Many meat eaters, otherwise known as carnists, like to claim that veganism is a new religion, but is that true? This post takes a look at the definition of veganism, and discusses this very common notion.
The question you may want to ask yourself when you make this comparison is if you could also classify other rights movements as religions. Was the civil rights movement also a “fanatical new age religion?” How about the feminist movement? In the same vein, veganism is an animal rights movement.
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
This definition was updated in 1979 by the vegan society. The Vegan Society had it’s beginnings in 1944, but lacked a clear definition until 1949 when Leslie J Cross pointed out that the society lacked a definition of veganism. He suggested “[t]he principle of the emancipation of animals from exploitation by man”. This is later clarified as “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man”. (The Vegan Society)
Veganism is about giving animals rights as a species and not treating them as objects we can use for our purposes. It is about seeing animals for what they are, sentient beings with an equal right to live on this planet as any other animal, including humans. Veganism is not new.
The term, vegan, has been around for 50 years, but the ideology has existed for much longer than that. The Greek philosopher Plato spoke out about the atrocity of animal abuse as early as approximately 400 BC. Many great thinkers and philosophers did not believe in eating or harming animals.
As a matter of fact, a recent study shows that people who are vegan or vegetarian (they are not the same, but are often categorized together in studies), have a higher IQ on average than meat eaters. This is why they tend to think through the obvious flaw in the speciesist ideology, and take the next logical steps that naturally follow their epiphany or enlightenment if you will. It is not natural to eat animals. We have been culturally conditioned to accept it as natural, but it is not at all natural.
So, in essence, veganism is a philosophy and a way of life that rejects the cultural ideology that accepts animal abuse as acceptable, but veganism is not a religion.