 1.3% of women have vegan diets.

United Kingdom

In 2002, the UKmarker Food Standards Agency carried out a National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which reported that 5% of respondents self-identified as vegetarian or vegan. Though 29% of that 5% said they avoided "all animal products", only 5% reported avoiding dairy products. Based on these figures, approximately 0.25% of the UK population follow a vegan diet. In 2005, The Times estimated there were 250,000 vegans in Britain, which suggests around 0.4% of the UK population is vegan. A 2007 survey for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsmarker into the UK population's attitudes and behaviour towards the environment found that 2.24% of the population identified themselves as vegan. In the same study, vegetarians who did not also eat chicken or fish made up 2.7% of the population. The DEFRA study also indicated that slightly more men than women are vegan, that more vegans live in towns or cities than the country, and that people aged 16–29 were vegan more often than any other age group.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands Association for Veganism estimates there to be approximately 16,000 vegans in the Netherlandsmarker, or around 0.1% of the Dutch population.


Various polls and research conducted during the 1990s put the overall percentage of Swedishmarker residents being vegan at between 0.27% and 1.6%. A study of the eating patterns of 2,538 Swedish children of ages 4, 8 and 11 by the Swedish National Food Administration found that about 1% of the children were vegetarian, less than 1% were lacto-vegetarians, but found no children to be vegans. A 1996 study of over 67,000 Swedish students between the ages of 16 and 20 found 0.1% to be vegan, and found a particularly high concentration of vegans in Umeåmarker where 3.3% of the students were vegan.


A 1996 study of 952 15-year old students in Bergenmarker found 0.2% of females to be vegan, but found no male participants to be vegan.


The Germanmarker Federal Study on Food-Consumption reported 0.1% of female and 0.05% of male participants to be vegan.


The central ethical question related to veganism is whether it is right for humans to use and kill animals. This question is essentially the same as the fundamental question of animal rights, so it has been animal rights ethicists who have articulated the philosophical foundations for veganism. The philosophical discussion also therefore reflects the division of viewpoints within animal rights theory between a rights-based approach, taken by both Tom Regan and Gary Francione, and a utilitarian one, promoted by Peter Singer. Vegan advocacy organizations generally adhere to some form animal rights viewpoint, and oppose practices which violate these rights.

Philosophical foundations

Tom Regan, professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State Universitymarker, argues that animals are entities which possess "inherent value" and therefore have "basic moral rights," and that the principal moral right they possess is "the right to respectful treatment." Regan additionally argues that animals have a "basic moral right not to be harmed," which can be overridden only when the individual's right not to be harmed is "morally outweighed" by "other valid moral principles." From this "rights view," Regan argues that "animal agriculture, as we know it, is unjust" even when animals are raised "humanely." Regan argues against various justifications for eating meat including that "animal flesh is tasty," that it is "habit" for "individuals and as a culture", that it is "convenient," that "meat is nutritious," that there is an obligation the economic interests of farmers or to the economic interests of a country, or that "farm animals are legal property," and finds that all fail to treat animals with the respect due to them by their basic rights. Regan therefore argues that "those who support current animal agriculture by purchasing meat have a moral obligation to stop doing so" and that "the individual has a duty to lead a vegetarian way of life."

Gary L. Francione, professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, argues that animals are sentient, and that this is sufficient to grant them moral consideration. Francione argues that "all sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property" and that there is "no moral justification for using nonhumans for our purposes." Francione further argues that adopting veganism should be regarded as the "baseline" action taken by people concerned with animal rights.

Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princetonmarker, argues that there is "no moral justification" for refusing to take sentient animal suffering into consideration in ethical decisions. Singer argues that an animal's interests warrant equal consideration with the interests of humans, and that not doing so is "speciesist." Based upon his evaluation of these interests, Singer argues that "our use of animals for food becomes questionable—especially when animal flesh is a luxury rather than a necessity." Singer does not contend that killing animals is always wrong, but that from a practical standpoint it is "better to reject altogether the killing of animals for food, unless one must do so to survive." Singer therefore advocates both veganism and improved conditions for farm animals as practical means to reduce animal suffering.

Advocacy organizations

Vegan advocacy organizations generally regard animals to have some form of rights, and therefore consider it unethical to use animals in ways that infringe those rights. The Vegan Society, for example, maintains that "animals have the right not to be farmed," Vegan Action asserts that "animals are not ours to use," PETA states that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment," and Mercy for Animals writes that "non-human animals are irreplaceable individuals with morally significant interests and hence rights."

Advocacy organizations regard practices such as factory farming, animal testing, and displaying animals for entertainment in circuses, rodeos, and zoos as cruel to animals.


