Vegan Things

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.

Why go vegan

Each of the following has a different tone and approach to the subject matter. Some might resonate with you and others might not.

Videos

Books

More

Other book and media recommendations. And more.

Going vegan

This blog post has a lot of what I would say. Give it a read.

eatingveg.org also has good some getting started info.

This Vegan 101 video series by Mercy for Animals is a good intro/overview of a lot of things.

The aptly named vegan.com is a solid and quick reference resource. I’d skim the headings to get an idea of what’s there.

If you want a structured, 30 day guide, you could try veganbootcamp.org.

My biggest suggestion is to not find/make vegan versions of your favorite food, at least at first. Instead, explore new food, from cultures maybe you haven’t really dived into; eat food that is naturally vegan and isn’t trying to be anything else. I say this because it’s going to take time to realign your palate and the vegan versions of a dish will almost never be quite the same as you are used to. It’s not that they are worse, you are just bringing along preconceptions of how it “should” taste/look/feel.

If you can go into eating, say, a burger telling yourself “This isn’t going to taste the same as I’m used to and that’s okay, it can still taste good, just different. This burger-like food doesn’t have to taste like flesh to be good.”, then great, that’s the right head space to be in. Though that’s not the best example, as there are actually commercial vegan burgers that meat eaters say is hard to tell the difference. But you get the idea.

Stock up on canned beans, tomatoes, and spices. Combine with fresh veggies and some rice or bread for quick and healthy meals. Eat more fruit and nuts. Try hummus as a snack. Buy a big bag of leafy greens (I suggest a mix of kale and spinach) and put it in the freezer for use in quick smoothies (try this Green Smoothie or the Ginger Colada one below). Buy a big bag of frozen stir fry veggies and a bottle of a stir fry sauce that sounds tasty. Then all you have to do is make some rice, throw the frozen veggies in a pan with the sauce (maybe some tofu) and you have a meal, quick.

I can’t push you strongly enough to cook food for yourself and experiment. Try that recipe with the strange ingredient, spend some time shopping at Asian/Indian/“ethnic” markets.

When you have cravings, there’s some pretty great vegan ice creams out there. You can still have decadent chocolate food, though mostly if you make it yourself.

Prepared/prepackaged vegan food in general is getting better and more available everyday, but you are probably still going to want to cook a lot for yourself. Make a big batch of soup on Sunday afternoon for the week. Search “vegan meal prep” for tons of recipes you can make ahead and save time.

When traveling or exploring a new place, HappyCow is super helpful in finding good spots. Searching “vegan” on Yelp or Google Maps can be successful, but nice to have a specifically focused service.

Use Barnivore to check and find vegan alcoholic drinks. Most liquor should be vegan, but always check the brand first. A lot of beer and wine is not vegan due to animal-derived clarifiers (isinglass or gelatin usually), but again, just check Barnivore.

Read through veganhealth.org/daily-needs or the recommendations from Dr. Greger. You will almost certainly want to supplement B12, see below for more.

You’re going to be reading a lot of labels at first. There will probably be a lot of “Why is there milk/gelatin in this!?” moments. You’ll be looking up if this or that ingredient is vegan. Things will get easier. Don’t beat yourself up if you find out something you’ve been using is non-vegan. Learn and improve.

And maybe you just can’t commit to the goal of a fully vegan life. If you want to eat non-vegan or wear non-vegan items, then okay. It’s not ethically consistent, but that’s not the end of the world. Most, if not all, people are hypocrites in some areas of their life, understand why and the choice you are making and accept it. I’ll take a 80-90% vegan over a 0% one. Just make non-vegan things the exception instead of the rule.

Even if you do commit to the goal of a fully vegan life, the “as far as is possible and practicable” is an important aspect to keep in mind. With extreme measures, it could be possible to live a truly 100% vegan life on a self-sustaining plot of land somewhere, but to exist as a part of the modern world means to almost certainly rely or only have available things that have some non-vegan aspect. Our world is very complicated and interconnected, very hard to trace and verify all aspects of all things. The goal is to do what you can today, hopefully creating a demand and working towards improving the larger scale things over time.In a more general sense, some would say there is no ethical consumption under late-stage capitalism. That there are no ethical choices for us to make in some places; we are operating under a broken system. And that’s true to varying degrees. But again, that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands, we strive to do better today and work to change the system for tomorrow.

