Language is a wonderful tool, used to communicate thoughts, feelings, wants and needs, which also demonstrates political and ethical mind sets and allows us to break through intercultural barriers, learn from each other and build relationships. So, all in all, its very important!
However, the word vegan seems to be a source of confusion: I've been asked more than once if I eat fish, chicken, or meat from a can, if just a tiny bit of egg white in cookies is, 'allowed,' and why I don't wear wool or leather, as these, 'are surely meat by-products'.
Just two weeks ago, in an area which caters well for vegans, my colleague handed me a list of seminar participants on which one person was described as being, 'vegan, also not eating cheese.' Surprised, I quickly got in touch with the relevant caterers, but thought putting together my own list of definitions might indeed prove useful in everyday life, and perhaps for some of you too. (No, these definitions aren‘t from Webster‘s; I just didn‘t have another image at hand!)
Omnivore – This isn't a word which I personally encounter very often, but its one that refers to someone who eats both plant and animal foods. Some omnivores who eat a lot of meat may describe themselves as carnivores, but that's incorrect, as the latter refers to a meat-only diet. The related adjective is omnivorous.
(The rest of these terms can be used as nouns or adjectives):
Pescatarian – In my experience, pescatarians are often mixed up with vegetarians, but these two words are not synonyms. A pescatarian will eat fish and seafood, but does not consume red meat, poultry, or meat from other animals.
Flexitarian – A flexitarian is somebody who consciously tries to eat a reduced quantity of meat, for example by participating in Meat Free Monday or by only ordering plant-based dishes in a restaurant, but is not fully vegetarian.
Vegetarian, or Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian – 'Vegetarian,' on its own generally describes lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, the principle of abstaining from meat, including poultry, fish, and usually but not exclusively, other practises which result in the death of a non-human, such as wearing leather. An exception is in primarily-vegetarian parts of Asia, where not eating meat is less noteworthy, and, 'vegetarian,' or, 'strict vegetarian,' may note vegan dishes in a restaurant.
Lacto-Vegetarian – A lacto-vegetarian consumes dairy items such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Ovo-Vegetarian – Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products, and may take care to purchase only free range eggs. A person may choose to become a lacto- or ovo-vegetarian based upon ethical or health-based reasons.
Vegan – Veganism in its loosest definition means the abstention of eating or using animal products, inclusive of honey, bee pollen, whey, and products that have been tested through vivisection. There are differences within veganism, as some may have no alternatives to taking animal-tested medicines and others may wear old or second-hand wool or leather, but when meeting a new vegan, its safest to err on the side of caution and assume they abstain completely from animal products unless they say otherwise.
Raw Vegan – A raw vegan eats no animal products nor food cooked at temperatures higher than 48°C.
Freegan – Freeganism is an anti-capitalist movement which aims to avoid supporting exploitative systems, relating to human or other species, by not purchasing food. Instead, persons may rely on sharing and urban foraging on a part-time or full-time basis. Freegans are not necessarily vegan, with some critiquing vegans for an assumed lack of regard for human suffering in food production, but the philosophy of non-exploitation does largely overlap, and I think all of the freegans I have met have only purchased vegan products, even if some do consume animal products if obtained without contributing to the system.
Fruitarian – This is another philosophy with multiple definitions, and one I do not have much direct experience with, but the broadest definition equates to a diet of fruits, nuts and seeds, possibly with vitamin B12 supplements. A person may become a fruitarian for ethical or religious reasons, such as a Jain who does not wish to kill a plant.
So that‘s my take as a vegan who eats cooked food. Let‘s hope it‘s a while until I‘m next offered a little bit of meat to, "bring out the flavour!"
Image courtesy of TEDx NJLibraries, used unchanged under the terms of the Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0).