And in the blue corner with a record of avoiding all meat and fish, but consuming dairy, eggs and being more lenient towards products derived from animals we have the vegetarians. And in the red corner avoiding all animal products for food, clothing or any other purpose we have the vegans. Seconds out round one!
Ok so I am having a bit of fun, this isn’t a fight or a competition. As someone who was vegetarian for a couple of years before coming vegan and then in my first year relapsed a few times with milk in my coffee and cheese on a pizza I can relate to both. This post isn’t going to be about berating anyone for not being vegan. What I want to do is explore the difference between being vegan and being vegetarian.
To ask why many vegetarians find it difficult or choose not to go vegan. To see if vegetarianism is a stepping stone for many on their path to veganism and look at the pros and cons of both. And if you are vegetarian and want to go vegan but are finding it a struggle, to give you some tips to help you on your way. Ok so are you ready vegan vs vegetarians lets go.
Vegan vs Vegetarians – The Definitions
Ok so this should be the easy part, the definitions for both what is veganism and what is vegetarianism. Well actually the definition for veganism is pretty simple. According to the vegan society it is.
“A philosophy and 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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
So vegan is pretty straightforward really and according to the vegetarian society;
Vegetarians don’t eat products or by-products of slaughter. Nor do they eat any foods which have been made using processing aids from slaughter.
Vegetarianism however isn’t quite so straightforward as there are various branches to the vegetarian tree (trying to keep my descriptions plant based!). Let’s very briefly look at a few.
- Lacto Ovo Vegetarian would be considered the standard vegetarian diet and excludes meat and fish but includes dairy products and eggs, (hence the lacto/milk and ovo/eggs).
- Lacto Vegetarian is the same as lacto ovo vegetarian, but excludes eggs.
- Ovo-Vegetarian is the same as lacto ovo vegetarian, but excludes milk. Ovo vegetarians are sometimes known as “eggetarians”
- Pesco-Vegetarian or pescatarian diet, is the same as the lacto ovo vegetarian but with the consumption of fish.
- Semi-Vegetarian also known as flexitarian diet. A flexitarian diet is becoming more popular and involves increasing your intake of plant-based meals without completely eliminating meat. It really isn’t vegetarian.
You can find plenty of other sub categories but someone who is vegetarian will typically conform to the vegetarian society definition and eat a lacto ovo vegetarian diet.
Regardless of whether we are a meat eater, a pescatarian, a vegetarian or a vegan we have all undoubtedly gone through a journey to arrive at where we are today. It may be that you continue to eat meat becusae that is what you have always done. Or you may be vegan like me and have gone through a process to arrive at your destination. The interesting thing is to find and understand the driver behind your decisions. I have many long-term vegetarian friends and it is interesting listening to why they chose to be vegetarian and why, so far, they are not vegan.
My own journey started with the omission of red meat, then shortly after that all meat. I was then vegetarian for almost 2 years before finally cutting out all animal derived products and becoming vegan. Ivonne joined me in cutting out all of the meat (well actually I joined her), but within a matter of weeks of cutting out meat and after watching a range of documentaries she went vegan overnight.
So, let’s look a little more at vegetarianism and see why it is a stepping stone for some and a long-term diet for others. And let’s see if we can encourage some of those long-term vegetarians to give veganism a go.
I have had quite a few conversations with close friends who are long term vegetarians. So why did it take me 2 years to transition from vegetarian to vegan and why do my friends remain vegetarian? Well honestly, it’s a mixture of naivety, convenience and the belief that you are doing the best you can. I mean once you are vegetarian at least no animals are slaughtered to put food on you table, right?
When I first went vegetarian it was a great feeling. I had a healthy diet and I was making a great contribution to animal welfare and the environment. Plus, I couldn’t go vegan, I had to have milk in my coffee, and cheese, well without cheese what would I put in my sandwich, on my pizza or make sauces with. And after all cheese, eggs and a bit of milk don’t make much difference, do they?
