What is Veganism?

So, you are interested in veganism. This is awesome!

But you may be wondering what’s the difference between veganism and plant-based? Vegetarian and pescatarian? What is the SAD diet?

For me to explain the awesomeness of veganism I first must also describe the other common diets out there to give you context.

The SAD diet

Let’s start with the Standard American Diet, or SAD diet (so aptly named). This is the diet that most of us in America have grown up with. Depending on who you ask or where you look this diet looks a bit different but, for the most part, it consists of meals based off of:

  • Meat products: steak, chicken breast, eggs, sausage, pork, or fish.
  • Fried foods: fish and chips, fries, fried chicken, buffalo wings, and chicken fried steak fried with oils like canola oil or peanut oil.
  • Dairy products: every cheese imaginable (even moldy cheese!) sour cream, butter, ghee, cream, coffee creamer, ice cream, 2%, non-fat, etc.
  • Carbohydrates in the form of processed pasta and bread.
  • Sugar!
  • Vegetables in very limited quantities such as mashed potatoes, green beans, salads with 3 toppings, or the topping on burgers.
  • Processed foods.

Not only are there very few veggies or fruit in the SAD diet but its all packaged up with fillers, sugars, salt, and crazy ingredients that you may be able to pronounce but have no clue as to what it is.

These are the foods that everyone is trying to diet with but can’t seem to win with. These foods are in almost every American restaurant. These foods are sold in almost every grocer and supermarket in first world countries. These foods are target marketed to our children and you. These foods are so flavor-enhanced that most people don’t know what the original product tastes like. We are bombarded every single day with billboard ads touting the benefits of one processed animal product after another.

The SAD diet is, sadly, what most of us have known our whole lives that have given us diseases, cancers, and obesity among many, many other problems.

Vegetarian Diet

The vegetarian is on their way to healthier eating and less cruelty to animals. This diet omits meat and fish from the SAD diet. They incorporate more whole foods, whole grains, and legumes.

Vegetarians eat a lot of dairy products, ice cream, cheese, and eggs. They avoid beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, shellfish, etc.

They are concerned about animal welfare to a point. What I hear most is that they can’t live without their cheese or sour cream. Like, they will literally die tomorrow if they don’t have their cheese today.

There are a few interesting versions of vegetarian: Lacto-Ovo, Ovo, Flexitarian, or Pollo.

  • Lacto-Ovo is what I consider a standard vegetarian diet, omitting meat and sea animals but eating dairy products and eggs.
  • Ovo-Vegetarians omit the meat, sea creatures, and dairy products but consume eggs.
  • Flexitarians are the classic vegetarian but include meat here and there. This is a popular way to ease into plant-based or vegan diets.
  • Pollo vegetarians. This is new to me, folks! Apparently, this is a plant-based diet with the incorporation of fowl: chicken, duck, and turkey. Anyone else confused by this?


The Pescatarian diet is like the vegetarian diet but instead of eating meat like beef, buffalo, chicken, or pork they eat fish and shellfish instead. A lot of Pescatarians eat dairy and eggs, but not all do.

The Pescatarian believes that they are avoiding the environmental impact of the meat industry, but fail to see that our oceans are incredibly overfished and full of poisonous mercury. Not only that, but endangered species are picked up in the fishing nets at the same time as the fish the fisherman is harvesting. This is known as by-catch. According to Oceana.org, in their March 2014 report, they estimate by-catch to be about 40% of all fish caught in nets worldwide. This includes sea turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins, seals, rays, other fish not targeted. Check out their March 2014 report: https://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Bycatch_Report_FINAL.pdf

Whole Food Plant-Based Diet

Whole food plant-based diets omit meat, seafood, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products from the SAD diet.

The WFPB diet focuses on eating a ton of vegetables, leafy greens, beans, legumes, whole grains like quinoa, rice, whole wheat, and fruit of all kinds.  

I find this diet to be one of the healthiest diet out there as the diet avoids plant-based processed foods and is very sustainable over the long term. The rest of your life, in fact!

Vegan Diet

The vegan diet is like the WFPB diet but takes it a step further. The vegan diet avoids all animal products like leather and hidden animal products like gelatin or shellac. They care deeply about animal welfare and the conditions that cows, pigs, chickens, sea life, etc. live in. Vegans truly love all animals because they don’t put pets on a pedestal over any other animals.

Vegans don’t wear anything made of an animal like leather shoes, leather belts, feathers found in all down products such as pillows, jackets, and blankets. They don’t use leather gloves or leather wallets. They don’t purchase anything made with animal furs. There is still a lot of cat and dog slaughter and skinning of animals while still alive for furs.

Vegans are also very conscious of the environmental impacts of factory farming, the use of Genetically Modified foods, and the impacts it has on the soil in which we grow food and our oceans. They care deeply about what is happening to our planet.

Vegans don’t knowingly purchase beauty products that have animal products in them. It’s hard to know by looking at a label if there are any animal ingredients in a product. If the product has a vegan label on it then it is vegan and not made with animal products. There is also another label to show that the product was not tested on animal, too. But if a product doesn’t have either of these labels and you can’t find an obvious animal ingredient then it’s probably a hidden animal ingredient. Here are a few examples of hidden animal products and where they are found:

  • Goat milk in soaps and lotions
  • Cochineal, a female beetle, is used as a red dye called carmine
  • Hyaluronic acid is from the combs of roosters (the red fin on top of their heads)
  • Collagen is chicken feet and ground-up horns
  • Casein is the main milk protein found in a ton of products, even “non-dairy” products
  • Gelatin is ground up horns and hooves

The vegan diet can be further broken down into a sub-diet known as Raw Vegan: Whole Food Plant Based Vegans that only eat raw foods and do not heat food past 150 degrees Fahrenheit. They use raw nuts and seeds to make sauces and dressings. They use blenders, juicers, and dehydrators to mix up their foods and add variety. My opinion is this is the healthiest way to eat. Period. What is better than eating food in its most natural form?

There are other variances within the vegan niche such as Strict, Alkaline, Ethical, High Carb Low Fat, and Environmentally Conscious. But I find you cannot separate the sub-categories or niches of veganism with reductionism. Meaning, you can pick apart all the reasons to go vegan and put them in their little boxes and give them different names but it all impacts each other directly and everything else in the end.

Veganism is its own paradigm, a completely holistic way of viewing our world, how we live, how we view other beings, how we view other humans, how we vote, what non-profits we give our money away to, it’s how we raise our kids, and it’s our healthcare practices.

Whichever diet you are eating right now it’s best to know how you got that food and what it is doing to your body and the environment. Do your own research on the food you eat. Don’t just take my word for it.

I hope this has clarified the question: what is veganism? If you still have questions please ask them below!

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