Collectively, the ProVeg SA team has decades of vegan-living experience, and has encountered all kinds of question about the lifestyle. Here’s our list of Frequently Asked Questions! If you'd like clarity on a particular question, or if we've missed something, please email us.
It depends on your personality and your particular context. Some find it really hard to give up particular foods and need to make more effort to rethink their dinner plates; others dive right in with no problem. Sometimes, having friends and family that are not willing to listen and understand your shift will make it a challenge emotionally—in this case, meeting other like-minded folk is important so that you don’t feel alone in your new outlook.
A vegan diet can be very healthy indeed. Conversely, it’s not too difficult (nowadays at least) to be a junk-food vegan, what with all the processed vegan foods that are available in supermarkets. A whole-foods, vegan diet (which by default excludes highly processed foods) is certainly healthy, and eliminates the problem that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol pose, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Nope, unless you’re eating lots of processed products and imported “super-foods”. Whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit (which form the basis of a healthy vegan diet) are much, much cheaper than meat and dairy.
For sure! There are loads of vegan athletes and bodybuilders out there. In fact, many athletes choose a plant-based diet to optimise their performance. Here are a few that you could look up online:
- Frank Medrano (body builder)
- Matt Danzig (mixed martial arts)
- Fiona Oakes (marathon runner)
- Rich Roll (ultraman)
- Carl Lewis (olympic sprinter)
- Madi Serpico (triathlete)
- Henry Akins (Ju Jitsu master)
- Scott Jurek (ultramarathon runner)
- Brendan Brazier (triathlete)
Although the animals whose secretions (such as milk and eggs) are used by vegetarians are not overtly farmed for their flesh, they suffer immensely during their lifetimes and are eventually slaughtered in the same slaughterhouses as “meat”-producing animals, as soon as their production begins to decline. Their flesh is then used for “meat”, for human consumption or for the pet-food industry. The meat, dairy, and egg industries are inextricably linked, and it is not possible to support one without buying into the others. According to a report from WWF-SA and the Green House, roughly half of the beef in South Africa comes from the dairy industry.
While the problem of human suffering is serious, it is also complex and the solutions are not necessarily straightforward. The problem of farm animal suffering, on the other hand, has a simple solution: we can stop eating them. We have choices to make every time we sit down to eat: eat animals, or eat plants. That said, there’s nothing stopping us from being philanthropic towards other humans, as well as making ethical food choices. In fact many vegans are active humanitarians. As Peter Singer (considered by many to have kicked off the animal rights movement) puts it:
“the idea that “humans come first” is more often used as an excuse for not doing anything about either human or nonhuman animals than as a genuine choice between incompatible alternatives… [W]hen non-vegetarians say that “human problems come first,” I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.”
While some people have differing opinions about this, honey is not strictly vegan since it is produced by bees, which are animals. There is a big spectrum of production practices with honey: smaller operations tend to be more ethical than industrial scale beekeeping, where the bees are trucked around the country (sometimes across continents) to pollinate orchards and fields, and their honey is removed to be sold to humans, and replaced with glucose water that provides the bees with none of the nutritional benefits of their own honey.
Silk is produced by silkworms, which spin cocoons for themselves before transforming into moths. To produce silk, humans interrupt this process by gassing or boiling the millions of silkworms inside their cocoons, and unspinning the fine silk threads, and re-spinning them into silk cloth for human use.
This being said, there is not yet clear consensus in the scientific literature about the sentience of insects, so you can choose either to go with what is unproven in the literature, or to give the insects the benefit of the doubt.