|Pronunciation /ˈviːɡənɪzəm/ VEE-gə-niz-əm|
Description Elimination of the use of animal products, particularly in diet
Earliest proponents Al-Maʿarri (973–1057) Roger Crab (1621–1680) Johann Conrad Beissel (1691–1768) James Pierrepont Greaves (1777–1842) Amos Bronson Alcott (1799–1888) Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) Donald Watson (1910–2005)
Term coined by Donald Watson, November 1944
Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan ( VEE-gən).
- Strict vegetarians
- Vegetarian Society
- Coining the term vegan (1944)
- Countercultural food movement
- Into the mainstream (2010s)
- Eggs, dairy products, honey, silk
- Vegan diet
- Plant milk, cheese, mayo
- Egg replacements
- Vegan food groups
- Raw veganism
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 fatty acids, iodine
- Health effects
- Pregnancy, infants and children
- Toiletries, household
- Ethical veganism
- Environmental veganism
Distinctions are sometimes made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England. At first he used it to mean "non-dairy vegetarian", but from 1951 the society defined it as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals". Interest in veganism increased in the 2010s. More vegan stores opened, and vegan options became increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants in many countries.
Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and phytochemicals, and lower in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Well-planned vegan diets can reduce the risk of some types of chronic disease, including heart disease. They are regarded as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The German Society for Nutrition cautions against vegan diets for children, and during pregnancy and lactation. Because uncontaminated plant foods do not provide vitamin B12 (which is produced by microorganisms such as bacteria), researchers agree that vegans should eat B12-fortified foods or take a supplement.
The origin of the English term vegetarian is unknown. The earliest known use is attributed to the actress Fanny Kemble, writing around 1839 in Georgia in the United States. The practice can be traced to Indus valley civilization in 3300 - 1300 BCE Ancient India. Early vegetarians included Indian philosophers such as Mahavira 6th-century-BCE and Acharya Kundakunda, the Indian poet Thiruvalluvar, the Indian emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka, Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras 6th-century-BCE, Empedocles and Theophrastus, the Roman poets Ovid, Seneca the Younger, Plutarch, Plotinus and Porphyry. The earliest known vegan was the Arab poet Al-Maʿarri (c. 973–1057). Their arguments were based on health, the transmigration of souls, animal welfare, and the view, espoused by Porphyry in De Abstinentia ab Esu Animalium ("On Abstinence from Animal Food", c. 268–270), that if humans deserve justice, so do animals.
Vegetarianism established itself as a significant movement in 19th-century England and the United States. A minority of vegetarians avoided animal food entirely. In 1813 the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley published A Vindication of Natural Diet, advocating "abstinence from animal food and spirituous liquors", and in 1815 William Lambe, a London physician, claimed that his "water and vegetable diet" could cure anything from tuberculosis to acne. Lambe called animal food an "habitual irritation", and argued that "[m]ilk eating and flesh eating are but branches of a common system, and they must stand or fall together". Sylvester Graham's meatless Graham diet—mostly fruit, vegetables, water, and bread made at home with stoneground flour—became popular as a health remedy in the 1830s in the United States. Several vegan communities were established around this time. In Massachusetts Amos Bronson Alcott, father of the novelist Louisa May Alcott, opened the Temple School in 1834 and Fruitlands in 1844, and in England James Pierrepont Greaves founded the Concordium, a vegan community at Alcott House on Ham Common, in 1838.
In 1843 members of Alcott House created the British and Foreign Society for the Promotion of Humanity and Abstinence from Animal Food, led by Sophia Chichester, a wealthy benefactor of Alcott House. Alcott House also helped to establish the British Vegetarian Society, which held its first meeting in 1847 in Ramsgate, Kent. The Medical Times and Gazette in London reported in 1884:
There are two kinds of Vegetarians—one an extreme form, the members of which eat no animal food whatever; and a less extreme sect, who do not object to eggs, milk, or fish. The Vegetarian Society ... belongs to the latter more moderate division.
An article in the society's magazine, the Vegetarian Messenger, in 1851 discussed alternatives to shoe leather, which suggests the presence of vegans within the membership who rejected animal use entirely, not only in diet. The first known vegan cookbook, Rupert H. Wheldon's No Animal Food: Two Essays and 100 Recipes, was published in London in 1910. The consumption of milk and eggs became a battleground over the following decades. There were regular discussions about it in the Vegetarian Messenger; it appears from the correspondence pages that many opponents of veganism came from within the vegetarian community.