Good luck!

Cookbooks/sites

There are a ton of places to draw inspiration from. I have the additional complication of having to avoid gluten, but these are things I use regularly, with some recipes to check out.

  • Budget Bytes - love the simplicity of the meals, very practical
  • Minimalist Baker - simple, tasty recipes, also work from her Everyday Cooking book.
    • Overnight Oats - The amount that works for me in the morning is 1 cup rice milk, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 2 generous tbsp peanut butter, ~1 tbsp chia seeds, 3/4 cup oats. Basically a little more oats and a little thinner. And occasionally throw in some frozen mixed berries in the morning.
    • Ginger Colada Green Smoothie
    • Breakfast potatoes - potatoes can be seasoned however you want, this recipe is just a reference. The main tip is cook the potatoes in the microwave! Saves a ton of time. Grab a handful of little potatoes, put them on a plate (after cleaning them) and microwave for a few minutes until they are cooked through, cut them in halves/quarters, I toss them in a little oil and season salt, fry them for a few minutes on each side in a hot pan to crisp up and serve. I like buying the bag of pre-washed little potatoes from Costco, which makes things even faster.
    • Southwest Tofu Scramble - super easy and tasty especially served with some potatoes like above. Some salsa on top of everything is great. Pro-tip for tofu scrambles, get and use some kala namak (also known as black saltWhich is actually pink in color, but not the same as Himalayan pink salt.

      ) instead of regular salt for cooking/finishing them, imparts the sulfur-y taste of the egg flavor. Perfectly tasty without, but sometimes a nice kick.
  • Vegan Richa - many Indian inspired recipes, but a lot of good vegan food in general, a growing number Instant Pot recipes too
  • Clean Food by Terry Walters - generally well balanced meals (nutritionally), organized by season
    • I like her Lentil Soup recipe (pg. 244), it adds some smart sources of minerals and vitamins, like kombu (iodine and iron, also supposed to make beans less gassy) and molasses (B6, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and so on, lots of stuff), that I never used in lentil soup before, but are great.
  • Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her books are solid.
    • Cashew Queso - lots of ways you can do a cheese-y sauce, this is a good starting place. Potatoes, carrots, shallot, broth, oil and nooch is another combo to try (boil and blend).
  • Thug Kitchen is very popular and has some good food, I don’t actually own it and haven’t cooked out of it so can’t make a strong recommendation
  • The Easy Vegan and he has videos for the recipes as well.
  • The Wild Gut Project has some recipes and tips for a vegan low FODMAP diet and managing IBS.

More recommendations.

Check your library for cookbooks, likely they will have some of the ones I listed as well as a bunch more. An easy (and free) way to try new recipes that can often be more focused and better organized than searching blogs for recipes. Photocopy the few you like or buy the book if it seems good. Some libraries also offer cooking classes, which will likely not be vegan focused, but basic knife skill courses and such could be useful. Utilize your library!

Misc. Tips

Track your nutrient intake

I’ve found it useful to use cronometer every once and a while to track what I eat for a week. Helps get a rough idea of things. Not perfect, but at the very least helps highlight any major flaws. Also neat to put in an week of you pre-vegan diet to see how it compares.

Get blood work done

Whenever dealing with nutrition, it’s best to have objective measurements. How you feel is the most important indicator, but don’t jump to conclusions without getting blood work done.

An annual panel can help keep tabs on how your diet is behaving in your body. Talk to your doctor.

Nutritionist vs Dietitian

Nutritionist is not a protected professional term in most places. Dietitian is. So if you want to seek out professional, scientifically backed help (and you should!), look for a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN).

Also be aware that not all professionals are equal when it comes to veganism, you may have to look around to find one that is knowledgeable and supportive of a vegan diet.

Animal-derived stuff

There are a lot of animal-derived ingredients in stuff. Skim the list. You will eventually internalize some of it.

