What Is the Difference Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian?

It is no secret that veganism has set in motion a new lifestyle change among the masses, one which seeks to educate consumers on the ethical and environmental impact of abstaining from the use of animal products. This current lifestyle is a modification of the vegetarian diet, with the latter having been in existence as early as 700 B.C. While the two focus on limiting animal cruelty and exploitation, they still have their differences.

Understanding Veganism

Veganism refers to a practice that seeks to eliminate all manner of animal exploitation. This means that vegans abstain from using animal products in their diet and everyday life. As a result, a vegan diet excludes meat, dairy, and eggs. In addition to this, by-products such as fur, leather, and wool are also not acceptable in this lifestyle. Vegans believe that animals have a right to live freely without human use of clothing, food, entertainment, and science.

In addition to the items mentioned above, vegan diets also exclude other commonly used ingredients from animals. According to Gale Tobin, these include honey, whey, gelatine, casein, and some forms of animal-derived vitamin D3.

Defining a Vegetarian Diet

A vegetarian can be described as an individual who avoids products and by-products of animal slaughter. Examples of these are meat, shellfish, game, and fish. With this in mind, a vegetarian diet comprises grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds. Unlike the vegan diet, a vegetarian diet will often include by-products such as honey, dairy, and eggs. The only exemption for vegetarians consuming these products is that the animals be kept in safe conditions, free from any form of cruelty. However, this will depend on the type of vegetarian diet that you adhere to.

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Some forms of vegetarian diets include:

Ovo Vegetarians

Ovo vegetarians avoid all animal products. The only exception to this is eggs.

Lacto Vegetarians

Lacto vegetarians avoid animal flesh and eggs and consume dairy products.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

This refers to a vegetarian who avoids all types of animal flesh. They will, however, consume eggs and dairy.

Vegans

Vegans are also vegetarians, with the veganism diet primarily building on the latter. As previously mentioned, vegans abide by a stricter lifestyle, avoiding consuming all animal products and any by-products.

Exceptions to the Vegetarian Diet

While not all individuals fall under the broadly accepted norms of the vegetarian diet, some still prefer refraining from everyday consumption of animal products. These are referred to as flexitarians, with their diet comprising part-time vegetarian diets. To note is that pescatarians may also be sometimes be referred to as vegetarians, with their diet often inclusive of fish but eliminating meat and poultry.

Both the vegan and vegetarian diets are considered some of the healthiest diets, with individuals reducing risk factors related to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers. This is due to the low saturation of fats and cholesterol in the nutrient-dense foods that whole grains, fruits, and vegetables contain. With that being said, veganism is more than what you eat, with the lifestyle often focusing on animal rights.