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Vegetarians, Vegans, a little help with definitions?


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Initial post: Jan 22, 2010 12:13:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 22, 2010 12:22:01 PM PST
Mac says:
After 25 yrs. as a vegetarian, I thought I was pretty clear on all my definitions and such, but something struck me the other day that made me stop and think. If a lacto-ovo vegetarian removes the lacto-ovo element from his or her diet (eating vegan fare only) but is not following any other vegan lifestyle practices, then what "category" does the person fall under? I've heard a few people refer to themselves as "strict vegetarian" over the years. Would that be the proper term?

My stepdaughter recently switched to a completely vegan diet after watching the documentary Food Inc. She calls herself a vegan now, but it occurred to me that she probably hasn't made a similar switch in other aspects of her life, such as apparel and cosmetics, etc.

I brought this up among my compadres in the cooking community. But understandably, none of the omnivores want to touch it, for fear of being lambasted by anyone vegan or vegetarian. (Don't blame them - the cooking forums folks get a little unruly sometimes!)

I welcome your thoughts but also hope everyone will keep their comments respectful. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 24, 2010 12:06:06 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 24, 2010 12:12:06 PM PST
vRob says:
Of course, labels are somewhat dangerous. They mean different things to different people and vegetarian is one of the most misunderstood labels. It seems that most people assume vegetarians eat chicken and fish, for example. As for 'vegan', I refer to myself as being on a 'vegan diet' or being a 'strict vegetarian' or following a 'plant-based diet'. I usually follow that up with the clarification, 'I avoid all animal products - no meat, cheese, dairy or eggs' to be more clear. Even so, I still get cheese in/on dishes at restaurants and often the response, 'but you eat fish/chicken, don't you'? So there is just a lot of misunderstanding with some people calling themselves 'vegetarian' when they actually mean they don't eat red meat -or that they are a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat (a flexitarian). However, I think anyone who is cutting down on their meat/fish/dairy/egg consumption is doing a favor for their personal health, the environment and the animals. As for claiming to be a vegan (not just following a vegan diet), it's the intention as evidenced by vegan lifestyle choices that count.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 25, 2010 8:29:32 AM PST
Mac says:
VRob, agreed. There's lots of confusion. In my late teens, my stepmother would regularly make chicken for me, assuming that "vegetarian" only meant no red meat. Lacto-ovo, pescatarian, flexitarian, it's all kinda confusing, especially for the omnivores really.

I probably should have noted, I completely support my stepdaughter's choice. We've become food allies now, since I've been moving steadily toward a vegan/strict vegetarian diet myself, after many many years of being lacto-ovo. But as I have also not yet taken deliberate action to remove wool, lanolin, etc. from my home, I also wouldn't call myself vegan, even after I've successfully eliminated that last little bit of dairy from my diet (darn you, yummy gorgonzola!)

So both my stepdaughter's changes and my own brought me to my question, but mostly out of curiosity. I appreciate your thoughts on the question!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 8:08:22 AM PST
vRob says:
That's very cool that you have been able to find a common bond with your stepdaughter in her food choices. I started out vegetarian but then went completely vegan after 6 months. I was doing this for health reasons, and did not start seeing great results until I finally went vegan.

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 8:22:56 AM PST
Mac says:
vRob, I'm just curious ... what specific changes/results did you notice going from vegetarian to vegan?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 9:46:29 AM PST
vRob says:
Cholesterol went from 250+ to 135. Weight from 265+ to 190. Triglycerides from 230+ to 95. Blood pressure from 150+/100+ to 110/70. I experienced a sense of wellness and greater energy that I could feel every day. Split nails healed. Sinuses cleared up. I had a complete stranger ask me while waiting in line at the grocery store what I did to have such a great complexion. No more digestive problems. I could go on but you get the idea. For me it was a combination of eliminating all animal foods and added oils, and eating a diversity of whole plant food with plenty of starches to provide energy and satisfy hunger. I never felt like I was "dieting" because I ate as much as I wanted. I just changed my food choices.

When my weight got down to a manageable number I felt good enough to start exercising regularly which provided continued improvement to achieve those results. This was all without any medications.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 10:26:10 AM PST
Mac says:
That's pretty interesting. I guess I'm not really seeing anything change drastically, because the meat was already out of my diet years and years ago, and egg/dairy removal has been slow and progressive. I'm now at a point where my diet isn't 100% vegan, but several days can pass in between incidents where a bit of dairy slips in.

I would *love* to see my sinuses clear up though!

One thing I think is funny is the assumption that vegans are all skinny. Vegan fare can be every bit as fattening as ominivore fare! I "veganized" a favorite Indian dish over the weekend. The result was shockingly good. However, it's loaded with nuts, cashew butter, and full-fat coconut milk. I don't even want to know what the fat and calorie counts are. Needless to say, it'll be a rare indulgence for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 10:39:21 AM PST
vRob says:
Probably the biggest change from eliminating dairy was the clearing up of sinuses. I went through a 'fake food' period but have eliminated those over the past few years. I love Indian and Thai dishes!