Let’s just touch on cheese. For regular cheese eaters, which is large quantities of the western world, it seems to be one of the hardest things to give up and often a stumbling block for those wanting to go vegan. Let’s have a look at why that is and see what can be done to help. There is a good reason cheese can be difficult to leave behind and that’s casein a protein that elicits the same feel-good effects as opiate drugs.
You see when eaten casein converts in to casomorphins which is basically nature’s way of making sure an infant returns to the breast for milk. In cheese the concentration of casein along with the sodium and fat content is more concentrated than in milk thus making it more “addictive”. So how to get over the cravings. Well in the end what worked for me and for many friends was abstaining. For most people cutting out dairy entirely for 28 days is sufficient for the cravings to subside.
Dairy and Eggs don’t make that much difference
It’s pretty easy to think like that, I did it, many other vegans I know did, and the vast majority of the population and many vegetarian friends still believe or choose to believe it. The fact is I wish it were true, but unfortunately dairy and eggs do make a difference particularly to those animals that suffer and die as a consequence. The simple fact, and one that so many people still fail to realise, is that to produce milk cows have to become pregnant and have calves.
To get them pregnant they are usually artificially impregnated. Once they give birth their calves are immediately taken away causing great distress to both mother and baby. Males calves are either killed shortly after birth or sent away to be reared for veal. Females follow the fate of their mothers to be milked continually throughout their lives before being sent to slaughter at around 6 years of age, about a quarter of their normal lifespan.
Once you have heard the cries of a calf being forced from its mother, or dragged to slaughter, (and yes, I have seen this first hand ), then you’ll understand why diary does make a difference. If you want to know more about how scary dairy is then read this.
And then there’s eggs. I won’t go in to detail here as we have recently written a detailed post about eggs and the industry titled do vegans eat eggs? But just in case you thought eggs don’t make that much difference you might want to consider that everyday over a quarter of a billion male chicks are killed either thrown into an industrial blender, gassed or electrocuted.
Hundreds of millions of hens are subjected to the slavery of laying eggs often deprived of room to move and living in terrible conditions before being send to slaughter at a fifth of their normal lifespan. So, eggs, yes, they really do make a difference.
Discover the truth and make a change
We are not here to be pushy vegans, we don’t want to force everyone to go vegan overnight. What we do want to do is share our experiences and offer facts, support and to be a friendly encouraging place to visit. We will continue to research and share information, trying to explain things in as simple a manner as possible, because by discovering the realities we are more likely to be driven to make the change.
This is what helped move me from vegetarian to vegan. When I realised that what I had convinced myself ‘didn’t make much difference” really did make a huge difference the change was easy. So, whether you’re are a full-on meat eater and want to take that first step of reducing your meat consumption. Or maybe you are a long-time vegetarian who has never really considered veganism either way we encourage you look at the facts and go for it. If you’re vegetarian you probably already care about the welfare of animals and your health and striving to go vegan can help both of these.
Vegetarian and vegans labelled products
Ok so before we go I thought it might be useful to look at vegetarian and vegan food labelling. This might be particularly useful for those vegetarians thinking of going vegan, or anyone hosting or entertaining either vegetarian or vegan guests. We looked at the definitions of vegan and vegetarian earlier and they seem pretty clear. However, what you need to be aware of is that the terms ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ are used voluntarily by industry so when a product states “suitable for vegetarians”, or “suitable for vegans”, it is only what that company deems vegetarian or vegan.
To guarantee that a product is vegetarian or vegan safe, look out for the approved labels. So, if you are a vegan, make sure you look out for the ‘Vegan Society‘ label, and if you are a vegetarian, make sure you look out for the ‘Vegetarian Society‘ label on food products. In quite a few instances the food will have neither so you will have to go by the ingredients or contact the manufacturer. Bare in mind a lot of what you already eat is vegan and is often known as accidentally vegan.
Vegan vs Vegetarians
So, there you have it vegan vs vegetarians our little guide to the differences and maybe why we choose either one. So, if your already vegan brilliant we hope you are happy, healthy and enjoying life knowing you are making a difference. And if you are either a recent or long time vegetarian that’s brilliant too but how about giving veganism a go, you never know it might be easier than you think.