Some lesser known non-vegan items:

  • Sugar - while it comes from a plant, (most) non-organic sugar is processed with animal bone char. Organic sugar is vegan, as is turbinado.
  • Most food coloring as artificial food colors are tested on animals and some “natural colors” are derived from insects, such as Carmine & Cochineal (e.g., Natural Red 4)
  • Shellac and food glazes - can show up in many things, for food often listed as “confectioner’s glaze”
  • Vitamin D3 - lookout for it in fortified foods that are not explicitly labeled with the “Certified Vegan” logo.
  • Condoms - some are made from lamb intestines or have milk derivatives (casein), but others also test on animals. Some recommendations.

B12

B12 is produced by bacteria and unfortunately for humans the bacteria lives in our large intestine, after the point it can be absorbed (in the small intestine). So we have to consume the B12 we need.

B12 is a nutrient you have to be intentional about on a vegan diet as it is not prevalent in plant sources. Unless you are focusing on eating a bunch of fortified food – watch out for where the fortification is coming from, unless the product is labeled vegan, the vitamins might be sourced from animals – or unwashed veggies with some dirt on them, you should supplement it. Look for a lozenge which you dissolve under your tongue, though the specific delivery form doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

veganhealth.org/vitamin-b12

Iron

Most folks eating a varied vegan diet shouldn’t have any problem with iron, but I’ve had a couple friends have issues with iron absorption, so here are some tips to help that.

Avoid drinking coffee or tea, as well as red wine or beer, with meals, the tannins inhibit the absorption of non-heme (i.e., plant based) iron. More specifically, avoid one of the things with every meal. Having a glass of wine with dinner is fine, yes it will reduce the absorption of iron from the meal, but if you are eating well for the rest of the day then it shouldn’t be a concern.

Also up your Vitamin C intake, particularly when consuming iron-rich foods, it boosts the absorption of non-heme iron. Top Vitamin C sources include citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, and strawberries. You could also take a Vitamin C supplement.

Avoid calcium supplements with meals, they inhibit the absorption of iron.

veganhealth.org/iron

Calcium

Calcium is another nutrient you might want to be intentional about in a vegan diet. Incorporating fortified drinks (e.g., plant based milks), tofu and dark leafy greens (kale, bok choy, mustard greens, etc., though notably not spinach) into your daily regime is best. A calcium supplement can help.

I’ve had some folks wonder about oxalates/oxalic acids impact on calcium intake and yes they do bind with calcium, reducing absorption. For instance, spinach is high both in calcium and oxalates and is therefore not absorbed well and should not be considered a good source of calcium, though it is a good source of various other things. But that doesn’t mean spinach is sapping the calcium out of your bones, just that the calcium in the food itself won’t be as well absorbed. Ultimately, you want variety and the sources previously mentioned are good ones.

veganhealth.org/calcium

Community and support

Find a local vegan group on Meetup or Facebook. Choosing a vegan diet (in most places) will be going against the norm, it can be helpful to connect to a community of others so you don’t feel alone or disconnected.

Numbers

Approximately 9 billion land animals are killed to feed the US every year (~8 billion chickens alone), including sea creatures it is something like 55 billion.

Worldwide, we are looking 56 billion land animals per year, estimates of 150 billion animals including those in the sea.

For a little perspective, in the 6 years of World War II, the deadliest conflict in human history, an estimated 60 million people were killed.

There are currently an estimated 7.6 billion people alive today.

One estimate of the total number of Homo sapiens that have ever lived is 108 billion.

I’m not saying that one non-human life and one human life are equal, that’s a separate conversation as to how to think about that, but again, just want to give some sort of perspectiveAnd it’s interesting to think about the fact humanity kills more non-humans for pleasure every year than humans have ever existed.

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And note that all these numbers are conservative.

Vegan vs *tarian terms

I generally try to avoid getting bogged down in terminology, but words have meaning and I think it’s important to know what’s what.

I stated the long form definition of a vegan at the top of the page, also called an “ethical vegan”. In short, avoiding any exploitation of animals. Thankfully this is a generally clear term, when someone says “vegan” that is what they mean. Things go off the rails from here.

