The Importance of Being Vegan

“If a man earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food.”

- Leo Tolstoy

Intellectually, most of us agree that inflicting unnecessary harm is unjustified – whether the victims are human or not. Yet somehow, most of the same people who subscribe to this belief are willing to turn a blind eye to such harm when they themselves receive some kind of advantage from it – whether the benefits are in the form of food, possessions, vanity, or amusement.

Sadly, because widespread violence against animals in the form of ‘agriculture’, ‘research’ and even ‘entertainment’, is sanctioned by mainstream society and its legal systems, the majority of people tend to be unwilling to see this brutality for what it is, and to step outside of the pervasive conditioning that makes such atrocities possible.

It’s true that more and more people are beginning to speak out about the many abhorrent abuses that occur within the animal industry, and the movement to ‘improve conditions’ for these animals continues to gain popularity. And yet, each one of the awful practices that animal advocates protest passionately against – intensive confinement, enforced insemination, separation of mother and child, castration, de-horning, tail docking, de-beaking, mulesing, de-toeing, live scalding, force molting – all of these horrific procedures, and many more, exist because an ever-growing number of human consumers continue to create demand for animal products. To an industry that views sentient beings as economic units – money-making machines – it is unavoidable that such violence will be viewed as an acceptable means to the end of delivering products that turn a profit.

In any case, even if every one of the aforementioned practices were abolished, it would still be immoral and inexcusable to use other sentient beings as resources. In today’s world, vegan alternatives are available for every single significant purpose for which we currently use animals*. Increasing numbers of people are embracing veganism as the solution to the problems we experience as individuals and as a society – from our many health crises, to our environmental emergency, to the issue of escalating violence – all of which have us living in some degree of fear for the future.

As this movement for animal emancipation grows in size and strength, a powerful example is being set by the individuals who refuse to take any part in the brutal oppression of innocents that we call ‘the animal industry’. Men and women all over the globe –simply by living as vegans – are demonstrating that there is no moral justification for the harm we inflict on animals.

*NB: Although animal products are used in certain items for which there currently are no consumer alternatives – such as computers and car tires – there are alternatives that could easily be used in their manufacturing.

Some people might attempt to justify consumption of animal products for reasons of health. And yet, an increasing number of medical professionals are beginning to realize that not only are plant-based diets nutritionally complete, but they are actually more nourishing and far less toxic than their animal-based counterparts. In addition, the public is beginning to realize that many of the major dangers associated with diet – heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and many, many more – are exacerbated by the consumption of animal products, and can actually be avoided by adopting a vegan diet.

According to the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, the American Dietetic Association (“the ADA”):

“…Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases… Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

In other words, the official position of the – very mainstream – ADA is that including animal products in one’s diet is not only unnecessary, but can actually be harmful to our health.

What about our other uses of animals? Leather, wool, silk, down, fur, toiletries, cosmetics, entertainment, sport, the vast majority of our experimentation – all of these are also clearly unnecessary under any coherent concept of the word “necessary”, as there are vegan alternatives available for them all.

Veganism is not a fringe philosophy – it is a moral baseline that is consistent with beliefs that most of us already hold. Veganism is a simple matter of refraining from participating in unnecessary and harmful use of sentient beings. As most people are naturally opposed to unnecessary violence, becoming and staying vegan is not a matter of changing any of our basic moral beliefs. It simply requires us to be willing to change the habits we have developed that prevent us from living according to our principles.

Every one of us has been conditioned by the propaganda of a highly speciesist society – a worldwide culture that is extremely prejudiced against the interests of those animals who did not have the good fortune to be born onto this planet in human form. And yet, every one of us has the power to break free from this indoctrination. Becoming vegan is simply recognizing and admitting who we really are – it is the opportunity to become who we would be if no one had ever taught us that it’s okay to turn our backs on the needs and rights of our fellow animals, that it’s okay to ignore their pain if it leads to our pleasure.

Is veganism a sacrifice? Not at all. On the contrary, it is every non-vegan choice that sacrifices our own inherent goodness. Once you make the decision to live consistently with your values, the rewards – in the form of a healthier body, clearer mind, and more peaceful conscience – will be both profoundly apparent and a source of continuing joy.

But even if veganism does require us to give up some of our favorite foods, beloved items of clothing, and cherished habits, does that question really matter? The institution of slavery and the treatment of sentient beings as ‘things’ – whether human or nonhuman – are inherently and gravely unjust.  The changes that veganism requires of us, and the rewards that veganism brings, are irrelevant to the true moral question:

Is the taste of a particular food, or the way you feel in your favorite pair of shoes or your winter coat, more important than the life and freedom of another living, feeling being?


with Dan Cudahy


Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational organization whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making the transition.

Dan Cudahy is author of Unpopular Vegan Essays: Unpopular Essays Concerning Popular Violence Inflicted On The Innocent.

