Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does 'vegetarian' mean?

Vegetarian: IVU defines vegetarianism as a diet derived from plants, including mushrooms, algae and salt, and excluding any animal meat (e.g., beef, poultry, pork, fish, seafood), with or without the use of dairy products, eggs and/or honey.
IVU recommends a diet without any animal product (strictly vegetarian or vegan), as an excellent way to provide many benefits for animals, people and the environment.
IVU does not promote the use of any animal products but understands that many vegetarians include dairy products, eggs or honey in their diets.
IVU includes all types of vegetarian/vegan organisations in its worldwide membership and treats everyone with equal respect and without discrimination (more below).

By way of background:

We now know that the first people to call themselves 'vegetarian', in England around 1840, used food entirely derived from plants.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.

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.

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'.

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.

What does 'vegan' mean?

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-vegetarians.

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, and which may also contain seaweed, algae, mushrooms, fermented microorganisms, and small amounts of 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."
What is a Strict Vegetarian?Strict vegetarian: a vegetarian who does not consume any animal-sourced products.

What is a Pure Vegetarian?

Pure Vegetarian is the same as strict vegetarian, except in India where Pure Vegetarian is lacto-vegetarian.

What is a Vegetist?

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

What is a Semi-Vegetarian?

It means such perso eats less meat than the average person.

What is a Flexitarian?

A Flexitarian eats some vegetarian meals, but not always.

What is a Pescetarian?

A Pescetarian is similar to VEGETARIAN, but also consumes fish.

What is a Fruitarian?

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

What is a Vegetable Consumer?

A Vegetable Consumer means anyone who consumes vegetables. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

What is a Herbivore?

A Herbivore is mainly eats grass or plants. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

What is a Plant-Eater?

A Plant-Eater mainly eats plants. Not necessarily a VEGETARIAN.

What is a Non Meat-Eater?

A Nonmeat-Eater does not eat meat. Most definitions do not consider fish, fowl or seafood to be meat. Animal fats and oils, bone meal and skin are not considered meat.

What is Kosher?

Kosher food are 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'.

What is Pareve/Parve?

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

What does Non Dairy mean?

It means it does not have enough percentage of milkfat to be called dairy. May actually contain milk or milk derivatives.

What does Nonmeat mean?

It means made without meat. May include eggs, milk, and cheese. Sometimes even included animal fats, seafood, fish, fowl.

What does Meat Free mean?

It means made without meat. May include eggs, milk, and cheese. Sometimes even included animal fats, seafood, fish, fowl.

Why to be Vegetarian or 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.

 What's the history of the word Vegetarian?

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 inaugural meeting of The Vegetarian Society.The Vegetarian Society was a joint venture between 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-vegetarians (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 is "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.

  • Created on .


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Hidden Animal Products
It is very difficult to avoid animals products in this 'modern day and age'. Here is a list of some common things that surprisingly contain animal derivatives and others that are safe.

 Casein: This is a product made when milk is heated with an acid, like lactic acid. This stuff mostly occurs in "no-lactose" soy cheeses like Soyco, Soy Kaas, AlmondRella, Zero-FatRella, HempRella, and TofuRella Slices. The labels say "lactose-free" (lactose is another milk derivative), but that doesn't mean they are therefore vegan, as we used to incorrectly assume. Soymage soy cheese is 100% vegan, but it's kind of gross. Vegan-Rella is also totally vegan. Casein is also used in plastics, adhesives, and paint manufacturing.
Caseinate: Casein mixed with a metal, like calcium caseinate or sodium caseinate.
Chewing Gum: Some chewing gums contain glycerine. Wrigleys gum contains a vegetarian source of glycerine.
Margarines: Can contain fish and other marine oils. Many margarines contain whey.
Nougat: Usually contains gelatine.
Pasta: May contain egg, especially if fresh. Some pasta in Italy contains squids's ink; this can easily be recognized because the pasta is black.
Pastes: Glues. May be animal or fish derived.
Pastry: Animal fats used in most shop-baked pies etc. Check ingredients.
Phosphates: Derived from glycerol and fatty acids. May be from animal bones too.
Rennet: An enzyme taken from the stomach of a newly killed calf. Used in the cheese making process. Look for rennin or the words "made without animal rennet".
Shortening: Can be made from animal fats. Used in the food industry especially pastries and biscuits.
Stearate: This usually comes in the form of _calcium stearate_, and it is found in hard candies like Gobstoppers and Sweetarts as well as other places. It comes from stearic acid, which usually is derived from tallow, or animal fat. Stearate is also used in vinyls (like car seats) and plastics.
Sweets: Watch out for gelatine, eg.: wine gums. Nearly all mints eg.: Polo, Trebor, Extra Strong etc contain gelatine. See also Nougat.
Whey: Liquid part of Milk

What is lipase and tallow?
from readers: lipase - the enzyme which breaks down all fats (or "lipids," hence "lipase"). tallow - usually what chips, potato cakes, hash browns are soaked in before being packaged and sold, it's a type of fat, usually its beef tallow.

