"This Is Hope" is a crossover book for self-identified environmentalists, species rights advocates, vegans and vegetarians, those dedicated to true sustainability, fish and wildlife "management" professionals, students of deep ecology, and those who want to know the biocentric solutions for our dietary, consumer, and reproductive choices.
Will’s Blog

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Conclusion

We lost the struggle for the original definition of “vegetarianism” and “vegetarian” in 1847, 168 years ago. That’s when dairy- and egg-consumption became acceptable to the Vegetarian Society. Donald Watson and his peers were right in 1944 to in effect regain the original intent of the term vegetarian (-ism) by declaring themselves “vegan” and founding the Vegan Society. Vegans are now the original vegetarians.


It’s true that Watson described himself and veganism as being part of the vegetarian movement.[i] But in this, the 21st century, it’s time to acknowledge what is self-evident: Veganism has become smothered as a lesser idea struggling for air and the truth of what it accomplishes. Veganism, as I have documented, is defined as just one of many types of vegetarianism. Organizations and businesses have demonstrated they are afraid of or don’t care about “vegan” because they can operate or turn a profit using the more generic, decidedly nonvegan word, “vegetarian.” In the preceding four parts I described and gave evidence for the confusion this creates, how it diminishes veganism. Unlike veganism, all other vegetarian-isms (excepting fruitarianism) harm and eventually kill chickens and chicks, cows and calves, goats and kids, and camels and their calves.



India’s 375 million lacto-vegetarians represent some 70% of the estimated half-billion vegetarians in the world and are glued to their cultural and religious customs. It’s a hopeless mission to think we can overcome that fact and reclaim the original definition of vegetarianism. The only way to acknowledge that reality is to declare that vegans are not vegetarians.


We celebrate and rely on the pioneering work that created contemporary veganism. However, we must not forget that vegan history and its evolution is a continuing process. It is people building upon earlier foundations as our understanding of nutrition, environmental science, sentience, food technology (not to be taken as better than raw food veganism), and the sophistication of social media tools grow our movement. Today, we are tasked to create what comes next. The purpose of veganism has not changed; its core goal is to end the exploitation and lethal injustice humanity wages against sentient beings and from that create the benefits flowing visibly to humans, non-humans, and ecosystems.


We are at the decisive point where vegans must convince vegetarian organizations to call themselves “vegan” and stop advocating vegetarianism’s harm to others. Note how we do not hesitate to criticize environmental organizations for ignoring dietary environmental impacts and its exploitation and killing of billions of sentient beings yet give a free pass to vegetarianism. That is inconsistent, and it is wrong to think they aren’t endorsing lethal brutality.


Remember that the history-makers of 1847, 1944, and others lived in their own eras that reflected time-specific social, cultural, and technological circumstances and traditions. So when people quote Donald Watson to say vegans are vegetarians, we must look at what is best for veganism, sentient beings, ecosystems, and the well-being of humanity now in light of our current circumstances and state of the world. That can be done by walking on the clearest and most direct path that ends the confusion vegetarianism creates about veganism. It’s time to stand up and come home.

Donald Watson

Donald Watson


In 2002, Donald Watson said,

“And, when I think that the world population, which was about 2 billion people in 1944, is now … this astronomical explosion of over 6 billion, along with… a corresponding explosion of animals to feed most of them. And those animals are there, fed on food that should be growing for the Third World, where people are having big families, because they have to, they’ve no social security, they have to have many children because many of them in every family are likely to die….”[ii]


He goes on to include his concerns about extinctions, reforestation, food additives, and “man’s expectation of surviving for much longer on this planet.” Those are, of course, among the pivotal issues we face today,—issues we know can be addressed with veganism and not the many varieties of vegetarianism. At the end of Watson’s interview, George Rodger asks, “Donald, do you have any message for the many thousands of people who are now vegan?” Watson replied, “Yes. I would like them to take the broad view of what veganism stands for. Something beyond finding a new alternative to, shall we say scrambled eggs on toast, or a new recipe for a Christmas cake. I would like them to realise that they’re on to something really big, something that hadn’t been tried until sixty years ago, and something which is meeting every reasonable criticism that anyone can level against it.”[iii]


Yes, we are “onto something big.” According to one example, interest in veganism appears to be trending upward, in this case outpacing vegetarianism. In “Meat atlas shows Latin America has become a soybean empire,” The Guardian revealed that “A Wikipedia article on veganism was viewed 145,000 times in August 2013 – more popular than the post on vegetarianism which was viewed 123,000 times. In fact, veganism was viewed more than vegetarianism in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Portuguese versions of the site. The only exception was the Japanese language where vegetarianism received almost twice as many page views as the post on veganism.”[iv]


I don’t want to mislead you; global meat, dairy, and egg consumption is increasing monumentally. Despite The Guardian article, it will never makes sense to advocate for vegetarianism with a hope it will lead to veganism. Veganism stands strong and true on its own virtues because it actually accomplishes what vegetarianism never will.



Some of many honest questions we should be asking are, what is the most effective way organizations with “vegetarian” in their name can change it to “vegan” and while doing so bring their members and supporters along with them? Who will create an international vegan congress of nonprofits, and should it be open to self-identified vegetarian organizations for a set period while they make that transition? We can participate in “vegetarian” conferences but only to educate and advocate for veganism with unconditional love. The two-way communication must never stop.


