Propaganda of Veganism and Nonviolence by Religions

Veganism is a system of dietary and lifestyle practices that seeks to promote health and peace while reducing the suffering of both people and animals. Vegetarianism, a form of veganism that only restricts meat, is a system that has been followed by many religions for thousands of years as well as by many people today. The term vegan is relatively new, coined in 1944, but since the start, it has developed a mass following of believers who worship the guidelines set by the creator David Watson.

When analyzing this lifestyle in America, one can see the religious steps one takes to successfully become a vegan. In this essay on the history of veganism, as well as the events and figures, who mimic religious personnel and stories, that made it what it is today will be analysed to answer the question: Can veganism be a religion? This paper argues that veganism checks off all of the boxes and has succeeded succeeds in building a new empire within America.

Veganism in an Historical and Comparative Key

Veganism is found in all societies and in all social classes around the world. This way of living is also found in many religions, like Hinduism, Jainism, and even Christianity, but because many atheist and secular people also follow the practice, one could say it has two histories. Veganism is simply a more extreme version of vegetarianism, which is when one refrains from consuming any meats. Pythagoras of Samos promoted benevolence among all species, including humans. Besides Pythagoras, many religions were also seen embracing the rational of equality among all species.

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Each religion that promotes veganism/vegetarianism has their own level of strictness in which each member follows the guidelines.

Hinduism encourages the vegetarian diet because their culture considers the cow as sacred and pushes for the avoidance of beef in the diet because of the useful labor cows supply. They instead use cattle for labor in the fields and in dairy products such as milk and cheese. Hinduism’s vast scriptures contain thousands of passages recommending vegetarianism based on the profound link between ahimsa and spirituality. For example, the Yajur Veda says, “You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they be human, animals, or whatever. Many Hindus also believe that even if one does not perform the direct act of killing the animal to be eaten, if they still eat the meat, then they will experience “bad karma” or in other words, punishment in the physical world, during reincarnation, or in the afterlife. It is safe to say that there is a high motivation by this doctrine to embrace the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle to avoid the unnecessary harm and violence to animals.

Buddhism is another religion that advocates for tranquility and nonviolence among humans and animals. Buddha himself, who embraces the belief of karma like Hindus, states that ‘the eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion’, adding that all and every kind of meat and fish consumption is prohibited.

Hinduism and Buddhism are two belief systems that strongly believe in the equality and fair treatment of all living things. But, the religion that most exemplifies the vegan lifestyle is Jainism. Jainism was founded around the same time as Hinduism and Buddhism and seeks to protect the lives of even the smallest species, like insects and even some plants! With this nonviolent mindset, the strictest of Jains do not eat figs because of the amount of seeds that could potentially produce more life. Towards the end of the 20th century, a number of Jains who were brought up as lacto-vegetarians, those who refrain from consuming eggs or meat but do eat dairy, were exposed to the reality of contemporary dairy production and began to question whether it was acceptable for Jains to consume dairy. With the development of technology more and more Jains embraced veganism.

Some of the factors that caused this change were the availability of plant based milks, the realization that some animals where are harmed during dairy production, and the availability and accessibility of vegan clothing. As if vegan clothing were not enough, in 2008 two groups were set up to encourage and provide a support network for Jains wanting to make a shift to a plant based diet. These were the Jain Vegans e-group and the Jain Vegans Working Group. The Jain e-group is an online forum that can also serve as a support system where people can go to look for advice and tips on how transition to a plant based diet. The Jain Vegans Working Group is based in the United Kingdom and raises awareness about the treatment of animals in the food production world. Now that the world has provided many outlets and alternatives to traditional animal products, Jainism fully advocates for nonviolence in every area of life an in conjunction with its values, not formalized with new organizations such as the JVWG, which have global appeal to today’s society.

To many, it is not a shock that Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism follow a form of veganism but there are some religions that many do not realize have the same ideals. In the Torah, the sacred text followed by Jews, the nurturing of all life is promoted. This is seen through the Kosher laws. Factory farms routinely confine animals in cramped spaces;, often drug and mutilate animals, and deny animals, fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any opportunity to satisfy their natural instincts. In response to this, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Rabbi David Rosen has written, “The current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable.” Although this religion does not specifically mandate vegetarianism and or veganism, the right to life and the respect of it is seen through the teachings of Judaism.