The term “vegetarian” is much more nebulousIn it’s original coining (at least mid-1800s), vegetarian generally meant the same as dietary vegan today, but in 1944 some folks needed an easier term than “non-dairy vegetarians” to distinguish their position, giving birth to “vegan”.

and almost always only deals with one’s diet. When speaking precisely, we have prefixes: lacto = dairy, ovo = eggs, pesco = fishHere using the more general meaning “seafood”/“animals that live in the water, often excluding mammals, but not always”, not what we think of as biological fish.

, to clarify a persons diet. And they can be used in any combination. Every version of vegetarianism I’m aware of finds honey acceptable, so there is usually no clarification there.

Generally today, “vegetarian” means a lacto-ovo vegetarian, someone who avoids meat, but consumes dairy and eggs.

A “pescetarian” generally referrers to a lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian, so the general meaning of “vegetarian” but also including fish, though it could also mean just a pesco vegetarian, someone who avoids all animal-derived food except those that come from fish.

Many Hindu vegetarians are lacto vegetarian.

“Strict vegetarian” describes the same position as a “dietary vegan”, i.e., avoidance of all animal-derived food, but perhaps allowing for animal exploitation in other areas.

“Flexitarian” describes someone who is generally a strict vegetarian, but sometimes eats meat/eggs/dairy.

A “plant-based diet” can mean a couple of things, either a) one that is focused on plants, but includes some meat, ranging from flexitarian status to simply having a balanced diet (from my perspective), or b) dietary vegan (without the baggage of the term).

Activism

Just making the changes to go vegan in your own life is fantastic. But if you feel compelled to do more, there are lots of ways to do so. veganactivism.org is a good place to start looking.

I am often conflicted on how hard or loud to talk about these things with non-vegans. On the one hand, it’s very important to pull the veil back and show others the reality of their seemingly simple decision about what to eat. On the other hand, don’t want to become just the preachy vegan loudmouth who can’t let anyone live their life.

And partly there’s just the practicality of it. Vegans are an extreme minority2014/2015 maybe 0.5-1% of the US population, a 2017 report has 6% of folks reporting being vegan.

. If you can’t make and maintain friendships with carnists, you could likely find yourself very lonelyOf course, being surrounded by people with fundamentally different values and constantly seeing them in contrast could still cause a sense of isolation and loneliness. Of being on the outside looking in.

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But also, carnists aren’t evil or bad people. Yes, they are participating in a grotesque acts, but they don’t see it that way. They have been taught that it is normal/acceptable/fine to torture and kill for pleasure. Many also don’t even realize this. Some do and continue on anyway, habits and a lifetime of indoctrination can be hard to break, even if you know deep down that you should.

That does not absolve them of all responsibility or mean we shouldn’t try to show them something different, it just means to act with compassion.

My goal is that at the very least no one in my life can suffer under the delusion of the “happy cow” or that taking a chickens eggs is natural or harmless. That I make them aware of the costs their decisions have and the messed up system we have been raised in.

And really, simply by being a good person that people enjoy being around while also happening to be vegan is a kind of activism. Simply existing as an example that vegans live a happy, healthy life can change people. Not overnight, but subtly, quietly. Make your position and beliefs clear, be firm about them, but don’t ram it down every throat in your life.

Maybe you feel like you have to do more. Maybe you feel you have to be antagonistic and fight hard. That’s good. Do what you think will work. Movements and change take all kinds and multiple angles to make happen.

Humans are animals

Just a reminder. So often the term “animal” is used to mean “non-human”, used to separate us from other creatures, when in fact, we are just another kind of animal. Veganism is concerned with the exploitation of humans just as much as non-humans.

My typical diet

Usually one of the following for each meal.

Breakfast:

  • Overnight oats
  • Microwave oatmeal
  • Scrambled tofu and potatoes (on weekends sometimes)

Lunch:

  • Peanut butter banana toast and potato chips
  • Soup and potato chips
  • Leftovers
  • A smoothie (sometimes)

Dinner:

  • Curry
  • Chili
  • Soup
  • Tacos/burritos

Of course there can be a large variety of other stuff any given week, but it’s usually something like this.

