Veganism has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years. The number of Vegans worldwide are increasing at high speed. These days, there are more and more products and restaurants that focus on Vegans. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what Veganism means. Especially by various media, the term is used rather loosely and some 'Vegans' are not always consistent or choose to use 'Veggie' or 'Veg' or some other distracting term.
What is Veganism?
The term "Veganism" was first used in England by members of the Vegetarian Society. They split off after the Second World War and defined Veganism in 1979 as: '[...] 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 environment1
This means that Vegans do not use meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, or any other products made by or of animals, such as honey, gelatin, wool, leather, fur, etc., or use animals as entertainment or for other purposes.
In other words, Veganism is a philosophy about the use of animals, and is not limited to diet. You can not actually speak of a Vegan diet.
What is a Plant-based diet?
In the English language, one speaks of a Plant-Based diet, if someone (primarily) eats vegetables. It does not necessarily mean that such a person is exclusively eats vegetables or is Vegan. The term therefore only applies to eating habits and does not make clear whether animals are used in other aspects of their lives.
Unfortunately, there are also many Vegans who do not want to use the term Vegan because they think there is a negative association with it. This only adds to the confusion in my view, because using the correct term for what you mean is important. The term Veganism is sometimes seen as negative, because it is used by people who do not live up to the philosophy: which is: 'to do as little harm as possible in this world'. This does not include violence against animals or humans. Veganism is in principle a peaceful movement.
Other terms that can be confusing and are sometimes not used in the correct manner, are:
- Vegetarian: Someone who eats a vegetable diet and does not eat meat or fish or other animal products such as gelatin. There are several vegetarians who do eat animal products: Pescatarians and Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians.
- Pescatarian: A Vegetarian who does eat fish and/or shellfish. Usually, these people are also Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians. In the strict sense of the word, this is not a Vegetarian diet, since fish are animals.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: A Vegetarian who does or does not eat fish and does eat eggs and dairy products. In general, we mean a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian when we talk about a 'Vegetarian'.
- Flexitarian: Someone who sometimes refrains from eating meat, for example on certain days of the week.
Veganism Is Not A Religion
There are also different religious groups that have strict rules on diet and that follow a certain Vegetarian or plant-based diet, such as Seventh Day Adventists, Buddhists and Hinduism.
However, Veganism is not a religion. It is a philosophy based on the moral basis that we should not want to cause unnecessary suffering. People can become Vegan regardless of their religious background. The moral principles on which Veganism is based, have a place in every religion.
I am sure that everyone who believes animals matter morally, and who recognizes that animals feel pain and a will to live (in English: sentience), recognized that in order to match their moral with their actions, they should live Vegan. If I can, you can do it too.