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Understanding Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Animal-free isn’t just about going vegan, it’s also about supporting diversity. Diversity is often misunderstood as differences that we can see when it includes less visible qualities too, like being a first-generation student, having an invisible disability, or other lived experiences. What do the rest of the letters in DEIB add to diversity then?


Interaction Institute for Social Change by Angus Maguire

The E is for equity, which is not the same as equality. This image shows how treating everyone equally (equality) does not meet everyone’s needs while equity accounts for individual differences.


Inclusion and belonging are best described in the quote below. Diversity alone is not enough; having a seat at the table does not necessarily mean that you are free to talk or that others will listen if you do. It may seem like a string of letters at first glance, but every part of the DEIB acronym is important.


“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having a voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” - Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy

DEIB, of course, extends to foods that people eat—here are some of the many reasons why people follow an animal-free diet. Please note that this list is not all-inclusive!


Reasons Why People Go Animal-Free

Allergies

Milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish are major food allergies recognized by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although these are among the most common, several other allergies cause people to go animal-free. Alpha-gal Syndrome is an example where individuals can have an allergic reaction to red meat, mammalian products, and sometimes even an extract from red seaweed called carrageenan


Religion

Observers

Pig

Cow

Poultry

Seafood

Animal Products

Blood

Jews

Non-Kosher

Must Follow Kosher Slaughter Rules (Shechitah)

Must Follow Kosher Slaughter Rules (Shechitah)

Must Have Fins and Scales

From Kosher Animals Only

Non-Kosher

Muslims

Haram

Must Follow Halal Slaughter Guidelines (Dhabīḥah)

Must Follow Halal Slaughter Guidelines (Dhabīḥah)

Halal

From Halal Animals Only

Haram

Jehovah's Witnesses

  • Kashrut (כַּשְׁרוּת‎): Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) forbid the consumption of some animals while others must be killed following kosher slaughter (shechitah) rules. Kosher refers to foods that those who observe the laws of kashrut can have. Non-kosher (treyf/treif) animals include pigs, shellfish, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and most insects. Products from non-kosher animals like eggs, milk, and the fat surrounding organs (chelev) are also not allowed. Blood is prohibited regardless of the animal. 

  • Sharia (شَرِيعَة) :Islamic law (sharia) categorizes foods as lawful (halal) or forbidden (haram). Animal meats that are halal when killed following Islamic dietary laws (dhabīḥah) are beef, poultry, and lamb. Most seafood is halal and is exempt from dhabīḥah. Haram foods include pork, blood, and predatory animals (e.g. birds with talons, reptiles, insects). 

  • Jehovah's Witnesses: Similar to other religions where blood represents life, Jehovah's Witnesses cannot have blood.

  • Ahimsa (अहिंसा): Ahisma is the principle of nonviolence in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. Vegetarianism is strictly observed by Jains and is an individual decision for Buddhists and Hindus. In Hinduism, animal meats and products are associated with social position. 

  • Different Views on Kutha (ਕੁਠਾ) Meat: Eating kutha meat is banned, but the definition of kutha meat varies among the Sikh Panth. As such, Sikhs may be vegetarian, vegan, or neither.

  • Zoroastrianism: Originating in ancient Persia, it imposes unique dietary restrictions, including abstaining from creeping animals (e.g. worms, insects, etc.) and ritually unclean foods like beef, pork, and alcohol.


Traditional Teachings

Beliefs are passed down through oral stories in many cultures. For example, some Navajo people may be cautious about eating certain animals due to The Great Gambler and Emergence Story


Environmental Impact

The United Nations has acknowledged the environmental burden of the animal agriculture industry and states that going animal-free is one way to combat climate change


Health & Diet Preference 

Eating red meat has been linked to heart health issues and other diseases. Plus we all have foods that we like and dislike—this can include animal products!


Threats to Diversity

Company diversity initiatives are often the first to go, a problem reported by NPR and Forbes. From 2020 to 2023, roles involving DEIB decreased twice as fast as non-DEIB roles at companies with recent layoffs. Likewise, a Pew Research poll found that people disagree about DEIB in the workplace and that some groups value DEIB less than others. These trends are alarming given that DEIB involves people’s lives. It is not something to put away at the end of the day when diversity exists 24/7, especially when it comes to human rights like access to food and medical care


Recently, Alabama passed a bill, SB129, targeting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, authored by Republican state Sen. Will Barfoot. The bill prohibits certain public agencies from sponsoring DEI programs and mandates higher education institutions to designate restrooms based on biological sex. Despite opposition from students, educators, and civil rights groups, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law, aligning Alabama with several other states that have enacted similar measures restricting DEI efforts.


The pharmaceutical industry is not safe from this threat either. In addition to layoffs, diversity in clinical trials has been a long-known issue. Lack of representation is problematic because diseases can affect various groups differently. For instance, asthma rates are higher among people of lower socioeconomic status and certain racial/ethnic groups. Trials are meant to study how safe a drug is and how well it works so the participants should be similar to patients who will use the drug after approval. The FDA acknowledged the problem and updated its recommendations to promote trial diversity.


Fighting for a Good Cause

In recognition of the need for DEIB, VeganMed helps patients and healthcare providers determine if medications are animal-free. It is often difficult, however, to gather accurate and timely information from manufacturers so make sure to sign the FDA Citizen Petition filed by VeganMed to join the fight for transparent medication labeling.


The special thing about FDA Citizen Petitions is that the FDA must respond to them. In other words, VeganMed’s petition gives seats at the table, meets people where they are, and lets them have a voice. Now it’s up to you to have your voice heard.


Co-authors: Angela Su, Mersedeh Kolyaei


 

Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.


 

Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?



Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!


As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.


If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!




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