Veganism is a 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.
There are many ways to embrace vegan living. Yet one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey - as well as avoiding animal-derived materials, products tested on animals and places that use animals for entertainment.
Although the vegan diet was defined early on in The Vegan Society's beginnings in 1944, it was as late as 1949 before Leslie J Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism. 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”.
The society was first registered as a charity in August 1964 but its assets were later transferred to a new charity when it also became a limited company in December 1979. The definition of veganism and the charitable objects of the society were amended and refined over the years. By winter 1988 this definition was in use - although the phrasing has changed slightly over the years - and remains so today:
"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 humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
To read more on the history of veganism, see here.
So what do vegans eat?
A great deal - you'll soon find a whole new world of exciting foods and flavours opening up to you. A vegan diet is richly diverse and comprises all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, beans and pulses - all of which can be prepared in endless combinations that will ensure you're never bored. From curry to cake, pasties to pizzas, all your favourite things can be suitable for a vegan diet if they're made with plant-based ingredients. Check out our vegan recipes for ideas.
It's not just about diet
Vegans avoid exploiting animals for any purpose, with compassion being a key reason many choose a vegan lifestyle. From accessories and clothing to makeup and bathroom items, animal products and products tested on animals are found in more places than you might expect. Fortunately nowadays there are affordable and easily-sourced alternatives to just about everything. With over 30,000 products and services registered with our Vegan Trademark alone, living a vegan lifestyle has never been easier. Browse online today.
Other aspects of vegan living
Currently all medicine in the UK must be tested on animals before it is deemed safe for human use, but please note: The Vegan Society DOES NOT recommend you avoid medication prescribed to you by your doctor - a dead vegan is no good to anyone! What you can do is ask your GP or pharmacist to provide you, if possible, with medication that does not contain animal products such as gelatine or lactose. For more information visit the website www.medicines.org.uk, which contains information on medicines prescribed in the UK, including ingredients lists.
If you're a medical charity supporter you may wish to check whether your chosen charity performs tests on animals. There are many charities that don't currently conduct animal tests and many vegans prefer donating to charities that actively seek alternative methods of testing.
Vegans choose not to support animal exploitation in any form and so avoid visiting zoos or aquariums, or taking part in dog or horse racing. A great alternative is visiting and supporting animal sanctuaries that provide safe and loving homes for rescued animals.
Want to find out more about the vegan lifestyle? Sign up to the free Vegan Pledge today. There are hundreds of thousands of vegans across the globe - with you, we're that much stronger.