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 10:43:58 AM PST
Louise O. says:
Of the labels, there are two categories applied to adherents/practitioners: "ethical" and "dietary." I do not like or use the word "ethical" (as it seems judgmental and implies those who are "dietary" veg*ns are less ethical or lacking ethics). Instead, I prefer the term "philosophical" vegan/vegetarian. The philosophical veg*ns tend to be the ones who also adopt cruelty-free consumer practices (no leather, wool, silk, pearls, mother-of-pearl, feathers, lanolin, propolis, honey, fur). True dietary vegans eat *nothing* from animals, including honey and propolis, and are well acquainted with arcane ingredients of posisble animal origin (gylcerin, stearic acid, etc.) The "dietary" veg*ns tend to apply their dietary practices to eating only and do not necessarily refrain from buying/using animal products, such as pearls and wool. Most will tell you they have adopted the diet for health reasons. So, a facile and inadequate and somewhat flip distinction would be philosophical=heart and dietary=health.

Philosophical vegans eat nothing from animals (i.e., have a 100% plant-based diet) and do not use/consume any products from animals (see above list). Philosophical vegetarians also generally do not use/puchase merchandise made from animals (the obvious ones being fur and leather; but some philosohical vegetarians may use silk/wool...it varies with the individual). Of the philosophical vegetarians, some eat eggs but not other dairy products; some may eat milk/cheese but not eggs; and some eat all forms of dairy.

Until 5 years ago I was a "philosophical" lacto-ovo vegetarian. I ate no meat or fish or any kind of animal, but did eat eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt and all dairy products. Because I was a "philosohical" practitioner, I did not buy/wear leather or fur, but was still not plugged in about how wool and silk products came to be made. However, when I saw "A Peaceable Kingdom" in June 2005, I decided to become vegan on the spot. I now more than I ever thought possible about materials and ingredients of every item I purchase or use. The fact that my diet and purchasing practices are also going to benefit my health and the planet is just icing on the (vegan) cake. For example, I became aware of the dangers of plastics while paying attention to ingredients and materials, and I therefore try not to purchase or consume anything that has been packaged or stored in plastic containers or bags.

By the way, I have never liked or used the adjective "strict" in describing either vegans or vegetarians. Living one's beliefs to opt out of a cycle of cruelty inflicted on other beings doesn't make you strict; it makes you aware and loving, and means you're consistent and dependable.

Finally (sorry for the ramble...) what's important to understand in labels and conversations is that there is no such thing as a semi-/quasi-/almost-/mostly-/sometimes-/often- vegan or vegetarian. That would be like saying "I'm mostly a virgin" or "I'm usually celibate" or "I'm often a pacifist." It makes no sense.

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 10:56:59 AM PST
Mac says:
Wow, Louise! No, please no apologies for rambling - your comments are appreciated!

I get your point on the "semi-/quasi-/almost-/mostly-/sometimes-/often-" part, then would it make more sense to say "in the process of transitioning to a vegan diet" for the sake of accuracy?

I'm slightly abashed that I don't know what propolis is, and perhaps I need to read up on stearic acid.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 11:14:18 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 27, 2010 11:33:01 AM PST
vRob says:
<<Finally (sorry for the ramble...) what's important to understand in labels and conversations is that there is no such thing as a semi-/quasi-/almost-/mostly-/sometimes-/often- vegan or vegetarian. That would be like saying "I'm mostly a virgin" or "I'm usually celibate" or "I'm often a pacifist." It makes no sense.>>

Unfortunately I can end up eating foods containing animal products because they are not listed or I ask and am not told the truth. For example, yesterday I ate at a catered buffet at a local university. There were two soups. One was a vegetable soup so I asked the chef what the broth was made of. He said it was made with vegetable broth. But he may or may not know or is just telling me what he thinks I want to hear. There was some oil in it. Was it chicken fat, olive oil or some other vegetable oil? The same happens with baked goods too. I buy bread from a person I know who make it from organic flour with not dairy or eggs in the recipe. But how about that bread at the Italian restaurant? I can assure you there are dead bugs in the grain and insects are part of the animal kingdom. So I've draw a line about what's achievable and live with it.

I also try to avoid all GMO products which means eliminating most processed foods and buying only organic tofu, endamame and corn. There are many ingredients in processed food that are made from corn, soy and canola, such as HFCS, isolated proteins and canola oil. There is no labeling requirement for GMO ingredients so if it contains soy, corn, or canola it's probably a GMO product. I can have some assurance if it's labeled USDA Certified Organic but then again, that just means that the process for growing organic food was followed. It's no guarantee that the 'Certified Organic' food is in fact, GMO-free, as the standard allows for .5% non-organic ingredients and there is no testing requirement for the final food product.

