Saturday, March 7, 2009
Vegetarian vs. Vegan
There are two ways to look at it:
1. Vegan is a type of vegetarian. Generally, vegetarians dont eat animal flesh, but they eat animal secretions. For example, they dont eat meat, poultry, or fish, but they do eat dairy and eggs. Vegans dont eat any animal products. For example, they dont eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy. Vegan is spelled v-e-g-a-n because "veganism starts with vegetarianism and carries it through to its logical conclusion."
2. Vegan is a lifestyle whereas vegetarian is a dietary choice. Vegans, however, avoid all animal products including leather, fur, wool, silk and they also abstain from animal circuses, zoos, and other forms of animal exploitation. Vegetarians dont eat animal products but they might wear leather or fur, it just depends on the vegetarian.
Ultimately it depends on the individual. Some people prefer to call themselves vegetarians even when they live like vegans and others prefer to call themselves vegan. Its an identity issue. If you avoid animal products, you can choose to call yourself vegetarian, vegan, or something else entirely.
Some non-vegetarians call themselves vegetarian and likewise some non-vegans call themselves vegan. They do that for various reasons, but one reason is simplicity: its easier to say" I'm vegetarian" and have your dietary choices respected than to say I rarely eat meat because if you say I rarely eat meat, meat-eaters will often pressure you to eat meat just this once.
I used to be annoyed by people who called themselves vegetarians but ate meat every now and then, but now I don't really care too much. Call yourself whatever you want.
Some people avoid either word and say things like, "I eat a plant-based die"t or I"m a raw-foodist." Often, people who avoid the terms vegan or vegetarian eat like vegans eat but they do so for health or environmental reasons, not for animal rights, spiritual, or ethical reasons.
Often, people who embrace the word vegan do so primarily for animal rights or ethical reasons, and secondarily for health and/or environmental.
Products or menu items labeled vegan should be free of all animal products, even trace ingredients. Likewise, products or menu items labeled vegetarian should be free of animal flesh, even trace ingredients.
Its a good idea to ask or read the ingredients because in the US, there is no legal definition for the terms vegetarian or vegan yet.
Here are some links for why vegetarianism isn't enough to solve the ethical issues involved in animal agriculture:
And for more on the environmental and public health concerns, please take a look at: