Having been a vegan for five years and having a serious distaste for improper terminology-
VEGAN means that, as far as possible and practical, no animals products of any kind are used in any facet of your life. There as small lines that people fudge and smudge and figure out themselves, but eating anything from an animal; using leather, wool, beeswax or silk; or using cosmetics or soaps tested on animals or with animal-based ingredients ARE NOT vegan choices. If anyone is still identifying as vegan and doing any of those things, well, I blame them for me being offered fish at restaurants when explaining my dietary choices.
If you are 'vegan' for dietary reasons alone, your diet is actually dubbed vegetarianism, which refers to diet only and excludes the consumption of all animal products. Lacto-/ovo-vegetarian (or the combination of the two) is generally what people think of when they hear 'vegetarian,' as in it means that you will consume dairy or eggs but not meat. There are more terms to include those who only eat chicken, or fish etc, but I won't rattle off the whole list. The point I'm trying to make is that if you choose to label yourself, do it accurately.
One of the things that I'm sure will be asked is why it is okay to keep things such as leather shoes or tack, since this is a horse forum- some people who choose to go vegan will eliminate their life of these items and replace them with suitable alternatives, others will use them until they cannot be used any more so as not to waste them, and others yet may have a different reaction. I personally chose to keep the items that were sentimental to me but replaced the rest.
Stan asked the difference between buying new versus used leather- the best answer I can come up with (and was once of this train of thought) is that buying used does not directly support the demand for the product, and does not directly contribute to leather being produced. New leather does demand more leather being made, obviously. Whether the leather is made or not already is irrelevant to the latter way of thinking, as not supporting it is sometimes the most to be done.
Also, as a vegan, I do not use any leather tack and have a full tekna brand synthetic saddle/bridle etc set, that is classically designed and coloured and stitched and keeps me happy. Just because I use synthetic doesn't mean I like the look of nylon or non-traditional and cheap tack. There is definitely quality synthetic tack out there to be had, you just have to pay the price for it, same as any quality product.
Those things being said, I'm going to raise a purely vegan gripe here- when it's said that what anyone eats is personal choice, I agree completely. I also think that if the cow, sheep, dog, chicken, pig or deer were able to communicate with you, their choice would not be to be eaten. When calling it "personal choice" you are insinuating that it affects nobody but yourself, when it reality the choice you're making is effectively taking the life of another sentient being. I mention this only because this is a vegan/vegetarian thread, I am not trying to spark a debate about that particular comment, only to have it known that I take it very offensively and I'm sure others do as well.
I also want to address a comment about vegans not being able to get B12 in their diet, which is entirely true. If I had the book handy I would quote it, but in The China Study, the author/researcher explains how B12 is affected by the toxins now more present in our environment than before industry was around. Please don't quote me on that as it has been at least a year since I've laid eyes on the true quote, however, that does to me help explain how the human body is absolutely able to thrive on a vegan diet, just not in our polluted world, and helped dispel any doubts I had about the diet. I do take everything with a grain of salt, but that book was worth reading if not only for that quote. What this means to me is that I don't mind consuming foods with added B12 or periodically taking a supplement for it, though I have had a total of 1 week supplemetation of B12 in those 5 years, and my bloodwork comes back normally. (As an anecdote I get regular bloodwork for an unrelated autoimmune disease to ensure my levels of inflammation are in check).
Also, anyone claiming that a vegan diet is inherently healthy is very wrong. Chips and cookies are easy to find vegan, even off supermarket shelves, and I could theoretically be vegan and eat only those things. I also bet I'd have a pasty and sickly look to me, as would anyone on a junk diet, vegan or not. I choose to eat a whole foods, nourishing diet that keep me chugging happily along!
I'm happy to find there are some vegan and vegetarian members on this forum. I do recall that there was a similar thread started a few years back but without the fanfare.
Also, to anyone looking for some intelligent, non-abusive discussion of the vegan diet and lifestyle, there is an awesome UK-based veganforum that provides a lot of interesting insights and differing opinions. Even if you go just to lurk there's lots to be learned.
I look forward to more discussion!
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