During a visit to London in 1931, Mahatma Gandhi—who had joined the Vegetarian Society's executive committee when he lived in London from 1888 to 1891—gave a speech to the society arguing that it ought to promote a meat-free diet as a matter of ethics, not health. This lent support to the vegan position, although Gandhi himself drank goat's milk. Lacto-vegetarians acknowledged the ethical consistency of the vegan position but regarded a vegan diet as impractical, and were concerned that it might be an impediment to spreading vegetarianism if vegans found themselves unable to participate in social circles where no non-animal food was available. This became the predominant view of the Vegetarian Society, which in 1935 stated: "The lacto-vegetarians, on the whole, do not defend the practice of consuming the dairy products except on the ground of expediency."
Coining the term vegan (1944)
In August 1944 several members of Vegetarian Society asked that a section of its newsletter be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism. When the request was turned down, Donald Watson, secretary of the Leicester branch, set up a new quarterly newsletter in November 1944, priced tuppence. He called it The Vegan News—he chose the word vegan himself—but asked his readers if they could think of anything better than vegan to stand for "non-dairy vegetarian". They suggested allvega, neo-vegetarian, dairyban, vitan, benevore, sanivores and beaumangeur.
The first edition attracted over 100 letters, including from George Bernard Shaw, who resolved to give up eggs and dairy. The new Vegan Society held its first meeting in early November at the Attic Club, 144 High Holborn, London. Those in attendance were Donald Watson, Elsie B. Shrigley, Fay K. Henderson, Alfred Hy Haffenden, Paul Spencer and Bernard Drake, with Mme Pataleewa (Barbara Moore, a Russian-British engineer) observing. World Vegan Day is held every 1 November to mark the society's creation.
The Vegan News changed its name to The Vegan in November 1945, by which time it had 500 subscribers. It published recipes and a "vegan trade list" of animal-free products, such as Colgate toothpaste, Kiwi shoe polish, Dawson & Owen stationery and Gloy glue. Vegan books appeared, including Vegan Recipes by Fay K. Henderson, and Aids to a Vegan Diet for Children by Kathleen V. Mayo.
The Vegan Society soon made clear that it rejected the use of animals for any purpose, not only in diet. In 1947 Watson wrote: "The vegan renounces it as superstitious that human life depends upon the exploitation of these creatures whose feelings are much the same as our own ...". From 1948 The Vegan's front page read: "Advocating living without exploitation", and in 1951 the society published its definition of veganism as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals." In 1956 its vice-president, Leslie Cross, founded the Plantmilk Society, and in 1965, as Plantmilk Ltd and later Plamil Foods, it began production of one of the first widely distributed soy milks in the Western world.
The first vegan society in the United States was founded in 1948 by Catherine Nimmo and Rubin Abramowitz in California, who distributed Watson's newsletter. In 1960 H. Jay Dinshah founded the American Vegan Society (AVS), linking veganism to the concept of ahimsa, "non-harming" in Sanskrit. According to Joanne Stepaniak, the word vegan was first published independently in 1962 by the Oxford Illustrated Dictionary, defined as "a vegetarian who eats no butter, eggs, cheese or milk".
Countercultural food movement
In the 1960s a countercultural food movement emerged in the United States around concerns about diet, the environment and a distrust of food producers, leading to increasing interest in organic gardening and vegetarianism. Frances Moore Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet (1971) sold over three million copies and suggested "getting off the top of the food chain". From the late 1970s a group of scientists in the United States, including physicians Dean Ornish, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal D. Barnard, John A. McDougall, Michael Greger and biochemist T. Colin Campbell, argued that diets based on animal fat and animal protein, such as the Western pattern diet, were detrimental to health.
The following decades saw a series of books recommend vegan or vegetarian diets, including McDougall's The McDougall Plan (1983), John Robbins's Diet for a New America (1987), which associated meat eating with environmental damage, and Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (1990). In 2003 two major North American dietitians' associations indicated that well-planned vegan diets were suitable for all life stages. This was followed by the film Earthlings (2005), Campbell's The China Study (2005), Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch (2005), Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals (2009), and the film Forks over Knives (2011).