Only veganism can end the atrocities suffered by sentient species and ecosystems. We can, without judgment, state as a fact that vegetarianism fails to stop violence and injustice, the destruction of ecosystems, address global warming, and prioritize food for the poor over food for farmed animals mercilessly taken to slaughter. The sooner we acknowledge that veganism, without the confusing integration with vegetarianism, is the best strategy and hope for the world, the better. The sooner we declare ourselves and campaign as vegans divorced from vegetarianism, the more able we can succeed as a unified, clearly identifiable movement.iStock_000012069777XSmall


If Donald Watson and all the vegan advocates before us had not persisted in defending core values and practices, there wouldn’t be a vegan movement. Shouldn’t we be doing that today? Veganism and vegetarianism are two distinct decisions and lifestyles with opposite outcomes. They are not at all alike given dairy and egg production is calculated to kill their sources whose flesh is then sold to carnists. It’s instructive to learn how the term “vegan” evolved, but let it continue to do so. Vegans own the word. Veganism is not vegetarianism; vegetarianism is not veganism. Vegans are the original vegetarians and we have come to reclaim the one accurate word that tells it true:


[i] http://www.worldvegfest.org/index.php/blogs/john-davis/53-vegans-are-vegetarians-too

[ii] http://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/DW_Interview_2002_Unabridged_Transcript.pdf

[iii] http://www.vegansociety.com/sites/default/files/DW_Interview_2002_Unabridged_Transcript.pdf

[iv] http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/09/meat-atlas-latin-america-soybean-empire-food

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 4


Food producers are harming veganism because of the way they label their products “vegetarian” and in many instances mix that word with “meat free, dairy free, veggie, and 100% vegetarian.” They should not be using these terms interchangeably with, or instead of, “vegan” as we saw organizations do in Part 3, but they are.


Look as long as we like at an organization with “vegetarian” in its name and we still won’t know if it is vegan or what kind of nonvegan vegetarianism it endorses until we dig through a labyrinth of text on their website. This lack of clarity extends to food labeled “vegetarian” because it means there isn’t an easy way to tell whether the contents are vegan. Veganism and its phenomenal benefits aren’t allowed to stand and be seen in daylight. Food companies are creating the shadows by using other terms. As long as we accept veganism to be defined as a subset of vegetarianism that lack of clarity and those shadows will continue. That is where it starts.


Veganism remains substantially buried in the sediment of vegetarianism, not understood as being the original vegetarianism that was abandoned in 1847 when the Vegetarian Society allowed for eggs and dairy products. It’s been 168 years since then. How much longer are we willing to wait to correct that mistake? I hope you are saying, “Not one more day.”


This is a big change. I believe my last post regarding the messy pile of definitions that vegetarianism has come to represent and my advocacy that we explicitly state veganism is not vegetarianism may have made some readers uncomfortable. It challenges our fears about unifying or at least not factionalizing our still relatively small social movement. We will need to address possible social challenges happening between vegans and vegetarians compassionately and delicately. I’ll address some of those concerns at the end of this blog series.


For the moment, I ask you to set aside those fears or hesitations unless you want to see dairy/egg/honey and other “vegetarianisms” remain the dominant pretender to ending the suffering and killing of individuals from other species in agriculture and ecosystems alike. In this post I’ll explore the problems that arise from food and products being labeled “vegetarian” and other descriptives. Just remember that veganism is what vegetarianism once was. We are simply reinstating the original to contemporary sensibilities.


“Vegetarian” Products- Or Not?

The growth of veganism depends on the shopper’s ability to make clear and easy vegan choices. Product labeling should empower us. When it doesn’t, others, including people, are exploited, suffer, and die as well, and it fuels climate change and other environmental disasters. How can we make consumer choices that define veganism when vegetarianism means nothing vegans can use? How often have you shopped and after seeing “Vegetarian” printed on a box or bottle find dairy, egg, honey, insect parts, and perhaps extractives from fish listed in the ingredients?

Shopping under the dominance of vegetarianism creates a lot of work for budding and veteran vegans alike. Let’s look at examples.


Vitamins – what does 100% vegetarian mean? Suitable for vegetarians?

This Schiff Vegetarian Multiple vitamin label touts its veggie capsules but contains Vitamin D sourced from sheep skin lanolin without mentioning it—even on the label. The Solgar Vegetarian Multiple vitamin IS vegan though labeled vegetarian. These “vegetarian” labels mean nothing for vegan choices.










Fry’s (UK) foods are clearly labeled “vegetarian” despite the fact they are universally vegan. Their labeling, as in other companies, is inconsistent. One product box reads, “Vegetarian” along with “No meat, eggs, or dairy” but does not mention “vegan”—until you go to their website. Another Fry’s carton reads, “Meat Free” and then “vegan” in smaller letters. For their “Traditional Burgers,” they include “vegetarian” as part of their logo, “vegan,” and the description “vegetarian protein.” They use terms interchangeably. Why not save ink, stamp it “vegan” in large letters and create space to say something good about veganism without mentioning “vegetarian” given it is so radically different?



