There is an array of health benefits associated with meatless meals and hence, an increasing number of people are enjoying them.
Vegan Recipes and Nutritio
|Description||Elimination of the use of animal products|
|Early proponents||Roger Crab (1621–1680)
James Pierrepont Greaves (1777–1842)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
Amos Bronson Alcott (1799–1888)
Donald Watson (1910–2005)
H. Jay Dinshah (1933–2000)
|Origin of the term||1 November 1944, with the foundation of the British Vegan Society|
|List of vegans|
Veganism (/ˈviːgənɪzəm/) is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.
Distinctions are sometimes made between different categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat and fish but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet, but extend the vegan philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals or animal products for any purpose. Another term used is environmental veganism, which refers to the rejection of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
The term vegan was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”; the society also opposed the consumption of eggs. In 1951 the society extended the definition of veganism to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals,” and in 1960 H. Jay Dinshah started the American Vegan Society, linking veganism to the Jain concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living beings.
Veganism is a small but growing movement. In many countries the number of vegan restaurants is increasing, and some of the top athletes in certain endurance sports – for instance, the Ironman triathlon and the ultramarathon – practise veganism, including raw veganism. Well-planned vegan diets have been found to offer protection against certain degenerative conditions, including heart disease, and are regarded by the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle. Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals, and lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. Because uncontaminated plant foods do not provide vitamin B12 (which is produced by microorganisms such as bacteria), researchers agree that vegans should eat foods fortified with B12 or take a daily supplement (see below).
Vegetarianism can be traced to Ancient India and Greece, but the word vegetarian came into use in English in the early 19th century to refer to those who avoided meat; The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the earliest known use of the word to the English actress Fanny Kemble (1809–1893), writing in Georgia in the United States in 1839. The British Vegetarian Society defines vegetarian as “someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”
In the 19th century vegetarians who also avoided eggs and dairy products, or avoided using animals for any purpose, were referred to as strict or total vegetarians. There were several attempts in the 19th century to establish strict-vegetarian communities. In 1834 Amos Bronson Alcott (1799–1888), the American transcendentalist and father of the novelist Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) – opened the Temple School in Boston, Massachusetts, along strict-vegetarian principles, and in England in 1838 James Pierrepont Greaves (1777–1842) opened Alcott House in Ham, Surrey, a community and school that followed a strict-vegetarian diet. In 1844 Alcott founded Fruitlands, a community in Harvard, Massachusetts, that opposed the use of animals for any purpose, including farming, though it lasted only seven months.
Members of Alcott House were involved in 1847 in forming the British Vegetarian Society. In 1851 an article appeared in the society’s magazine about alternatives to leather for shoes, which the International Vegetarian Union cites as evidence of the existence in England of a group who were not only strict vegetarians, but avoided animal products entirely. In 1886 the society published an influential essay, A Plea for Vegetarianism, by the English campaigner Henry Salt (1851–1939), a classics teacher at Eton. Salt promoted vegetarianism as a moral issue, not only as an issue of human health; in his Animals’ Rights: Considered in Relation to Social Progress (1892), he was one of the first writers to make the paradigm shift from animal welfare to animal rights. Salt wrote in his 1888 essay that being a vegetarian was a “formidable admission” to make, because “a Vegetarian is still regarded, in ordinary society, as little better than a madman.” The essay influenced, among others, Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), who became a friend of Salt’s.
In 1910 the first known British vegan cookbook, No Animal Food: Two Essays and 100 Recipes by Rupert H. Wheldon, was published in London by C.W. Daniel. In a study of the origins of veganism in the UK, historian Leah Leneman (1944–1999) wrote that there was a vigorous correspondence between 1909 and 1912 among members of the Vegetarian Society about the issue of dairy products and eggs. One reader wrote: “You cannot have eggs without also having on your hands a number of male birds, which you must kill.” The Vegetarian Society’s position remained unresolved, but its journal wrote in 1923 that the “ideal position for vegetarians is abstinence from animal products.”
In November 1931 Mahatma Gandhi addressed a meeting in London of the Vegetarian Society – attended by around 500 members, including Henry Salt – arguing that it ought to promote a meat-free diet as a moral issue, not as an issue of human health. Gandhi had become friends with several vegetarian campaigners, including the human-rights campaigner Annie Besant (1847–1933), the novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) and the physician Anna Kingsford (1846–1888), author of The Perfect Way in Diet (1881). His speech was called “The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism”; Norm Phelps writes that it was a rebuke to members who had focused on its health benefits. Gandhi told the society he had found in his student days in London that vegetarians talked of nothing but food and disease: “I feel that this is the worst way of going about the business. I notice also that it is those persons who become vegetarians because they are suffering from some disease or other – that is, from purely the health point of view – it is those persons who largely fall back. I discovered that for remaining staunch to vegetarianism a man requires a moral basis.”
In 1935 the Vegetarian Society’s journal wrote that the issue of whether vegetarians ought to eat dairy products and eggs was becoming more pressing with every year. In July 1943 Leslie Cross, a member of the Leicester Vegetarian Society, expressed concern in its newsletter, The Vegetarian Messenger, that vegetarians were still consuming cow’s milk. He echoed the argument about eggs, that to produce milk for human consumption the cow has to be separated from her calves soon after their birth: “in order to produce a dairy cow, heart-rending cruelty, and not merely exploitation, is a necessity.” Cross was later a founder of the Plant Milk Society, now known as Plamil Foods, which in 1965 began production of the first widely distributed soy milk in the Western world.
