The Difference Between A Vegetarian And A Vegan

Good people, this is going to be a short post about the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan. A lot of folks have been looking at my post “The Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian Weight Loss”, when all they want is an understanding about the differences and not necessarily why a vegan weight loss diet is better than a vegetarian weight loss program.

So humor me if you will and allow me to tell you what the difference between a vegan and vegetarian is. Now if you want the dictionary definition of a vegan or vegetarian you’ll head on over to the Oxford English Dictionary or secondly the Merriam Webster English Dictionary. But if you want a more practical difference here it is.

Firstly, let’s understand what a vegetarian is. A vegetarian is someone who does NOT eat flesh, fish, fowl and seafood. So here is an example of what a vegetarian would not eat. They would not eat beef, lamb, pork, chicken, bacon, hot dogs (unless veggie hot dogs…. yummy!), burgers, steak, salmon, trout, crab, calamari etc. A good rule of thumb is if something had a mother or it had motility a vegetarian wouldn’t eat it.

This is not foolproof however, as vegetarians should not be eating clams and mussels and oysters either even if their motility is in doubt. However, having said that, I think you get an idea about what a vegetarian is.

Now I must clarify some misinformation that is circulating amongst the media and American culture, and that is this idea of pesco vegetarianism and other such nonsense. There is no such thing as a pesco vegetarian or a polo vegetarian or a bovine-o vegetarian… that’s all just bozo vegetarianism. End of story, there is no place on a vegetarian’s plate for any animal products that caused the death of a living sentient being.

Vegetarians will however, generally eat the secretions and menstrual waste of an animal. The secretions in this case are the mammary secretions commonly known as milk and its by products like cheese, ice cream etc. The menstrual waste of an animal that vegetarians will eat is commonly referred to as eggs. If this sounds gross, it should. Because there ain’t nothing purdy about eating animal menstrual waste or mammary secretions from a different species. We’ll get back to this in a minute.

Cool… capiche? Excellent. So what is a vegan? Well, let’s first go back to the founder of modern day veganism Mr. Donald Watson. In 1944 he and some friends founded the original Vegan Society and he suggested the name “vegan” as it was the first 3 letters of the word vegetarian and the last 2 letter of the word vegetarian. Therefore it was the beginning and end of vegetarian.

And a vegan became known as someone who abstains from the use of all animal products. A vegan does NOT eat any animal products or by products including flesh, fish, fowl, seafood like the vegetarian, but the vegan also does NOT eat dairy or eggs nor honey. Gelatin is also an animal by product that vegan’s will not consume.

Further than this, a vegan is someone who does not wish to profit or advance the cause of animal suffering, so a vegan’s ethic goes beyond diet and into the realm of lifestyle. A vegan does not use leather, wool or silk either due to the inherent suffering involved in obtaining these animal products. But more than that, these products are just not ours to take, they are not given freely and they are not made by the animals/insects in question for our use. And nowadays it can never be justified as necessary to use any of these products.

Vegans will also try to avoid any products that contain identifiable animal ingredients such as some makeup, desserts etc, which can contain cochineal which is the crushed exoskeleton of a Mexican beetle.

I don’t want this to sound difficult at all. I’ve been vegan for over 20 years without hardship or great difficulty. The idea behind veganism is not perfection but intent. You get rid of the obvious suspects like all meat, dairy, eggs, gelatin, marshmallows etc and clear your closet of leather and wool and silk (or just use what you have and don’t buy any more of these products) and you try your best to read ingredients when you’re out at the grocery store shopping for vegan products. If you’re trying your best you’ll find that you soon become accustomed to the lifestyle and you’ll feel freer and less encumbered by the taint of death and violence that has followed you all these years like a heavy shadow.

You might be asking yourself what is someone called who follows a vegan diet but not the vegan lifestyle? You are basically asking about someone who is concerned about their health and not so much about animal suffering. Such a person would be considered a strict vegetarian which is basically the vegan diet without the lifestyle addition.


Veganism is about an ethical approach to animal suffering, about the violence inherent in using animals for a wide variety of purposes and about trying to do something within your own small window of control to mitigate that suffering and violence. I encourage you to give veganism a go. There is a lot of help and resources out there about becoming vegan and if you want to go vegan you can of course email me with any help that you might need. I thank you, the animals thank you, but more importantly your own self will thank you down the road too.

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