Into the mainstream (2010s)
The vegan diet became increasingly mainstream in the 2010s. The European Parliament defined the meaning of vegan for food labels in 2010, in force as of 2015. Chain restaurants began marking vegan items on their menus, and supermarkets improved their selection of vegan processed food. The interest was reflected in increased page views for the topic on Wikipedia. The English Wikipedia article on veganism was viewed 73,000 times in August 2009 but 145,000 times in August 2013. Articles on veganism were viewed more during this period than articles on vegetarianism in the English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish Wikipedias.
The global mock-meats market increased by eighteen percent between 2005 and 2010, and in the United States by eight percent between 2012 and 2015, to $553 million a year. De Vegetarische Slager, the first known vegetarian butcher shop, selling mock meats, opened in the Netherlands in 2010, while America's first vegan butcher, the Herbivorous Butcher, opened in Minneapolis in 2016. By 2016, forty-nine percent of Americans were drinking plant milk, although 91 percent still drank dairy milk. In the United Kingdom the plant milk market increased by 155 percent in two years, from 36 million litres in 2011 to 92 million in 2013. In 2011 Europe's first vegan supermarkets appeared in Germany: Vegilicious in Dortmund and Veganz in Berlin.
Countering the image of self-deprivation projected by vegan straight edges and animal rights activists, veganism was promoted as glamorous; in 2015 the editor of Yahoo! Food declared that it had become "a thing". Celebrities, athletes and politicians adopted vegan diets, some seriously, some part-time. The idea of the "flexi-vegan" gained currency: New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, in VB6 (2013), recommended eating vegan food until 6 pm. In 2013 the Oktoberfest in Munich, traditionally a meat-heavy affair, offered vegan dishes for the first time in its 200-year history.
Critics of veganism questioned the evolutionary legitimacy and health effects of a vegan diet, and pointed to longstanding philosophical traditions which held that humans are superior to other animals. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain wrote in 2000 that "Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn." Several vegetarian writers argued that the restrictions of a vegan lifestyle are impractical, and that vegetarianism is a better goal.
Vegans do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fowl, game, seafood, eggs, dairy, or any other animal products. Dietary vegans might use animal products in clothing (as leather, wool, and silk), toiletries and similar. Ethical veganism extends not only to matters of food but also to the wearing or use of animal products. Vegans reject the commodification of animals. The British Vegan Society will certify a product only if it is free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical, including animal testing.
Philosopher Gary Steiner argues that it is not possible to be entirely vegan, because animal use and products are "deeply and imperceptibly woven into the fabric of human society". Animal products in common use include albumen, allantoin, beeswax, blood, bone char, bone china, carmine, casein, castoreum, cochineal, elastin, emu oil, gelatin, honey, isinglass, keratin, lactic acid, lanolin, lard, rennet, retinol, shellac, squalene, tallow/sodium tallowate, whey and yellow grease. Some of these are chemical compounds that can be derived from animal products, plants, or petrochemicals. Allantoin, lactic acid, retinol and squalene, for example, can be vegan. These products and their origins are not always included in the list of ingredients.
Some vegans will not buy woollen jumpers, silk scarves, leather shoes, bedding that contains goose down or duck feathers, ordinary soap (usually made of animal fat), or cosmetics that contain animal products. They avoid certain vaccines; the flu vaccine, for example, is usually grown in hens' eggs, although an effective alternative, Flublok, is widely available in the United States. Non-vegan items acquired before they became vegan might be donated to charity or used until worn out. Some vegan clothes, in particular leather alternatives, are made of petroleum-based products, which has triggered criticism because of the environmental damage involved in their production.
Eggs, dairy products, honey, silk
The main difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet is that vegans exclude eggs and dairy products. Ethical vegans avoid them on the premise that their production causes animal suffering and premature death. In egg production, most male chicks are culled because they do not lay eggs. To obtain milk from dairy cattle, cows are made pregnant to induce lactation; they are kept pregnant and lactating for three to seven years, then slaughtered. Female calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours of birth, and fed milk replacer to retain the cow's milk for human consumption. Male calves are slaughtered at birth, sent for veal production, or reared for beef.
