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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Vegetarian: IVU defines vegetarianism as a diet of foods derived from plants, with or without dairy products, eggs and/or honey.  

By way of background:

  1. We now know that the first people to call themselves 'vegetarian', in England around 1840, used food entirely derived from plants.
  2. Since 1847, the world's first Vegetarian Society, in the UK, has consistently defined 'vegetarian' as 'with or without' eggs or dairy products. This is still the most common understanding in the West.
  3. From the late 19th Century, in India the word 'vegetarian' has become commonly attached to the traditional Hindu/Jain diet, which is 'with dairy' but 'without eggs'. This understanding is used by many ethnic Indians around the world.
  4. From the late 20th century, the majority of organisations in North America that call themselves 'vegetarian' have been promoting a diet of food entirely derived from plants (ie without eggs/dairy). Since it was founded in 1974 the North American Vegetarian Society has referred to this as 'total vegetarian'.
  5. From the outset of the 21st century IVU has promoted vegetarianism without either eggs or dairy products, whilst understanding that some member organisations take a different approach.

Vegan: excludes any use of any animal products for any purpose, including animal flesh (meat, poultry, fish and seafood), animal products (eggs, dairy, honey); the wearing and use of animal products (leather, silk, wool, lanolin, gelatin); also excludes animal use in entertainment, sport, research etc.

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian: eats plant food plus eggs and milk products. Common in the West.

Lacto-Vegetarian: eats plant foods and milk products. Common in India.

Total-Vegetarian - increasingly being used to mean plant foods only, especially in North America.

Dietary Vegan: follows a vegan diet, but doesn't necessarily try to exclude non-food uses of animals. Same as total-vegetarian.

Plant-Based Diet - a diet consisting entirely or mainly of whole or minimally processed plants, such as vegetables, grains, pulses, seeds, fruits, herbs and spices, which may contain mushrooms, seaweed, salt and added vegetable oil.
IVU advocates a plant-based diet without any animal-derived ingredients as ideal from the point of view of health, well-being and respect for animals and the environment, social justice among others.

Veg*n - short for vegetarian/vegan

Veggie/Vego -- Shortened nick-name for a VEGETARIAN; often includes VEGANs.

Halal Vegetarian - proposed by our friends in the West Asia region as "a person or product complying with the generally accepted definitions of both Halal and Vegetarian."

Definitions of some other confusing terms

Strict vegetarian: originally appears to have meant 'vegan' (before that word was invented), can now mean vegan or vegetarian.

Pure Vegetarian - as above

Vegetist - was used in late 19th/early 20th century USA, possibly a forerunner of vegan.

Semi-Vegetarian: Eats less meat than average person.

Flexitarian: eats some vegetarian meals, but not always.

Pescetarian: Similar to VEGETARIAN, but also consumes fish.

Fruitarian: Same as VEGAN, but only eats foods that don't kill the plant (apples can be picked without killing the plant, carrots cannot).

Vegetable Consumer: Means anyone who consumes vegetables. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

Herbivore: Mainly eats grass or plants. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

Plant-Eater: Mainly eats plants. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

Nonmeat-Eater: Does not eat meat. Most definitions do not consider fish, fowl or seafood to be meat. Animal fats and oils, bonemeal and skin are not considered meat.

Kosher: Made according to a complex set of Jewish dietary laws. Does not imply VEGAN in any case. Does not imply OVO-LACTO VEGETARIAN in any case. Even KOSHER products containing milk products may contain some types of animals which are not considered 'meat'.

Pareve/Parve: One category in KOSHER dietary laws. Made without meat or milk products or their derivatives. Eggs and true fish are pareve, shellfish are not.

Nondairy: Does not have enough percentage of milkfat to be called dairy. May actually contain milk or milk derivatives.

Nonmeat: Made without meat. May include eggs, milk, cheese. Sometimes even included animal fats, seafood, fish, fowl.

Meat Free: similar to above

Why Vegetarian/Vegan?

Abhorrence of the cruel practices inherent in livestock, poultry and dairy farming is probably the single most common reason for the adoption of veg*ism, but many people are drawn to it for health, ecological, spiritual and other reasons.

Land, energy and water resources for livestock agriculture range anywhere from 10 to 1000 times greater than those necessary to produce an equivalent amount of plant foods.

A little history

The term 'Vegetarian' was first used around 1840 by the community closely associated with Alcott House School, near London, and they used it to refer exclusively to foods derived from plants - plus all the ethical values associated today with Veganism..

Until 1847, the most commonly used equivalent term was 'vegetable diet' ('vegetable' in those days meant any type of vegetation, as in 'animal, vegetable or mineral). Some referred to themselves as 'Pythagoreans' or adherents of the 'Pythagorean System', after the ancient Greek Pythagoras.

The word 'Vegetarian' was first formally used on September 30th of 1847 at Northwood Villa in Kent, England. The occasion being the innaugural meeting of The Vegetarian Society.

The Vegetarian Society was a joint venture bewteen Alcott House and the Bible Christian Church (BCC), from Salford, near Manchester. The BCC did use eggs and dairy products, so the Society's early definition of 'vegetarian' was "with or without eggs or dairy products", the choice was left to individual members. That basic definition is still used by the Society today (now renamed as The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom).

However, most vegetarians in India are lacto-vegetarian (no eggs) as were those in the classical Mediterranean lands, such as Pythagoras.

In the USA surveys from 2009-10 showed 66% of genuine vegetarians excluding eggs/dairy completely.

The word  VEGAN was invented by Donald Watson and friends in 1944. It is pronounced "vee-gun". This is the most common pronunciation today. No one can say this pronunciation in "wrong", so this is also the politically correct pronunciation.

In the US, common pronunciations are "vee-jan" and "vay-gn" in addition to "vee-gn", though the American Vegan Society says the correct pronunciation is as above.