Steven Davis, a professor of animal science at Oregon State Universitymarker, argues that following Tom Regan's "least harm principle" may not necessarily require the adoption of a vegan diet because there are non-vegetarian diets which "may kill fewer animals" than are killed in the intensive crop production necessary to support vegetarian diets. In particular, Davis calculates that a diet partially based on large grass-fed ruminants like cows, would kill fewer animals than a vegan diet.

Davis's analysis has itself been criticized, notably by Gaverick Matheny, a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural economics at the University of Maryland, College Parkmarker, and by Andy Lamey, a Ph.D. student at the University of Western Australia. Matheny argues that Davis's miscalculates the number of animal deaths based on land area rather than per consumer, and incorrectly equates "the harm done to animals … to the number of animals killed." Matheny argues that per-consumer, a vegan diet would kill fewer wild animals than a diet adhering to Davis's model, and that vegetarianism "involves better treatment of animals, and likely allows a greater number of animals with lives worth living to exist."

Lamey characterizes Davis's argument as "thought-provoking", but asserts that Davis's calculation of harvesting-related deaths is flawed because it is based upon two studies; one includes deaths from predation, which is "morally unobjectionable" for Regan, and the other examines production of a nonstandard crop, which Lamey argues has "little relevance" to the deaths associated with typical crop production. Lamey also argues, like Matheny, that accidental deaths are ethically distinct from intentional ones, and that if Davis includes accidental animal deaths in the moral cost of veganism he must also evaluate the increased human deaths associated with his proposed diet, which Lamey argues leaves "Davis, rather than Regan, with the less plausible argument."

William Jarvis, writing for the Nutrition & Health Forum newsletter, attacks "ideologic vegetarians," whom he claims believe that "all life is sacred" and that "all forms of life have equal value," saying that these beliefs "can lead to absurdities such as allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria, or vipers to run loose on one's premises." However, the ideas that all life is sacred or that all forms of life have equal value are not universal among vegans, many of whom do not grant moral standing to insects. As the advocacy organization Vegan Action notes, "[m]any vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain." A similar view is expressed by Gary Varner, a vegan philosophy professor at Texas A&M University. "The case for thinking that all vertebrates can feel pain is thus very strong, while the case for thinking that invertebrates can feel pain is extremely weak by comparison (with the possible exception of cephalopods like octopus and squid)." Varner and other vegans who share his view do not feel obliged to respect the rights of mosquitoes, as they do not believe mosquitoes can suffer. Vegans and vegetarians also typically do not deny the moral right of self-defence. They therefore are no more committed to allowing dangerous vipers to run loose in their homes than advocates of human rights are committed to not fighting back against human attackers.


Dietetic association positions

The American Dietetic Association annually publishes its position on vegan and vegetarian diets:

In 2003, the Dietitians of Canada joined with the ADA to release a position paper to the same effect. Similarly, the British Nutrition Foundation considers "well balanced" vegetarian diets to be nutritionally adequate, and the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute considers "well planned" vegetarian diets to be "nutritionally balanced for both adults and children".

In contrast, both the Swiss Federal Nutrition Commission and the German Society for Nutrition recommend against a vegan diet, particularly for children, the pregnant and the elderly.

Nutritional benefits

Scientists such as Roger Segelken and T. Colin Campbell believe that some diets (such as the standard American diet) are detrimental to health, and they believe that a vegan diet represents an improvement, in part because vegan diets are often high enough in fruit and vegetables to meet or exceed the recommended fruit and vegetable intakes.

According to the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada, diets that avoid meat tend to have lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. People who avoid meat are reported to have lower body mass index than those following the average Canadian diet; from this follows lower death rates from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.

A 1999 meta-study of five studies comparing vegetarian and non-vegetarian mortality rates in western countries found the mortality rate due to ischemic heart disease 26% lower among vegans compared to regular meat eaters, but 34% lower among ovolactovegetarians and those who ate fish but no other meat. No significant difference in mortality was found from other causes. A 2003 review of three studies comparing mortality rates among British vegetarians and non-vegetarians found only a nonsignificant reduction in mortality from ischemic heart disease, but noted that the findings were compatible with the significant reduction found in the 1999 review.

A 2006 study found that in people with type 2 diabetes a low-fat vegan diet reduced weight, BMI, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol and did so to a greater extent than the diet prescribed by the American Diabetes Association.

Nutritional concerns

Specific nutrients

The American Dietetic Association considers "appropriately planned" vegan diets "nutritionally adequate", but poorly planned vegan diets can be deficient in nutrients such as vitamin B , vitamin D, calcium, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids. These deficiencies have potentially serious consequences, including anemia, rickets and cretinism in children, and osteomalacia and hypothyroidism in adults.

