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What is Veganism?

What is veganism Be kind to all kinds Inspire Behavioral Learning Call of the Wild Nature

Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that promotes cruelty-free choices over unnecessary animal exploitation. Veganism advocates being kind to all kinds, understanding that human beings are not superior to the rest of the animal kingdom, and choosing positive alternatives to animal exploitation in our daily lives. 

The Vegan Society defines it as follows: "Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals." 


Veganism promotes cruelty-free choices for:


  • Food

  • Clothing

  • Entertainment

  • Sports and recreation

  • Experimentation

  • The environment


Veganism promotes positive, healthy, and easily accessible alternatives to:

  • Eating the butchered bodies of animals and consuming mothers' milk from other species

  • Wearing animal skin and fur that belong to the animal

  • Using wild animals in captivity for entertainment

  • Killing animals for sport and recreation

  • Funding products of vivisection

  • Participating in habitat destruction

Veganism is not limited to eating a plant-based diet, and when we confuse veganism for a diet, we mistake the forest for the trees. It is an ethical philosophy and lifestyle that extends beyond the choices we make for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Veganism frees us from funding unnecessary animal exploitation in all aspects of our lives. It’s an alternative to limiting our circle of compassion to human beings, pets, and cute animals only. Veganism frees us from the restrictions of culturally conditioned speciesism and opens our minds to a broader perspective on animal rights. Many people are conditioned to limit moral consideration and compassion to only some animals while arbitrarily excluding other animals. Veganism expands our circle of compassion to include all animals.

Take a look below at the many ways in which veganism encompasses our daily choices for food, clothing, entertainment, sports and recreation, household and beauty products, and respect for Earth's environments.

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Diet is a major part, but only one part, of the whole picture for living a cruelty-free lifestyle. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, free from all animals and products derived from animal exploitation. They do not eat cows, pigs, birds, or fish for many of the same reasons they do not eat dogs, cats, or any other animal. Unlike vegetarians, vegans also do not eat any products derived from exploiting the reproductive systems of mother cows and mother hens in the dairy and egg industries, where male calves are routinely slaughtered and sold as veal, and newborn male chicks are routinely macerated, asphyxiated, or suffocated. Vegans do not support the dairy and egg industries and instead choose cruelty-free foods. 

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Many vegans eat a healthy diet rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Veganism is an alternative to feeding our children carcinogens. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Processed meats (such as hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausage, and cold cuts) are in Group 1: Carcinogenic to Humans, the same category as cigarettes.

  • Red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb) is in Group 2A: Probably Carcinogenic to Humans.

We would not put cigarettes in children's lunchboxes, so why serve children the bodies of animals that are known carcinogens when healthy options are readily available? Veganism supports healthy and compassionate food choices in place of carcinogenic, processed bodies of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, lambs, or other animals. 

The American Institute for Cancer Research writes, "AICR strongly supports the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s report classifying red and processed meats as carcinogens, and we hope it will spread the message that what we eat plays a role in cancer risk."

A healthy vegan diet is widely supported in position papers, research, and articles from major health organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • "It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity. Low intake of saturated fat and high intakes of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds (all rich in fiber and phytochemicals) are characteristics of vegetarian and vegan diets that produce lower total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and better serum glucose control. These factors contribute to reduction of chronic disease." Source: Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec; 116(12).

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With a simple trip to the produce section of any grocery store, we see the abundant variety of vegan foods readily available. Vegans eat the rainbow, meaning a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Columbia University's Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy article explains, "Why should I eat the rainbow anyway?" with easy to understand facts and colorful posters for foods of each color.

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cute vegan mandarin orange crab shape fun culinary art for kids.jpg
easy fun cute vegan fruit culinary art dragon.jpg
cute vegan culinary art for kids butterfly grapes oranges fun easy vegan fruit snack.jpg

Check out Inspire Behavioral Learning's Vegan Culinary Arts board on Pinterest if you're open to trying easy, healthy, and tasty vegan meals, snacks, and desserts! Kids love the artistry of vegan cute creations with fresh fruits and veggies. Enjoy!

At Inspire's Call of the Wild Camps, summer sessions have vegan theme weeks, open to families of all diets. Kids have an opportunity to make their own simple vegan culinary creations like the above and write their own fun recipes to share with friends and family.

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Vegans choose cruelty-free clothing, free from animal skin, fur, and feathers that belong to the animal. The only animal that needs a cow's skin is a cow; the only animal to whom a sheep's wool belongs is a sheep; and the only animal that needs down is the bird these feathers grow on. Vegans choose not to purchase leather made from a cow's or other animal's skin, nor do they purchase wool from sheep who often endure the inhumane practice of mulesing without pain relief, nor do they purchase down plucked from live ducks and geese. Vegans choose from many animal-free clothing options for all weather and occasions.