Christianity is a religion that is based on Judaism. Jesus, the fundamental figure in the Bible centralizes his teachings in love and mercy for all. In Genesis 1:29 the ideal diet was described by God to man: “[a]nd God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” This quote alone does not give any specific evidence that the consumption of animal products is frowned upon but then in Hosea 2:18 God made an agreement for all of the animals on earth to “lie down safely.” In addition to this, in Isaiah 11:6 it is said, “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb… and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” It has been pointed out numerous times that Jesus is often depicted as a shepherd who cares for his lambs, rather then eats them or their yummy products like ice cream.

Veganism as a Religion

Since not everyone in the world believes in a religion, there is a secular background to veganism that can help explain its mass popularity today. Pythagoras first introduced vegetarianism and the idea of veganism 500 BCE. After that, the most significant event for today’s vegan community arose in 1847 when the first Vegetarian Society was formed in the United Kingdom. The American Vegetarian Society was founded only three years later by Sylvester Graham. Graham was a Presbyterian minister and his followers, called Grahamites, obeyed his instructions for a virtuous life: vegetarianism, temperance, abstinence, and frequent bathing. But, in 1944 a man name Donald Watson, set the standards for today’s most devoted vegans. He announced that because vegetarians ate dairy and eggs, he was going to create a new term called “vegan,” to describe people who did not.

The term vegan was developed from the word vegetarianism; the first three letters from the beginning and the last two from the end. Watson said this was to mark the beginning of Veganism and the end of vegetarianism. An example of an event that was used as leverage to promote this lifestyle occured in the United Kingdom about one year before the foundation of Veganism. Tuberculosis had been found in 40% of Britain’s dairy cows and Watson claimed that it proved that the vegan lifestyle protected people from tainted food as well as the dairy cows themselves.

One could say veganism is very similar to a religion because it has many qualities that other religious systems have. There are the people who started it, who others look to for guidance, there are impactful figures who made the trend grow stronger, and mass following of believers who practice and worship its virtues. Also similar to religions, there are different denominations or sects of veganism all around the world. In America, there is the American Vegan Society, in the United Kingdom there is The Vegan Society, in Australia there is the Vegane Gesellschaft Österreich, and there many more than these.

Sylvester Graham was helpful in getting the message out can gain followers, but nothing stuck with the public like David Watson’s Vegan Society newsletter, which can also be considered a sacred text. When this was first written he only had a small mass of twenty five subscribers. By the time Watson died at age 95 in 2005, there were 250,000 self-identifying vegans in Britain and 2 million in the United States of America. In the years after Watson’s passing, there has been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S. by 2017. Similar to Jesus, Watson now had a large group of admirers who looked to him for leadership and guidance.

There are many nutritional benefits of having a plant based diet, but because it is on the opposite end of the spectrum of most American diets, nutritionist recommend a transition period where one slowly introduces this new way of eating into the body. In religious terms, this can be seen as an initiation into the system. An example of religious initiation includes Catholics participate in baptism, eucharist, and marriage. The first stage would be to substitute a few meals a week with vegetarian alternatives, then specific meats like red meat would be reduced, then eliminated followed by poultry and fish, then the final step would be to substitute eggs and dairy with other nutrient rich foods. There is a long list of the benefits of this diet. Some of these claims are a lowered risk of heart disease and some cancers, lowered blood pressure and sugar levels, and it can even be used as a method of weight loss.

In 2013 Tara Latham testified on behalf of the religious vegan community when she shared her miraculous healing experience. Latham was pregnant with twins and bedridden with ulcerative colitis. She was prescribed progesterone and other steroids in hopes to resolve this issue. But, at thirty two weeks of pregnancy she was not healed and she also lost her unborn twins in the process. In Latham’s own words she had hit “rock bottom.” Complications from stress along with medicine resulted in an extreme amount of pain and weight loss in the upcoming year. She decided to avoid western medicine and search the internet for a holistic way to solve her issues.

This is where Veganism changed her life. Latham states in her article “, When we switched to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle low in sugar and processed grains, all my bloating and pain disappeared. And miraculously, last April my doctors told me my labs showed incredible improvement and that I was healthy enough to try for another baby. I became pregnant shortly after, and we had a healthy, hefty baby boy in January!” There are instances like this in many religions where someone is healed by the recommendations and guidance of said religion. In the Bible for example, In Matthew 9:35, “Jesus went to every town and village. He taught in their meeting places and preached the good news about God’s kingdom. Jesus also healed every kind of disease and sickness.”