Amys-Light-In-Sodium-Veggie-Loaf-Whole-MealAmy’s is a company that uses a number of different labels to infer and sometimes state one or more of their products are vegetarian or vegan. But they, too, are inconsistent. Amy’s offers so many products that a person intent on being vegan has to study the labeling, which takes time. It’s an unnecessary burden on those intending to be vegans. Persistent vegans will learn that with Amy’s, “Dairy Free” equals vegan, usually without the “Vegan” banner. For instance, Amy’s Brown Rice, Black-Eyed Peas & Veggies Bowl – labeled as gluten and dairy free is actually vegan without a vegan banner. Their “Organic Vegetarian Refried Beans” is vegan but they mark their can “Vegetarian.” Amy’s Veggie Loaf was marked dairy free but it had honey until they made it vegan. A great sign of change but “Vegan” informs us, “Dairy Free” and “Veggie” misleads. We shouldn’t have to sleuth through the ingredients list but are forced to do this with Amy’s because many of their products include butter, cream, and milk ingredients. “Dairy-Free,” “Vegetarian,” and “Veggie” are not substitutes for vegan.



Field Roast is one of my favorite food makers. They exemplify another labeling approach and that is to cover it all but in a way that perpetuates the veganism = vegetarianism myth: “vegetarian deli slices” and “artisan vegan” are both printed on the front of their packaging. Their sausages are labeled as vegetarian and vegan inches apart. Only their new (fabulous) Chao slices are clearly marked “vegan” and display the Vegan Society certification label. Are we to trust the veganess of their vegetarianess? I do but that is from experience earned.


Yves decided to cover the bases as well with “Veggie Cuisine, Veggie Deli [this or that], and then imprint a very small “vegan.”



Tofurkey labels are mostly “vegan” printed in small font and they sometime add “meatless.” On its multi-serving Tofurkey meal, they boldly print a large “Vegetarian” banner and further below a much smaller “vegan” capped off with a round sealing label marked “vegan.” Greater conflicts in definitions are found on their newer labeling of the Tofurkey Vegetarian Holiday Feast: “vegetarian feast; plant-based; and flexitarian-approved” dominate the box. I can’t get to the box in person now but vegan is nowhere visible alongside those large label banners (but I’d bet it’s there somewhere small). They have a great “The Meat of the Matter” educational webpage and produce all-vegan foods but other than that it seems apparent they are marketing for sales, fear the word vegan, but not vegetarian. This is despite the fact that the dominant dairy/egg vegetarianism is nothing like veganism.





Garden Lights (“The Delicious Vegetable Company”) has egg whites and whole eggs in their Veggie Muffins. Then there’s, “The finished product: Garden Lites line of vegetarian soufflés, bakes, and muffins.” “Veggie” and “Vegetarian” labels can mean anything, but in this case, not vegan. It is more work for vegans to figure out because vegetarian is so often used with vegan simultaneously on the same packaging by other food manufacturers.


Quorn products are sourced in the U.K. I had expected them to be branded as vegetarian because they contain chickens’ eggs and calves’ milk but no, it is labeled “meatless and soy free” and “for people seeking a smart approach to healthy eating.” I found it in the nebulous “Meat Alternatives” isle at my local Puget Consumers Co-Op. We do see “vegetarian” on their website: “All Quorn products meet vegetarian dietary standards. The Quorn Vegan Burger is currently our only product suitable for a vegan diet since most Quorn products contain a small amount of egg white [This is incomplete because they also use milk proteins in some products]. We are working on an extended range of vegan products and will be sure to tell you as soon as they are perfected.” This is a unique case in they don’t label their boxes “vegetarian,” but use “meatless” labeling instead, and reference it all to  “vegetarian dietary standards.” Which kind of vegetarian? Certainly not vegan.



Morningstar offers just about everything “veggie” including their “veggie” sausage patties and “veggie” bacon. Veggie here means you’ll be eating chickens’ eggs and calves’ milk. The exceptions? Their few products labeled, in small letters, “vegan.” Taking advantage of the vegan community’s laxness about vegans not being vegetarians, Morningstar labels their “Veggie Crumbles / Chipotle Black Bean Crumbles” as “100% Vegetarian.” Vegan, right? No, it contains dairy and eggs. “Veggie” and “100% Vegetarian” are invitations for vegans to stand around store isles to read labels or spend time on the internet.


Blue Natural brand has two types of frozen tamales. Though the dominant label for both was “vegetarian,” one was Green Chili Zucchini with Cheese and the other Red Chili Zucchini. On the latter vegetarian-labeled package was added, “For Vegan Diets.” It was hard to see. Vegetarian is vegan; vegetarian is not vegan according to the label. Why not put “VEGAN” on the damn vegan package and leave vegetarian off of it?


Lightlife products entice us with labels announcing “plant-based proteins”: “Our plant-based sausages pack a flavorful punch with zero cholesterol.” In addition, the package proclaimed the ingredients are meatless. So after plant-based and meatless they are vegan, right? No, they contain eggs. Their newer burgers are vegan and clearly marked with a vegan certification label. The obvious? Vegan is vegan and anything else is a time-consuming risk that diminishes the ease of adopting veganism.


The Imagine brand “No Chicken Broth” sells in a box with “Vegetarian” printed in bold letters on the front but you have to look on the back to see “vegan” in small letters, in the middle of a list of seven attributes. Vegetarian = vegan, again.