In August 1944 two of the Vegetarian Society’s members, Donald Watson (1910–2005) and Elsie “Sally” Shrigley (died 1978), suggested forming a subgroup of non-dairy vegetarians. When the executive committee rejected the idea, they and five others met on 1 November that year at the Attic Club in Holborn, London, to discuss setting up a separate organization. They suggested several terms to replace non-dairy vegetarian, including dairyban, vitan, benevore, sanivore and beaumangeur. Watson decided on vegan, pronounced veegun (/ˈviːɡən/), with the stress on the first syllable. As he put it in 2004, the word consisted of the first three and last two letters of vegetarian, “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” He called the new group the Vegan Society. Its first newsletter – priced 2d, or 1/- for a year’s subscription – was distributed to 500 people. Since 1994 World Vegan Day has been held every 1 November, the Vegan Society’s founding date.
Stepaniak writes that two vegan books appeared in 1946: the Leicester Vegetarian Society published Vegetarian Recipes without Dairy Produce by Margaret B. Rawls in the spring, and that summer the Vegan Society published Vegan Recipes by Fay K. Henderson. In 1951 the Vegan Society broadened its definition of veganism to “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals,” and pledged to seek an end to the use of animals “for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.” Leslie Cross, by then the society’s vice-president, wrote: “[V]eganism is not so much welfare as liberation, for the creatures and for the mind and heart of man; not so much an effort to make the present relationship bearable, as an uncompromising recognition that because it is in the main one of master and slave, it has to be abolished before something better and finer can be built.”
The first vegan society in the United States was founded in 1948 by a nurse and chiropractor, Catherine Nimmo (1887–1985) of Oceano, California, and Rubin Abramowitz of Los Angeles. Originally from the Netherlands, Nimmo had been a vegan since 1931, and when the British Vegan Society was founded she began distributing its newsletter, The Vegan News, to her mailing list within the United States. In 1957 H. Jay Dinshah (1933–2000), the son of a Parsi from Mumbai, visited a slaughterhouse and read some of Watson’s literature. He gave up all animal products, and on 8 February 1960 founded the American Vegan Society (AVS) in Malaga, New Jersey. He incorporated Nimmo’s society and explicitly linked veganism to the concept of ahimsa, a Sanskrit word meaning “non-harming.” The AVS called the idea “dynamic harmlessness,” and named its magazine Ahimsa. Joanne Stepaniak writes that two years later, in 1962, the word vegan was independently published for the first time, in the Oxford Illustrated Dictionary; the dictionary defined it as “a vegetarian who eats no butter, eggs, cheese or milk.”
Beginning in the late 1970s, a group of now-prominent physicians in the United States – John A. McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal D. Barnard, Dean Ornish and Michael Greger – together with T. Colin Campbell, a professor of nutritional biochemistry, began to argue that diets based on animal fat and animal protein, such as the standard American diet, were detrimental to health. In a number of research studies and best-selling books they proposed that a low-fat plant-based diet would not only prevent, but might even reverse, certain chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
From the 1990s onwards, their arguments about the health benefits, together with growing concern for the welfare of animals raised in factory farms, led to an increased interest in veganism. In January 2011 the Associated Press (AP) reported that the vegan diet was moving from marginal to mainstream in the United States, with vegan books such as Skinny Bitch (2005) becoming best sellers, and several celebrities exploring vegan diets: “Today’s vegans are urban hipsters, suburban moms, college students, even professional athletes.” According to the AP, over half the 1,500 chefs polled in 2011 by the National Restaurant Association included vegan entrees in their restaurants, and chain restaurants began to mark vegan items on their menus.
The first Vegetarian Butcher shop – selling vegan and vegetarian “mock meats” – opened in the Netherlands in 2010; as of September 2011 there were 30 branches in the Netherlands and Belgium. In February 2011 Europe’s first “all vegan” supermarket, Vegilicious, opened in Dortmund, Germany; elsewhere in Germany, Berlin has become known for its veganism and a “Vegan Spring” food fair has been held annually in Hanover since 2010.
Former US president Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet in 2010 after cardiac surgery, eating legumes, vegetables and fruit, together with a daily drink of almond milk, fruit and protein powder; his daughter Chelsea was already a vegan. Oprah Winfrey followed a vegan diet for 21 days in 2008, and in 2011 asked her 378 production staff to do the same for one week. In 2009 Dr. Mehmet Oz began advising his viewers to go vegan for 28 days. In November 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek reported that a growing number within the business community were following a vegan diet, including William Clay Ford, Jr., Joi Ito, John Mackey, Russell Simmons, Biz Stone, Steve Wynn and Mortimer Zuckerman. The boxer Mike Tyson also announced that he had switched to a vegan diet. In August 2011 Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, said in his documentary The Last Heart Attack that T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study (2005), which cautions against the consumption of any animal fat or animal protein, had changed the way people all over the world eat, including Gupta himself.
The issue that divided the early vegetarians – whether avoiding animal products was a moral issue, or for the most part a health one – persists. Dietary vegans avoid eating or drinking anything that contains an animal product (no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products) out of concern for human health or animal welfare, but may continue to use animal products in clothing, toiletries and other areas. Against this, ethical vegans see veganism as a philosophy. They reject the commodity or property status of animals, and refrain entirely from using them or products derived from them; they will not use animals for food, clothing, entertainment or any other purpose.
Surveys in the United States suggest that between 0.5 and three percent (one to six million) in that country are vegan. In 1996 three percent said they did not use animals for any purpose. A 2006 Harris Interactive poll suggested that 1.4 percent were dietary vegans, a 2008 survey for the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) reported 0.5 percent, a 2009 VRG survey said one percent – two million out of a population of 313 million, or one in 150 – and a 2012 Gallup poll reported two percent.
In Europe, The Times estimated in 2005 that there were 250,000 vegans in the UK, in 2006 The Independent estimated 600,000, and in 2007 a British government survey identified two percent as vegan. The Netherlands Association for Veganism estimated there were 16,000 vegans in the Netherlands as of 2007, around 0.1 percent of the population.