Is Shellac vegetarian or vegan?

Shellac involves material of animal origin, whether ethical (harvesting the cocoon that remains after the female lays the eggs – she dies and the cocoons remain and after the larvae hatch they would be harvested) or unethical (when it ends up killing the female itself and the larvae), it is neither vegan or vegetarian. 
Shellac is non-vegetarian and non-vegan according to the understanding involved in food labelling, also including the reference made to the ISO standard 23662 which was launched in March 2021, and doesn't allow for shellac to be vegetarian.

Is all lysine animal derived?
from a reader: I have a bottle from a company which mostly makes vegetarian vitamins although they have no interest in being a strictly vegan company, the salesperson claims that most of their products are plant derived even glutamine and other amino acids. I hear that a lack of lysine under times of stress can cause coldsore outbreaks which I suffer from time to time, also I am a heavy weight trainer and glutimime is supposed to support the immune system under times of great stress. If anyone knows of alternatives or a company who sells these two amino acids and are postive that they are vegan please let me know, also one more thought, is it possible that a vegan who is an athlete may suffer from lack of these nutrients?

Can the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin be manufactured from non-animal sources?
Maybe a better question is why you would want to supplement these in the first place. If I'm not mistaken, they're just substituted polysaccharides, surely broken down by the digestive system into simple sugars (ie glucose) long before having any specific biological effect. - Mark

I've asked a number of manufacturers how they make glucosamine and the answer is always based on fish. - Jerry

According to the abstract below, oral glucosamine is incorporated into joint cartilage. Evidence for benefit in the treatment of osteoarthritis is consistent among several clinical trials, but is not conclusive due to methodologic errors. As I understand it, little if any testing of chodroitin, either alone or in combination with glucosamine, has been reported. - Jay

Ann Pharmacother 1998 May;32(5):574-9 Glucosamine. Barclay TS, Tsourounis C, McCart GM School of Pharmacy, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.

What are mono and di-glycerides?
from members of ivu-sci: Triglycerides make up about 95% of dietary lipids (fats). A molecule of triglyceride is formed when a molecule of glycerol (a 3-carbon alcohol) combines with 3 fatty acid molecules. Occasionally only one or two fatty acids combine with a glycerol molecule to form monoglycerides and diglycerides respectively. Mono- and diglycerides are esters of edible fat-forming acids usually of the sweet alcohol glycerin. These chemicals are made synthetically for the primary purpose as an emulsifier in oleomargarine. Also used in bakery products to maintain "softeness", in beverages, ice cream, ices, ice milk, milk, chewing gum bvase, shortening, lard, confections, sweet chocolate chocolate, rendered animal fat, and whipped toppings. Also being studied for possible cancer-causing effects.

Is soya lecithin vegetarian?
from a nutritionist in Canada: Yes, it comes from soybeans. Sometimes lecithin is derived from eggs or other animal products.

Can lecithin be derived from dairy products?
answers wanted...

Do the omega 3 fats in linseeds become oxidised when linseeds are used in baking, such as in bread?
from a nutritionist in Canada: here has been considerable controversy about the stability of flaxseed due to the high content of highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed appears more stable than would be expected considering its n-3 content. Ratnayake showed no deterioration after 44 weeks of storage at room temp. However, it is suggested that flax seed be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for maximum protection. Ratnakye also showed that there was no significant effect on n-3 content or POV (peroxide value) after an hour of cooking at 350 degrees F. for either whole or ground seeds. Cunnane et al had similar results. The bottom line is that baking at moderate temperatures appears safe for both ground and whole flax seed.

Recently, I learned that pepsin is a chemical which contains pig blood and is used in Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola. Is that true?

No, they originally did but don't now. Pepsi was named after pepsin. Although this is a common myth it is not true. Neither Pepsi nor Coca Cola contain pepsin.

