The Vegan Society’s current definition of veganism is widely accepted and will be relied upon in our educational materials:
‘Veganism is a philosophy and 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’
WHY TEACH ABOUT VEGANISM?
Although the term ‘vegan’ was only coined by Donald Watson in 1944, as an area of study it has a rich and diverse history which provides invaluable resources for academic attainment and SMSC development.
Essentially, ethical veganism is a philosophy based on compassion. The recognition of the sentience and often spiritual status of animals (including abstention from eating them) has been postulated by philosophers since ancient times including Pythagoras, Ovid and Plutarch. Modern philosophers such as Peter Singer and Tom Reagan have continued in this tradition.
Great artists and writers like Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Kafka, Shaw and Stevenson advocated for the non-exploitation of animals and recognised the inextricable link between violence directed towards animals and humans. In the field of science, leading thinkers such as Einstein, Edison and Darwin believed that indifference and cruelty to animals was not only harmful to them but also to the human spirit. Yet despite these insights, the cruel exploitation of animals continues to grow.
So many great thinkers and artists, who are relied upon to provide academic content for subjects across the curricula, can also provide valuable insights into the critical study of human-animal relations. With increasing levels of inter-personal violence, inequality, environmental destruction and climate change we need to re-examine our relationships with each other, animals and the planet. Teaching about ethical veganism encourages students to critically think about these crucial issues and brings hope for a more healthy, loving and sustainable future.
Our approach is commensurate with Ofsted’s own objective of putting SMSC ‘at the heart’ of school development. It requires schools to ‘think about the kind of people we aspire to be, the kind of world we aspire to create, and the kind of education we aspire to provide.’
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
George Bernard Shaw
“While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth.”