The terms ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ have surely been thrown around quite a good bit in the recent past with diet fads getting wild attention left and right. While surely everyone has heard both terms, there’s a great chance that you may not be fully clear on the difference. Even the words ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’ have many of the same letters, in the same sequence. What is going on here?

Ok, so what we know is that vegans and vegetarians share one primary trait in common: They both don’t eat meat.

The differences are a bit more precise and easy to miss than the similarity between these two diet and lifestyle modes. In the vegetarian mindset, it is acceptable to use some animal byproducts, both as food and as utilities as well. Contrarily, the vegan will not intentionally utilize any animal byproduct of any type. Ok, so it might be beneficial to explain this with a simple example.

Consider the case of a breakfast consisting of an egg white and cheddar cheese omelette along with two strips of bacon and a heaping mound of buttery home fries. Next to that wonderful feast, of course, you have a tall glass of milk. What of this would be acceptable for the vegan? None of it. The home fries might have made it if they weren’t “buttery” — perhaps just a piece of toast with some jam for the vegan!?

Now what of that meal could the vegetarian happily consume? Interestingly, it could actually depend on which vegetarian you ask. All vegetarians and vegans alike would pass up the bacon as that is made from the flesh of the pig, and is therefore, not an allowable food. The omelette might be acceptable for some vegetarians because it is made from egg whites. I believe you will find a vegetarian or two who will eat eggs even if they do contain a yoke because they are not necessarily “potential” chicken lives as the egg was never fertilized in the case of a food egg. Regardless, the question of the cheese and the butter remains.

A vegetarian would probably go for both in most cases. While these are animal byproducts, they are not direct animal flesh, and therefore can be morally eaten by the vegetarian. It should actually also be said that not all people pursuing the vegetarian diet are doing so for a moral reason. This is a fact that is truly lost on so many people. If you are ever talking to a person you’ve just met who is a vegetarian, do not immediately assume that they are doing so out of benevolent love for animals.

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