Ethical vegans entirely reject the commodification of animals. The Vegan Society in the UK will only certify a product as vegan if it is free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical, including animal testing.
An animal product is any material derived from animals, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Other commonly used, but perhaps less well-known, animal products are beeswax, bone char, bone china, carmine, casein, cochineal, gelatin, isinglass, lanolin, lard, rennet, shellac, tallow, whey, and yellow grease. Many of these may not be identified in the list of ingredients in the finished product.
Ethical vegans will not use animal products for clothing, toiletries, or any other reason, and will try to avoid ingredients that have been tested on animals. They will not buy fur coats, cars with leather in them, leather shoes, belts, bags, wallets, woollen jumpers, silk scarves, camera film, bedding that contains goose down or duck feathers, and will not use certain vaccines; the production of the flu vaccine, for example, involves the use of chicken eggs. Depending on their economic circumstances, vegans may donate items made from animal products to charity when they become vegan, or use them until they wear out. Clothing made without animal products is widely available in stores and online. Alternatives to wool include acrylic, cotton, hemp, rayon and polyester. Some vegan clothes, in particular shoes and leather alternatives, are made of petroleum-based products, which has triggered criticism because of the environmental damage associated with production.
One of the main differences between vegan and vegetarian diets is that vegan diets exclude both eggs and dairy products (such as animal milk, cheese, butter and yogurt). Ethical vegans state that the production of eggs and dairy causes animal suffering and premature death. For example, in both battery cage and free-range egg production, most male chicks are culled at birth because they will not lay eggs, and there is no financial incentive for a producer to keep them.
To produce milk from dairy cattle, dairy cows are kept almost permanently pregnant through artificial insemination to prolong lactation. Male calves are slaughtered at birth, sent for veal production, or reared for beef. Female calves are separated from their mothers a few days after birth and fed milk replacer, so that the cow’s milk is retained for human consumption. After about five years, once the cow’s milk production has dropped, they are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter for hamburger meat and their hides. A dairy cow’s natural life expectancy is about twenty years. The situation is similar with goats and their kids.
There is disagreement among vegan groups about the extent to which products from insects must be avoided. Some vegans view the consumption of honey as cruel and exploitative, and modern beekeeping a form of enslavement. Once the honey (the bees’ natural food store) is harvested, it is common practice to substitute it with sugar or corn syrup to maintain the colony over winter. Neither the Vegan Society nor the American Vegan Society considers the use of honey, silk or other insect products to be suitable for vegans, while Vegan Action and Vegan Outreach regard it as a matter of personal choice. Agave nectar is a popular vegan alternative to honey.
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Common vegan dishes include ratatouille, falafel, hummus, veggie burritos, rice and beans, veggie stir-fry, veggie burgers, and pasta primavera. Ingredients made from soybeans are a staple of vegan diets because soybeans are a complete protein. They are consumed most often in the form of soy milk and tofu (bean curd), which is soy milk mixed with a coagulant; tofu comes in a variety of textures, depending on water content, from firm, medium firm and extra firm for stews and stir-fries, to soft or silken for salad dressings, desserts and shakes. Soy is also eaten in the form of tempeh and texturized vegetable protein (TVP) (also known as textured soy protein, TSP); the latter is often used in pasta sauces. The wheat-based seitan/gluten is another common source of plant protein. Meat analogues, or mock meats, also based on soy or gluten, come in the form of vegetarian sausage, vegetarian mince and veggie burgers, and are usually free of animal products.
Plant cream and plant milk – such as soy milk, almond milk, grain milk (oat milk and rice milk) and coconut milk – are used instead of cows’ or goats’ milk. The most widely available are soy and almond milk. Soy milk provides around 7 g of protein per cup (250 ml or 8 fluid ounces). Almond milk has fewer calories but less protein.
Like animal milk and meat, soy milk is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids and can be relied upon entirely for protein intake. Soy milk alone should not be used as a replacement for breast milk for babies; babies who are not breastfed need commercial infant formula, which is normally based on cow’s milk or soy (the latter is known as soy-based infant formula or SBIF).
Popular plant-milk brands include Dean Foods‘ Silk soy milk and almond milk, Blue Diamond‘s Almond Breeze, Taste the Dream’s Almond Dream and Rice Dream, Plamil Foods’ Organic Soya and Alpro‘s Soya. Vegan ice-creams based on plant milk include Tofutti, Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious, and Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss.
Cheese analogues are made from soy, nuts and tapioca. Vegan cheeses like Chreese, Daiya, Sheese, Teese and Tofutti can replace both the taste and meltability of dairy cheese. Nutritional yeast is a common cheese substitute in vegan recipes. Cheese substitutes can be made at home, using recipes from Joanne Stepaniak’s Vegan Vittles (1996), The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook (1997), and The Uncheese Cookbook (2003), and Mikoyo Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese (2012). One recipe for vegan brie involves combining cashews, soy yogurt and coconut oil. Butter can be replaced with a vegan margarine such as Earth Balance.
|Calories (per cup)||149||80||40|
|Fat (grams)||7.9 g||4 g||3.5 g|
|Saturated fat||4.6 g||0.5 g||0.3 g|
|Cholesterol||24 mg||0 mg||0 mg|
|Sodium||105 mg||100 mg||180 mg|
|Potassium||322 mg||300 mg||190 mg|
|Carbohydrate||12 g||4 g||2 g|
|Protein||8 g||7 g||1 g|
Vegan (egg-free) mayonnaise brands include Vegenaise, Nayonaise, Miso Mayo, and Plamil’s Egg-Free Mayo. Eggs are used in recipes as thickeners and binders; the protein in eggs thickens when heated and binds the other ingredients together. This effect can be achieved in vegan recipes with ground flax seeds; replace each egg in a recipe with one tablespoon of flaxseed meal mixed with three tablespoons of water. Commercial egg substitutes, such as Ener-G egg replacer, are also available. For vegan pancakes a tablespoon of baking powder can be used instead of eggs. Other ingredients include, to replace one egg, one tablespoon of soy flour and one tablespoon of water; a quarter cup of mashed bananas, mashed prunes or apple sauce; or in batter two tablespoons of white flour, half a tablespoon of vegetable oil, two tablespoons of water and half a tablespoon of baking powder. Silken (soft) tofu and mashed potato can also be used.