A person can go crazy with this stuff but I do the best I can and ask when I have a question - and hope I'm told the truth. If I suspect it's got animal products or any sgnificant amount of GMO ingredients, I don't eat it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 11:45:11 AM PST
Mac says:
I'm struggling with the GMOs too, vRob. My mission to finally eliminate dairy has come into direct conflict with my increased understanding of soy, soy production and GMOs. I found a rice cheese I like well enough, and I now use almond or hemp milk instead of soymilk. But the whole soy issue still confuses and frustrates me a great deal.

My husband and I don't dine out often. But I realize that when we do, it is becoming increasingly complicated. It's hard enough to dine out when all you need to avoid is meat. Avoiding the rest ... almost seems like more trouble than it's worth in some cases. (Meaning, "Let's just stay home and I'll cook") At least if I'm visiting family or going to a party, I can bring a dish to share. Restaurants don't tend to appreciate that sort of thing ;-)

Posted on Jan 27, 2010 1:02:59 PM PST
denilea says:
T]he word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude - as far as is possible and practical - 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.[1]

From the Vegan Society.

You'll like this site:
the vegetarian resource group:
http://www.vrg.org/index.htm

Information for vegans and vegetarians, or veg**ns as I like to write. Lots of ingrediant info, for ex. steric adic is used as a binder and can be either from animal products or veg.

I'm in transition myself, since giving up meat, I really tried to do away with dairy products. I started by reading labels, and staying with products I could trust as vegan, while still having occassional cheese. I think that made it a lot simpler.

I made myself watch a video from Mercy For Animals. They infiltrated another dairy farm--there will be no more dairy for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 27, 2010 1:37:27 PM PST
Mac says:
Thanks Denilea - great website!

Posted on Jun 1, 2012 4:22:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 1, 2012 4:33:07 PM PDT
valpro says:
Just saw this thread.... and though it's an old one, I'll comment on it. I agree that labels can be confusing. Here in the US, most people use the term vegetarian to refer to people who eat no meat, but do consume dairy, eggs, and honey. However, where my husband is from (India), a 'pure vegetarians' are those who eat dairy, but no meat or eggs. Eggs is not considered vegetarian there, though some people do eat lacto-ovo and just call themselves 'eggetarians' or the like. Or they just say that they are vegetarians with the exception of eggs. So people here shouldn't automatically assume that vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs, as many don't.

Conversely, vegans are technically a type of vegetarian. I have sometimes seen people on Amazon get angry with cookbook authors for putting out a vegetarian cookbook that is basically vegan, as it includes no dairy or egg products. Technically, I don't think the authors are at fault, as putting out a vegetarian cookbook without any animal products IS all inclusive (as there are some people who are vegan, some who are ovo-veggie, and some lacto-veggie who can eat all of the recipes).

Personally for me, I am mostly vegan (no meat, dairy or eggs), though I do occasionally have honey. I also avoid buying leather, avoid using cosmetics tested on animals, etc. I try to buy vegan as much as I can, though there are a few exceptions. For example, I was found to be extremely vitamin D deficient, and thus I am currently using vegetarian vitamin D3 supplements (which are not vegan as they are made of lanolin from sheep, though the sheep are not killed). I know there is a vegan D2 supplement, but it is much less effective, so I will stick to the vegetarian version. I am happy that a new vegan D3 has been created, and as soon as they make a higher dose, I'd happily switch over to the vegan version, even if it is a higher cost. I also avoid supplements made with gelatin (boiled animals), and always try to get one made with veggie caps... as I will only take a gelatin capsule if I badly need the supplement and nothing is available. Many times I have just refused the gelatin supplement if there was no veggie version available, and tried to go without by finding alternative lifestyle and health changes... but in more serious cases, I will take the gelatin capsule supplement if necessary.

Another example, at home I cook with olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil (no butter for me). But when I visit my husband's family in India where these products are not always available, I will either ask for them to use the smallest amount of refined oil possible, or I will just avoid the food. However, if for some theoretically reason that's not possible (which hasn't been the case thus far), then I'd rather them just cook my food with ghee (clarified butter) than refined oil, as refined oil is often highly oxidized and very bad for one's health. So I guess there isn't really a category for me, as I'm MUCH more stricter that most vegetarians, yet not 100% vegan. As much as I can practically do to be vegan (without putting myself in an unhealthy position), I do. Around most people who understand the concept of veganism, I will label myself as a 'strict vegetarian'. I will only refer to myself as a 'vegan' when I think there is a chance someone wouldn't understand and would offer me dairy and eggs which I don't eat. So it is confusing, and I just use label myself either 'strict vegetarian' or 'vegan' depending on the environment I'm in.
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Discussion in:  Vegetarian forum
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Initial post:  Jan 22, 2010
Latest post:  Jun 1, 2012

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