Why Vegan?

Dairy cows in rotary milking parlor. (Credit: Gunnar Richter.)
Dairy cows in a rotary milking parlor. (Credit: Gunnar Richter)

The term vegan (pronounced VEE-guhn) was first used in the 1940s by Vegan Society founding members Donald Watson and Elsie Shrigley. The word came from the first three and last two letters of vegetarian – “because veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion.” While vegetarianism is usually understood only in terms of diet, veganism is also a worldview and a moral commitment. Speaking broadly, veganism is the doctrine that humans should live without exploiting animals. All animal agriculture, however traditional or well-intentioned, involves unjust and cruel treatment of other conscious beings. No matter the label, animals farmed for profit are forced to endure painful mutilations, social deprivation, violation of their reproductive autonomy, and slaughter.

Konik wild horses. (Credit: Gwen Dolen)
Konik wild horses. (Credit: Gwen Dolen)

Vegans respect and value the lives of all conscious beings, including human beings. We don’t want to play a role in the injustice and cruelty of animal agriculture. Nor do we want to be at war with the free-living animals in our communities and in the wild. We strive to live peacefully with all the inhabitants of this planet. To that end, vegans abstain from all goods produced by exploiting or intentionally harming conscious nonhumans. Those goods include: meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, butter, eggs, wool, down, and leather. By not buying products derived from animals we make a stand for justice, boycott businesses that raise or kill animals for profit, and support the production of plant- and mineral-based goods. The vegan commitment also helps wildlife since animal agribusiness is the number one cause of habitat destruction worldwide.

If you’d like to learn more about veganism and animal agriculture, please explore the links on our Resources page.