The growing towards conscious eating habits, backed by health benefits is set to drive Veganism as a way of life in the days to come. But being a vegan, one often faces questions about their diet.
It's important to remember Veganism is not a diet or fad but a social justice movement for animals. To start with, vegans are those who do not use animal products or even by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, cosmetics. Individuals who prefer to be a vegan choose food which does not exploit animals.
Amjor Chandran, animal rights activist and co-organiser of Vegan India Movement, Animal Liberation March India (ALMI) and the Animal Rights March India, clears the air on veganism.
Bursting the myths about veganism
There is a common belief that it is not affordable to go vegan. The truth is: it is economical. It is essential for a human being to follow a balanced diet with pulses and cereals, grains, vegetables and fruit to fulfil the body's nutritional requirements, he says.
"When we eliminate animal products from our diet, it is not necessary to substitute them with vegan alternatives. Vegan alternatives like almond and soy milk mock meat are only to satiate our taste buds. They are not essential to go vegan. Eliminating animal products is cost-effective.
"Another big misconception is that the vegans are protein deficient because people think only meat has protein. A well plant-based diet will give you all the essential amino acids needed for your body. Other requirements like B12 is a vitamin which is neither plant nor animal origin. They are found in microbes. Because of too much sanitation, it is not readily available. So, it is necessary to take supplements. Sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D as well as supplementation. 40 percent of the world's population is deficient of vitamin D irrespective of what they eat. So, it is not correct to think that a vegan diet lacks nutrients," Chandran points out.
Benefits of veganism
By choosing to go vegan you not only contribute in the effort to stop the exploitation of animals but also to reduce your carbon footprint and prevent diseases. By following a whole food and plant-based diet, you can prevent or even reverse 15 of the major killer diseases of our time that includes heart disease and diabetes. This is explained with facts by Dr Michael Gregor in his famous video on YouTube "Uprooting the leading causes of death", says the expert.
"Being vegan is the single best way to reduce your environmental impact on the earth. Animal agriculture is responsible for deforestation, water shortage, Global warming, and climate change. Globally, 50 percent of food grains which are produced in this world are used to feed the animals that we breed and overpopulate. A global shift towards veganism significantly helps us in preventing food shortage," he asserts.
Adding: "Animal agriculture is responsible for global warming, deforestation, climate change and water scarcity. This is the reason why environmentalists like James Cameron and Greta Thunberg have turned vegan. There are growing activist groups across the country like Dval (Delhi Vegans for Animal Liberation ) which is based in Delhi and Kerala vegan Movement, which aim at creating vegan awareness by several campaigns like Marches, cube of truth, lectures, street outreaches."
Vegan India Movement is an initiative which strives to bring together grassroots vegan Activists across the country. 1,000 activists across the country actively participate in different campaigns. Last month was named #whydiaryiscruel in which several activists made videos in their regional languages to make people aware of the standard practices of the dairy industry.
Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai have an immense rise in the number of vegans. The Movement is slowly spreading across the small towns as well. There is no proper survey conducted to measure the number of vegans yet. But with more awareness being created by activists, it's bound to increase exponentially.
How can one become a vegan?
He says: "Veganism is not about perfectionism. It is not a perfect world that we live in, but the endeavour is to strive towards creating one. It's about not causing intentional harm to animals. As far as our diet is concerned, it's about following a balanced diet and eliminating animal products. Some people find it difficult to let go of the taste of animal products, that's where alternatives come into play." Tea, coffee, paneer and all other addictions can be replaced with similar plant-based alternatives. There are many start-ups which sell mock meats as well
He adds: "Besides diet, it is important to focus on our lifestyle as well. As a vegan one should not wear silk, fur, wool which is made of animal skin and replace cosmetics, beauty products with cruelty-free products. One needs to be very careful in using products from the industry where animals are used, they are abused and exploited."