|The Four New Food Groups, clockwise from top left: three servings a day of fruit, two of protein-rich legumes such as soybeans, four of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, and five of whole grains, such as whole wheat in bread.|
Since 1991, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has recommended a no-cholesterol, low-fat vegan diet based on what they call the Four New Food Groups: legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables. This was intended to replace the Four Food Groups – meat, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables – recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1956 until 1992. In 1992, the USDA replaced its model with the food guide pyramid and, in 2011, with MyPlate, divided into five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, protein (meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds), and dairy. In the UK, the government recommends the eatwell plate, also consisting of five groups, though not the same groups as the American model: fruits and vegetables; potatoes, bread and other starchy foods; dairy products; meat, fish, eggs or beans for protein; and fat and sugar.
In contrast, the four vegan food groups are fruit, legumes, grains, and vegetables. Legumes include peas, beans, lentils and peanuts. PCRM recommends three or more servings a day of fruit (including at least one that is high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruit, melon, or strawberries), two or more of protein-rich legumes (such as soybeans, which can be consumed as soy milk, tofu, or tempeh), five or more of whole grains (such as corn, barley, rice, and wheat, in products such as bread and tortillas), and four or more of vegetables (dark-green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, and dark-yellow and orange such as carrots or sweet potatoes).
Proteins are composed of amino acids. Reed Mangels of the department of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst writes that omnivores generally obtain a third of their protein from plant foods, and ovo-lacto vegetarians a half. Vegans obtain all their protein from plant sources, and a common question is whether plant protein can supply an adequate intake of the essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesized by the human body.
Sources of plant protein include legumes, such as soy beans (commonly consumed as tofu, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein, soy milk and edamame), peas, peanuts, black beans and chickpeas (often eaten as hummus); grains, such as quinoa (pronounced keenwa), brown rice, corn, barley, bulgur and wheat (often eaten as whole-wheat bread and seitan); and nuts and seeds, such as almonds, hemp and sunflower seeds.
Soy beans and quinoa are known as complete proteins because they each contain all the essential amino acids. Mangels et al write that consuming the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein (0.8 g/kg body weight) in the form of soy will meet the biologic requirement for amino acids. They add that the United States Department of Agriculture has ruled that soy protein may replace meat protein in the Federal School Lunch Program.
Traditional combinations that contain high amounts of all the essential amino acids are rice and beans, corn and beans, and hummus and whole-wheat pita. A 1994 study found that a varied intake of such sources was sufficient, and the American Dietetic Association said in 2009 that a variety of plant foods consumed over the course of a day can provide all the essential amino acids for healthy adults, which means that protein combining in the same meal may not be necessary. Mangels et al write that there is little reason to advise vegans to increase their protein intake, but erring on the side of caution (taking into account the lower digestibility and poorer amino acid pattern of plant protein), they would recommend a 25 percent increase over the RDA for adults, to 1.0 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. According to a 2005 review article, studies suggest that an adequate intake of plant proteins protects against certain degenerative diseases.
Vitamin B12 is a bacterial product needed for cell division, the formation and maturation of red blood cells, the synthesis of DNA, and for normal nerve function. A B12 deficiency can lead to a number of health problems, including megaloblastic anemia and nerve damage. That vegans are unable in most cases, at least in the West, to obtain vitamin B12 from a plant-based diet without consuming fortified foods or supplements is often used as an argument against veganism.
Neither plants nor animals make B12; it is produced by microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi and algae. Herbivorous animals obtain it from bacteria in their rumens, either by absorbing it or by eating their own cecotrope faeces; rabbits, for example, produce and eat cecal pellets. When those animals are eaten, they become sources of B12. Plants from the ground that are not washed properly may contain B12 from bacteria in the soil, often from faeces; drinking water may also be contaminated with B12-producing bacteria, particularly in the developing world. Mangels et al write that bacteria in the human digestive tract produce B12, but most of it is not absorbed and is expelled in the faeces, with tiny amounts also expelled in the urine. James Halsted, a medical researcher, reported in the 1960s that a group of villagers in Iran eating very little or no animal protein were found to have normal B12 levels because they were living with animal manure near their homes, and were eating vegetables grown in human manure (known as night soil) and not thoroughly washed. The human mouth is another source of B12, but in small amounts and possibly analogue (not biologically active).
Western vegan diets are likely to be deficient in B12 because of increased hygiene. Vegans can obtain B12 by taking a supplement or by eating fortified foods, such as fortified soy milk or cereal, where it may be listed as cobalamin or cyanocobalamin. B12 supplements are produced industrially through bacterial fermentation-synthesis; no animal products are involved in that process. The RDA for adults (14+ years) is 2.4 mcg (or µg) a day, rising to 2.4 and 2.6 mcg for pregnancy and lactation respectively; 0.4 mcg for 0–6 months, 0.5 mcg for 7–12 months, 0.9 mcg for 1–3 years, 1.2 mcg for 4–8 years, and 1.8 mcg for 9–13 years.
