Many individuals through the years have asked me for vegetarian vegan recipes for healthy meals out of some of the cookbooks in my culinary library. Although this Vegan Blogger.com blog is not necessarily specifically intended for vegan or vegetarian recipes, it does contain quite a few very good ones. I encourage your to take some time to look around.
On the one hand, the term “vegetarian vegan” or conversely “vegan vegetarian” is somewhat confusing because the two, “vegetarian” and “vegan”, are not necessarily interchangeable, although they share some similar characteristics. On the other hand, “vegetarian vegan” is perfectly understandable by those who are privy to the fact that “veganism” is actually born out of “vegetarianism.”
Thus I would like to, if I may, devote this page to explaining what veganism and vegetarianism are about, the differences and similarities between vegans and vegetarians as well as to give you a brief overview about their historic origins.
What is Vegetarianism?
Commonly speaking, vegetarianism is a lifestyle whose principles decree the elimination of meats such as red meat (beef, pork, venison, duck and goose), poultry (chicken, turkey, pheasant and quail) and seafood (marine life including fish, octopus, shellfish, shrimp, lobster, etc.) from the diet. While all these are banned, dairy products and eggs as well as honey and gelatin are permissible. Furthermore, as abstention from using products derived from animals that have been slaughtered is part of the vegetarian doctrine, most vegetarians will not incorporate leather or fur into their lifestyles.
Vegetarianism and the objection to eating meat are embraced for various reasons and the main ones involve the following:
- Animal welfare — Respect for the lives of all living creatures which are ethics that are usually derived from various religious and cultural beliefs or animal rights activism.
- Health and wellness — Health concerns which had arisen subsequent to countless studies that prove the curative benefits of plant-based diets or as acts of complying with doctor’s orders to reduce or eliminate the intake of meat.
- Environment — Research has shown that raising farm animals or livestock depletes the Earth’s valuable resources and adds pollutants to the air we breathe and the water we drink more than any other human activity.
The less common, but important motivations for becoming vegetarian might be politically, aesthetically and/or economically inspired.
There are several other dietary notions which are somehow related to vegetarianism in that meat continues to be shunned and those are:
- Semi vegetarian involves eating fish, poultry as well as dairy products and eggs.
- Ovo vegetarian involves eating eggs but no dairy products.
- Lacto vegetarian involves eating dairy products but no eggs.
- Ovo lacto vegetarian involves eating dairy products as well as eggs.
- Vegan involves abstaining from all animal products including eggs, dairy and honey.
What is Veganism?
Whether it is motivated by ethics, health concerns or environmental interests, veganism is a lifestyle in which all animal products are avoided. However, even here there are gradations such as the following:
- Ethical vegans object to the use of any animals as commodities and therefore reject the use of all animal-based products for any reasons — food, clothing, cosmetics, household items, etc.
- Dietary vegans, who are actually strict vegetarians, eliminate animal-based products only from their diets. In other words, dietary vegans will not eat animals but they will wear leather, fur, wool, silk, down, etc.
- Environmental vegans eliminate all animal-based products from all aspects of their lives because they object to the practices of the livestock industry which they deem to be unsustainable and, therefore, also damaging to the environment.
The Difference between Vegetarians and Vegans
As you might have already surmised from the statements above, vegans eliminate all products for any purpose which are based on or derived from any animals. In contrast, vegetarians eliminate only some animal products such as meat and poultry but they will eat dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc.), eggs, honey, etc.
Another very big difference between vegetarians and vegans which leads to their very dissimilar lifestyles is the fact that while vegans tend to be passionately altruistic, stanchly ethical and resolutely compassionate toward all living creatures and the environment; vegetarians are much more relaxed in their dogmas.
Historical Origins of Vegetarianism
Although there are not real recordings to substantiate them, there are theories which claim that numerous cultures dating back to prehistoric times had practiced non-violence toward animals. However, there is real evidence of vegetarianism being followed, on a rather large scale, points to India of antiquity, as well as the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece where such lifestyles were avidly promoted by religious leaders and philosophers.
When Christianity took over the Roman Empire, vegetarianism all but disappeared from the medieval European scene although monks in several orders sustained a pescetarian lifestyle in which consumption of meat was forbidden but not fish. With the European Renaissance, vegetarianism started to come back but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century when it became much more prevalent.
Historical Origins of Veganism
There is written evidence that Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher and mathematician of the 6th century BCE, presented ethical arguments against eating flesh because of his belief in transmigration of souls. He warned that human beings might be reincarnated as animals. Therefore, eating animals is akin to eating humans which is cannibalism.
Written by Rupert H. Wheldon, “No Animal Food” is the first known all vegan cookbook that was published in 1910. Within its pages, Wheldon made the following ardent statement, “it is obvious that, since we should live as to give the greatest possible happiness to all beings capable of appreciating it and as it is an indisputable fact that animals can suffer pain, and that men who slaughter animals needlessly suffer from atrophy of all finer feelings, we should therefore cause no unnecessary suffering in the animal world.”
In direct response to Mahatma Gandhi’s impassioned call to abstain from eating meat a dozen years earlier, the British Vegan Society was first established in 1944 whereby Donald Watson, one of its zealous members, coined the word “vegan.”
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