ANSWER: No. Unfortunately, butter is not vegan as it is the product of churning fermented milk or cream from dairy cows. Luckily, there are a ton of delicious butter alternatives out there if you're trying to go vegan and don't think that you can do without the real thing.
What is Butter Exactly?
Although normally made from cow's milk, butter is most simply a dairy product from any animal that contains around 80% butterfat making it one of the most concentrated form of milk available commercially. Whole milk is churned which breaks down the cell membranes that keep the fat contained. Once the cell membranes are ruptured, the fat from the milk clumps together thus forming the spreadable stuff on the shelf. Obviously the process is a bit more complex, so you can go here if you want to read more.
Why Isn't Butter Vegan?
Veganism is a 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. - Vegan Society
Butter isn't considered to be Vegan for the same reason as other dairy products. Dairy is produced by lactating pregnant mammals which suffer from cruel and torturous treatment.
On a grand scale, cows or other mammals are systemically and repeatedly impregnated. Upon giving birth, their babies are taken away which causes them even more distress. The entire process results in cow's or other mammals living a life of torture and misery.
Although a female cow can live up to 25 years, dairy cows are sent away for slaughter at 5 years old. Avoiding milk products reduces the demand thus reducing the amount of suffering undergone by animals that produce commercial milk and whey protein.
All of this is also obviously going to apply to cheese, but there are tons of vegan cheese alternatives out there which make it super easy to replace.
How Can I Replace Real Butter with Vegan Butter?
A quick look in your grocery store and you'll find all sorts of fatty spreads that don't contain any dairy products. Most of them not only a replacement for spreading, but worked the same way in baked goods as a 1:1 replacement. There are even options available online such as this vegan butter flavored coconut oil linked below.
Conclusion on Butter
Butter in its original form is never going to be vegan, but that's not to say you can't enjoy alternatives. To get as close to eating whole foods as possible - we recommend avocado toast!