There is some disagreement within the vegan community as to whether supplementation is needed; several studies of vegans who did not take supplements or eat fortified food, including in Western countries, have found no sign of B12 deficiency. Mangels et al write that the disagreement is caused in part because there is no gold standard for assessing B12 status, and also because there are very few studies of long-term vegans who have not used supplements or fortified foods. According to Mangels, all Western vegans not using supplements or fortified foods will probably develop a B12 deficiency, though it may take decades to appear. There are reports that certain plant foods are sources of B12. Mangels et al write that fermented foods such as tempeh and miso, as well as edible seaweed (such as arame, wakame, nori, and kombo), spirulina, and certain greens, grains and legumes, have been cited as B12 sources, as has rainwater. Tiny amounts have been found in barley malt syrup, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and sourdough bread, and higher amounts in spirulina and nori, but these products may be sources of inactive B12. The consensus within the mainstream nutrition community is that vegans and perhaps even vegetarians should eat fortified foods or use supplements.
Calcium is needed to maintain bone health, and for a number of metabolic functions, including muscle function, vascular contraction and vasodilation, nerve transmission, intracellular signalling and hormonal secretion. Ninety-nine percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. The RDA is 200 mg for 0–6 months, 260 mg for 7–12 months, 700 mg for 1–3 years, 1,000 mg for 4–8 years, 1,300 mg for 9–18 years, 1,000 mg for 19–50 years, 1,000 mg for 51–70 years (men) and 1,200 mg (women), and 1,200 mg for 71+ years.
Vegans are advised to eat three servings per day of a high-calcium food, such as fortified soy milk, fortified tofu, almonds or hazelnuts, and to take a supplement as necessary. Plant sources include broccoli, turnip and cabbage, such as Chinese cabbage (bok choi) and kale; the bioavailability of calcium in spinach is poor. Whole-wheat bread contains calcium; grains contain small amounts. Because vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, vegans should make sure they also consume enough vitamin D (see below).
The EPIC-Oxford study suggested that vegans have an increased risk of bone fractures over meat eaters and vegetarians, likely because of lower dietary calcium intake, but that vegans consuming more than 525 mg/day have a risk of fractures similar to that of other groups. A 2009 study of bone density found the bone mineral density (BMD) of vegans was 94 percent that of omnivores, but deemed the difference clinically insignificant. Another study in 2009 by the same researchers examined over 100 vegan post-menopausal women, and found that their diet had no adverse effect on BMD and no alteration in body composition. Biochemist T. Colin Campbell suggested in The China Study (2005) that osteoporosis is linked to the consumption of animal protein; he argued that, unlike plant protein, animal protein increases the acidity of blood and tissues, which is then neutralized by calcium pulled from the bones.
Vitamin D (calciferol) is needed for a number of functions, including calcium absorption, enabling mineralization of bone, and bone growth. Without it bones can become thin and brittle; together with calcium it offers protection against osteoporosis. Mangels writes that it may also play a role in protecting against heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and dementia. Vitamin D is produced in the body when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin; outdoor exposure is needed because UVB radiation does not penetrate glass. It is present in very few foods (mostly salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod liver oil, with small amounts in cheese, egg yolks and beef liver, and in some mushrooms).
Most vegan diets contain little or no vitamin D, unless the food is fortified (such as fortified soy milk), so supplements may be needed depending on exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D comes in two forms. Cholecalciferol (D3) is synthesized in the skin after exposure to the sun and may be consumed in the form of animal products; when produced industrially it is taken from lanolin in sheep’s wool. Ergocalciferol (D2) is suitable for vegans; it is mostly human-made and is derived from ergosterol from yeast. Several conflicting studies have suggested that the two forms may or may not be bioequivalent. According to a 2011 report by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, the differences between D2 and D3 do not affect metabolism, both function as prohormones, and when activated exhibit identical responses in the body.
Supplements should be used with caution because vitamin D can be toxic, especially in children. The RDA is 10 mcg for 0–12 months, 15 mcg for 1–70 years, and 20 mcg for 70+. People with little or no sun exposure may need more, perhaps up to 25 mcg daily. The daily tolerable upper intake level (daily) for 9 years to adulthood is 100 mcg, according to the National Institutes of Health; for children it is 25 mcg for 0–6 months, 38 mcg for 7–12 months, 63 mcg for 1–3 years, and 75 mcg for 4–8 years.
The extent to which sun exposure is sufficient to meet the body’s needs will depend on the time of day, cloud and smog cover, skin melanin content, whether sunscreen is worn, and the season. According to the US National Institutes of Health, most people can obtain and store sufficient vitamin D from sunlight in the spring, summer and fall months, even in the far north. They report that some vitamin D researchers recommend 5–30 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen between ten in the morning and three o’clock in the afternoon, at least twice a week. They also report that tanning beds emitting two to six per cent UVB radiation will have a similar effect, though using tanning beds may be inadvisable for other reasons.
Vegetarian and vegan diets usually contain as much iron as animal-based diets, or more; vegan diets generally contain more iron than vegetarian ones because dairy products contain very little. There are concerns about the bioavailability of iron from plant foods, assumed by some researchers to be around 5–15 percent compared to 18 percent from a nonvegetarian diet. Iron deficiency anaemia is found as often in nonvegetarians as in vegetarians, though studies have shown vegetarians’ iron stores to be lower.