The vegetarian problem extends to restaurants as well. Thrive cafe serves wonderful vegan raw food. Their sidewalk sign read, “Vegetarian” when I discovered it. I had to ask if they were vegan on that first visit. The newer sign lists both vegetarian and below that, vegan. Sigh…




“With or without dairy and/or eggs” –

the flaw in today’s definition of vegetarianism

With” dairy and/or eggs is the opposite of “without.” Not even close. I lament the fact no one kept reminding me that for the first few decades of my own vegetarianism. Defining vegetarianism “with or without dairy and/or eggs” has been a tidy convenience, an effort to bring everyone together under the “we don’t eat ‘flesh foods” umbrella. Beyond unfortunate, we have been co-conspirators willing to pretend that “dairy and/or egg consumption” is inseparable from the killed flesh sourced and stolen from milked cows and their calves that non-vegetarians eat and the environmental impacts it causes. We know that this is true of chickens and chicks as well. Vegetarians pay to raise cows and chickens to be slaughtered. That is direct cause and effect.


We give the vegetarianism “with or without dairy and/or eggs” lip-service and know this but have not insisted vegans should not be associated with it as an organization and in food labeling. We need vegans to come forward and be vocal, insisting that vegan terms only be used for vegan products, not vegetarian, dairy-free, or veggie labels co-mingled with veganism. How else are we going to market, brand, sell, grow veganism, and make it an easy choice if it is smothered and equated with vegetarianism?


Getting food producers to stop blending veganism with vegetarianism is a campaign I hope vegans and vegan organizations will start now. Vegetarianism is not going to turn vegan—ever. It is time that organizations and food producers / manufacturers choose and make prominent the word that truthfully reflects content. Vegetarians already know that vegan products innately exceed their dietary criteria and can buy them without more effort. That is not true for vegans who have to wade through all things vegetarian to determine what is and is not vegan. “Vegetarianism” by definition endorses the horrors and inadequacies of eating calves’ milk and chickens’ eggs. Vegans must insist on being represented accurately on food labeling that in no way alludes to vegetarianism.


NEXT: Concluding remarks that revisit the founding of veganism and contemplate the fears we may feel about standing up as vegans retaking the original vegetarianism under a different name.

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 3

Before I describe how international and U.S. organizations inappropriately reference veganism as vegetarianism, please remember my purpose for writing “Are Vegans Vegetarians?” We need to understand that defining veganism as a type of vegetarianism—and using those terms interchangeably—diminishes veganism, is misleading, and is an obstacle to ending the violence and exploitation of others and ecosystems. Veganism is profoundly different from vegetarianism. Veganism remains in vegetarianism’s shadow. We must make a conscious effort to change that.


That we have not clarified those differences more directly is a problem for the organizations I am about to cite as examples. However, this is far more a responsibility we all share. I will use material from organizations A, B, C and so on. This is not the same as heaping criticism on them. Their examples serve to show what we, too, have been doing. We must solve this problem together. We move forward together. Gorilla


In the following paragraphs, observe how organizations define vegetarian (-ism) and vegan (-ism). I do not name the organizations associated with the definitions because singling them out would miss the point: I am addressing a universal problem. You may recognize their work but please don’t let that distract you. My goal is to get grassroots agreement that veganism must be identified and defined on its own merits and never as a subset of vegetarianism.


How organizations with “vegetarian” in their name define “vegetarian”

Organization A explains, “What are the different types of vegetarianism?”

1) Lacto-Ovo Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish or fowl. Eats dairy and egg products.
2) Ovo Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or dairy products. Eats egg products.
3) Lacto Vegetarianism: does not eat meat, fish, fowl or eggs. Eats dairy products.
4) Veganism: does not eat any animal products including meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, honey, etc. Most vegans do not use any animal products such as silk, leather, wool, etc. as well.

That explanation is what we inherited. The first three types of vegetarianism they define make clear that adherents consume and exploit individuals from other species and by extension unavoidably create similar environmental impacts. ditional examples.


Organization B writes that a vegetarian is “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs (my emphasis). A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”


They recognize three types of vegetarians: “Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet; Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs; Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.”


It is important to note that organization B approves of free-range eggs and dairy products they certify with their logo. They do this while having a website fact sheet on cattle and dairy cows that accurately describes the injustices that kill them. This citadel of historic vegetarianism still endorses dairy and egg consumption 168 years after its founding. Yet, they proclaim, “We give vegetarians and vegans from all walks of life a louder, stronger, better-informed voice.”


They are mixing the belief systems of vegetarians and vegans who have made fundamentally different decisions about cows and chickens, among other things. How can one give voice to two different practices when one violates the core principle of the other? What sort of vegetarian “better informed voice” ignores the vegan “better informed voice”. For starters, vegetarians would by necessity be satisfied with an impossible concept of humaneness for the life and killing of cows, calves, chickens, and chicks. This is what vegetarian organization B actively endorses contrary to the fundamental tenets of veganism.


What sense does it make to claim advocacy for two nonconforming belief systems? If it were, “We advocate capitalism” and “We advocate communism” we’d question the logic of that approach. Vegans must stand up and own the definition and terms vegan and veganism.


