Three Basic Lessons
I’d like to briefly discuss the difference between vegetarianism and veganism. Vegetarianism means not eating meat. Some people place conditions on their personal definition of “meat,” to justify their consumption of seafood or poultry. To further confuse the issue, others define their perception of vegetarianism as “ovo-lacto,” meaning they include eggs and dairy in their diets. Simply stated, veganism starts with not eating any product coming from an animal.
However, veganism goes well beyond diet. Abiding by the Hindu tenet of ahmisa—causing no cruelty to living beings—it extends to almost every facet of our lives. Most vegans are opposed to animal exploitation in any form and believe they animals have as much of a right to live comfortably as do humans. It is a challenging proposition when you consider how many aspects of modern existence come at the expense of other creatures. Leather, silk, wool, butter, ice cream, lanolin (used in many cosmetics), and even common drugs like Premarin (pregnant mare urine) are all harvested from animals.
Another important distinction is between organic and conventional. Conventional products are more plentiful and less expensive than their organic counterparts, but they come with hidden costs. Organic farming uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. To be certified as organic by the US Department of Agriculture, a farm must submit to long-term and random testing and wait sometimes as long as 10 years. The costs incurred by the farmers are passed along to the consumer, but by buying organic, you’re living cleaner and healthier. By not supporting the use of toxic chemicals, you’re helping maintain the health of the watershed and the oceans, and by extension all creatures (including us) who depend on clean water.
As a vegan and an environmentalist I’ve learned three basic lessons:
- You can never do enough.
- More often than not, the short-term costs are pretty steep.
- Any progress towards a kinder, more compassionate world is a good thing.