Photo: Cute Panda Eating Bamboo Leaves

Vegan or not?

I will start by saying this: It doesn’t really matter.

It’s true, I don’t mind under which name my lifestyle is categorized, especially if that helps other people to have some idea of where my mentality is coming from. If I’m at a restaurant it certainly helps to ask for a vegan option to simplify things when I want to order something, and it is also helpful when I need a specific product, but which may have been tested on animals.

However, there is something that really matters to me and that is: It is not only about me!

Many people say that they chose not to consume animal products because it makes them feel better about themselves, it improves their health and that they are happier in general because of their decision to lead a vegan lifestyle. While all of those things are true for me too, they are the positive outcomes of my decision, not the reason why I decided to become vegan.

This is why I say that this is not only about me. I choose not to consume animal products or participate in their exploitation because I care about them and because I do not feel myself superior to them.

As human beings we have the intellectual capacity that allows us to learn from nature in order to adapt to it, for survival or to make our lives more convenient. That intellectual capacity, which is a privilege from nature, comes with a responsibility towards nature itself and unfortunately we have decided to abuse it. I won’t talk about the consequences of that abuse here, but we all have an idea of what it looks like.

However, it is not only animals that I care about, but other forms of life and non-living entities that host multiple forms of life like water and soil. That being said, avoiding direct animal harm by not consuming their products is simply not enough, and can actually be as harmful to the environment as consuming animals.

An example for me was the last time I joined a vegan event, and, despite my optimism and excitement about finding people I share values with, I was ultimately disappointed. The place was full of vegan options, however, this mainly consisted of food made with plant based products that have a big environmental impact, like soy.

I found myself surrounded by vegan options made with ingredients that shouldn’t be used in big amounts, at least not in countries where is not locally produced, like here in Ireland. The event was also mainly focused on ‘healthy’ brands and pre-packaged foods and not about local producers, animal shelters, environmental practices or the promotion of growing your own food.

In the end, I consider myself as someone who stands for having a healthy lifestyle, while also caring for the animals, the environment and the working conditions of farmers, both locally and internationally. If I were to use a label to define myself, vegan would certainly not reflect the entire philosophy behind my actions, but it would be very close.

For me, putting my health before the environment or other human beings isn’t the best way forward. In the end, we are all interconnected whether we want it or not. What I do today might not have an immediate impact on my health but will certainly influence my environment in the future and therefore my health and the health of those around me.

A healthy lifestyle should not be about the label you use to describe it but about how it provides you with the tools to make you, the environment and other human beings healthier. It is not a difficult task to channel those wonderful changes in your lifestyle to everybody’s benefit.

Originally published at on January 14, 2016.

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