I would be sorry to use such a harsh distinction and avoid looking accusative but that is a factual representation. I have no right to deny it exists if I am to be an advocate on behalf of the exploited and killed. It is essential for the living that we do not allow the vegan philosophy to be appropriated by nonveganism. That is an inviolate vegan responsibility. The current confusion about veganism being vegetarianism is a relic from 1847 when organization B allowed the consumption of dairy and eggs.



Organization C is influential but equivocates vegetarianism with veganism in its language. A “vegetarian organization ” (by name), it refuses to describe itself as vegan even while laudably converting to vegan policies. They communicate under their “vegetarian” identity to describe veganism but it is painful to watch them avoid using the words veganism and vegan. This is evidenced by their constant use of “Veg*n” throughout their website. They proclaim, “Bringing Veg*ns Together Worldwide Since 1908”.


Organization C states, “Since 1847, the world’s first … [organization B] … has consistently defined ‘vegetarian’ as ‘with or without’ eggs or dairy products‘. This is still the most common understanding in the West.” (their emphasis)


Is vegetarianism “with or without dairy or eggs” as close as they and others are going to get while refusing to use the accurate term, veganism?


Organization C does provide compelling examples of why veganism must release itself from vegetarianism’s smothering unpredictability. Please closely read this chaotic assortment of practices under vegetarianism:

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. (ME: how common is this?
Plant-Based Diet – a diet mostly of plants, but there may be confusion as to what, if anything, is above the base.
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” (still quoting organization C)

Strict vegetarian: originally appears to have meant ‘vegan’ (before that word was invented), can now mean vegan or vegetarian, or almost anything.
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.”

After looking at this motley crew list of vegetarianisms, can anyone believe there is a better term for veganism than veganism? Should not a definition of veganism include the fact that it is not vegetarianism?

A related problem arises when websites and articles regularly use the terms vegetarian and vegan interchangeably, or group them in a statement, and then fail to specify which belief system is being talked about. Being able to see this happening as we read them is essential to protecting veganism.


Organization D calls veganism a form of vegetarianism: “What is a Vegan? Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products…” and “Among the many reasons for being a vegetarian are health, environmental, and ethical concerns; dislike of meat; non-violent beliefs; compassion for animals; and economics…”

details of milking machines connected to cow udders

Which type of “vegetarian” are they referring to? The take-away message I have reading organization D’s statements is that vegetarianism addresses a host of concerns equal to the results created by veganism. If we agree that those of us who consume dairy, eggs, leather and the like are not addressing environmental destruction, violent exploitation, and health the way vegans are, then let’s use the language to reflect that. It requires only that we define vegetarianism in a way that does not include veganism. When writing and speaking about the two distinct “-isms” we need to take care not to lump veganism with vegetarianism and allow each their own definition. We still talk, cooperate and love one another as before.


Vegan Definitions by organizations using “vegan” in their name
Vegan organizations E, F, and G use different text to define veganism but consistently maintain the same criteria to define it. I see no distraction if I identify them.


The Vegan Society (UK) (http://www.vegansociety.com/try-vegan/definition-veganism)
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—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.”


American Vegan Society (http://www.americanvegan.org/vegan.htm)
“VEGANS (pronounced VEE-guns) Live on products of the plant kingdom. Veganism is compassion in action. It is a philosophy, diet, and lifestyle. Veganism is an advanced way of living in accordance with Reverence for Life, recognizing the rights of all living creatures, and extending to them the compassion, kindness, and justice exemplified in the Golden Rule. Vegans eat solely from the plant kingdom: vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Vegans express nonviolence towards animals and the Earth. AVS promotes good health practices and harmonious living. Vegans exclude flesh, fish, fowl, dairy products (animal milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.), eggs, honey, animal gelatin, and all other foods of animal origin. Veganism also excludes animal products such as leather, wool, fur, and silk in clothing, upholstery, etc. Vegans usually make efforts to avoid the less-than-obvious animal oils, secretions, etc., in many products such as soaps, cosmetics, toiletries, household goods and other common commodities.”


International Vegan Association (IVA) (http://www.internationalvegan.org/about/) is relatively new. “IVA holds that the human use of nonhuman animals is wrong, that animal use ought to be abolished, and that each of us has a moral obligation to be vegan. A vegan is as a person committed to abstaining from using animals and animal products for food, clothing, entertainment, and other purposes. For example, vegans do not consume meat, dairy, eggs, honey, or animal by-products, they do not use personal care products that contain animal-based ingredients, and they avoid using leather, silk, wool and other animal-based materials.”


Notice that these vegan organizations do not reference themselves or veganism as a type of vegetarianism. Organizations with the word “vegetarian” in their name seem compelled to call vegans vegetarians. The terms “vegan” and “veganism” should be established by vegans. Vegetarianism and its practitioners should respect our right not to define ourselves as vegetarians.


As factual content, when we consider violence and injustice waged against individuals from other species, the destruction of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity, and the injustice of food poverty suffered by impoverished people, can we agree that the results of vegetarianism fall far short of veganism? Think about this: if we take veganism out of the long list of vegetarian types I cited—using organization B as an example—they would have to change their definition of vegetarian to:


“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products [and/or] eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”


Let vegetarianism and its advocates address the long list of vegetarianism types throughout the world. That mess was not created by veganism. The founders of veganism responded to it. Let veganism proceed with its categorical clarity. Organizations A – D are not trying to fool anyone intentionally and can’t be happy about the many practices that exist as vegetarianism outside of their definitions. It’s a good day when we reflect on how illogical we have become as a movement in accepting the claim that veganism is also vegetarianism.