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Vegans choose humane entertainment that does not exploit or abuse animals. As such, they do not entertain themselves with circuses that force wild animals to perform. Vegans also do not promote zoos and aquariums that hold animals captive for entertainment rather than bona fide conservation efforts. Vegans choose ethical options for watching animals, such as circuses with human acrobats and performers, animal sanctuaries, nature photography, hiking, backpacking, camping, safaris, and nature documentaries with animals in their natural habitats.

Sports and Recreation
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Vegans choose cruelty-free sports and recreation. As such, they do not engage in or fund animal abuse or exploitation for enjoyment, such as rodeos, bullfighting, horse and greyhound racing, dog fighting, cockfighting, fishing, and hunting for sport. Humane sports and recreation involving animals can be accomplished in horse show jumping and dressage, dog agility for navigating obstacle courses, dog flyball, dog parks and playgroups, hiking, and camping. Enjoyable sports and recreation options not involving nonhuman animals are nearly endless, such as baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, swimming, and track and field. A vast array of enjoyable sports and recreation exist without commodifying and exploiting animals. At Inspire's Call of the Wild Camps, kids enjoy hikes in Bay Area forests, including vegan theme weeks in the summer.

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Animal Test-Free PETA Cruelty-Free Vegan Logo.png
Certified Vegan Logo

Vegans choose household and beauty products that are free from live animal experimentation, known as vivisection. Cruelty-free soaps, shampoos, sunscreens, makeup, etc. abound in major department stores, supermarkets, drugstores, and local stores. Cruelty-free options are nearly endless and often bear the certification labels seen above.

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Veganism positively impacts the environment, wildlife, and natural habitats. Below are some of the ways that veganism benefits life on Earth.

Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions: "Livestock" farming is a major source of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Simply put, there are too many cow burps in the world. With a global shift to plant-based diets and the eventual elimination of animal agriculture, veganism can significantly lower food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Lower Water Usage: Animal farming is water-intensive. Producing vegetables or grains requires significantly less water than producing beef. By reducing the demand for animal products, veganism helps conserve water resources.

Decreased Land Use: Animal agriculture requires large tracts of land for grazing and growing feed crops. Vegan diets, which rely on plant-based foods, require less land. This can free up land for reforestation and restoration of natural habitats.

Restoration Opportunities: Land previously used for animal farming can be repurposed for rewilding and ecosystem restoration projects. This can enhance carbon sequestration, restore natural habitats, and support biodiversity.

Reduced Pollution: Intensive animal farming contributes to water and air pollution through runoff of fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste. Shifting towards plant-based agriculture can reduce these pollutants and improve overall environmental health.

Habitat Preservation: "Livestock" farming is a leading cause of deforestation, particularly in tropical regions like the Amazon rainforest. Reducing the demand for animal products can decrease deforestation rates, thereby preserving natural habitats for countless wildlife species.

Forest and Grassland Conservation: By reducing the need for pasture and feed crop production, veganism helps prevent the conversion of forests and grasslands into agricultural land. This can help preserve these critical ecosystems and their associated flora and fauna.

Biodiversity Conservation: The expansion of agricultural land for livestock often leads to habitat destruction and fragmentation, threatening the survival of many species. A vegan diet reduces the pressure on these lands, helping to maintain biodiversity.

Protection of Marine Life: Overfishing and bycatch from commercial fishing practices endanger many marine species. Veganism reduces the demand for seafood, promoting healthier ocean ecosystems and protecting marine biodiversity.

Veganism supports environmental sustainability, wildlife habitats, biodiversity, conservation, and restoration. The benefits of veganism are a powerful tool to combat climate change and ecological degradation.

Learn more! Inspire's youth education includes Call of the Wild Camps, a fun mix of outdoor recreation and environmental education in forests of the Bay Area, including Berkeley, Oakland, and Cupertino/Los Altos Hills.

We Are a Part of Nature, Not Apart From It

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We are a part of nature and the animal kingdom, not apart from it. When we recognize our kinship with other animals, we can more easily be kind to all kinds, not only humankind. We recognize that human beings are not the only animals who are sentient, who perceive and feel. Veganism shows us that we do not need to view other animals as here for us; they are here with us.


We can recognize that the bodies of others do not belong to us. The body of a pet, a wild animal, an animal confined in a factory farm or laboratory, or any other animal is not equivalent to an inanimate piece of property for us to do with as we please without moral consideration. Veganism is about recognizing that we do not need to eat other animals in order to sustain our own lives, nor do we need to exploit them for monetary gain, conformity and tradition, or momentary pleasure at their expense without regard for their rights and interests.

Veganism is not a diet. It's an ethical position that dispenses with unnecessary animal exploitation. Veganism encompasses our daily choices for food, clothing, entertainment, sports and recreation, household products, and how we share our planet with the millions of other sentient species who inhabit it.

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