Being Vegan: A lifestyle beyond diet

Bharati Pawaskar | APRIL 14, 2024, 12:57 AM IST

‘Being Vegan’ is a series highlighting what veganism is and why people turn vegan. It also busts the myths that veganism is difficult to follow, and that vegan diet leads to deficiencies in the body. The Goan spoke to some vegans in Goa who are educating others on animal welfare, vegan diet and its benefits


What is veganism? By definition – Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A person who follows a diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. There are categories of veganism – dietary vegan, ethical vegan or environmental veganism.  

Dietary vegans are strict vegetarians who refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products and any other animal derived substances like honey. An ethical vegan is someone who not only excludes animal products from their diet but also tries to avoid using animals, animal products, and animal-tested products when practical. Environmental veganism is avoidance of animal products on the grounds that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable. Animal welfare is another motivation to be a vegan.  

Many are drawn towards veganism due to their compassion for animals while few, due to health issues or allergies to animal products. In a State like Goa where fish is the staple food, and red as well as white meat is very common in the local diet, following veganism is a challenge. Sagarika who had embraced veganism some years ago, had to shift to a vegetarian diet, as her body developed deficiencies, making her ill. “Today I am a vegetarian, but not a vegan,” she admits.  

Former lawyer turned organic farmer and animal rights activist Gemini Xettigar adopted a vegan diet five years before she became a full-time animal rights activist in 2017. Spreading the word in Goa along with her 10 team-mates, Gemini does street outreaching, wherein they stand on the streets, interacting with people, grabbing attention by using novel methods, like sitting in a cage or showing video footage. Talks, film screenings, visiting colleges, social clubs and institutions to give lectures is what the team does. “We also observe ‘Annual Goa Animal Liberation Day March’ on December 19, to coincide with the Goa Liberation Day,” shares Gemini.  

There are around 100 plus vegans in Goa who meet regularly for potlucks in North and South Goa. Around 25-30 gather at a time. More vegan followers in Goa are in their youth to middle age. Most of those who adopted veganism in their youth have turned adults. Explaining that it is not an expensive lifestyle, as is perceived of, Gemini points out that even when travelling, one can find vegan restaurants. Goa has an oldest vegan cafe, ‘Bean Me Up’ at Anjuna running for the past 25 years, having many footfalls. There are many on the coastal belt. Some brands offer vegan options, if requested. Most traditional Indian foods, by default, are vegetarian or vegan in nature. In Goa coconut milk is a substitute for milk in desserts, in Hindu as well as Catholic recipes like ‘mangane’ and ‘dodol’.  

Awareness about veganism was initiated in Goa in 2012 while Vegan India Movement started from January 2018. An animal lover and rescuer, Gemini recalls her own decision to go vegan, after reading Maneka Gandhi’s book, ‘Heads and Tails’. “Pets can be kept but free, not in cages or in captivity,” she advises animal lovers.  

Explaining that vegetarianism is very different from veganism, Gemini says, “Veganism is a social justice movement to abolish the commoditization and property status of non-human animals for food, clothing, entertainment, research, tradition etc by the human animal,” she shares.  

In India, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) works as an apex animal rights organisation. As the collective voice of the animal rights movement in India, FIAPO is the catalyst that protects the rights and interests of animals at local and national levels. FIAPO fights for animals’ rights to freedom and joy; has 120 members and 200 supporter organisations, nationally.  

A global event, World Vegan Day, is celebrated annually on November 1 wherein, vegans celebrate the benefits of veganism for animals, humans, and the natural environment through activities such as setting up stalls, hosting potlucks, and planting memorial trees. Goa has monthly potlucks, where a group of 25-30 vegans gather and share vegan dishes, screen films or discuss. Being vegan comes with its health benefits too, and knowing them inclines a person towards fitness and exercise.   

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