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.
Veganism is on the march. With now more than half a million vegans in the UK, what does it actually mean?
It might seem obvious what being vegan is, but there is even an app, Is It Vegan?, to check if certain products count or not. Simply scan a product and the app will analyse its ingredients and give you the thumbs up or down.
Budding vegans and curious meat eaters may be wondering about the finer details about what the lifestyle entails.
What happens to your body?
With the lifestyle itself cleared up, you may be wondering what actually happens to your body when you go vegan.
In addition, you may feel tired, develop a calcium deficiency and go to the toilet more, but on the flip side you will probably lose weight and could reduce your risk of heart disease. Vegans can also take supplements to counteract the lack of vitamin B12, iron and calcium in their diet, so there’s no need to fret.
Vegan vs Vegetarian
Vegetarian diets have reportedly been around since as early as 700 B.C.
Several types exist and individuals may practice them for a variety of reasons, including health, ethics, environmentalism and religion.
Vegan diets are a little more recent, but are getting a good amount of press.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of animal slaughter.
Vegetarian diets contain various levels of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. The inclusion of dairy and eggs depends on the type of diet you follow.
The most common types of vegetarians include:
Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal flesh, but do consume dairy and egg products.
Lacto vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid animal flesh and eggs, but do consume dairy products.
Ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal products except eggs.
Vegans: Vegetarians who avoid all animal and animal-derived products.
What Is a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet can be viewed as the strictest form of vegetarianism.
Veganism is currently defined by the Vegan Society as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as much as possible.
This includes exploitation for food and any other purpose.
Therefore, a vegan diet not only excludes animal flesh, but also dairy, eggs and animal-derived ingredients. These include gelatin, honey, carmine, pepsin, shellac, albumin, whey, casein and some forms of vitamin D3.
Vegetarians and vegans often avoid eating animal products for similar reasons. The largest difference is the degree to which they consider animal products acceptable.
For instance, both vegans and vegetarians may exclude meat from their diets for health or environmental reasons.
However, vegans also choose to avoid all animal by-products because they believe this has the largest impact on their health and the environment.
In terms of ethics, vegetarians are opposed to killing animals for food, but consider it acceptable to consume animal by-products such as milk and eggs, as long as the animals are kept in adequate conditions.
On the other hand, vegans believe that animals have a right to be free from human use, be it for food, clothing, science or entertainment.
Thus, they seek to exclude all animal by-products, regardless of the conditions in which animals are bred or housed.
The desire to avoid all forms of animal exploitation is why vegans choose to forgo dairy and eggs — products that many vegetarians have no problem consuming.