Common Objections

It makes me feel good

Whether it’s just the taste or reminds them of childhood or their culture. Someway, somehow, the consumption of animal products makes them feel good.

So does heroin, I hear.In case it needs said, please don’t ever “try” heroin. Internet folktale of warning.

That’s a little glib, but the point being there are other things that feel good in life and things to consider beyond your own personal enjoyment, particularly when that enjoyment has massive negative side effects.

We’ve always done it

Alternative formulations:

  • It’s what they are for
  • Tradition
  • It’s part of my culture
  • I don’t like change

If you base what you believe to be ethically correct behavior on what has been and not what is, you are a part of the problem. Context is important, but it doesn’t change reality. The enslavement of others is wrong, doesn’t matter if that’s how it’s always been or is economically important.

Tradition is a reason for doing something, but it can not be a bulwark against a flood of other reasons.

I don’t want to de-value the attachment people have to their food or non-vegan cultural items. For some it’s a deep – or even the only – connection to their family or culture, especially when they are removed from it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge that. That it doesn’t matter. It does. Some things are just more important and worth letting go of those attachments.

Just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right.

God gave us animals to eat

See previous point.

Also, you can read Genesis such that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were vegan and were merely caretakers of the fauna, without exploitation of them for any reason. The text does later go on to condone animal exploitation (both human and non-human) and outright require some non-human sacrifices, while also hinting that consumption of animals may not be desirable.

Read more on Wikipedia or do some internet searching for “vegan christian”.

It’s expensive

No it’s not.

Huge swaths of humanity have and continue to persist on a vegan (or generally vegan) diet of rice, beans, breads, potatoes, and other vegetables, precisely because it is cheap. Now a good diet, one to thrive on instead of merely survive, should be varied with plenty of other things besides basic foodstuffs, but the point is that like any diet, a vegan one will be as expensive as you want it to be.

And this is true even without considering the large subsidies animal agriculture gets in many countries and the negative externalities that do no show up on the receipt (but should).

It’s hard

It’s different and to be different can sometimes be hard. Anecdotally, I’ve found going vegan to be easy and a very positive thing in my life.

Soy gives you man boobs

No it doesn’t. A quick gut-check for this is to just look at Asian cultures, which have consumed a lot of soy in their regular diets for thousands of years, and observe that the men are not all walking around with “man-boobs”.

Yes, soy has phytoestrogen. So does beer. In fact, beer has more phytoestrogen than soyAlcohol itself can lower the testosterone levels in men, so a double whammy of hormone effects there.

. A glass of milk contains actual mammalian estrogen. If you’re concerned about estrogen, stop drinking beer and milk.

Soy’s impact – and the impact of various estrogen-like structures – on the human body is still the subject of research, but what we do have generally suggests that in the amounts reasonably consumed by a person, it is safe-to-beneficialThe phytoestrogen in soy may actually have a protective effect against certain cancers as they bind most strongly to the estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) whereas animal estrogen and, interestingly, the phytoestrogen from hops bind most strongly with estrogen receptor alpha (ERα). ERα promotes breast growth (and therefore cancer), ERβ appears to oppose this growth impact of ERα. All of this needs more research, I’m not selling you soy as a cancer preventative, I just mention it because I think it’s interesting and so often you only hear the negatives of soy in general conversation.

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Also, you don’t have to eat soy.

Plant suffering

There is no indication that plants have the capability to suffer, to feel pain, to have subjective experience. They are not sentient. Therefore we do not have to make moral considerations for the plants themselves.

But even if they did, livestock consume more crops than if humans were to just eat the crops directly. So this is actually adds to the reasons for veganism if true.

But for arguments sake, let’s assume that plants are sentient. The point this raises is that it then becomes impossible to eat/live without causing harm. Some then extrapolate from there, that because it’s impossible to eliminate all harm, any amount of harm is justifiable. This is, of course, ridiculous.

And refer to the definition of veganism at the top of the page, specifically the “as far as is possible and practicable”. Vegans already acknowledge it may not be possible or practical to eliminate all exploitation.

