|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Veganism is the practice of living on the products of
the plant kingdom - to the exclusion of flesh, fish, fowl, eggs, animal
milk and its derivatives - proceeding from a consideration of the following
(a) Aspects of design in man and nature
1. Comparative anatomy reveals that man has unquestionably
been designed as a frugivore: that is, to subsist on fruits, nuts, succulent
parts of vegetables and other plant foods.
2. It is a biologic law in nature that all mammals cease
taking milk after weaning. Milk is designed to be taken only direct
from the mother at blood heat, without exposure to light or air. Furthermore,
the chemical composition of the milk of a given species is designed
especially for that species and is thus not appropriate for any other
3. The plant kingdom, science reveals, contains all those nutritional essentials - amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins so far discovered, which are necessary for human well-being. Vitamin B-12, in vegans as in all other strictly vegetarian animals, is manufactured by micro-organisms in the intestines.
(b) A reformed relationship of man to other living creatures
1. Man's dominion over animals is correctly interpreted
in the sense of benevolent protection and assistance towards evolution.
To breed animals for slaughter is to abuse and violate the life within
them and to warp and digress the evolution of their species for selfish
2. But dairy farming is equally a violation of animal
rights and involves a three-fold evil : (1) the mass exploitation of
the generative functions of animals, that is, the repeated imposition
of pregnancy and calf-bearing upon the cow when man wills it and not
when the cow wills it, in order to make the cow's mammary glands yield
milk! (2) the separation of the new-born calf from its mother, so that
the milk may be obtained for humans; (3) the economically necessary
and ruthless slaughter of unwanted bull-calves and of all old insufficiently
productive dairy cows.
3. Poultry farming likewise involves the necessary slaughter
of unwanted cocks and of old unproductive hens, and thus the use of
eggs stands ethically condemned.
(c) The most efficient use of the fertile potential of the earth
1. There is a vast and serious world food shortage, yet the world population of cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry - which is greater than the total human population of the world - utilizes 75% of the earth's fertile land and returns in the form of meat, milk and eggs only one sixth of the food calories it consumes. Thus the maintenance and use for food of livestock involves an immense waste of the fertile potential of the earth, considering the fertile land available, the present widespread human undernourishment, and the rapid increase in the world's human population.
2. The vegan diet requires, per head, only a fraction of the acreage needed to support a diet which is based on flesh and/or dairy produce, and, if followed, would ensure ample food for all in the years of increasing world population that lie ahead.
3. The meat trade and dairy farming are so interdependent
and interlinked that the disappearance of the former would automatically
involve the disappearance of the latter, hence it is quite impermissible
to think in terms of a non-meat producing lacto-vegetarian agriculture
as a solution to the world food shortage.
(d) An enlightened concept of health
1. Health that depends on harnessing, with all accessory
evils, the vital force of animals to provide food substances already
synthesized, is parasitic and undignified.
2. Vegan diet requires that the inner spiritual man shall
awaken and permeate with higher energy the processes of the physical
vehicle. The evocation of this interior creative energy of a spiritual
kind will, together with sound nutritional knowledge, enable nutritional
synthesis and other subtle biological adjustments to take place within
the human organism, without the need for animal energy and animal foods.
This new ideal - and we emphasize that it is very much an ideal - is
that of a spiritualized mode of health, achieved on a sound practical
basis, a health which is inevitably finely-tuned and noble both in the
quality of its energies and the direction of those energies.
3. To release the immense reservoir of life-force at present enslaved and harnessed by man in the form of food animals, by gradually reducing their numbers, would lead ultimately to its return to man in a higher and more beneficent mode.
4. There is also the strictly practical health point that
disease is rife among domesticated food animals. Many animal diseases
are communicable to man. Even where they are not, it is clearly undesirable
to take any substance that has come from a diseased animal. Twenty-five
per cent of America's 34 million cows are affected with mastitis : the
senior bacteriologist for the U. S. Public Health Service declared she
had found mastitis to be the first stage, septic sore throat the second
stage, and polio the third stage of the same germ. Food for thought!
In the U. S. A. the poultry packers union workers recently rose in mass
protest because they feared their own personal contamination from continual
exposure to infection from the sick chickens they there packing for
the market. Yet from such poultry eggs are obtained for human consumption!
On these grounds alone, it is wise to prepare for a vegan diet.
(e) The spiritual and ethical development of man
(1) Man's abuse of his power over animals cannot but leave
him with a moral taint, suppressed mental and emotional sensibilities
and an unconscious guilt complex, which must impede in some measure
his higher development.
2. All animal foods, unnatural to man, tend to cloud over his true, that is, his higher nature. Flesh food tends to excite aggressiveness and other low propensities; milk and eggs, where widely used, may be partly responsible for sexual phobia and a general dulling of the consciousness.
3. If man has been designed to follow a diet obtained strictly from the plant kingdom, then this must mean that such a diet is most conducive for the growth and well-being not only of his physical but also of his spiritual nature.