Vitamin B12
Deficiencies in Vitamin B , a bacterial product that cannot be reliably found in plant foods, can have serious health consequences, including anemia and neurodegenerative disease. Although clinical B deficiency is rare in vegans, if a person has not eaten more than the daily needed amount of B12 over a long period before becoming a vegan then they may not have built up any significant store of the vitamin. In a 2002 laboratory study, more of the strict vegan participants' B and iron levels were compromised than those of lacto- or lacto-ovo-vegetarian participants.

The Vegan Society and Vegan Outreach, among others, recommend that vegans either consistently eat foods fortified with B or take a B supplement. Tempeh, seaweed, spirulina, organic produce, soil on unwashed vegetables, and intestinal bacteria have not been shown to be reliable sources of B for the dietary needs of vegans.

Calcium, vitamin D
It is recommended that vegans eat three servings per day of a high calcium food, such as fortified soy milk, and take a calcium supplement as necessary. The EPIC-Oxfordmarker study showed that vegans have an increased risk of bone fractures over both meat eaters and vegetarians, likely due to lower dietary calcium intake, but that vegans consuming more than the UK's estimated average requirements for calcium of 525 mg/day had risk of bone fractures similar to other groups. A study of bone density found that vegans have bones 6% less dense than omnivores but that this difference was "clinically insignificant". Another study by the same researchers examined over 100 vegan post-menopausal women and found that “…although vegans have much lower intakes of dietary calcium and protein than omnivores, veganism does not have (an) adverse effect on bone mineral density (BMD) and does not alter body composition.”

The authors of The China Study argue that osteoporosis is linked to the consumption of animal protein because animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acidity of blood and tissues which is then neutralized by calcium pulled from the bones. The authors add that "in our rural China Study, where the animal to plant ratio [for protein] was about 10%, the fracture rate is only one-fifth that of the U.S."

For light-skinned people, adequate amounts of vitamin D may also be obtained by spending 15 to 30 minutes in the sunlight every few days. Dark-skinned people need significantly more sunlight to obtain the same amount of vitamin D, and sunlight exposure may be difficult for vegans in areas with low levels of sunlight during winter; in these cases supplementation is recommended.

Iodine supplementation may be necessary for vegans in countries where salt is not typically iodized, where it is iodized at low levels, or where, as in Britainmarker or Irelandmarker, animal products are used for iodine delivery. Iodine can be obtained from most vegan multivitamins or from regular consumption of seaweeds, such as kelp.

Pregnancies and children

The American Dietetic Association considers well-planned vegan diets "appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation," but recommends that vegan mothers supplement for iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B . Vitamin B deficiency in lactating vegetarian mothers has been linked to deficiencies and neurological disorders in their children. Some research suggests that the essential omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and its derivatives should also be supplemented in pregnant and lactating vegan mothers, since they are very low in most vegan diets, and the metabolically related docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential to the developing visual system. A maternal vegan diet has also been associated with low birth weight, and a five times lower likelihood of having twins than those who eat animal products.

Several cases of severe infant malnutrition and some fatalities have been associated with a poorly planned vegan diet, and provoked criticism of vegan diets for children. Parents involved in these cases were convicted on charges ranging from assault to felony murder. Addressing criticism of veganism, Dr. Amy Lanou, an expert witness for the prosecution in one of the cases, asserted that the child in that particular case "was not killed by a vegan diet" but that "the real problem was that he was not given enough food of any sort."

Eating disorders

The American Dietetic Association indicates that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders but that the evidence suggests that the adoption of a vegetarian diet does not lead to eating disorders, rather that "vegetarian diets may be selected to camouflage an existing eating disorder." Other studies and statements by dietitians and counselors support this conclusion.

Resources and the environment

People who adopt veganism for environmental reasons do so on the basis that veganism is claimed to consume far fewer resources and causes less environmental damage than an animal-based diet. Animal agriculture is linked to climate change, water pollution, land degradation, and a decline in biodiversity. Additionally, an animal-based diet uses more land, water, and energy than a vegan diet.

[[File:Sources of dietary energy-consumtion (%) 2001-2003 (FAO).svg|thumb|400px|left|The predictable increase in animal product proportions on the plates of people living in developing countries will bring new challenges to global agriculture.Source: FAO.]]The Livestock, Environment And Development Initiative, a joint effort of the World Bank, The European Union, The US Agency for International Development, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and others, released a report in November 2006 linking animal agriculture to environmental damage. The report, Livestock's Long Shadow concludes that the livestock sector (primarily cows, chickens, and pigs) emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to our most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases - responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. However, recent analysis by Goodland and Anhang, co-authors of “Livestock and Climate Change” in the latest issue of World Watch magazine found that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions. The data presented in this study is the subject of an organised educational initiative, called 51percent, which is to be presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ( COP 15). In comparison, the proportion of total CO2 emissions by passenger vehicles is 12% of the total CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). Those numbers are confirmed in a 2007 article in the British medical journal The Lancet, which concludes that reducing consumption of animal products should be a top priority, especially in developed countries where such a measure would also entail substantial health benefits.