Now this point still has the implicit assumption that it is justifiable for humans to exist even if that existence is dependent on exploiting other sentient beings. So we should minimize and seek to eliminate that dependence, but there’s something about being human that makes it moral to exploit to survive. This is actually interesting to discuss, but also getting away from the point here, so will be left for another time.

I want gainz

I get so tired of meat = protein = strength. Just search “vegan athletes” or “vegan bodybuilders”. Go look at the top posts in /r/veganfitness. Please stop the “you need animal protein to be strong” nonsense.

More:

Dairy is okay

Supporting the diary industry is, practically speaking, directly supporting the veal industry (i.e., killing baby cows). Like other mammals, in order to produce milk, cows must have recently given birth (their lactation period, the period of time they produce milk, lasts about 10 months after birth), this works out to about a calf every year for a dairy cow. This results in a lot of calves. Generally, more than is sustainable if you don’t get rid of them, the population simply increases too quickly, particularly for the males.

So almost every dairy farm must sell off excess male calves to other places. Since these calves are born to cows that have been bred for milk-production and as such do not tend to put on weight quick enough to be commercially desirable as beef cows, they are slaughtered young. And even if the herd, let’s say, is a hybrid of breeds to make the male calves more viable as beef cows, that only delays their death, the end result is the same.

Veal is a direct by-product of dairy. Consuming diary is supporting the slaughter of calves.

But what about “slaughter free dairy”, like Ahimsa Dairy? Read this.

But what if you only use milk from the dairy cow your aunt has outside of town, you sprinkle magical dust on her to induce her lactation without pregnancy and old Bessy is treated like part of the family. And you make all our own cheeses, creams and such.

Okay, that’s certainly better. Much better. Keep in mind this is the fantasy land where Bessy is not being forcibly impregnated and constantly creating offspring which then have to be dealt with. Fundamentally though, you are still exploiting Bessy, you are controlling her body and forcing discomfort on her for your own pleasure/benefit.

But we make kids do chores and contribute work to the family.

Okay, but the kids’ right to exist is not contingent on their work. Would you still take care of Bessy if she didn’t produce milk? If yes, then why not just not force her to produce milk?

Humans are unique in many ways, but drinking the breast milk of other mammals is a weird one.

Other articles:

Eggs are okay

Eggs, or chicken periodsOr more like periods wrapped in a womb, as chickens are not mammals. Anyway, kinda mostly analogous.

if you like, are extremely problematic ethically.

The vast majority of eggs in the United States come from hens “living” in battery cages, and this practice is perhaps one of the most egregious offenses to life. The hens often have less square footage than a piece of paper in which to exist. Their beaks are burnt off to prevent them from pecking themselves or neighbors out of sheer boredom, since they can do little else (even stretching their wings or legs). Hot and loud with endless stacks and rows of the these cages crammed in a building. A hen exists in this hell state for maybe two yearsAverage lifespan outside the industry is about 8 years.

before her body is spent and she is killed, making room for a new young hen to take her place.

In the business of egg making, similar to milk making, males are unneeded. As soon as chicks are hatched, they get sexed, males being tossed into a grinder alive or equally horrific death.

Commercial “free range/cage free” eggs are often a joke. But let’s assume the best case, where the chickens get to roam outside across a huge area, don’t have their beaks burned off and are generally treated well.

Male chicks are still ground up for chicken goo, the hens are still killed after a short period once their bodies are spent. It is still fundamentally exploitation.

Okay, so you don’t buy from commercial egg producers. Only from your neighbor that has a couple hens on their huge plot of land. Or even stronger, you have your own hen. You got her from a hen rescue, saving her from death. She has ample room to roam and lots of things to peck, maybe even has the happy side effect of helping keep your little vegetable garden free from insects. She is happy and well cared for. This is like having any other non-human companion. Great.

But she still produces unfertilized eggs (she just doesn’t crank them out quickly enough to be valued at scaleThe ancestor of the modern domesticated egg-laying hen, the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus), would lay around 60 small eggs a year, modern hens are expected to produce around 300 large eggs a year.

