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Last Updated on June 10, 2022

The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

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The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

I’ve recently been on a date with a girl. When I told her that I don’t eat animal products, she asked me curiously: “So are you vegetarian or a vegan?”

“Wait what, do you know the difference?” – I replied. She answered with: “I think so, vegans completely avoid animal products while vegetarians sometimes eat eggs and dairy.” The definition was basic, yet spot-on. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Most people don’t know what veganism is nor the difference between vegan and vegetarian. In this article you will learn the difference between vegan and vegetarian so you are educated and can decide which one of those two are most suited for you.

What is veganism

Veganism is defined as:

“the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.”

To put it simply: Vegans neither consume or buy anything that comes from an animal.

The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

    While most vegans act this way because of ethical reasons, the reasons don’t matter – the actions do. Behind veganism there’s often a cult.

    At its heart [of veganism] is the healing power of compassion, the highest expression of love of which man is capable. For it is a giving without hope of a getting. And yet, because he would free himself from many of the demands made by his own lower nature, the benefit to man himself would be incalculable.
    – Vegetarian World Forum

    Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 (almost hundred years after the word vegetarian was founded) . He first meant vegan to be known as ‘non-dairy vegetarian’, until the Vegan Scoiety (yes, there’s such a thing!) defined it as:[1]

    “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”.

    Interest in veganism exploded in the 2010s.

    What is vegetarianism

    Vegetarianism is defined as:

    “the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. “

    To put it simply: Vegetarians don’t consume or buy anything that is directly correlated to animal slaughter. Namely: No meat and often also no byproducts of animal slaughter, for example: gelatin, which is obtained from boiling skin, tendons or ligaments of cows or pigs.[2]

    The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

      The word vegetarian was first used in 1839 and was refered to a “vegetable diet”. It’s commonly known to be a compound of vegetable and the suffix -arian.

      The earliest findings of vegetarians date back to 7th century BCE.[3] It is said that the Greek teacher Pythagoras has advocated a vegetarian diet.[4]

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      The difference between vegan and vegetarian

      Vegetarianism is the generic term of veganism. To put it blunt: Veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

      When I started this journey of minimizing animal products, I first followed a vegetarian diets for a couple of months. To get used to it and build up the necessary knowledge for following a vegan diet. In fact most vegans started out as being vegetarians and then minimized their consumption of animal products until they’re getting on the vegan level.

      One may become a vegetarian for a variety of reasons – humanitarian, health, or mere preference for such a diet; The principle is a smatter of personal feeling, and varies accordingly. Veganism, however, is a principle – that man has no right to exploit the creatures for his own ends – and no variation occurs.
      – Vegetarian World Forum

      Veganism completely minimizes the exploitation of animals, while vegetarianism only minimizes direct slaughter. To reduce the pain caused on animals the most, one follows a vegan diet.

      One might not directly kill an animal by buying an egg of a chicken for example, but the nature of the competitive animal industry makes it necessary to eliminate male chicks immediately once their born. Over 3 million male chicks get killed like this (Warning: Graphic) every year.

      The Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian (No They Aren’t the Same)

        This also stems resentment between the veganism and the vegetarianism community, as vegans feel vegetarians are closing their eyes off to obvious suffering. I recently read a sticker on a vegan restaurant that said: “Vegetarian isn’t enough!”

        This is the reason I’m an advocate of veganism, as it always was an all-or-nothing case for me.

        Watch this video about all the reasons on why you should go vegan:

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        How to become a vegetarian (without overwhelming yourself)

        The best way you can start becoming a vegetarian is by getting knowledge. Reading this article is a great first step: How to Become a Vegetarian (It’s not that Hard as You Thought!)

        After that you should start slowly. The goal is to minimize all the meat in your diet.

        But instead of eliminating all meat from your diet, eliminate one animal at a time.

        For instance: start with beef. Don’t eat it for 30 days. Then eliminate pork in addition to beef. Continue to eliminate a category of meat every 30 days.

        Eventually you’ll elimate all meat and seafood, but because of the gradual approach, it won’t feel unmanageable.

        The key here is to keep it sustainable.

        A word of caution: You may experience resistance and questions about becoming a vegetarian, especially from close friends and family that don’t want to change. Be kind when answering questions and don’t preach the benefits of vegetarianism.

        Lead by example – then let them follow.

        How to become a vegan (a step-by-step guide)

        I’ve eaten meat my entire life. Maybe I even ate too much. I’ve followed the typical bodybuilding diet, rice and chicken with nearly every meal. This someties resulted in over 1 kilogram of meat a day.

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        Since more than 3 years I’m following a vegan diet and I have never looked back. While the original steps to go from meat eating to vegetarian are the same as to become a vegan, the vegan just goes a tad bit further.

        I’ve written down 8 steps to become a vegan here:

        How to Go Vegan (Step-By-Step Guide from a Fitness Coach)

        I especially recommend you reading step 7 and step 8, as it’s the main difference between veganism and vegetarian.

        Conclusion

        To put it simply, veganism is the more hardcore version of vegetarianism.

        Vegans aim to put the exploitation of all animals to an absolute minimum, while vegetarianism mainly reduces direct violence on the animals (e.g. slaughter).

        This is also the reason why veganism has a now cult-like status, as veganism is more about a compassionate lifestyle than a eating behaviour.

        Featured photo credit: QualityGains.com via qualitygains.com

        Reference

        [1] The Vegetarian World Forum: Veganism Defined
        [2] Wikimedia: What is Vegetarianism: Benefit Or Harm On Health
        [3] Source: Olivelle, transl. from the original Sanskrit by Patrick (1998). Upaniṣads (Reissued ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0192835765.
        [4] Borlik, Todd A. (2011) Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature: Green Pastures. New York City, New York and London, England: Routledge. pp. 189–192. ISBN 978-0-203-81924-1.

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