Besides transformation stories there are also popular figures of Veganism, that people look up to as examples of and reason for their transition to veganism. Typically, when someone decides to avoid any animal product they are already of an adult age and have done some research. Nate Diaz, a famous mixed martial artist who participates in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, gave veganism test run as a teen after his older brother also gave it a shot. Diaz told Men’s Journal, “Me and my brother are at the top of the game and have been for a long time. We’re obviously doing something right. Besides knowing how to kick somebody in the head, you should know how to feel good tomorrow.’ Venus Williams is one of the most famous woman tennis players, with seven grand slam singles, fourteen Grand Slam Women’s Doubles, a five time winner of the Wimbledon women’s single title, and an owner of of four Olympic gold medals. Needless to say this woman is a role model and looked up to by many around the world.

Williams started the vegan diet in 2011 after she was diagnosed with Sjogrens disease and many doctors claimed that this diet would relieve some of the symptoms. In an interview with Health magazine about the disease and her raw vegan diet, Williams said: ‘I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started, I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible [through raw, vegan food]. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.’

The reason there are so many religions and religious sects is because not everyone believes in the same things. The same goes for veganism. It all depends on a person’s body and what works best for them, personally. One of the main concerns with avoiding animal products is the amount of vital nutrients someone is now depriving from their body. It is unhealthy for anyone to not feed themselves what they need but compared to adults, it is much more crucial for children to in order for them to develop completely and properly. While vegan diets could be healthy, parents must be particularly aware of the dangers of a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which could have devastating effects on the brain, nervous system and blood.

Nutritionists also warned that parents could be misled by milk supplements such as rice and almond milk, which had a lower nutritional value than milk, and should therefore be labelled simply as drinks.Animal foods provide nutrients unavailable from plant foods, including vitamin 12, vitamin A, vitamin D, coenzyme QIO and important long chain fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA. For example, Alex Jamieson wanted to rid herself of her bad junk food eating habits and start a new. After trying veganism for a few months, she found that she in fact felt worse that she did before the diet. Jamieson found herself craving the meat she had left behind and she felt constantly exhausted and depressed. After returning to a better version of her original eating habits she found herself in a more happy and stable place for the long run.

Is veganism a contender to become its own religion? First let’s establish exactly what it takes for a specific view to be considered worthy of its own following. Merriam Webster dictionary defines religion as something “relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity.” The United States government has also come up with multiple definitions of what religion is that have evolved over the years as society has changed. But, the first definition of what it actually is was given by the Supreme Court in the Davis v. Beason case in 1890. During this time the Court stated that, ““the term ‘religion’ has reference to one’s views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will.” Webster’s Dictionary and the U.S. Government both acknowledge giving respect to a higher which is something all religions as well as vegans do, whether it be monotheistic or polytheistic.

Pythagoras of Samos’ concept of a meat free diet with respect to living things coined the idea of veganism in David Watsons mind in 1944. From then on, true advocates of this diet follow the ideals set by this said “deity,” Watson, religiously. One could also argue that to be a religion, the hopeful denomination should have laws or a set of morals by which people live. For example, the Catholic Church has the Ten Commandments. “Vegans on the other hand deals with the interconnectedness and respect of all living beings. It manifests as faithful devotion to the acknowledged truth that all life is sacred and interconnected, and that all living beings are deserving of kindness and respect.” Besides guidelines or having a supreme power, many known religions also have duties to fulfill. Muslims have five duties they must implement.

The first is Shahada, a continuous pronouncement of their faith, the next is Salah, a demonstration of the faith, Swam, a fast during the month of Ramadan, then Zaka, a payment of a Muslims savings, and last but definitely not least Hajj, a pilgrimage to the house of Allah. On the daily, vegans strive to promote loving equality for all, promote a healthy diet and also inforce the protection of the Earth through how they act, eat and even what they wear. As veganism deepens, many begin to realize that it is an authentic, demanding, and rewarding spiritual path that not only positively transforms others, but also positively transforms society, as a religion should.

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Propaganda of Veganism and Nonviolence by Religions. (2022, Apr 27). Retrieved from

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