). And unlike the case with cows above, you don’t have to force a chicken to produce eggs. She just does it “naturally”. Does that change anything? No, well again, yes, it is far better for the chicken to live that kind of a life and I want all existing chickens to have that instead of being in the commercial machine, but fundamentally, no.

Utilizing the product of her labor is still supporting the system, the idea, that led to her abuse and exploitation (and that of her species). It’s saying we can manipulate and enslave other sentient beings for our benefit, as long as we treat them “okay”. I say no.

So what do you do with all the eggs she produces if not eat them yourself? Let her eat them! It takes a lot of resources and nutrients to produce an egg, remember they are built to protect and nourish a chicken embryo. A chicken will eat her unfertilized eggs if left to her own devices to recover some of those nutrients. Though it’s also possible for her to get confused, sitting on unfertilized eggs and getting agitated when they don’t develop, so it’s often advisable to crack the eggs (just a wack to the top of the egg) to let her know they aren’t viable.

If you just absolutely can not give up eggs, rescuing a hen and caring for her well in an adequate space is certainly better than supporting any large scale production that is focused on profiting from her.

More:

Insects are okay

InsectsIn the colloquial sense (much of the arthropods), not the biological sense (class Insecta).

are animals by definition, they belong to the kingdom Animalia, and as such things derived from them are not strictly vegan. Now there could be room to argue here. What I am concerned with is sentience/consciousness/capacity to suffer. We use biological animal as a bit of a shortcut since as far as we know only species under Animalia have the potential for sentience, but what we really care about are moral animals or moral agents, things we are compelled to make moral considerations for, and it’s certainly possible that something could biologically belong to Animalia, but not be sentient. As far as I know, we have little evidence for the sentience of insects, but in truth, they are simply different than us and our understanding of our own subjective experiences can be difficult let alone for creatures more distant from us.

I think it is better to admit our ignorance and err on the side of caution, avoiding the exploitation of insects. But compared to many other things in the vegan sphere, insects rank very low in the things I think are important at the moment. I do my best to avoid insect products, and I think others should as well, but someone not avoiding insect products is not a big deal.

This applies to honey, silk, food coloring and glazes, etc.

More on honey:

Oysters are okay

Largely similar arguments to the above concerning insects. Oysters (and other bivalves) belong to Animalia, but don’t have central nervous systems and thus may not experience pain/sensations like we do, therefore maybe there is wiggle room to consume them and still be vegan. Oysters also tend to be good for their water systems and environmentally low impact.

Similarly to the insects, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid exploitation of oysters, but if someone is vegan and consumes oysters every so often, it’s not a big deal to me compared to other battles we need to fight.

More:

Pets

I don’t like the term “pet” and the use of “ownership” in reference to them, as it is a toxic and destructive framing, so I choose to avoid using them. Companion, furry friends (for those that are furry), non-human member of the family or similar are preferred. I’m not gonna bite anyone’s head of for using the term “pet” though.

In terms of our relationship to them, use terms like caretaker, protector, or even parent, over owner.

In practical terms, the amount of harm done by using non-human animals as livestock vastly outweighs the ethical concerns of them as companions. So while I think there are interesting and important things to consider in this area, it is not something we need spend a lot of time on or be a blocker from going vegan.

Don’t buy from a breeder. Don’t leave them locked in a hot car. Get them spayed or neutered. Feed them a vegan diet if possiblePlease take care with this and do research. Feeding omnivores like dogs a vegan diet is relatively straightforward, but for instance cats are obligate carnivores (they can not make the amino acid taurine) and while it is possible to build a vegan diet for them to thrive on (we can industrially make taurine from vegan sources), it can be lot more fraught. Focus on herbivore companions (rabbits, some birds or even an alpaca or goat) if the idea of purchasing non-vegan food is hard to take.

. Love and care for them.

More:

K9 Units

I’m against the usage of non-humans for police or military service, dogs, horses or otherwise. My thoughts are much less formed here. Like the question of pets, this is an area of much less importance than fighting against non-humans as livestock.

Other fallacies

Peruse Your Vegan Fallacy Is and these 30 Days, 30 Excuses videos for more.

More resources