The RDA for nonvegetarians is 11 mg for 7–12 months, 7 mg for 1–3 years, 10 mg for 4–8 years, and 8 mg for 9–13 years. The RDA then changes for men and women to 11 mg for 14–18 years (men) and 15 mg for 14–18 years (women), 8 mg for 19–50 years (men) and 18 mg for 19–50 years (women). It return to 8 mg for 51+ years (men and women). Mangels writes that because of the lower bioavailability of iron from plant sources, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences established a separate RDA for vegetarians and vegans of 14 mg for vegetarian men and postmenopausal women, and 33 mg for premenopausal women not using oral contraceptives. Supplements should be used only with caution after consulting a physician, because iron can accumulate within the body and cause damage to organs; this is particularly true of anyone suffering from hemochromatosis, a relatively common condition that can remain undiagnosed. The daily tolerable upper intake level, according to the National Institutes of Health, is 40 mg for 7 months to 13 years, and 45 mg for 14+.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, high-iron foods suitable for vegans include black-strap molasses, lentils, tofu, quinoa, kidney beans and chickpeas. Tom Sanders, a nutritionist at King’s College London, writes that iron absorption can be enhanced by eating a source of vitamin C along with a plant source of iron, and by avoiding coingesting anything that would inhibit absorption, such as tannin in tea. Sources of vitamin C might be half a cup of cauliflower, or five fluid ounces of orange juice, consumed with a plant source of iron such as soybeans, tofu, tempeh, or black beans. Some herbal teas and coffee can also inhibit iron absorption, as can spices that contain tannins (turmeric, coriander, chillies, and tamarind).
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in leafy green vegetables and nuts, and in vegetable oils such as canola and flaxseed oil. The Adequate Intake for ALA is 1.1–1.6 g/day. Vegan Outreach suggests vegans take 1/4 teaspoon of flaxseed oil (also known as linseed oil) daily, and use oils containing low amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, such as olive, canola, avocado or peanut oil.
Iodine supplementation may be necessary for vegans in countries where salt is not typically iodized, where it is iodized at low levels, or where, as in Britain and Ireland, dairy products are relied upon for iodine delivery because of low levels in the soil. Iodine can be obtained from most vegan multivitamins or from regular consumption of seaweeds, such as kelp. The RDA is 110 mcg (0–six months), 130 mcg (7–12 months), 90 mcg (1–8 years), 120 mcg (9–13 years), 150 mcg (14+). The RDA for pregnancy and lactation is 220 and 290 mcg respectively.
There is growing scientific consensus that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of a number of degenerative diseases, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, kidney disease and dementia. Winston Craig, chair of the department of nutrition at Andrews University, writes that vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and phytochemicals, and lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. He writes that vegans tend to be thinner, with lower serum cholesterol and lower blood pressure. He adds that eliminating all animal products increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies; of particular concern are vitamins B12 and D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. He advises vegans to eat foods fortified with these nutrients or to take supplements, and writes that iron and zinc may also be problematic because of limited bioavailability.
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada said in 2003 that properly planned vegan diets were nutritionally adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy and lactation. People avoiding meat are reported to have lower body mass index; from this follows lower death rates from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and fewer incidences of type 2 diabetes, prostate and colon cancers. The Swiss Federal Nutrition Commission and the German Society for Nutrition do not recommend a vegan diet, and caution against it for children, the pregnant and the elderly.
Between 1980 and 1984 the Oxford Vegetarian Study recruited 11,000 subjects (6000 vegetarians and a control group of 5000 non-vegetarians) and followed up after 12 years. The study indicated that vegans had lower total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations than the meat-eaters, and that death rates were lower in the non-meat eaters. The authors wrote that mortality from ischemic heart disease was positively associated with higher dietary cholesterol levels and the consumption of animal fat. They also wrote that the non-meat-eaters had half the risk of the meat eaters of requiring an emergency appendectomy, and that vegans in the UK may be prone to iodine deficiency.
A 1999 meta-analysis of five studies comparing mortality rates in Western countries found that mortality from ischemic heart disease was 26 percent lower in vegans than in regular meat-eaters. This was compared to 20 percent lower in occasional meat eaters, 34 percent lower in pescetarians (those who ate fish but no other meat), and 34 percent lower in ovo-lacto vegetarians (those who ate no meat, but did consume animal milk and eggs). No significant difference in mortality from other causes was found between vegetarian/vegan and non-vegetarian diets. A 15-year survey that examined the association between diet and age-related cataract risk in the UK found, in 2010, a “progressive decrease in risk of cataract in high meat eaters to low meat eaters, fish eaters (participants who ate fish but not meat), vegetarians, and vegans”; vegans had a 40 percent lower risk than the biggest meat eaters.
The American Dietetic Association indicated in 2003 that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders, but that the evidence suggests the adoption of a vegetarian diet may serve to camouflage an existing disorder, rather than cause one. Other studies support this conclusion.
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada consider well-planned vegan diets “appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence.” The Swiss Federal Nutrition Commission and the German Society for Nutrition caution against a vegan diet for pregnant women and children. A doctor or registered dietitian should be consulted about taking supplements during pregnancy. The American Dietetic Association writes that a regular source of B12 is crucial for pregnant, lactating and breastfeeding women. According to Reed Mangels, maternal stores of B12 appear not to cross the placenta, and researchers have reported cases of vitamin B12 deficiency in lactating vegetarian mothers that were linked to deficiencies and neurological disorders in their children. Pregnant vegans may also need to take extra vitamin D, depending on their exposure to sunlight and whether they are eating fortified foods. Doctors may recommend iron supplements and folic acid for all pregnant women (vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian).
Newspapers have reported several cases of malnutrition in children whose parents said they were vegan. A 12-year-old girl in Scotland who had eaten no meat or dairy since birth was found in 2008 to be suffering from rickets (caused by a lack of vitamin D), and had several fractures. In 2000, in London, a nine-month-old girl died after her vegan mother fed her a fruitarian diet of raw fruit and nuts. In 2004, in Atlanta, a six-week-old boy died after his vegan parents appear to have fed him mostly apple juice and soy milk. The prosecution argued that the case was not about veganism, but that the child had simply not been fed. Dr. Amy Lanou, nutrition director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and an expert witness for the prosecution in that case, argued that vegan diets are “not only safe for babies; they’re healthier than ones based on animal products,” and wrote that “the real problem was that [the child] was not given enough food of any sort.”