Vegan groups disagree about insect products. Neither the Vegan Society nor the American Vegan Society considers honey, silk, and other insect products as suitable for vegans, while Vegan Action and Vegan Outreach view it as a matter of personal choice. Agave nectar is a popular vegan alternative to honey.
Vegan dietVegan cuisine at Wikibook Cookbooks
Vegan diets are based on grains and other seeds, legumes (particularly beans), fruits, vegetables, edible mushrooms, and nuts. Meat analogues (mock meats) based on soybeans (tofu), or wheat-based seitan/gluten, are a common source of plant protein, usually in the form of vegetarian sausage, mince, and veggie burgers.
Dishes based on soybeans are a staple of vegan diets because soybeans are a complete protein; this means they contain all the essential amino acids for humans and can be relied upon entirely for protein intake. They are consumed most often in the form of soy milk and tofu (bean curd), which is soy milk mixed with a coagulant. Tofu comes in a variety of textures, depending on water content, from firm, medium firm, and extra firm for stews and stir-fries; to soft or silken for salad dressings, desserts, and shakes. Soy is also eaten in the form of tempeh and texturized vegetable protein (TVP); also known as textured soy protein (TSP), the latter is often used in pasta sauces.
Plant milk, cheese, mayo
Plant milks—such as soy milk, almond milk, grain milks (oat milk and rice milk), hemp milk, and coconut milk—are used in place of cows' or goats' milk. Soy milk provides around 7 g of protein per cup (240 mL or 8 fl oz), compared with 8 g of protein per cup of cow's milk. Almond milk is lower in dietary energy, carbohydrates and protein. Soy milk should not be used as a replacement for breast milk for babies. Babies who are not breastfed may be fed commercial infant formula, normally based on cows' milk or soy. The latter is known as soy-based infant formula or SBIF.
Butter can be replaced with a vegan alternative such as Earth Balance's. Vegan (egg-free) mayonnaise brands include Vegenaise, Nayonaise, Mindful Mayo, and Plamil's Egg-Free Mayo. Vegan cheeses, such as Chreese and Daiya, are made from soy, nuts and tapioca, and can replace the meltability of dairy cheese. Nutritional yeast is a common substitute for the taste of cheese in vegan recipes. Cheese substitutes can be made at home.
Commercial egg substitutes, such as Bob's Red Mill egg replacer and Ener-G egg replacer, are available for cooking and baking. The protein in eggs thickens when heated and binds other ingredients together. Flaxseeds will do the same: replace each egg with one tablespoon of flaxseed meal mixed with three tablespoons of water. For pancakes a tablespoon of baking powder can be used instead of eggs. Other ingredients include (to replace one egg): one tablespoon of soy flour and one tablespoon of water; a quarter cup of mashed bananas, mashed prunes or apple sauce; or in batter two tablespoons of white flour, half a tablespoon of vegetable oil, two tablespoons of water, and half a tablespoon of baking powder. Silken (soft) tofu and mashed potato can also be used.
Vegan food groups
From 1991 the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recommended a low-fat vegan diet based on the "New Four Food Groups": fruit, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), grains and vegetables. The recommendation is three or more servings a day of fruit (one of them high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, melon or strawberries); two or more of protein-rich legumes (such as soybeans, which can be consumed as soy milk, tofu or tempeh); five or more of whole grains (corn, barley, rice and wheat in products such as bread or cereal); and four or more of vegetables.
The New Four Food Groups was created as an alternative to the Four Food Groups—meat, milk, vegetables and fruit, and cereal and breads—recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1956 until 1992. In 1992 the USDA replaced this with the food guide pyramid and in 2011 with MyPlate, which is consistent with a vegan diet. MyPlate is divided into five groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products (or calcium-fortified soymilk), and protein. The protein includes meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. In the UK the National Health Service recommends the Eatwell Plate, also with five groups and consistent with a vegan diet: fruit and vegetables; potatoes, bread and other starchy foods; dairy products or non-dairy alternatives; meat, fish, eggs, or beans for protein; and fat and sugar.
Raw veganism, combining veganism and raw foodism, excludes all animal products and food cooked above 48 °C (118 °F). A raw vegan diet includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, grain and legume sprouts, seeds and sea vegetables. There are many variations of the diet, including fruitarianism.