Did veganism escape the bonds of vegetarianism only to be smothered by it again? We must not let veganism be a diluted idea floating in the sea of vegetarianism’s history. Let’s reform our definitions. Veganism must not be defined or used to imply it is vegetarianism, ever.

Next: The confusion and harm created by equating veganism with vegetarianism is equally evident when we try to buy food labeled, “vegetarian”. It couldn’t be more useless.

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 2

In Part 1, I noted that the conversation of what vegetarianism is and is not has been ongoing as a contemporary issue since the early 1800s. In Part 2, I review highlights of the historical context when vegetarianism lost its vegan meaning and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the term “vegan”.

As a preview, Part 3 will demonstrate the multitude of definitions for vegetarianism and veganism as written by organizations A through G. For Part 4 we’ll look at everyday examples of products labeled “vegetarian” and how this leaves everyone guessing about what is in the box, the bottle, restaurant—and organization. I’ll advocate we formally (and compassionately) separate the definition of veganism from any reference to vegetarianism in Part 5. Donald Watson’s comments in his later years are instructive for what veganism must accomplish.

My intent is not to put vegetarians on the defensive. I ask for your patience to follow through this thought exercise with me. Challenging the traditional sense of what “vegetarian” means may, by its nature, make some readers uncomfortable. Please remember this is the same discussion started by the founders of contemporary vegetarianism and veganism.

Our Era

We live in a different era than the founders and early members of vegetarian and vegan societies. We learned from them, built on the  foundation they laid, and thank them. Donald Watson and friends struck out to coin the term “vegan” and founded The Vegan Society because it  was necessary. Circumstances again create another urgent necessity—and opportunity—to rescue veganism from the confusing discourse of vegetarianism.

In our era, we know more than our predecessors about the science-based evidence of sentience, nonhuman personhood, and the physical and psychological needs of individuals from other species. We know more about their communities and experiences as domesticated and exploited individuals—as well as those living in the wild. We have a more accurate and abundant knowledge of nutrition for sustainable raw vegan diets as well as processed food alternatives—available choices that make change to veganism easier than ever before. We have access to amazing educational resources where knowledge is made available to a greater number of people every day, to anyone able to access a book, flier, and the internet.


With all of that, the power and growth of the vegan message and vision are diminished by our ineffectual use of the term “vegan”. This stems from how vegetarian organizations and many of us define and report veganism. We’ve become sloppy. My focus on “vegetarian (-ism)” and “vegan (-ism)” as terms starts with a brief review of when vegetarianism lost its vegan meaning.


In the 1830s, the original use of the word “vegetarian” indicated a person who lived on a vegan and predominantly raw food diet. After the founding of The Vegetarian Society in 1847, the word “vegetarian” came to indicate a diet that allowed eggs and dairy for those who chose to do so. There were debates about that change, but it remains the legacy we inherited. Yet, we still believe that vegans are somehow vegetarians. That causes harm.


Donald Watson

Donald Watson

In December 1943, Donald Watson gave a talk to The Vegetarian Society on vegetarianism and the use of dairy products. In August 1944, he and others discussed forming a sub-group of non-dairy vegetarians within The Vegetarian Society. The Vegetarian Society eventually refused to give them space in its journal. The non-dairy vegetarians were also non-egg and non- everything animal exploitation but eggs were in scarce supply during these WWII years and not as often mentioned. There was sympathy from the Society, but they felt that “the full energies of the Society must continue to be applied to the task of abolishing flesh-eating”. The creation of the word “vegan” and subsequent founding of The Vegan Society in November, 1944 is often credited to Donald Watson or he and his wife Dorothy but Watson credits a number of his fellow vegans as well.


The Vegan Society revised its definition of veganism over time. In 1969, Read more ›

Are Vegans Vegetarians?

And by extension, “Is Vegetarianism Relevant Today?”


The content of this multi-part blog is based on one of my presentations at the 2015 NAVS Summerfest last week.


The debate over the meaning of vegetarianism is not new. People have deliberated whether dietary vegetarianism was entirely plant-based or included animal products like milk, eggs, and honey since the founding of the first Vegetarian Society in 1847. What I am proposing is not new, though the reasons (environmental, social justice) have grown. Here we are continuing a conversation about what the meaning of vegetarianism should be. We are part of a debate that has been going on most recently since the 1830s.



In a break with tradition, I offer that veganism is not vegetarianism except in our minds by what we inherited as artifacts from vegetarianism’s history. The word vegetarian was first used in print in 1842. Practitioners of “the vegetable diet” of that era ate a largely raw vegan diet that often was associated with self-improvement, church congregations seeking to enhance their spiritual beliefs, and improving the higher self and that of humankind. However, the first Vegetarian Society at its 1847 founding allowed egg and dairy consumption as part of the vegetarian movement to accommodate its members.


The definition and our understanding of what the term “vegetarian(-ism)” means is inconsistently applied by organizations, food manufacturers, the media, vegetarians and the public. As we will see, this causes constant confusion and makes attaining a vegan planet unnecessarily difficult. How often should we be forced by this confusion to explain the “types” of vegetarianism and tag veganism into the mix? The violence and injustice waged against other animals, ecosystems and people will be reduced when we restore clarity to our language regarding vegetarianism and veganism.


