I have never considered that organised religion has featured in my life. When I was a child in the 1960’s 70’s, I was probably the first generation to be raised as vegan.  I rejected the notion, when asked by the inquisitive that veganism is a religion. The answer was, ‘if that means do you need to believe in it, the answer is no’. The basis of rejection was that, to me, belief in religion is believing truth without proof.

Vegan on Female First

Vegan on Female First

Naturally I considered that the tangible outcome of veganism was amongst other things more compassion and the less animal suffering. I did not need to believe, there was tangible provable outcome to the decisions I made.

My dismissal of veganism being a religion combines with a lifelong disinterest, mixed with quite a lot of ignorance on any religious subject.

Over the years I have seen first hand the difference in opinions in what those that describe themselves as vegans, believe what it means to be vegan. It has been and remains a hot topic amongst those that hold a view, views which are now easily shared on web groups.

Views shared are carried with passion, compassion, tolerance, intolerance, inclusiveness and extremism. Difference in opinions are cordial to vociferous with vegans at the metaphorical throats at other vegans. Of course all these views are valid to the individual and should remain so.  

There is no legal definition of what ‘veganism’ actually means or even what a vegan product is. Indeed it took a few years from the start in 1944 for the Vegan Society to attempt to define it. Their definition has been refined and redefined a number of times since.

When it comes to implementing a vegan definition the members of the Vegan Society this year voted in one area of disagreement. This pertained to them believing the implementation of the Vegan Society’s commercial Trademark, used to mark vegan foods does not adhere to their own definition of veganism.

As a self confessed religious outsider it seems to me that one commonality to any belief based religion is that those within cannot agree in their own ranks about what their religion means or how it should be implemented in life.

Recently in reading posts on various vegan webpages I noted in order to justify one point a contributor referenced a sentence written in an article by Donald Watson (recognised as the founder of the movement). The reference was used to unequivocally prove the contributors point of view was valid. This single reference to, in effect ‘a scripture’, hit me like a ton of vegan ducks, not the content, but in using the reference.

Why ducks? The duck test is basically ‘If it quacks and walks like a duck, it must be a duck’.  

So the vegan ducks hitting me was the realisation that all along I have been part of a belief based religion without consciously realising it all his time. For without a legal definition, veganism acts in every way like a belief based religion. It must therefore be one. 

An opinion piece written by Adrian Ling 


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