Image: dan /

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Caroline d.
Caroline d.6 months ago

Thank you !
A new vegan (for few months)

Chazz York
Chazz Yorkabout a year ago

The most intelligent day in my life was the day I became a vegan. The dumbest day was when I allowed myself to be lied to by omnivores who convinced me I couldn't live a healthy vegan life. The happiest day in my life is the day I got tired of being sick, went back to my vegan life and started feeling the benefits of an improved health and a happier sense of being at knowing I no longer would be supporting the murder of animals for food. Some may get angry that I put it that way, but it is the truth. If some refuse to even try the vegan life, that is up to them, but I don't regret being vegan in any way, form, or fashion what so ever. I celebrate it. My doctors and my careful screening of the effects on me from being vegan show that it was the best decision I ever made all the way around.

Dale O.
DaleLovesOttawa O.about a year ago

"I have just been told by one of the members that Angel publishes old stuff and changes the name and publishes it again, and some people don´t seem to like it." ~Cristina S.

Actually, this is done every now and then with many of the authors, some articles are older and are brought back. Sometimes these articles had described something that had occurred a few years ago and at times no update is provided (say, a case involving the treatment of an animal or describing what happened with a person) which can leave people wondering whatever did happen if the article hasn't been updated.

Dale O.
DaleLovesOttawa O.about a year ago

There are many differing viewpoints on any given issues. Given the diversity of the world, there are a number of options to follow, if one eats meat, then simply avoid factory farms.

Cheryl M said: "If most go to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, those people will most likely be healthier than their omnivorous friends." This is not necessarily true as vegans are not immune from health problems. Cristina S stated: I wonder why you, Valentina R, are in this site, when you have no regard for any rights but yours, obviously you don´t give a damn about anything but yourself...A total shame of human being you are. You should be on a "Couldn´t Care Less Carnivore Site." Just because others are not vegan, does not mean that they are selfish. It is the stock and trade answer from some vegans that 'only vegans care' about this or that and everyone else, be they vegetarian or omnivore needs to go off Care2. This is not a vegans only site and everyone has a contribution to make. Humankind is diverse and no one option will be the only one available to people.

Some vegans are full of self-importance if they assume that only their way of doing things is valid. I have vegan friends who are not judgemental.

Dale O.
DaleLovesOttawa O.about a year ago

Interesting article.

Veganism is one option for some, however, the world is now comprised of vegetarians, omnivores and vegans and it appears that it will always be this way. Chose the option that you are comfortable with.

Since three percent of the world's population is vegan, it is not an option that most are following. Modern day farming both animal and veggie needs a lot of changes.

Colin W, I am nowhere near the ocean, all three oceans are over 1,000 kilometres from where I live, so there is no surf, up or down. Just because some people disagree with you, does not make them trolls, stop being so simplistic when it comes to a proper and concise debate. People have different ideas on any given topic. Not everyone plans on being vegan and people have been eating meat for eons. If you do not wish to, by all means do not eat it, but to assume no one is going to be eating meat in the future is wishful thinking. One can get rid of factory farms and go back to small farms, pasture-raised. Get rid of GMO agriculture as well and get back to organic farming.

Dale O.
DaleLovesOttawa O.about a year ago

Billy Vincent B stated: ..."life may well be longer free of meat consumption heart attacks, strokes, liver kidney failure and so many more problems being a carnivore."

Not necessarily true as vegans are not immune from strokes and other illnesses and many omnivores live long and healthy lives if they follow a well-balanced diet. Given today's food industry and the high amount of highly refined foods, HFCS, etc., seen in foods that are not even animal products, one has to be careful of what one eats, too many GMO's etc., therefore eating organic foods seems to be the way to ensure good health.

Many people don't seem to be aware of basic nutrition and eat too much meat, potato chips and the like... the proper serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. You won't have health problems if eating non-factory farmed meat, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise well. There are no problems being an omnivore if one observes a well-balanced diet. People are omnivores not carnivores unless one is Inuit, they eat mostly meat and very little else.

Billy Vincent Berman
Billy Vincent bermanabout a year ago

What humanity needs to do is to come of age and end the insanity of hunting and killing animals, we are no longer Neanderthals...further more we need many more Vegan restaurants and shops in malls and shopping centres....Being a Vegan is a joy and a lot healthier, no animal suffers and life may well be longer free of meat consumption heart attacks, strokes, liver kidney failure and so many more problems being a carnivore...billy vincent berman....i too am on Facebook sharing as many petitions as i can and welcome people to use any material on my file and i like too very much the work of and care of care2 and the petitioners....billy vincent berman

Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.about a year ago

Thank you!

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Hi, Erica..........long time, no read. Welcome back. Yes, I had checked the top box in this discussion a very long time ago, when it was a NEW discussion. Never thought I should have to manually UNCHECK discussions that should just die out, automatically, so was a bit surprised when a new comment made to this article showed up in my C2's IN BOX. Hope you're doing well. Thank you for the support. It IS mind-boggling to contemplate why some think coming into and stirring up the "pot" after such a long time and in such a hostile, negative and insulting manner could impress anyone or "convert" them to their beliefs, isn't it?

Erica B.
Erica B.2 years ago

I can't believe this article is still being kept a very angry vegan no less. Diane, you are SO spot on. I mean, geez, I'm a vegetarian and thought Colin's comment was totally inappropriate...AND he is a tad late in getting in on the conversation. He should have participated when people still actually CARED about the discussion. And that goes for Cristina S too.