The underlying philosophy of veganism
1. The whole realm of manifestation is but the diversification of a fundamental unity. This unity underlies the first great duality of the interior organizing power of spirit on the one hand, and the exterior responsive and malleable substance of matter on the other.
2. This duality is experienced by man as the moral law proceeding from the spirit within him, and the design of creation manifest in the material realms around him.
3. But, as we have seen, the two are really one; thus right action is always, ultimately, practical action, and the unity of spirit and matter can be revealed.
4. Veganism has a great part to play to make this union of spirit and matter a living and potent reality in human life on earth.
A Note on Vitamin B-12
A great deal has been said about this vitamin in relation to veganism but from the vegan point of view the situation is quite clear. To date appreciable amounts of this vitamin have been found in only a few plant foods (In peanuts, ["ground nuts" ] concord grapes, and sea vegetation.). But then only a relatively small fraction of possible plant sources has been investigated. Meanwhile, we may reasonably assume, that the vegan, like all other strictly vegetarian animals who take no animal foods at all, obtains most of its vitamin B-12 from micro-organisms which synthesize it in the intestines. We do not recommend the use of vitamin B-12 concentrates, but rather the progressive adaptation of the body, so that it can quite automatically and spontaneously manufacture its own B-12 requirements. If we go about veganism in the right way this should not be particularly difficult, seeing how so many other species in nature manage it.
(a) Whole food
Veganism is allied to the food reform movement in advocating the use only of whole, unrefined, unprocessed foods as prepared by the wisdom and foresight of nature. No white bread, white sugar, or chemicals, preservatives or artificial flavourings in foods.
(b) Raw food
While not everyone is constitutionally or temperamentally suited to the totally unfired diet, veganism advocates the daily use of a fair proportion of fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables. The use of raw food enhances the virtue and value of all food taken, and stimulates, enlivens and refines all the physiological processes. Such cooking that is done should always be of a conservative nature, so as to ensure the maximum retention of valuable vitamins and minerals.
(c) The importance of fruit
As man is a frugivorous animal, it is clear that fruit and fruit juices should always constitute an essential portion of his diet. Fruits are a marvellous store of solar energy and are supremely adapted to harmonize with man's physiological requirements. They should be in daily use.
(d) The importance of seeds, nuts and grains
These are the vegan source of protein and their use in a wide variety is advocated. Many of them contain a high percentage of high quality protein and will more than adequately meet the human needs of this food factor- we advocate particularly, among seeds, the use of sesame seed (36% protein) and of sunflower seed (65% protein). Among grains, as well as whole wheat, oats, rice, rye, buckwheat, etc., we would like to draw attention to the value of millet as an alkaline-forming high-grade protein cereal. protein content of cereal grains ranges from 16% to 9%. great variety of nuts are a staple part of vegan diet, and their protein content ranges from 34%; to 16%.They should always be in use.
(e) Other protein sources
Mention must be made of the importance of the green leaf as a source of high quality protein, which though small in quantity makes a valuable contribution to the protein intake. And peas, beans, lentils and mushrooms also make helpful contributions. Soya beans and soya products (40% protein) deserve a special mention as one of the leading vegan protein foods. And there are other concentrates such as wheat germ (36%) and brewer's yeast (46%) which also have their place.
Enquiries are sometimes received about obtaining sufficient calcium. There should be no difficulty about this. Calcium occurs in a very wide range of plant foods and is particularly rich in green leaves such as nettles, watercress, dill, cabbage, lettuce, dandelion, spinach, kale and so on. Growing vegan children readily obtain their calcium need as from the plant kingdom.
(g) Using the whole plant
When selecting foods, it is wise to aim, either in or
single meal, or over several meals, at the use of all parts of the plant:
seed, fruit, flower, leaf, stem and root. Thus a fairly comprehensive
salad might consist of grated carrot and beetroot (root), fresh raw
lettuce and spinach leaves (leaf), cucumber and tomato (fruit), sprinkled
with sunflower seed meal for protein (seed). Each of the different plant
organs has special properties and nutrient ingredients - and these contribute
each in a different way to the physiological well-being of man.
Psychological and spiritual factors
The above can be considered only the barest outline of practical veganism: there are many other aspects to touch upon. But here a word must be said about that fact that a balanced and harmonious interaction of the psychological functions of mind, feeling and will, reacts beneficently and favourably upon physical processes, and the total effect, of course, is immeasurably enhanced when the whole consciousness is given a spiritual orientation. This subject is a profound one, yet it is simply understood when we realize that man should always be considered as a whole of body, soul and spirit. And when we think of his true and rightful diet, then we should simultaneously think of the inner integration of his personality (i.e. the harmonization of the functions of the soul), and also, and most important, of his higher spiritual and moral development and unfoldment. It is the interaction of these three factors, not any one considered singly, which is the key to true health or wholeness.