Intro to a Cruelty Free Lifestyle
If you've come across my blog, then welcome!
Kat's Kulture is meant to be a resource for all things cruelty free. This is a judgement free zone where hate is not tolerated, and knowledge is king.
I got the idea for this blog when I first decided to go vegan after being vegetarian for 16 years. I stopped eating meat for ethical reasons and as most dedicated vegans say, the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner. I wanted to do things right and started taking nutrition courses and researching ingredients. This also lead me to look into animal testing and cruelty free products, and boy was I surprised to find out how many things contain or are tested on animals!
This lifestyle takes a lot of dedication and research, and though people may go vegan or buy natural products for different reasons, for me it is all encompassing. It truly is a culture, unique and colorful, full of love, empathy, activism, and compassion.
So What Does It All Mean?
Now there are a few things to understand, especially if you're new to this. Some people use terms like "vegetarian," "vegan," "cruelty free," and "plant-based" loosely, so let's go over them in some detail for a better understanding.
Vegetarian - A vegetarian simply does not eat meat. You may also hear variations of vegetarianism such as lacto vegetarian (no meat or eggs), ovo vegetarian (no meat or dairy), and pescatarian (no meat but will eat fish). The term "flexitarian" has become more popular as well and means mostly plant-based, but will eat meat sometimes (I personally do not consider this vegetarian).
Plant-Based - This phrase has become a lot more mainstream lately and means a diet consisting mostly of plants, with an emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods. This does not fully eliminate animal products and leaves it up to the consumer to decide.
Vegan - A vegan will not eat animal products or by-products. This means no meat, eggs, dairy, fish, or ingredients derived from animals, like gelatin. But vegans also do not use products made from animals like leather, fur, and suede. This extends into cosmetics and the use of insects to create certain colors, and even to supplements.
Cruelty Free - This is generally used to label a product that was not tested on animals. This does not always mean that it is vegan. Also note that some things marketed as cruelty free may still be sold in China which requires animal testing for cosmetics (though an update that would allow imported cosmetics to be sold and not tested on animals is supposedly in the works).
All that being said, people will sometimes use the terms above interchangeably. For example, some food products marketed as plant-based may still contain eggs or dairy, and some cosmetics marketed as cruelty free may still contain animal products. To go one step further, though a cosmetic line may be vegan and cruelty free, the parent company may not be. Same goes for meat and dairy industries who are now producing vegan products as well.
It's important to understand the difference between plant based and vegan labels on food, and vegan and cruelty free labels on cosmetics. They do not always go hand-in-hand nor are they interchangeable.
On one hand, you can vote with your dollar and support a new cruelty free or vegan product line, showing that it is in demand. On the other hand, if the parent company is not a vegan and cruelty free company, your money is still going to them in the end. What it all comes down to is how strongly do you feel about this and how much are you willing to commit?
But Is This Healthy?
There is not much to argue against buying cruelty free cosmetics and household products. But there is a LOT of misinformation out there surrounding vegan diets. I mean, a TON. Completing the Plant Based Nutrition Certificate course offered by eCornell really helped me understand some of the common myths and ideas around plant-based diets (and ultimately veganism), that I struggled to understand before. It also helped me know what and what not to do. Not only that, I learned a lot of the business and marketing behind some of the ads and studies used to promote foods that are ultimately not healthy for you. Seeing the big picture can really change your perspective.
People often joke that vegans only eat lettuce, and this couldn't be any further from the truth. Vegan food is far from boring. It can be vibrant and full of nutrients, or made to be similar, (some might argue better than) the comfort foods you may be used to.
"Vegan" does not mean "healthy"
This is such a common misconception: if food is vegan then it must be healthy. Not true! There are plenty of processed vegan foods that have no nutritional value. Does this mean you can't indulge once in a while? Absolutely not! I've also heard the very common "I knew someone that went vegan and got sick, so it's not natural and we need meat!" Insert epic eyeroll here. Again, vegan does not equal healthy. If someone stops eating meat but only eats fast food French fries and salads, guess what? They are likely going to get sick or at the very least, feel like crap. Not because they went vegan, but because they are not getting all of the nutrients their body needs to be healthy.
As a Nutrition Coach, we are taught there is no one size fits all diet. Everyone is different and will react differently to nutritional changes based on their own physiology. We also can't offer medical advice or act as a dietician. So that is why I am offering to share what I've learned about veganism, including scientific facts and personal experiences, to help YOU make the best decision for YOURSELF. Like anything else, if you don't go about it the right way, you may suffer from unfavorable effects and swear it off for good, and that's not what I want. Again, I am just a resource and a guide :)
So Why Would Someone Want To Do All This Work?
As I mentioned, a lot of research goes into living cruelty free if you want to commit to the full lifestyle, which may initially be off-putting to some. But there are countless reasons why someone might be interested in some or all of the aspects of a cruelty free lifestyle. Personal health, animal welfare, environmental issues, global warming, the list goes on. Here's a brief infographic I made, a high level overview of some of the important things living cruelty free has an impact on.
Don't just take my word for it, give living cruelty free a shot. You can ease your way in or dive head first, but either way you will be making a conscious decision to help make the planet a better place. Stay tuned for detailed guides to help you take the pledge to live cruelty free!