Today, interpretations of vegetarianism range from veganism as an expression of justice, nonviolence and nonexploitation of others that we apply to everything we do in our lives—all the way to it being a practice that concerns itself solely with a dietary choice that can include all foods except “meat”. I will demonstrate the misunderstandings this creates and the harm it causes to our progress as a movement. Pointedly, the confusion in our messaging about veganism and its association with vegetarianism is our responsibility. We can take cues from the Vegan Society, founded by the creators of “vegan,” but must also respond to a world that has changed since the term was first used. 

Definitions are inportant.

Definitions are important


Perhaps what most of us can agree on is that the term vegetarian has meant many different things to different people, eras, and cultures. The core definition of vegan has not changed. Unlike vegetarianism, there is no confusion about veganism being the clearer, more effective and comprehensive approach to end the harms in our relationships with other beings. In fact, veganism reflects the original “vegetable dietarians” as they were called before the term vegetarian took hold. I will provide you with links to the history of our movement with the last installment of the blog series.


We must own the language if we are to communicate the vegan message effectively. The more clear and concise we can make it, the more powerful it will be for our advocacy. Veganism  states itself exactly; vegetarianism is all over the place as to what it means.

NEXT: History – A review of the historical circumstances when vegetarianism lost its vegan meaning, and the events that led Donald Watson and others to create the term, “vegan.”

Vegan Environmentalist Campaigns

I am cross-posting this update from Green Vegans since I believe it will be of interest to you. To receive regular update on Green Vegans the organization, simply subscribe here

From Green Vegans:

Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign

While the world too slowly awakens to the environmental necessity of global veganism, vegans now must become highly visible advocates for ecosystems and all species. We must do what mainstream environmental organizations are failing to act on: advocate for the solutions that only vegan lifestyles and a consistent philosophy of justice and nonviolence can accomplish. Veganism is required to stop destroying the planet and biodiversity, slow global warming, and address human poverty.

globe_west_2048Vegans have a unique opportunity to reform environmentalism with our visible advocacy. To that end, Green Vegans will serve as a resource to vegan environmentalists. Green Vegans is the first organization to comment on state plans to kill wolves from a vegan human ecology (explained on our “about” pages). We were the first organization to be clearly identified as vegan at the last International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Panama as whale advocates. You can image our joy as the three of us, experienced IWC veterans, introduced ourselves as Green Vegans at meetings and in lobbying conversations with state department level representatives—IWC commissioners from dozens of countries. The vegan environmental movement can only grow. Our goal now is to enable you to participate and grow the vegan environmental movement.

Opinions matter to us personally, but they are often not effective in changing government decisions on the environment. Government agencies are influenced when we provide new information, evidence-based critiques of their policies and proposals, and challenges to the legality of their actions.

Though environmental issues can be complex, Green Vegans will make it easy for you to participate. We will post campaigns and what you can do on our main Green Vegans page.

Green Vegans has been campaigning since 2009. Welcome to our Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign. This is your preparation:

  • Tips for making effective comments on environmental actions proposed by government. This information holds true for federal and most state environmental campaigning:
  • Understanding how the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) works. It is the foundation for environmental advocacy. You do not need to memorize it; just read it here for context. Every environmentalist speaks NEPA.

We will post the first Vegan Environmentalist Identity Campaign on the Green Vegans website soon.

Part II: The Emotional State of Vegans, Economists,…

In part 1, I described emotional experiences felt by vegans, environmentalists and advocates for social and economic justice. We all see the world in a way that remains in the minority of perception and sense of urgency. I wrote about the problems we are working to solve—preventing the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity, establishing social and economic justice, spreading veganism, reforming economic systems to make these goals possible, and reversing human overpopulation. Human behavior causes these problems and that is our advantage; they can be cured by changing human behaviors. Now we will look at how advocates for a Steady State Economy and the Center for Biological Diversity understand this as evidenced by their addressing multiple issues within their core mission.


iStock_000019441224SmallI referred to two blog posts on the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) website. The CASSE platform includes limits to human-oriented growth in our finite home called Earth. They recognize all life has inherent value that must be considered and protected when choosing an economic system. Prominent biologists (and Green Vegans) have endorsed CASSE’s platform. Both CASSE posts remind us that vegans are not the only advocates who are deeply pained when nonbelievers just don’t “get it.”

Read more ›

Karen Davis on HSUS and Disappearing Hens

looking_at_youIn earlier posts, I’ve criticized HSUS and other organizations for their subversion of the species rights movement. They support slaughter and consumption of meat. Some question the wisdom and the necessity of bringing our differences up for debate publicly. Challenges and debate are healthy, essential for any movement. Doing so tests our beliefs and strategies for effecting justice and stopping the violence. It is honesty in action.

Karen Davis’ recently wrote an article about what happens when an organization like HSUS provides us with compelling evidence and an opportunity to stop the violence waged against chickens but instead abandons those very same chickens to the immoral and depraved treatment they document. Given the HSUS support for incrementalism and worse—instead of abolition—this outcome is inevitable. If you or someone you know supports these HSUS platforms and strategies and their moral corruption, read Karen’s post below and look, at least as much as you can stand, at the HSUS undercover filming. Listen carefully to what the HSUS states at the end of the video. It exemplifies why we must have these disagreements and dialogue out in the open for the sake of chickens and everyone else.

