Veganism is an attitude and a way of life that rejects the exploitation of and harm to animals (human and nonhuman). Vegans, those who practice veganism, avoid consuming products, services, and activities that are the result of the exploitation of or intentional harm to sentient beings (both human and nonhuman animals) as far as is practical and possible without severe self-harm. Since nonhuman animals cannot give consent to humans to use their bodies and bodily secretions for human consumption or scientific testing, taking these things from them can be considered exploitation, in the same way it would be considered exploitation if we used the bodies and bodily secretions of humans who did not give consent for us to do so.
Veganism is not just a static practice but also a vision and goal for the future – a future in which all sentient beings live free from exploitation and intentional harm. For those living in the modern world at the present time, it is nearly impossible to avoid all products of animal exploitation. Animal byproducts exist in cars, some housing materials, some glues and inks used in books, etc. But there are a multitude of choices made in daily life – in diet, clothing, entertainment, and more – where an option that is not a result of animal exploitation is available. It is the hope of vegans that in time, it will be possible to be a functional member of modern society without ever having to purchase or use products that are a result of animal exploitation. Furthermore, it is our hope that eventually none of these products will even exist and will be thought of abominations of the past, in the same way most humans now view consuming human flesh or milk or wearing clothing made from human skin.
What’s the difference between a vegan diet and veganism?
While veganism is a way of life that seeks to exclude dependence on the exploitation of animals as much as possible while still living in the modern world, a vegan diet is nothing more than a way of eating. A vegan diet is free of all animal and animal-derived products. People who consume a vegan diet may do so for one or more reasons: ethics, health/allergies, religion, or just personal taste preference. Those who consume a vegan diet for ethical reasons also practice veganism, and their avoidance of animal products extends far beyond diet; consuming a vegan diet is just one component of the practice.
Those who consume a vegan diet for one of the other reasons are unlikely to also exclude animal exploitation from their lives in all other areas that do not involve diet. For example, someone may avoid all animal products in their daily food intake, but they may still purchase and wear clothing made with leather or wool and attend rodeos and circuses. They may also use non-food products that are tested on animals or purchase companion animals from a breeder. Since a mostly whole foods plant-based diet has been clinically shown to improve or reverse some diseases, many people have adopted a vegan diet without consideration or knowledge of the practice of ethical veganism.