Proteins are composed of amino acids. Vegans obtain all their protein from plants, omnivores usually a third, and ovo-lacto vegetarians half. Sources of plant protein include legumes such as soy beans (consumed as tofu, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein, soy milk and edamame), peas, peanuts, black beans and chickpeas (the latter often eaten as hummus); grains such as quinoa (pronounced keenwa), brown rice, corn, barley, bulgur and wheat (the latter eaten as bread and seitan); and nuts and seeds. Combinations that contain high amounts of all the essential amino acids include rice and beans, corn and beans, and hummus and whole-wheat pita.
Soy beans and quinoa are known as complete proteins because they each contain all the essential amino acids in amounts that meet or exceed human requirements. Mangels et al. write that consuming the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein (0.8 g/kg body weight) in the form of soy will meet the biologic requirement for amino acids. In 2012 the United States Department of Agriculture ruled that soy protein (tofu) may replace meat protein in the National School Lunch Program.
The American Dietetic Association said in 2009 that a variety of plant foods consumed over the course of a day can provide all the essential amino acids for healthy adults, which means that protein combining in the same meal may not be necessary. Mangels et al. write that there is little reason to advise vegans to increase their protein intake, but erring on the side of caution, they recommend a 25 percent increase over the RDA for adults, to 1.0 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Vitamin B12 is a bacterial product needed for cell division, the formation and maturation of red blood cells, the synthesis of DNA, and normal nerve function. A deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anaemia and nerve damage. Vegans are unable in most cases to obtain B12 from their diet. Vegetarians are also at risk, as are older people and those with certain medical conditions. A 2013 study found that "vegetarians develop B12 depletion or deficiency regardless of demographic characteristics, place of residency, age, or type of vegetarian diet. Vegetarians should thus take preventive measures to ensure adequate intake of this vitamin, including regular consumption of supplements containing B12."
Increased hygiene in the food supply is probably the cause of B12 depletion from plant-based diets. Neither plants nor animals make B12; it is produced by microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi and algae. Plants not washed properly may contain B12 from bacteria in the soil, often from faeces, and drinking water may be similarly contaminated, particularly in the developing world. Animals obtain it by eating contaminated plants, other animals, or their own faeces, and become sources of B12 if eaten themselves as the bacteria breed in their rumens. Intensively farmed animals are often given B12 supplements or injections, particularly pigs and poultry, because when raised indoors they have no access to plants and less access to their own faeces. Bacteria in the human digestive tract produce B12, but most is expelled in the faeces. The mouth is another source, but in small amounts and possibly analogue (not biologically active).
Japanese researchers say that around 4 g of dried purple nori, an edible seaweed, supplies the adult RDA of 2.4 micrograms (µg) of B12. Tempeh, a fermented soybean food, is cited as another source, perhaps because of contamination during production. One tablespoon of Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast delivers the adult RDA of B12. There is no gold standard for assessing B12 status and few studies exist of long-term vegans who have not used supplements or fortified foods. Studies of vegans not taking supplements or eating fortified food have found low B12 levels and clinical signs of deficiency; low B12 levels without signs of a deficiency; and neither. Nevertheless, the consensus among researchers is that vegans and vegetarians should use supplements, or eat B12-fortified foods such as plant milk or breakfast cereal. Mangels et al. say: "It is likely that all Western vegans consuming unsupplemented diets will eventually develop vitamin B12 deficiency, although it may take decades for this to occur." No animal products are involved in the production of B12 supplements.
Calcium is needed to maintain bone health and for several metabolic functions, including muscle function, vascular contraction and vasodilation, nerve transmission, intracellular signalling and hormonal secretion. Ninety-nine percent of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth.
Vegans are advised to eat three servings a day of a high-calcium food, such as fortified plant milk, fortified tofu, almonds or hazelnuts, and to take a supplement as necessary. Plant sources include broccoli, turnip, bok choy and kale; the bioavailability of calcium in spinach is poor. Vegans should make sure they consume enough vitamin D, which is needed for calcium absorption.
A 2007 report based on the Oxford cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which began in 1993, suggested that vegans have an increased risk of bone fractures over meat eaters and vegetarians, likely because of lower dietary calcium intake. The study found that vegans consuming at least 525 mg of calcium daily have a risk of fractures similar to that of other groups. A 2009 study found the bone mineral density (BMD) of vegans was 94 percent that of omnivores, but deemed the difference clinically insignificant.