The British Vegan Society criteria for vegan certification are that the product contain no animal products, and that neither the product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals by the manufacturer, by others on behalf of the manufacturer, or by anyone over whom the manufacturer has control. The society’s website contains a list of certified companies and products. Beauty Without Cruelty is well-known within the vegan community as a manufacturer of vegan toiletries and cosmetics. Animal Aid in the UK sells vegan toiletries and other products online, as does Honesty Cosmetics. Kiss My Face sells a range of vegan toiletries in the United States, Canada and the UK. Lush is based in a number of countries and sells products online; the company says that 83 percent of its products are vegan. Haut Minerals in Canada make a range of vegan products, including a vegan BB cream. In South Africa, Esse Organic Skincare is one of several companies certified by Beauty Without Cruelty. The Choose Cruelty Free website in Australia lists vegan products available there.
Because animal ingredients are cheap, they are ubiquitous in toiletries. After animals are slaughtered for meat, the leftovers (bones, brains, eyes, spines and other parts) are put through the rendering process, and some of that material, especially the fats, ends up in toiletries and cosmetics. Vegans often refer to Animal Ingredients A to Z (2004) to check which ingredients might be animal-derived. Common animal products in toiletries include tallow in soap, and glycerine (derived from collagen), which is used as a lubricant and humectant in haircare products, moisturizers, shaving foam, soap and toothpaste; there is a plant-based form but the glycerine in most products is probably animal-based. Lanolin, from sheep’s wool, is another common ingredient, found in lip balm and moisturizers, as is stearic acid, used in face creams, shaving foam and shampoos; as with glycerine, there is a plant-based form of stearic acid, but most mainstream manufacturers use the animal-derived form. Lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from animal milk, is often found in moisturizers, as is allantoin, derived from the comfrey plant or cow’s urine, and found in shampoos, moisturizers and toothpaste.
Ethical veganism is based on opposition to speciesism, the assignment of different values to individuals on the basis of their species membership alone. Bob Torres and Jenna Torres, authors of Vegan Freak (2005), write that ethical veganism consists of “living life consciously as an anti-speciesist.” Carol J. Adams, the vegan-feminist writer, has used the concept of the absent referent to describe what she calls a psycho-social detachment between the consumer and the consumed. She wrote in The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990):
Behind every meal of meat is an absence: the death of the animal whose place the meat takes. The ‘absent referent’ is that which separates the meat eater from the animal and the animal from the end product. The function of the absent referent is to keep our ‘meat’ separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal, to keep the ‘moo’ or ‘cluck’ or ‘baa’ away from the meat, to keep something from being seen as having been someone.”
There is a division within animal rights theory between a rights-based or deontological approach and a utilitarian one, which is reflected in the debate about the moral basis of veganism. Tom Regan, professor emeritus of philosophy at North Carolina State University, is a rights theorist who argues that animals possess inherent value as “subjects-of-a-life” – because they have beliefs and desires, an emotional life, memory, and the ability to initiate action in pursuit of goals – and must therefore be viewed as ends in themselves, not as a means to an end. He argues that the right of subjects-of-a-life not to be harmed can be overridden only when outweighed by other valid moral principles, but that the reasons cited for eating animal products – pleasure, convenience and the economic interests of farmers – are not weighty enough to override the animals’ moral rights.
Gary L. Francione, professor of law at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, is also a rights theorist. He argues that “all sentient beings should have at least one right – the right not to be treated as property,” and that adopting veganism must be the unequivocal baseline for anyone who sees nonhuman animals as having intrinsic moral value. To fail to do so is like arguing for human rights while continuing to own human slaves, he writes. Francione sees no coherent difference between eating meat and eating dairy or eggs: animals used in the dairy and egg industries live longer, are treated worse and end up in the same slaughterhouses. He argues that the predicate for veganism is “already set”:
We all believe it’s wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on animals. … So now the next question becomes “what do we mean by necessity?” Well, whatever it means, whatever abstract meaning it has, if it has any meaning whatsoever, its minimal meaning has to be that it’s wrong to inflict suffering and death on animals for reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience – because if it’s all right to inflict suffering and death on animals for reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience, then you’ve got a loophole that’s now so large you could drive a truck through it. So if the moral notion that we all accept, if that has any meaning, then it has got to be the case that we can’t inflict suffering and death on animals for reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience. Okay. Problem is 99.9999999 percent of our animal use can only be justified by reasons of pleasure, amusement or convenience. It’s gotta go. If we mean what we say … we have no choice. Veganism is the only rational, logical response …”
He argues that the pursuit of improved conditions for animals, rather than the abolition of animal use, is like campaigning for “conscientious rapists” who will rape their victims without beating them. The pursuit of animal welfare does not move us away from the paradigm of animals qua property, and serves only to make people feel comfortable about using them.
Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, approaches the issue from a utilitarian perspective. He argues that there is no moral or logical justification for refusing to count animal suffering as a consequence when making ethical decisions, and that sentience is “the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others.” He does not contend that killing animals is wrong in principle, but argues that from a consequentialist standpoint it should be rejected unless necessary for survival. He therefore advocates both veganism and improved conditions for farm animals to reduce suffering.
Unlike Francione, Singer is not concerned about what he calls trivial infractions of vegan principles, arguing that personal purity is not the issue. He supports what is known as the “Paris exemption”: if you find yourself in a fine restaurant, allow yourself to eat what you want, and if you have no access to vegan food, going vegetarian is acceptable.
