Maybe you've seen their products in supermarkets. Boca Burgers paving the way for Smart Links, rice bread showing up an aisle away from Soy
Dream. And suddenly more and more you're meeting people who refuse eggs and cheese along with meat. You may have seen one carefully
scrutinizing food labels. They are legion, and they have a name: The Vegans. And although you've probably only noticed them relatively
recently, they've been around for over half a century.
Veganism is vegetarianism "turned up to eleven." It avoids any product obtained through the use--read, exploitation--of animals. That means
meat is out, obviously. So are eggs and dairy. But less obvious are things like honey or silk. These are also verboten; after all, those bees made
the honey for themselves, not for some clumsy farmer who crushes ten worker bees whenever he checks on the hive. And imagine yourself in a
silkworm's position: all that effort to create a cocoon, and for your trouble you're boiled in it and tossed aside.
According to the website of Britain's Vegan Society (the world's oldest), the movement started in 1944, when a group of concerned "non-dairy"
vegetarians (as they were then called) grew tired of seeing fellow herbivores consume animal products. Led by Elsie Shrigley and Donald
Watson, they chose a new name for themselves: "Vegans," from "vegetarian's" first and last syllables. Though the movement met with initial
resistance from vegetarians unwilling to completely forego animal products, it has since grown dramatically. Britain is home to at least 250,000
vegans; in the U.S., up to 1.4% of people refuse to eat or use any animal products. And with the rise of those vegan-friendly products, the
convenience-factor is drawing more people in.
Vegans make the choice for a variety of reasons. First of all, it's better for you. Vegan diets are high in fiber and protein and low in saturated fat
and cholesterol. In a time when heart attacks are the most likely cause of death in America and obesity is on the rise all over the western world,
this is no small benefit. Cancer risk is lessened, as well; a regular consumer of red meat is twice more likely to get colon cancer than a vegan.
Then there are the ethical considerations. In the vegan view, snuffing out the life of an animal--or even making it uncomfortable--for sustenance
or comfort is a moral impossibility, even more so than with vegetarians. Many even oppose the use of yeast in cooking, and why shouldn't they?
The process kills millions to of yeast molecules. And if killing a one-celled organism is immoral, then the factory farming of everything from cows
to honey bees is downright intolerable.