When I first started this experiment and began to haunt vegan and vegetarian forums, blogs and the like, I began to discover a very complex society all of its own. The only comparison I have is religion. People feel very strongly about the choices they make in life regarding what they eat, what other people think they should eat, and whether or not those choices should go beyond just their dietary nature. Some people feel more strongly than others, and like religion, the more passionate about their beliefs, the more enthusiastic and sometimes the more venomous and close minded some people can be.
So, I’ve compiled a list of definitions, I believe that most Vegans and Vegetarians (all types) wish everyone else knew and understood. Anyone can correct me if they feel I’m wrong; in fact, I love learning new things, so please feel free to add on.
first, the stuff that won’t start any fights…
- Vegan — A person who has chosen a lifestyle of compassion with the intention to end the suffering and exploitation of animals; his or her diet excludes animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood), animal products (eggs and dairy), and usually excludes honey. Beyond his/her diet, his/her lifestyle also excludes the wearing and use of animal products (leather, silk, wool, lanolin, gelatin…). The major vegan societies all disallow honey, but some vegans still use it. Some vegans also refuse to eat yeast products.
- Vegetarian – A person whose diet is mainly plant-based and excludes animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood), but may or may not consume dairy products or eggs.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian — A person who follows a plant-based diet, excluding all animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood), but also consumes eggs and milk and milk products. This is the most common form of vegetarianism in the Western world. Most vegetarian restaurants in America serve Lacto-Ovo meals.
- Lacto Vegetarian — A person who follows a plant-based diet, excluding all animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood) as well as eggs, but also consumes milk and milk products. This is common in India and most vegetarian restaurants in India serve Lacto Vegetarian meals.
- Ovo Vegetarian — A person who follows a plant-based diet, excluding all animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood) and milk and milk products, but also consumes eggs. Many people are ovo vegetarians because they are lactose-intolerant.
- Fruitarian — A person who follows a vegan diet, but only eats foods that don’t kill the plant. For example, picking apples does not kill the tree, but you cannot have carrots without killing the plant.
now for the controversial stuff…
- Dietary Vegan — A person who follows a plant-based, animal-free diet, but does not necessarily follow the strict lifestyle of non-use of animal products. It is important to note that the use of this term often causes controversy — many vegans feel it takes away from the spirit of their ideology and cause, while many strict/pure vegetarians feel it is the only term that clearly separates them from Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians in society’s eye. Using this term to describe yourself on a Vegan/Vegetarian forum is likely to start a flame-war.
- Psuedo-Vegetarian – A person who claims to be a vegetarian, but isn’t. This is a term used by Vegans and Vegetarians to describe semi-vegetarians and pescetarians.
- Pescetarian/Pesco-Vegetarian — A person who generally follows a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and also consumes fish and seafood but no other meat; this type of pseudo-vegetarianism is not accepted by Vegan and Vegetarian societies. It’s possible that the Catholic practice of eating fish on Fridays during Lent led to the Western cultural misunderstanding that pescetarians are the same as vegetarians. In fact, I often have run into co-workers and others who believe that as long as fish or seafood is on the menu, “the vegetarians” in the group will have something to eat — this was only further confused by the fact that I was a pescetarian for a few years.
- Pollo-Vegetarian — A person who generally follows a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and also consumes poultry, but no other meat. This is considered to be a semi-vegetarian diet, which is not an actual vegetarian diet at all.
- Flexitarian — A person who considers him/herself to be a semi-vegetarian focusing on vegetarian food with occasional meat consumption. There are no guidelines for how much or how little meat one must eat before being classified a flexitarian. Flexitarians sometimes refer to themselves as “almost vegetarians” — most actual vegetarians do not appear to appreciate this. In fact, this is a good way to start an argument in any kind of diet or food-based forum.
- Semi-Vegetarian — A person who follows a diet which excludes some meat (particularly red meat) from the diet while still consuming limited amounts of poultry, fish, and/or seafood. A semi-vegetarian may also be a flexitarian. Semi-vegetarian diets are not vegetarian diets.
- Raw Vegan – A person who consumes only unprocessed vegan foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). “Raw foodists” believe that foods cooked above this temperature have lost a significant amount of their nutritional value and are harmful to the body. Proponents claim that there are many benefits to the diet, including weight loss, more energy, clear skin and improved overall health. This may or may not be a fad diet; we will see.
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