Can You Take Prescription Medications and Still Call Yourself Vegan?

Vegan prescription medication

No matter how committed we are I can almost guarantee that the vast majority of us will partake of something non vegan.

Some do it every day, some do it only on rare occasions, and others don’t do it at all but may have to as they get older.

I’m talking about taking prescription medication.

Clearly medication is not vegan. Even if you can find a pill that doesn’t contain gelatine or lactose, your meds will have been tested on animals. Current legislation demands it.

This doesn’t sit well with me, I’ll admit. And I’ve encountered vegans who claim that they never take prescription meds; they would rather die (literally!) than support the pharmaceutical industry.

I acknowledge that my life is no more important in the scheme of things than that of a lab rat but it’s precious to me and until legislation changes and I can procure medication that hasn’t been tested on animals, if I need to take meds to save my life, I will do so.

Vegans are already considered extreme (all that abstinence from killing really makes you radical). Sure we’re growing in number but currently we’re part of a fringe movement. Can you just imagine the headlines if I refuse to take my medication for my heart condition and I die as a consequence?

“Toddlers watch their mother die of treatable condition. Veganism to blame”

It wouldn’t be great advertising for the cause.

A dead vegan, or one crippled by chronic pain isn’t much use to the animals we have pledged to help. I feel we can be of far more use if we can stay healthy enough to continue actively campaigning for animal rights.

That said, I’m not for one minute advocating that we start popping pills whenever we feel the urge; prescription medication (for me anyway) is there as a back up when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Take my own condition as an example. I can limit episodes of tachycardia by avoiding known triggers; dehydration, caffeine, alcohol, stress, tiredness. This method doesn’t entirely eliminate attacks though and while I have a few natural strategies for curing an episode, they are not foolproof.

Sometimes I just have to take the damned pill! I don’t personally believe that this makes me less vegan – as we all know, absolutely no one can live a 100% cruelty free life in today’s world, the key to veganism is constantly trying to minimise the ways in which we are involved in animal exploitation.

Luckily there are things we can all do to limit our reliance on prescription medication and to help animals currently suffering in laboratories.

Eat healthy and exercise when possible - you are doing it for them...
  1. This is a no brainer: eat healthily!
    A vegan diet is not inherently healthy.  We all know that you can live on junk food and still be vegan. It’s probably not the best plan though. A varied, well balanced diet based on an abundance of fruit and veggies is the way forward for a healthy body and fewer trips to the pharmacy. And it goes without saying that prevention is better than cure and I firmly believe that a healthy diet is the key to preventing so many of our common diseases.
  2. Exercise when possible.
    We can’t all run marathons but we can all try to add more activity to our lives in an attempt to gain better health. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the local shop instead of jumping in the car, it all adds up and helps strengthen our bodies and our immune systems. 
  3. Avoid stress.
    Easier said than done, I’ll admit, but reducing stressful situations or using techniques such as meditation, yoga or even just taking a long walk in beautiful surroundings can alleviate symptoms of stress and reduce the likelihood of tension headaches. No aspirin required!
  4. PMS – it’s a pain.
    Literally! There are things you can do to help relieve symptoms though. Hot water bottles, warm baths…they’re clichés but they do work. In the past I have found that avoiding alcohol around that time of the month also has positive effects.
  5. Natural remedies.
    My mum swears by lavender oil for a headache. Personally I overdose on garlic when I feel a cold brewing. A lot of the old wives’ tales are actually worth paying attention to.
  6. Dealing with depression.
    Many doctors can be pretty quick to scribble out a prescription to treat depression but there are other ways. Mild depression can be helped by regular exercise, healthy eating and avoiding stimulants. Seasonal Affective Disorder can be aided by the use of a light box while more serious cases of mental illness sometimes benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You should always consult with a professional, but consider the option that medication is not always the answer.
  7. The lesser of two evils.
    If you do need to take prescription medication, ask your doctor to provide you with pills that don’t contain lactose, gelatine or other animal derived substances. Those in the UK can go to Medicines website to check the ingredients lists for their medicine.
  8. Contraception.
    Yep, it’s not always vegan. Read our article about vegan and non-vegan birth-control methods to find out how to ‘veganize’ your sex life.  
  9. Campaign!!
    Medication, at times, is necessary. Animal testing is not. Investigate and support companies that promote alternatives such as the Dr Hadwen Trust. Write, email, attend demonstrations, let the powers that be know that you are against animal testing and support alternative methods of research.

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