What is a
When we tell people we are vegans, they often ask, "What is a vegan?"
Most people have a general idea that vegetarians don't eat meat,
but they don't know the difference between vegan and
vegetarian.As you shall see, it is about more than just the foods they
1. Definition of vegan
Are vegans little green men from the planet Vega? No,
not according to the American Vegan Society (AVS). They started
teaching people about a vegan diet in 1960. They are the experts and we
learned from them.
AVS prints the following vegan definition in their excellent quarterly
magazine, the American
VEE-guns--live on products of the plant kingdom, so exclude flesh,
fish, fowl, dairy products (animal milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.),
eggs, honey, animal gelatin and broths, all other items of animal
"Veganism also excludes animal products such as leather, wool, fur, and
silk, in clothing, upholstery, etc. Vegans usually try to avoid the
less-than-obvious animal oils, secretions, etc., in many soaps,
cosmetics, toiletries, household goods and other common commodities."
If this seems a little overwhelming, AVS gives this short answer to
the "what is a vegan" question:
The word vegan is also used as an adjective. You will see it on
packaged foods and cosmetics. What is vegan in this case? It just
describes a product that contains no animal products or byproducts.
- "Vegan: Uses no animal-source food or clothing."
2. Definition of vegetarian
So how do vegans differ from vegetarians? What is a
vegetarian? AVS provides the following definition:
- "Vegetarian: Uses no flesh, fish, fowl,
(products of slaughter), still
using milk or dairy products (lacto-vegetarian), or eggs
Most vegetarians use animal-source clothing or toiletries.
They just avoid flesh foods. Often, as they learn more about
harmful effects of dairy products and eggs, they start to cut back on
3. Definition of total vegetarian
There are a lot of good health reasons to avoid dairy
products and eggs. This is especially true for people who want to lose
weight. If you want to eat plants but you are not ready to call
yourself a vegan, AVS has a
special definition for you:
A total vegetarian follows a plant-based diet.
- "Total vegetarian: Uses no animal-source food,
vegan in diet only;
still using some animal items such as leather, wool."
Don't vegetarians eat fish?
Read all three definitions above carefully. You will see that vegans, vegetarians, and total
vegetarians do not eat
Merriam-Webster defines people who eat
fish but no other flesh foods as pescetarians.
Pescetarians also often eat eggs and/or dairy products. They
are people in
transition on the way to becoming vegetarians or vegans.
Most cultures eat some animals but they have taboos against eating
others. Indians believe that cows are sacred; Americans eat them.
Americans love their dogs like family members; Koreans eat them. It
doesn't make sense, does it? Vegans believe
we should not use (or abuse) any animals. It does make sense.