Disappearing Hens:
Stopping Short of What Needs to Be Said – and Done

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

A video released by The Humane Society of the United States on January 5 (see Spent Hen Slaughter Exposé) shows what happens to millions of egg-industry hens in their final hours of suffering a life that words like horrible, miserable and appalling are too feeble to describe. One has to steel oneself to look at the scenes at the Butterfield spent hen slaughterhouse in Minnesota. If you’re like me, the first time you click on the link, you might turn down the sound and look at the video with eyes semi-averted from the screen. Life doesn’t get any worse than this, and neither does death. And it’s all for omelets and fried eggs.

Watching the video, you catch sight of a hen’s face and her living eyes that are about to be pulsed with volts of electrical shock. You turn up the volume and feel the agony in your gut and the sickness in your heart, even as you realize you cannot possibly imagine the feelings these hens are carrying inside themselves, the accumulation of their experience with human beings. As the video winds down, the narrator says, “You can help reduce the suffering of chickens on factory farms simply by eating less meat.”

This video is being advertised as the first footage from a slaughter plant designed for spent hens. People need to see this. We all need to know, show and tell others what eating eggs and egg ingredients means for hens regardless of whether they lived in barren battery cages, “enriched” battery cages, cage-free organic compounds, or wherever they came from on their way to this final place of execution.

Instead, the narrator blandly suggests eating less meat from factory farms.

The art of persuasive discourse teaches that when we present an ethical problem to an audience, we follow up with a positive, liberating, inspiring, and doable solution – “Here is what you can do to help stop this cruelty and help these hens. You don’t have to wait, you can start today. Please start today. Here’s how.” The goal is to solve the problem and empower the person – who is very upset and charged with a desire to take action – to be confident that she or he can actually do something commensurate with the situation just witnessed. “What can I do to help these birds?” What is our answer?

In the case of the Butterfield hen slaughter video, the first shock comes when the narrator doesn’t even mention the hens or their eggs in the How You Can Help part. Instead of something like: “To help end this cruelty, please visit Eggfree.com for delicious egg-free recipes and cooking ideas,” the message drains out in generic terminology and flaccid advice.

To state the obvious: This message is not inspiring, invigorating or empowering. It does not address or facilitate the urge to do something truly meaningful to help the hens. It does not seize the moment. It says that neither the hens nor their suffering matters enough to do much for them. Their plight isn’t urgent. They aren’t that important. Just reduce their meat consumption. And if you don’t, okay. Not a word about eggs. When people are told they don’t have to do much, most will do even less. That part of the person that wants to act SIGNIFICANTLY is undercut by the part that wants to rest easy. The “experts”are telling you to relax, it’s okay. Watching the Butterfield video I felt overwhelmingly sick and sad, but when the narrator bypassed the hens and lamely advised eating less factory farm meat, I felt that our movement needs a new lease on life. Get active! www.upc-online.org/alerts 

See the original post here.

The Emotional State of Vegans, Economists, Environmentalists, and…

Man tending his store. Kandahar, Afghanistan. 1970. Photo: Will Anderson

Man tending his store. Kandahar, Afghanistan. 1970.
Photo: Will Anderson

Part I

I recently came upon two blog posts that reminded me of the anguish many vegans feel when faced with the “great mystery”: why don’t environmentalists (and other advocacy groups) get the vegan message? Since it resolves so much of the environmental movement’s agenda, veganism, it would seem, should be a no-brainer. There are two unifying themes hidden beneath their irrational non-response.

First, we should recognize that advocates from other causes feel the same pain in their advocacy as we do. Though they do not yet get the necessity of veganism, the rest of their work is essential to addressing major issues. Like us, they have to petition the public for support and win hearts and minds. Despite their selfless hard work, low pay, and scarcity of clear victories, they persevere. Public support is seldom sufficient to win their cause any time soon and they live with that. Like us, they have straight-forward answers (conserve energy–don’t export coal and don’t build the Keystone pipeline) but face powerful, culturally resistant, opposition. Environmentalists are aware that toxic substances run off of streets and chemically-treated lawns into creeks, rivers, estuaries, and oceans when it rains. The damage is real; there is suffering in ecosystem destruction and they know it. Beauty is destroyed. They feel it.


Aldo Leopold, a wildlife biologist who later in life regretted his many murders against wolves and other individuals, summed up the environmentalists’ lament:
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

  Read more ›

Refer to Green Vegans.org for Rally Updates

Please refer to www.greenvegans.org for the latest Seattle Climate Change Rally rally updates. The vegan contingent will meet east of this Starbucks store in Westlake Plaza at 12:15. The main rally, across the street, begins at 1:00.


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Are Vegans Vegetarians? Conclusion

September 19th, 2015

We lost the struggle for the original definition of “vegetarianism” and “vegetarian” in 1847, 168 ye[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 4

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Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 3

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Are Vegans Vegetarians? Part 2

July 19th, 2015

In Part 1, I noted that the conversation of what vegetarianism is and is not has been ongoing as a c[...]

Are Vegans Vegetarians?

July 15th, 2015

And by extension, “Is Vegetarianism Relevant Today?” Part1: The content of this multi-part blog [...]