The term “vegan” is commonly mistaken to mean vegetarian. This is, in large part, due to the fact that the two come from the same intrinsic values of protecting animals and personal health; also, vegetarianism is a much more widespread practice than veganism. The reason it is more widespread is because veganism is a much more specific practice than vegetarianism. Think of veganism as the next level of vegetarianism. It takes more devotion because, while vegetarians abstain from eating meat, vegans abstain from eating, wearing, bathing in, etc. anything animal-related. Understanding the difference between these two practices can be very simple.
To understand the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan, one must first understand vegetarianism. It is usually pretty straightforward. No meat. Simple, right? However, some vegetarians practice variations on the diet. A lacto-vegetarian will abstain from eating eggs in addition to abstaining from meat but include dairy in their diet, while an ovo-vegetarian, in turn, will abstain from dairy products and include eggs. Also, there are pescatarians who will include fish in their diet and semi-vegetarians who will include fish and poultry. These are the not-so-simple variations on vegetarianism, which will help you to understand some of the key differences between a vegetarian and a vegan.
While vegetarianism is often the abstinence of meat, sometimes with a variation attached, veganism is very consistently the abstinence from any product gotten from an animal, large or small. In addition to meat, this includes things like rennet, gelatin, honey, and whey. Also, a vegan, in addition to removing animals as food from the diet, refuses to sponsor the exploitation of animals in any form, such as animal-based clothing or products that utilize animal testing. You may have heard of something like vegan soap and thought “Soap isn’t vegan?” A lot of times, there are plenty of soaps that are vegan on the ingredients list but practice animal testing, so you won’t find a vegan on board where a vegetarian would be more than welcome. Or perhaps you have heard of vegan shoes. These are usually a canvas shoe, taking the common material of leather entirely out of the mix.
The simplest way to remember the difference between vegetarianism and veganism is: vegetarianism: no meat; veganism: no animal products. As long as you understand the definitions of both, there really isn’t much more to it than that until you meet a pesky pescatarian -I sincerely apologize for the play-on-words, but it begged for it- or an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. In that case, I hope you took Latin.
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