Vitamin D (calciferol) is needed for several functions, including calcium absorption, enabling mineralization of bone, and bone growth. Without it bones can become thin and brittle; together with calcium it offers protection against osteoporosis. Vitamin D is produced in the body when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin; outdoor exposure is needed because UVB radiation does not penetrate glass. It is present in salmon, tuna, mackerel and cod liver oil, with small amounts in cheese, egg yolks and beef liver, and in some mushrooms.
Most vegan diets contain little or no vitamin D without fortified food. People with little sun exposure may need supplements. The extent to which sun exposure is sufficient depends on the season, time of day, cloud and smog cover, skin melanin content, and whether sunscreen is worn. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people can obtain and store sufficient vitamin D from sunlight in the spring, summer and fall, even in the far north. They report that some researchers recommend 5–30 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen between 10 am and 3 pm, at least twice a week. Tanning beds emitting 2–6 per cent UVB radiation have a similar effect, though tanning is inadvisable.
Vitamin D comes in two forms. Cholecalciferol (D3) is synthesized in the skin after exposure to the sun, or consumed in the form of animal products; when produced industrially it is taken from lanolin in sheep's wool. Ergocalciferol (D2) is derived from ergosterol from UV-exposed mushrooms or yeast and is suitable for vegans. Conflicting studies have suggested that the two forms may or may not be bioequivalent. According to researchers from the Institute of Medicine, the differences between D2 and D3 do not affect metabolism, both function as prohormones, and when activated exhibit identical responses in the body.
In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals. There are concerns about the bioavailability of iron from plant foods, assumed by some researchers to be 5–15 percent compared to 18 percent from a nonvegetarian diet. Iron deficiency anaemia is found as often in nonvegetarians as in vegetarians, though studies have shown vegetarians' iron stores to be lower.
Mangels et al. write that, because of the lower bioavailability of iron from plant sources, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences established a separate RDA for vegetarians and vegans of 14 mg for vegetarian men and postmenopausal women, and 33 mg for premenopausal women not using oral contraceptives. Supplements should be used with caution after consulting a physician, because iron can accumulate in the body and cause damage to organs. This is particularly true of anyone with hemochromatosis, a relatively common condition that can remain undiagnosed.
High-iron vegan foods include soy beans, black-strap molasses, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, spinach, tempeh, tofu, and lima beans. Iron absorption can be enhanced by eating a source of vitamin C at the same time, such as half a cup of cauliflower or five fluid ounces of orange juice. Coffee and some herbal teas can inhibit iron absorption, as can spices that contain tannins (turmeric, coriander, chillies, and tamarind).
Omega-3 fatty acids, iodine
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in leafy green vegetables and nuts, and in vegetable oils such as canola and flaxseed oil. Iodine supplementation may be necessary for vegans in countries where salt is not typically iodized, where it is iodized at low levels, or where, as in Britain and Ireland, dairy products are relied upon for iodine delivery because of low levels in the soil. Iodine can be obtained from most vegan multivitamins or regular consumption of seaweeds, such as kelp.
As of 2014 very few studies were rigorous in their comparison of omnivore, vegetarian and vegan diets, making it difficult to discern whether health benefits attributed to the vegan diet might also apply to vegetarian diets or diets that include a moderate meat intake.
Veganism appears to provide a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and ischemic heart disease. There is evidence that a vegan diet aids weight loss more effectively than a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet, particularly in the short term. A 2016 systematic review found that a vegan diet was associated with a significant reduction in cancer risk, although only in a small number of studies. The study concluded that there was no effect of vegan diets overall on all-cause mortality, cancer mortality, cerebrovascular disease or cardiovascular-disease-related mortality. The effects also disappeared when specific cancers were analysed. Some studies of vegan diets in diabetes have been criticized for poorly controlling for factors such as medication status; the effect of vegan diets on diabetes and glycemic control is inconclusive.
According to nutritionist Winston Craig, writing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and phytochemicals, and lower in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Vegans tend to be thinner, with lower serum cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Eliminating all animal products increases the risk of deficiencies of vitamins B12 and D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin B-12 deficiency occurs considerably in the vegan population. Craig advises vegans to eat fortified foods or take supplements, and warns that iron and zinc may be problematic because of limited bioavailability. Vegans might be at risk of low bone mineral density without supplements.
