Vegetarianism - a definition

Various attempts at defining vegetarianism have been made, and indeed the word is frequently misused - so we are going to refer to the definition stated by The Vegetarian Society of the UK - the oldest veggie-supporting organisation in the world, an an educational charity promoting understanding and respect for vegetarian lifestyles.

By their definition,

A vegetarian is someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs
A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products

This is a very straightforward and clear definition, and we like it because it first defines by what we DO eat - followed by the exclusions of choice.

The Society goes on to distinguish the following 'types' of vegetarian:

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian Eats both dairy products and eggs. This is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

Lacto-vegetarian Eats dairy products but not eggs.

Of course whilst painting broad brush strokes with these definitions, it's important to recognise the details contained in phrases like 'slaughter by-products' - most vegetarians are for example careful to exclude all products containing gelatine from their diet, also cheeses made with rennet, and foods coloured using cochineal - as these are all derived directly from dead animals. In addition to also not eating anything coming from living animals, like milk eggs and honey, many vegans also go further by avoiding the use of leather, wool, silk, pearls, or anything else produced by the farming/exploitation of animals in any form.

Common mispellings of vegetarian include vegeterian, vegetirian, vegitarian, vegiterian... vegan is easier to get right although vegun, veegan etc are occasionally seen.

The word vegan was coined by Vegan Society founder Donald Watson in 1944, being 'the beginning and end of the word vegetarian'

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