Definitions of Vegetarianism and Veganism


February 20, 2007

The word vegetarian, coined by the founders of the British Vegetarian Society in 1842, comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning “whole, sound, fresh, or lively,” as in homo vegetus — a mentally and physically vigorous person. The original meaning of the word implies a balanced philosophical and moral sense of life, a lot more than just a diet of vegetables and fruits.


Vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of any animals be they mammals, birds or fish. In addition, vegans don’t eat any animal products such as milk, cheese and eggs.


They include dairy products and eggs (free-range please!) as part of their diet. This is the diet most commonly thought of as vegetarian.


Those practicing a full vegan lifestyle endeavour to live lives which do not cause any suffering at all to animals, or exploit animals in any way. This means not eating eggs, dairy, meat, or honey; not wearing leather, wool, and silk; and not using products that have been tested on animals. Entertainment that confines or exploits animals such as circuses, rodeos, and zoos is avoided. PETA has an excellent website on how to live a vegan lifestyle.

The word “vegan” was invented by Donald Watson , founder of The Vegan Society. It contains the first three and last two letters of “vegetarian” – “the beginning and end of vegetarian.” It is pronounced: “vee-gun.”


Foods are classified according to the ancient Chinese principle of Yin and Yang, the idea being to achieve a Yin-Yang balance in the diet. The foods that are avoided in this diet include all processed foods, meat and dairy products, and refined flours and sugars.

For more information see:

Raw and Living Food Diets

Includes fruits, vegetables, sprouts, nuts, seeds, grains, and sea vegetables. Food is eaten whole or processed by juicing or dehydrating, but never at temperatures over 116 degrees F. This preserves their enzymes and nutrient values. Most raw foodists soak/sprout nuts, seeds, and grains before consuming them. For more information about a raw food diet and some excellent links to resources, see our raw foods page .


Fruitarians live on nuts, fruits and flowers which can be harvested without causing damage to the plant. Note: avocados, tomatoes and eggplants are considered to be fruits.


People who rescue food that is being discarded are called freegans. The practice is commonly nicknamed “dumpster diving” in North America or “skipping” in the U.K. Freegans say they find ample amounts of clean, edible food in the garbage of restaurants, grocery stores, and other food-related industries, and this allows them to avoid spending money on products that exploit resources, workers, and animals. They also prevent edible food from contributing to landfills. Freegans are often vegan, but a related term, “meagan” is used for those who eat discarded meat.

See Freeganism at Wikipedia, and an ABC report called Dumpster Diving for Food.

Filed under: Resource Centre Uncategorised