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietitians of Canada state that properly planned vegan diets are appropriate for all life stages, including pregnancy and lactation. They indicate that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders, but that its adoption may serve to camouflage a disorder rather than cause one. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council similarly recognizes a well-planned vegan diet as viable for any age. The British National Health Service's Eatwell Plate allows for an entirely plant-based diet, as does the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) MyPlate. The USDA allows tofu to replace meat in the National School Lunch Program. The German Society for Nutrition does not recommend a vegan diet and cautions against it for babies, children and adolescents, and for those pregnant or breastfeeding.
Pregnancy, infants and children
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietitians of Canada consider well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets "appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes". The German Society for Nutrition cautioned against a vegan diet for pregnant women, babies, and children as of 2011. The position of the Canadian Pediatric Society is that "[w]ell-planned vegetarian and vegan diets with appropriate attention to specific nutrient components can provide a healthy alternative lifestyle at all stages of fetal, infant, child and adolescent growth. Attention should be given to nutrient intake, particularly protein, vitamins B12 and D, essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and calcium.
According to a 2015 systematic review, there is little evidence available about vegetarian and vegan diets during pregnancy, and a lack of randomized studies meant that the effects of diet could not be distinguished from confounding factors. It concluded: "Within these limits, vegan-vegetarian diets may be considered safe in pregnancy, provided that attention is paid to vitamin and trace element requirements." A daily source of vitamin B12 is important for pregnant and lactating vegans, as is vitamin D if there are concerns about low sun exposure. Researchers have reported cases of vitamin B12 deficiency in lactating vegetarian mothers that were linked to deficiencies and neurological disorders in their children. A doctor or registered dietitian should be consulted about taking supplements during pregnancy.
Vegan diets have attracted negative attention from the media because of cases of nutritional deficiencies that have come to the attention of the courts, including the death of a baby in New Zealand in 2002 due to hypocobalaminemia.
Ethical vegans will not use toiletries or household cleaners that contain animal products. Animal ingredients are ubiquitous because they are cheap. After animals are slaughtered for meat, the leftovers are put through the rendering process, and some of that material, particularly the fat, ends up in toiletries. Common ingredients include tallow in soap, and collagen-derived glycerine, used as a lubricant and humectant in many haircare products, moisturizers, shaving foams, soaps and toothpastes.
Lanolin from sheep's wool is found in lip balm and moisturizers. Stearic acid is a common ingredient in face creams, shaving foam and shampoos; as with glycerine, it can be plant-based but is usually animal-derived. Lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from animal milk, is used in moisturizers, as is allantoin, from the comfrey plant or cows' urine, in shampoos, moisturizers and toothpaste. Carmine from scale insects, such as the female cochineal, is used in food and cosmetics to produce red and pink shades.
Animal Ingredients A to Z (2004) and Veganissimo A to Z (2013) list which ingredients might be animal-derived. The British Vegan Society's sunflower logo and PETA's bunny logo mean the product is certified vegan, which includes no animal testing. The leaping-bunny logo signals no animal testing, but it might not be vegan. The Vegan Society criteria for vegan certification are that the product contain no animal products, and that neither the finished item nor its ingredients have been tested on animals by, or on behalf of, the manufacturer or by anyone over whom the manufacturer has control. Its website contains a list of certified products, as does Australia's "Choose Cruelty Free" website.
Beauty Without Cruelty, founded as a charity in 1959, was one of the earliest manufacturers and certifiers of vegan toiletries. Several international companies stock large vegan ranges, including Kiss My Face, MuLondon and Lush.
Ethical vegans avoid clothing that incorporates silk, wool (including lambswool, shearling, cashmere, and angora), fur, feathers, or leather, snakeskin, or any other kind of skin or animal product. Most leather clothing is made from cows' and calves' skins, but the skin of sheep, goats, horses and pigs is also used. Less common skins include those from kangaroos, elephants, zebras, seals, crocodile and deer. Vegans regard the purchase of leather, particularly from cows, as financial support for the meat industry. Ethical vegans wear shoes, belts, jackets and carry handbags made of non-animal-derived materials, such as hemp, linen, cotton, canvas, polyester, synthetic leather (known as pleather), rubber or vinyl. Manufacture of the petroleum-based materials is harmful to the environment.
