In the past few years, veganism has become more popular among the masses. It’s great news for the animals (and the planet and public health), but with it, as with anything circling mainstream media, comes people demanding more, demanding perfection.
These are the people that critique self-proclaimed vegans for eating almonds, or avocados, or the latest plant-based food that the media has dubbed “not vegan.” They are the people that will point out that you own an environmentally damaging car, or use bank notes containing animal fat, or that your birth control pills contain lactose – therefore, in their eyes, making you not a “real vegan.”
Animal Products and Testing in Medication
In the UK, all licensed oral contraceptives available on prescription contain lactose. Lactose (milk sugar) is found only in the milk of mammals and is the main carbohydrate in dairy products.
Additionally, all new medicines produced in the UK are required by law to be tested on animals. Due to the animal cruelty involved in experimentation, products that engage in animal testing are not considered to be vegan.
Why You’re Still Vegan
According to the definition of the word, vegans do not use animals for “food, clothing or any other purpose,” so why are medications exempt? And can someone really call themselves vegan if they use these items?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer brings us back to the definition of veganism. It is named a philosophy and way of living that excludes the exploitation of animals “as far as is possible and practicable.” This alone speaks volumes. Some choices are simple. It can be simple to trade a beef steak for a plant-based one. It can be simple to pick up oat, rice, soy, or coconut milk instead of dairy. It can be simple to choose vegan leather or wool over animal-derived materials.
Skipping on medication, designed to enhance health and treat or prevent health issues, is not comparable, and most people agree that taking them falls under the “as far as is possible and practicable” exclusion. And since there are no animal- or cruelty-free alternatives available, there is no “practical” way to avoid them. And if the pill is your preferred method of birth control, then it’s practical you take what you’re comfortable with.
In an ideal scenario – which, with an ever-growing field of animal testing alternatives developing, could be sooner rather than later – lactose-free birth control pills would be readily available, and medication would not be tested on animals. However, for the time being, it is better to do something rather than nothing.
Veganism is a journey, with evolving information, layers, products, and demographics. Every step of it matters, from the first time someone researches the cause, to the decision to not eat meat, to stopping buying eggs, to choosing cruelty-free makeup. Every step towards a plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyle reduces harm, has an impact, and makes the world a kinder place.
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