Are emulsifiers, enzymes, and stablisers animal derived ingredients?
from a reader: Emulsifiers can be animal and enzymes can be animal (as well as plant). Enzymes can be also bacterial and fungal. I've never heard of stablisers. If a product specifically says that it's enzymes or emulsifiers (or glycerides or natural flavors or stearic acids or...) are not derived from animal products, than you are in the clear. However, most likely the product will not list that it is derived from animals. My rules of thumb are* - if a brand specifies that an ingredient is not animal derived, than it is ok - if that same brand lists the same ingredient for a different product and does not specify that it is not animal derived, than it probably is - and if a brand never specifies that an ingredient is not animal derived, than it's 50/50 (more like 20/80 because I would personally bet from my consumer experience that most ingredients that may come from an animal do come from an animal).

Which ingredients in sweets should you avoid?
from a reader in the USA: Two ingredients that may or may not be animal derived are glycerides (mono - diglycerides) and Natural Flavors. Mono and Diglycerides are popular in most foods that you buy, and I think that they are actually emulsifiers. They may be plant or animal derived. Here is the definition of Natural Flavors according to Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations - "The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

What is cochineal/carmine?
Cochineal is a bright red colouring matter made from the dried bodies of a Mexican insect Dactylopius coccus. Billions of these insects are raised and destroyed each year for a red colouring that is used in desserts, some strawberry soya milks, clothing, etc.

Which animal derived ingredients kill the animal?
from a member of ivu-sci: Not an easy question to answer! Meat and products such as leather, bonemeal, blood and gelatin are obvious ones, although in parts of India leather is made from the skins of cattle that have died a natural death.

For all practical purposes, fur and silk production also necessitate killing the animals. The obvious animal products which do NOT involve killing the animal are milk, eggs and wool. However, almost without exception, dairy cattle, laying hens and wool-bearing animals are slaughtered at the end of their productive lives and pass into the food chain.

What is cantharidin?
Cantharidin (C10H12O4) is the lactose of cantharidic acid and the active constituent of cantharides - dried Spanish flies "Lytta vesicatoria". It has been used as an aphrodisiac and was formerly used as a counter-irritant in plaster form and in small quantities in hair lotions, but is liable to cause nephritis (kidney disease of toxic origin). - from Butterworth's Medical Dictionary.

Is 'gum base' in chewing gum vegan?
from the Vegetarian Resource Group Most chewing gums innocuously list "gum base" as one of their ingredients, masking the fact that petroleum, lanolin, glycerin, polyethylene, polyvinyl acetate, petroleum wax, stearic acid, and latex (a possible allergen) may be among the components. Because of standards of identity for items such as gum base and flavoring, manufacturers are not required to list everything in their product. According to Dertoline, a French chemical manufacturer, their adhesive "dercolytes" are used as a label and tape adhesive, as well as a chewing gum base. Many brands also list glycerin and glycerol as ingredients on the label. Both of them can be animal derived.

What is BHT, as found in prepared frozen foods, and most cereals used as a preservative?
from a subscriber to ivu-sci BHT is Butylated Hydroxytoluene. BHT is a preservative and antioxidant used as a chewing gum base for potato and sweet potato flakes and dry breakfast cereals. Also, an emulsion stabilizer for shortenings in enriched rice, animal fats, and shortenings containing animal fats. Also used to retard rancidity in frozen pork sausage and freeze-dried meats. Shown to cause offspring that have abnormal behavior patterns secondary to chemical changes in the brain (study in mice). BHT and BHA are chemically similar, but BHT may be more nephrotoxic (toxic to the kidneys). Prohibited in England, and under investigation in the US for "safe" amount. The FDA has an up-to-date databank called "PAFA" which may be online and will probably yield more up-to-date information.

Does low-fat margarine and butter contain animal products?
from a reader in the USA: Yes! check the ingredients. some contain gelatin.

from another reader in the USA: I''m pretty sure the Fleischmanns light margarine is vegan.

Are cashew oils bad for you?
from a nutritionist in Canada: Most nut oils are healthy choices (although eating nuts is even better!). While many other oils are mainly polyunsaturated fats, olive oil and nut oils (except walnut oil) are mainly monounsaturated fats, and cashew oil is no exception. If the oil is not refined, many of the beneficial components will remain in the oil (i.e.. plant sterols, vitamin E, etc.) Cashews are somewhat higher in saturated fat than many other nuts (20 percent sat fat as compare to 10 percent for almonds, 7 percent for hazelnuts and 6 percent for walnuts). This may be viewed as an advantage in terms of stability of the oil, however, it may be preferable to use other nut oils if keeping saturated fat to a minimum is a priority for you.

Also See:


  • Created on .

The International Vegetarian Union’s Vegan Nutrition Guide for Adults

In 2 versions:

Vegetarian Nutrition Booklet A Dietary Approach to Vegetarianism for Kids and Adolescents

The intention of this booklet is present to kids and adolescents a healthy vegan diet

Vegan Nutrition