Ethical veganism is based on opposition to speciesism, the assignment of value to individuals on the basis of species membership alone. Divisions within animal rights theory include the utilitarian, protectionist approach, which pursues improved conditions for animals, and rights-based abolitionism, which seeks to end human ownership of non-humans. Abolitionists argue that protectionism serves only to make the public feel that animal use can be morally unproblematic (the "happy meat" position).
Law professor Gary Francione, a prominent abolitionist, argues that all sentient beings should have the right not to be treated as property, and that adopting veganism must be the baseline for anyone who believes that non-humans have intrinsic moral value. Pursuing improved welfare conditions is like campaigning for "conscientious rapists" who will rape without beating, he argues. Philosopher Tom Regan, also a rights theorist, argues that animals possess value as "subjects-of-a-life", because they have beliefs, desires, memory and the ability to initiate action in pursuit of goals. The right of subjects-of-a-life not to be harmed can be overridden by other moral principles, but Regan argues that pleasure, convenience and the economic interests of farmers are not weighty enough.
Philosopher Peter Singer, a prominent protectionist and utilitarian, argues that there is no moral or logical justification for failing to count animal suffering as a consequence when making decisions, and that killing animals should be rejected unless necessary for survival. Despite this, he writes that "[e]thical thinking can be sensitive to circumstances", and that he is "not too concerned about trivial infractions".
An argument proposed by Bruce Friedrich, also a protectionist, holds that strict adherence to veganism harms animals, because it focuses on personal purity, rather than encouraging people to give up whatever animal products they can. For Francione, this is similar to arguing that, because human-rights abuses can never be eliminated, we should not defend human rights in situations we control. By failing to ask a server whether something contains animal products, we reinforce that the moral rights of animals are a matter of convenience, he argues. He concludes from this that the protectionist position fails on its own consequentialist terms.
Philosopher Val Plumwood maintained that ethical veganism is "subtly human-centred", an example of what she called "human/nature dualism" because it views humanity as separate from the rest of nature. Ethical vegans want to admit non-humans into the category that deserves special protection, rather than recognize the "ecological embeddedness" of all. Plumwood wrote that animal food may be an "unnecessary evil" from the perspective of the consumer who "draws on the whole planet for nutritional needs"—and she strongly opposed factory farming—but for anyone relying on a much smaller ecosystem, it is very difficult or impossible to be vegan.
Environmental vegans focus on conservation, rejecting the use of animal products on the premise that fishing, hunting, trapping and farming, particularly factory farming, are environmentally unsustainable. In 2010 Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society called pigs and chicken "major aquatic predators", because livestock eat 40 percent of the fish that are caught. All Sea Shepherd ships have been vegan, for environmental reasons, since 2002.
Significant biodiversity loss is attributed to the growing demand for meat, which is a significant driver of deforestation and habitat destruction, with species-rich habitats being converted to agriculture for livestock production. In 1999 222 million tonnes of meat were produced globally. Around 30 percent of the planet's surface is devoted to the livestock sector. In the United States ten billion land animals are killed every year for human consumption, and in 2005 48 billion birds were killed globally.
A 2006 UN report, Livestock's Long Shadow, concluded that livestock farming (mostly of cows, chickens and pigs) affects the air, land, soil, water, biodiversity and climate change. Livestock consumed 1,174 million tonnes of food in 2002—including 7.6 million tonnes of fishmeal and 670 million tonnes of cereals, one-third of the global cereal harvest— and in 2001 consumed 45 million tonnes of roots and vegetables and 17 million tonnes of pulses. As of 2006 the livestock industry accounted for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, 37 percent of methane, 65 percent of nitrous oxide, and 68 percent of ammonia. Livestock waste emitted 30 million tonnes of ammonia a year, which is involved in the production of acid rain.
A 2010 UN report, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production, argued that animal products "in general require more resources and cause higher emissions than plant-based alternatives". It proposed a move away from animal products to reduce environmental damage. A 2007 Cornell University study concluded that vegetarian diets use the least land per capita, but require higher quality land than is needed to feed animals.