Singer’s support for the “Paris exemption” is part of a debate within the animal rights movement about the extent to which it ought to promote veganism without exception. The positions are reflected by the divide between the animal protectionist side (represented by Singer and PETA), according to which incremental change can achieve real reform, and the abolitionist side (represented by Regan and Francione), according to which apparent welfare reform serves only to persuade the public that animal use is morally unproblematic. Singer said in 2006 that the movement should be more tolerant of people who choose to use animal products if they are careful about making sure the animals had a decent life. Bruce Friedrich of PETA argued in the same year that a strict adherence to veganism can become an obsession:
[W]e all know people whose reason for not going vegan is that they “can’t” give up cheese or ice cream. … Instead of encouraging them to stop eating all other animal products besides cheese or ice cream, we preach to them about the oppression of dairy cows. Then we go on about how we don’t eat sugar or a veggie burger because of the bun, even though a tiny bit of butter flavor in a bun contributes to significantly less suffering than any non-organic fruit or vegetable does or a plastic bottle or about 100 other things that most of us use. Our fanatical obsession with ingredients not only obscures the animals’ suffering – which was virtually non-existent for that tiny modicum of ingredient – but also nearly guarantees that those around us are not going to make any change at all. So, we’ve preserved our personal purity, but we’ve hurt animals – and that’s anti-vegan.
Francione writes that this position is similar to arguing that, because human rights abuses can never be eliminated entirely, we should not safeguard human rights in situations we control. By failing to ask a server whether something contains animal products, in the interest of avoiding a fuss, he argues that we reinforce the idea that the moral rights of animals are a matter of convenience. He concludes from this that the PETA/Singer position fails even on its own consequentialist terms.
Environmental vegans focus on conservation rather than animal rights: they reject the use of animal products on the premise that practices such as farming – particularly factory farming – fishing, hunting and trapping are environmentally unsustainable. One example of an environmental vegan is Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the marine conservation direct-action group. He told The Guardian in 2010 that all Sea Shepherd ships are vegan: “Forty percent of the fish caught from the oceans is fed to livestock – pigs and chickens are becoming major aquatic predators. The livestock industry is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions ever. The eating of meat is an ecological disaster … We’re promoting veganism not for animal-rights reasons but for environmental conservation reasons.”
In November 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released Livestock’s Long Shadow, a report that linked animal agriculture to environmental damage. It concluded that livestock farming (primarily of cows, chickens and pigs) has an impact on almost all aspects of the environment: air, land, soil, water, biodiversity and climate change. It concluded that livestock account for 9 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions, 37 percent of methane, 65 percent of nitrous oxide, and 68 percent of ammonia; livestock waste emits 30 million tonnes of ammonia a year, which the report said is involved in the production of acid rain. In June 2010 a report from the United Nations Environment Programme declared that a move toward a vegan diet is needed to save the world from hunger, fuel shortages and climate change. It said that agriculture, particularly the production of meat and dairy products, accounts for 19 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 38 percent of land use and 70 percent of freshwater consumption.
Greenhouse gas emissions are not limited to animal husbandry. Plant agriculture such as rice cultivation can also cause environmental problems. A 2007 Cornell University study that simulated land use for various diets for New York State concluded that, although vegetarian diets used the smallest amount of land per capita, a low-fat diet that included some meat and dairy – less than 2 oz (57 g) of meat/eggs per day, significantly less than that consumed by the average American – could support slightly more people on the same available land than could be fed on some high-fat vegetarian diets, since animal food crops are grown on lower-quality land than are crops for human consumption.
Steven Davis, a professor of animal science at Oregon State University, asked Tom Regan in 2001 what the difference was between killing a field mouse while cultivating crops, and killing a pig for the same reason, namely so that human beings could eat. Davis argued that a plant-based diet would kill more than one containing beef from grass-fed ruminants. Andy Lamey, a philosopher at Monash University, calls this the “burger vegan” argument, namely that if human beings were to eat cows raised on a diet of grass, not grain, fewer animals would be killed overall, because the number of mice, rats, raccoons and other animals killed during the harvest outnumbers the deaths involved in raising cows for beef.
Based on a study finding that wood mouse populations dropped from 25 to five per hectare after harvest (attributed to migration and mortality), Davis estimated that 10 animals per hectare are killed from crop farming every year. He argued that if all 120,000,000 acres (490,000 km2) of cropland in the continental United States were used for a vegan diet, approximately 500 million animals would die each year. But if half the cropland were converted to ruminant pastureland, he estimated that only 900,000 animals would die each year – assuming people switched from the eight billion poultry killed each year to beef, lamb and dairy products. Therefore, he argued, according to the least-harm principle we should convert to a ruminant-based diet rather than a plant-based one.
Davis’s analysis was criticized in 2003 by Gaverick Matheny in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. Matheny argued that Davis had miscalculated the number of animal deaths based on land area rather than per consumer, and had confined his analysis to grass-fed ruminants, rather than factory-farmed animals. He wrote that Davis had also equated lives with lives worth living, focusing on numbers rather than including in his calculations the harm done to animals raised for food, which can involve pain from branding, dehorning and castration, a life of confinement, transport without food or water to a slaughterhouse, and a frightening death. Matheny argued that vegetarianism “likely allows a greater number of animals with lives worth living to exist.” Lamey argued that Davis’s calculation of harvest-related deaths was flawed because based on two studies; one included deaths from predation, which he wrote is morally unobjectionable for Regan because not related to human action, and the other examined production of a nonstandard crop (sugarcane), which Lamey wrote has little relevance to deaths associated with typical crop production. Lamey also maintained, like Matheny, that accidental deaths are ethically distinct from intentional ones, and that if Davis includes accidental animal deaths in the moral cost of veganism, he must also include the accidental human deaths caused by his proposed diet, which, Lamey wrote, leaves “Davis, rather than Regan, with the less plausible argument.”
“On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (in particular, saturated fatty acids); fewer overall calories; and more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C than do non-vegetarians. In general, vegetarians have a lower body mass index. These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians.”
*Also see “Animal ingredients list”, PETA.
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