What is veganism? Why do people become vegan? Which famous people are vegan? Here you can find everything you want to know about veganism.

What is veganism

The definition:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

Veganism is thus a way of living which aims to exclude the exploitation of animals and cruelty against animals. This way of living is based on ethical grounds. It is not just about the horrible way in which people use animals, but also about the principle of using and killing animals for human benefit, while it is perfectly possible for people to live without the use of animal parts.

In practice

Vegans don’t use animal products or services. This means products that originate from the body of an animal or have been created by an animal. This definition shows that veganism is an endeavor and is limited to what is practically possible. This can differ per person depending on the personal situation and the options to buy vegan products and services. A vegan will always carefully consider how best to avoid the use of any animal, in every situation.

More than food

Vegans do not eat anything which is derived from animals, but veganism is more than that. A vegan also does not consume plant products which have been produced using animals. For example products that have been tested on animals, or have been produced with animal derived additives, like wines clarified with gelatine or fish-glue. Vegans of course also don’t eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, gelatine, animal E numbers and other products containing ingredients from animals.

Vegans implement this principle throughout their whole life. Vegans don’t buy clothing made from animals like fur, leather, wool, down, felt, feathers, silk. Vegans make sure that personal care products do not contain animal ingredients or have been tested on animals. They also reject using animals for entertainment. Vegans do not visit zoos and do not ride animals. Animals should not be kept, unless this is in the interest of the animal, for example the (temporary) care of animals needing medical assistance or rescue animals.

In summary: Vegans do not use products or services in which animals have been used. Fortunately there are many alternatives and they are continually increasing!


Vegans do not use anything which is derived from animals. This has benefits for our fellow humans, nature, the environment and our personal health. How important these factors are for vegans can differ from person to person.


Many people become vegan because they don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals. Together vegans can drastically reduce the number of animals that are yearly bred, locked up, exploited, and prematurely killed. Being vegan for one year makes a significant difference for dozens of animals. Veganism is a clear statement against a system in which animals are seen and treated as objects to be used or means of production.

Nature & environment

Of all sectors, livestock farming is responsible for the largest emissions (at least 18%) of greenhouse gasses (like methane and CO2). This means livestock farming is an important cause of global warming. The United Nations have stated that meat production is the second largest cause of environmental problems like telluric pollution, water and air pollution, acidification and reduction of biodiversity (amongst others because of rainforest destruction). If you follow a plant diet you make a conscious decision for a more sustainable alternative and a cleaner, more viable planet.


A balanced, plant diet contains all the nutrients necessary to stay healthy and energetic. By eating (more) plants, you reduce the chance of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and several other illnesses. In addition, plant foods contain no cholesterol and less saturated fatty acids. Amongst top athletes, plant diets have gained immensely in popularity.

Fellow humans

More and more people realize that for the production of meat, dairy, and eggs, a lot of animal feed is needed (soy, corn etc.). At the moment over 70% of all agricultural land is used for animal farming. On average 7 kilogram of animal feed is necessary to produce 1 kilogram of meat. It would be more efficient to use agricultural land directly for food production for human consumption. In this way a plant diet could contribute to diminishing world food inequalities.

Number of vegans

The Dutch Organisation for Veganism (NVV) estimated in 2014 that 1 % of the world population is vegan, and that there are 120.000 vegans in the Netherlands. Especially in recent years numbers seem to explode. The number of members of the NVV increased in 2013 with 30% relative to the previous year. In the first half of 2014 it increased with 60% relative to 2013. In 2016 the ‘Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau’ published a report in which the number of vegans was estimated by the NVV to be 50.000 and by Hans Dagevos (consumption sociologist at Wageningen University) to be 70.000.[2][3] In 2020 the number of vegans in the Netherlands was already estimated to be around 150.000 (July 2020). In our FAQ (in Dutch) you can find more information about the number of vegans in the Netherlands.

Animal rights

Veganism is not the same as animal rights, because animal rights is an ethical theory (like women’s rights). Veganism is the practically and morally correct course of action based on this ethical theory. In the same way equal treatment of women, equal salaries, equal suffrage, etc. is a moral course of action based on women’s rights.

The ethical and moral philosophy based on animal rights, is about (not) using animals, just like women’s rights is about (not) using women. Allocation of a moral status to animals (the philosophy) implies that every animal is an individual with its own volition and is not to be used by others.

Veganism as Human Right

The European Court for Human Rights has stated that veganism is a belief according to the equal treatment legislation and that discrimination on this ground is prohibited.[4]

Read on

If you would like to know more about veganism, please continue reading here:


First version written by MSc E. Dingemans

Translated by MA D. Meekes

  1. Wytske van Tilburg, Vegans Take Over. De Verslaggever, 2 December 2014
  2. Dr. JC Hans Dagevos, Wageningen Universiteit
  3. Kiezen bij de kassa, Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau, 4 February 2016. Watched on 5 February 2016
  4. Veganisme is een levensovertuiging, Oordeelnummer 2016-57, 20 June 2016