I get asked all the time to define vegan and compare it to a plant based diet. Many are confused and think they are the same thing. Others know the difference well and can be mean about it. I think anyone pursuing a vegan or plant based diet is a good thing and good for the animals. Although we have a detailed page explaining veganism located here, I thought an article on this subject was needed based on the questions I have been getting recently.
Definition of Vegan
A vegan is someone who follows a certain philosophy and this is where many people get confused. You can be on a vegan diet and not be vegan. I know that sounds counter intuitive but it is true. You can only make vegan recipes at home and never eat any animal products and still not be a vegan. Veganism is a philosophy that says you will not support anything that brings any harm or death to animals.
This means vegans do not wear fur, leather, support businesses that harm animals and more. This is also one of the reasons you see comments get so heated on my articles on how to eat vegan at fast food restaurants. The one on Taco Bell is here and it is the most popular of the entire series. But I caught a lot of flack from vegans who said I was supporting the meat industry. Technically they are right. But I think teaching people how to eat there and not order any animal products will shape Taco Bells business. It will change them over time. And I think that is a small victory worth pursuing.
Many plant based eaters will do a vegan detox or just go all plant based for a week or 21 days and tell everyone they are vegan. And this is why you will see many long-time vegans get upset at the label. You can’t embrace a philosophy for a week or 21 days. It has to change you forever.
Plant based diet
Most ‘vegans’ I encounter are actually people who eat a plant based diet. They haven’t bought into the philosophy of veganism yet. Many are still struggling with animal violence. Others are moving closer to being vegans with time. This is why I never say anything negative about someone on a plant based diet. In my experience a lot of those people wind up embracing veganism 100%. Some even become pretty vocal vegan activist. I know for me I started out as just a plant based eater. But a deeper change happened over time.
If you ask me what do vegans eat I’d have to say the same thing those on a plant based diet eat. And that is why this issue is confusing for some. The diet is the same. What is different is philosophy of animals outside of the food.
Colleen Patrick Goudreou helps define vegan in this great video.
You could go on a 100% tofu diet and still not be vegan. If you were wearing a fur coat while shopping for a leather jacket and belt while eating the tofu sandwich you would definitely not be vegan.
Can vegans and plant based dieters coexist? I sure hope so. Both are saving animals. I support those on a plant based diet just as much as I support vegans. It’s all about the animals to me. I enjoy the health benefits and the way I feel. Those are great side effects of being vegan. But nothing compares with the feeling of knowing somewhere there is animal alive because you chose to not eat animal products. And that is a feeling both vegans and the plant based diet crowd can share.