A 2006 study by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicagomarker, found that a person switching from the average American diet to a vegan diet would reduce CO2 emissions by 1,485 kg per year.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis argues that while most meat production in industrialized countries uses inefficient grain feeding methods through intensive farming, meat production is not invariably a poor use of land, especially in countries like Chinamarker and Brazilmarker. Since a proportion of all grain crops produced are not suitable for human consumption, they can be fed to animals to turn into meat, thus improving efficiency. Further, greenhouse gas emissions are not limited to animal husbandry; but also to several plant based sources such as rice cultivation.

In the developing world, notably Asia and Africa, fossil fuels are seldom used to transport feed for farm animals. Sheep or goats, for example, require no fuel, since they graze on farmlands, while bales of hay for bovines are still transported mainly using bullock cart or similar devices. Few of the meat processing techniques that occur in developed countries takes place in the majority of developing countries. Animals are also often herded to the place of slaughter (with the exception of poultry) resulting in a very low use of fossil fuels. In fact farm animals in developing world are used for multiple purposes from providing draught power, to transportation while also serving as meat once it reaches the end of its economic life.

A 2007 study which simulated various diets' land use for the geography of New York Statemarker concluded that although vegetarian diets used the smallest amount of land per capita, a low fat diet which included some meat and dairy (less than 2 oz of meat/eggs per day—significantly less than consumed by the average American) could support slightly more people on the same available land than could be fed on some high fat vegetarian diets, since animal food crops can be grown on lower quality land than crops for human consumption.

Similar diets and lifestyles

Diets such as raw veganism and fruitarianism are related to veganism, but have significant differences from standard veganism. There are also numerous religious groups that regularly or occasionally practice a similar diet, including adherents to some Buddhist traditions, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Rastafari, and Seventh-day Adventists.


Also see the Wikibooks Cookbook articles on vegan cuisine and vegan substitutions and its listing of vegan recipes.
The cuisines of most nations contain dishes suitable for a vegan diet, including ingredients such as tofu, tempeh and the wheat gluten-based product seitan in East Asian diets. Many recipes that traditionally contain animal products can be adapted by substituting plant-based ingredients. For example, nut, grain or soy milks can be used to replace cow's milk and eggs can be replaced by applesauce or commercial starch-based substitute products, depending upon the recipe. Additionally, artificial "meat" products ("analogs" or "mock meats") made from non-animal derived ingredients such as soy or gluten including imitation sausages, ground beef, burger, and chicken nuggets are widely available.

See also


  1. Couple face questioning after vegan daughter suffers bone disease By Rob Davies 08/06/2008 The Telegraph
  5. Food for all - World food summit - Agricultural machinery worldwide
  6. [1] German Federal Study on Food Consumption 2008
  7. Link text.
  8. Link text.
  9. Link text, "As with all threats to a being, the rule of self-defense applies."
  10. How our vegan diet made us ill By Natasha Mann, 17 June 2008 - The Independent
  11. Regulating car emissions: How tough will Canada be?
  12. NSW Department of Primary Industries - Feeding frosted cereal grain to ruminants
  13. How harmful is animal protein consumption for the environment?
  14. Methane Emission from Rice Fields - Wetland rice fields may make a major contribution to global warming by Heinz-Ulrich Neue
  15. Plants revealed as methane source By Tim Hirsch 11 January 2006 -BBC


  1. Couple face questioning after vegan daughter suffers bone disease By Rob Davies 08/06/2008 The Telegraph
  5. Food for all - World food summit - Agricultural machinery worldwide
  6. [1] German Federal Study on Food Consumption 2008
  7. Link text.
  8. Link text.
  9. Link text, "As with all threats to a being, the rule of self-defense applies."
  10. How our vegan diet made us ill By Natasha Mann, 17 June 2008 - The Independent
  11. Regulating car emissions: How tough will Canada be?
  12. NSW Department of Primary Industries - Feeding frosted cereal grain to ruminants
  13. How harmful is animal protein consumption for the environment?
  14. Methane Emission from Rice Fields - Wetland rice fields may make a major contribution to global warming by Heinz-Ulrich Neue
  15. Plants revealed as methane source By Tim Hirsch 11 January 2006 -BBC


External links

Vegan Societies



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