What Is Vegan?

Many people are confused about exactly what is vegan. What exactly is the definition of vegan? What can a vegan eat? Which common foods that appear vegan actually contain hidden animal products? Why become vegan?

This article aims to answer some of those questions.

What Is Vegan - The Definition Of A Vegan Diet

A vegan diet prohibits any animal products, or foods that are derived from animal products. These include:
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy products - eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt etc.
  • Honey
  • Gelatine
  • Alcoholic drinks that include animal products.

What Is Vegan - the Definition Of A Vegan Lifestyle

As well as eating a vegan diet, a vegan also does not buy or use products that are obtained from animals. This includes:
  • Clothing - such as leather wool, silk and fur.
  • Cosmetics that are tested on animals or contain animal ingredients
Vegans endeavour to live as consciously and ethically as possible, reducing the environment impact that they as consumers have on the world.

what is vegan

How To Tell If Skincare and Cosmetics Products Are Vegan

It can be a minefield trying to learn all of the many possible ingredients that are contained in skincare and cosmetic products. Not only do you want to ensure that none of the ingredients in the products are animal derived, you also only want to buy products from companies that have also not tested the products on animals, or somehow exploited them in any other way. While it is useful to become as familiar with as many of these ingredients as possible, this is a skill that will become more developed throughout your life as a vegan. In the meantime, one of the most effective steps you can take to ensure you are buying vegan, cruelty free products is to buy from companies that have some official form of certification. These include:

CCIC Certification - This stands for Coalition for Consumer Information On Cosmetics, which certifies companies that don't participate in animal testing to develop new products. To obtain the certification, the company, its laboratories and its suppliers must all meet the criteria. You can visit their website to get a current list of accredited suppliers, and also look out for their symbol (a leaping bunny) on cosmetics and skincare products.

Certified Vegan - this is a seal given by Vegan Action, and is awarded to products that haven't been tested on animals, nor contain any animal derived ingredients.

Caring Consumer - this is the PETA issued certification in the form of a bunny logo stamped onto products, which verifies that the company does not perform animal testing, nor intends to do so in the future.

What Is Vegan - What Foods Can A Vegan Eat?

Contrary to popular opinion, there are a whole world of foods that are available to vegans! Some delicious vegan foods include:
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Salads
  • Grains - rice, pasta, couscous, millet, quinoa, bulgur, tempeh etc.
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegan protein - tofu, spirulina, wheatgrass and hemp. Nuts, seeds and grains also contain protein as well.
  • Vegan substitutions - e.g. vegan margarine, vegan mayo, vegan cheese, soya milk etc.

Ingredients to watch out for - what is vegan and what is not?

Non vegan products can be hidden in the most innocent, vegan-looking foods such as yogurts, desserts and breakfast cereals. Here is a list to watch out for if you decide to become vegan (and even if you don’t decide to become 100% vegan, we recommend avoiding these products as they are cruel and unnecessary when delicious, natural alternatives are always available).
  • Some sauces, drinks, bottles cherries and other products contain a red food colouring called carmine, which is made from ground up beetles!
  • Many yogurts, desserts, jellies, cereals and vitamin capsules contain gelatine, which is made from the skin and bones of animals and fish.
  • Whey, which is produced when making cheese, is hidden in many cereals and bread products.
  • Many wines and beers owe their clear appearance to an ingredient called isinglass which is derived from the bladders of fish!
For all of these products, there are vegan alternatives which taste just as delicious (actually much more so). So, regardless of whether you are a full time vegan or not, educating yourself on what is vegan and what is not is well worthwhile in order to prevent needless cruelty and suffering, and to enable you to make the choice not to eat these stomach turning ingredients.


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