What is veganism?

Sep 25, 2022By Adam at Herbivore Club
Adam at

There's no point debating something if you can't first agree on what the topic is.

Every so often a person will not only recognise an injustice, they take action to oppose it, and as they live by example and share their ideas a justice movement is born and named.

No, it's not a diet

Veganism is often perceived in society, and even described in some dictionaries thanks to common misuse, as a diet rather than the moral baseline of the animal justice movement. This is owed in large part to it's roots in November 1944, Donald Watson called a meeting with five other non-dairy vegetarians, including Elsie Shrigley, to discuss non-dairy vegetarian diets and lifestyles. Though many held similar views at the time, these six pioneers were the first to actively found a new movement - despite opposition. The group felt a new word was required to describe them; something more concise than ‘non-dairy vegetarians’. Rejected words included ‘dairyban’, ‘vitan’, and ‘benevore’. They settled on ‘vegan’, a word that Donald Watson later described as containing the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’. In the words of Donald Watson, it marked “the beginning and end of vegetarian”. 

Although the plantbased diet that vegans aspire to adhere to was defined early on it was as late as 1949 before Leslie J Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism and he suggested “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”. This is later clarified as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”.

So very early on the concept of total animal liberation was at the heart of veganism, a moral philosophy in which diet is simply one of countless expressions of the ethical position. This has been captured in the modern definition:

The crucial part of this definition is "as far as is possible and practicable" - The Vegan Society recognises that the world is built around carnism and so it is virtually impossible to avoid causing harm entirely. 

100% inclusive

As per this definition, every single person on Earth can be vegan since veganism simply means avoiding animal exploitation when it is in your power to do so. Who can't use a choice when they have a choice?

Vegans aren't perfect

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" 

- Vince Lombardi

Inequality is widespread, therefore an individual will have different ideas of what is possible and practicable, but if everyone gave their sincere best every day to make this a kinder fairer world we would ultimately achieve total liberation for all animals.

Humans are animals too!

Imagine for a moment you are about to be born but you have no idea which body you were going to born into. Would you hope it was a world that was fair to women? Hope for a place that doesn't prejudge you based on the colour of your skin? An existance that isn't a few months held captive before the slaughterhouse? A life that is free from being hunted by people with guns?

Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly"

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