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What is the difference between vegetarians and vegans?

Changing your diet to a vegan or vegetarian diet is for many people a process. Few people make the decision and follow it 100% from one day to the next. For most people, it is a development that happens over time.

Many vegans start out as vegetarians, and some vegans become vegetarians (again) because they find it to hard living completely animal product free. A very large part of our food contains elements from animals, and you have to be quite the detective to find “pure” food products. At least in the beginning, in time you will learn what products are vegan and which are not.

Furthermore, some find it hard to make a good a satisfying meal, with the right and filling nutrients. This is even harder if you are not used to cooking your meals from scratch.

leather shoes being thrown out

Different types of Vegetarians

If you are completely new to the meat-free lifestyle and haven’t been interested in this subject before, you might already be a bit confused, which I totally understand!

But simply explained:

A Vegetarian: Is a person who doesn’t eat meat.

A Vegan: Is a person who doesn’t eat meat, milk products, eggs, or uses any kind of animal products. This includes: Fur, wool, leather (shoes, furniture, clothing, etc.) honey, or foods with animal by-products (wine gum, licorice, etc.) In some cases vegans are also against keeping domestic animals.

A lacto vegetarian or lactarian: Is like a vegan but with the exception of milk products.

An ovo vegetarian: Is like a vegan but with the exception of eggs.

These are the most common terms used to describe people who are not eating meat. But diving into the subject you will find that there are a lot more nuances to the subject.

New terms are gaining in popularity

Some of the newer terms that are gaining in popularity are:

A Fruitarian: A person who only eat fruits and greens. Some also eat nuts and seeds. (A vegan who only eats natural and unprocessed foods.)

A Raw Vegan: A person who doesn’t eat any food that has been heated to more than 115° F. or 45° C.

The subject of food – What we eat, and why. Is something that has always interested us, humans. It is also a subject that has provoked discussions time and time again. Discussions about what you can and cannot eat.

Amongst non-meat eaters, this might be especially true. Most people who choose to live a meat-free life have strong, or at least well thought through, opinions about the food they consume.

“Most people who live a meat-free lifestyle have strong opinions about their lifestyle choice, and the food they consume”

Describing the different groups of vegans and vegetarians in a way that satisfy everybody and their chosen way of eating, can be very difficult or even impossible. Even amongst vegans, vegetarians, lactarians, fruitarians, and all the other groups – Disagreements can arise about who gets to call themselves what, and when you achieve this or that, dare I say, status.

“The group of vegans with more sharp attitudes towards ethics and animal welfare will under no circumstances accept using the term “vegan” about a person, who in any way utilises animal products”

But if you have to put a label on this group of people “vegan” would probably be the most correct. As you can tell there are already many different descriptions, and it would only add to the confusion, coining another one. Some people will, therefor, have to share “label” with people they are not in total agreement with.

The same goes for lacto- and ovo- vegetarians.

Why make the choice of becoming a vegan or vegetarian

Road sign with text saying stop eating animals

Non-meat eaters can be split into two groups:

The group of people who simply do not like meat. Their decision is made purely on the basis of their taste preferences. They do not have any, or only very weak, attitudes towards animal welfare and some also do eat meat occasionally, usually fish or chicken.


The group of people who make a political choice, not to eat meat and/or utilize animal products in any way. It is this group of people who for the most part have very strong opinions about their choice, and who in some cases can find it difficult to understand and respect omnivores (meat eaters).

The subject is huge and it is easy to get confused and get the different terms mixed up. But as even the groups can’t agree about who is what and why it can be very difficult for anyone else to figure out.

The descriptions in this article are simplified. I would also like to point out, that everybody is different and not everybody fits in one specific “box”.

We could easily start a discussion, or just agree to disagree. But maybe curiosity about our individual choices would be more constructive.

“If we are curious about each other instead of being judgemental, we can certainly learn a lot”

Take a stand - Make a choice

We live in a world with massive Co2 emission, global warming, and natural disasters. And as a result, we are forced to consider, justify, and prioritize our choices. Because there is no question, vegan or non-vegan: Our meat production is amongst the worst sinners when we are talking about climate- and environmental impact. And we all have to share our beautiful planet.

Some people decrease their environmental impact by going on a bicycling holiday instead of flying to Hawaii, others buy solar panels while happily eating lamb imported from New Zealand.

Leave it to the individual how they choose to live. The important thing is that we make a choice. So do you know why you eat meat? Or do you know why you don’t?

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