If you were to begin the word association game with “vegan” the word most likely to follow would be a type of food such as “eggs” or “vegetables” (unless of course you’re my roommate and spout “TEGAN”). Most people automatically link veganism to a dietary preference. This is by no means off the chart, but veganism is more than what you choose not to put in your mouth or buy from a store.
In 1944, Donald Watson coined the term vegan to mean “non-dairy vegetarian” and later founded the British Vegan Society, who extended the definition to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”. Sixteen years later, H. Jay Dinshah founded the American Vegan Society and served as both its president and editor to its publication, Ahimsa magazine. As its title indicates, the magazine promotes the concept of ahimsa, that all living beings including animals have a spark of divine spiritual energy and that to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.
Sparknotes: veganism is not just about what you eat; it’s a philosophy of nonviolence that rejects the commodity of sentient, or feeling, animals.
There are many different types of vegans. Some eat eggs from their own chickens, some don’t eat plants heated above 90 degrees, and apparently there’s a controversy about honey. Not all honey is factory-farmed. There exists honey that is made without force, exploitation, or taking more honey than is sustainable to maintain the health of the hive. People who consume honey, but no other animal byproduct are sometimes called “beegans”. What you consume is a personal decision made by assessing your options as relates to local farms, specialty food stores, etc. There is no vegan contract that one signs before becoming vegan. The vegan police are a myth.
Sparknotes: there is no one dietary definition of vegan. The underlying principle is that you’re purchasing and consuming goods that aren’t produced through animal exploitation or commodification.