Many people still believe that vegans and vegetarians are pretty much one in the same, with vegans being a more extreme version of vegetarians, but as with most things in life: it really isn’t that simple. Both lifestyles have their own diets, motivations, and ethos with variations of each within both of them. In this article, we will be looking at how these two lifestyles differ and why they are just as distinct from each other as they are from meat-eaters.
Obviously, it is the diets that form the basis of the two lifestyles. A vegetarian in the broadest terms is someone who will not eat meat of any kind (though some will claim to be a vegetarian and still eat fish, but this is actually a “pescatarian”) but will still consume dairy products and eggs. A vegan, likewise, will not eat any animal flesh but they also eschew any product that is produced or derided from an animal and consume a purely plant based diet.
With that distinctive difference in mind, it’s always crucial for vegans that they are careful when purchasing or consuming products that have only deemed suitable for vegetarians. Since food producers consider any foodstuff containing animal products like milk or eggs as being acceptable to vegetarians but these would obviously fall foul of a vegan’s dietary requirements.
A Difference in Ethos
While it may be diet that mainly separates vegans and vegetarians in terms of actions, the motivation and ideals that lead to either can be vastly different.
A vegetarian may have decided to exclude meat from their diet due to not wanting to eat the flesh of another sentient being but it could also be health reasons (red meat was listed by the W.H.O as a carcinogen in 2015 for instance) or just because they dislike the taste or feel of meat. While it is considered to be a more ethical lifestyle, a vegetarian who still eats dairy and eggs are still supporting farming practises that include many cruel methods that still prohibit a moral purity when it comes to the treatment of animals. A vegetarian will also most likely still wear clothes made of leather or wool and could still use products such as make up that have been tested on animals. There could also be religious reasons for someone adopting a vegetarian diet, whether this is temporary like Christians giving up meat for Lent or more permanent like Hinduism and some forms of Buddhism.
A vegan, however, should not engage with foodstuffs or products that involve animal slaughter or servitude in any way. It is certainly an absolute ethic that leaves little in the way of moral grey areas when it comes to the treatment of animals and their welfare. A vegan will also abstain from any form of entertainment that exploits animals, such as zoos, sea life centres and circuses, whereas a vegetarian would not contradict their lifestyle with such attractions. A vegan’s lifestyle is far more likely to be driven by political, environmental and ethical motivations, though personal health can be the primary reason for some vegans
It would not be inaccurate to suggest that vegetarianism is mainly a dietary concern but veganism is a true lifestyle with a clearly defined ethos.
Do Vegans and Vegetarians See Eye-to-Eye?
While the two lifestyles don’t generate the kind of conflict for us to be seeing some kind of superhero film entitled “Vegan Vs. Vegetarian” any time soon, and it’s fair to say that both would certainly commend each other on their choices when it comes to the subject of animal welfare and treatment there is little parity between the two.
Many vegans will hope that their vegetarian friends see their meat-free diet as a gateway to adopting a diet and purchasing choices that follow through completely with the ideal of the emancipation of animals from the agricultural, manufacturing and entertainment industries so all animals can live as Mother Nature intended.