AskDefine | Define vegan

Dictionary Definition

vegan n : a strict vegetarian; someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A supporter of veganism
  2. A person who does not consume, use or eat any animal products.
  3. Someone from Vega, which is either a town in Norway, Sweden or Texas or the system of the star.


supporter of veganism
person who consumes no animal products
someone from Vega


  1. Relating to vegans or veganism.
  2. Relating to Vega (the star).


relating to vegans or veganism

Derived terms

See also






  1. Vegan.

Extensive Definition

Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Properly planned vegan diets are healthful and have been found to completely satisfy nutritional needs in every stage of life, including during pregnancy and lactation. However, poorly planned vegan diets can be low in levels of calcium, iodine, vitamin B and vitamin D. Vegans are therefore encouraged to plan their diet and take dietary supplements as appropriate. or /ˈvɛdʒən/, was originally derived from "vegetarian" in 1944 when Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, frustrated that the term "vegetarianism" had come to include the eating of dairy products, founded the UK Vegan Society. They combined the first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan," which they saw as "the beginning and end of vegetarian." The Vegan Society defines veganism in this way: [T]he word "veganism" denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. Other vegan societies use similar definitions.


Data regarding the number of vegans is available in some countries.

United States

A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 4% of American adults consider themselves vegetarians, and 5% of self-described vegetarians consider themselves vegans, which implies that 0.2% of American adults are vegans. A 2006 poll conducted by Harris Interactive in the US listed specific foods and asked respondents to indicate which items they never eat, rather than asking respondents to self-identify. The survey found that of the 1,000 adults polled, 1.4% never eat meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy products, or eggs and were therefore essentially vegan in their eating habits. The survey also found that about 1.4% of men and 1.3% of women have vegan diets.


In 2002, the UK Food Standards Agency reported that 5% of respondents self-identified as vegetarian or vegan. Though 29% of that 5% said they avoided "all animal products", only 5% reported avoiding dairy products. Based on these figures, approximately 0.25% of the UK population follow a vegan diet. In 2005, The Times estimated there were 250,000 vegans in Britain, which suggests around 0.4% of the UK population is vegan. However, a 2007 survey for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs into the UK population's attitudes and behaviour towards the environment found that 2.24% of the population identified themselves as vegan. In the same study, vegetarians who did not also eat chicken or fish made up 2.7% of the population. The DEFRA study also indicated that slightly more men than women are vegan, that more vegans live in towns or cities than the country, and that people aged 16-29 were vegan more often than any other age group.
Various polls and research conducted during the 1990s put the percentage of Swedish residents being vegan at between 0.27% and 1.6% of the entire population. A study of the eating patterns of 2,538 Swedish children of ages 4, 8 and 11 by the Swedish National Food Administration found that about 1% of the children were vegetarian, less than 1% were lacto-vegetarians, but found no children to be vegans. The website VeganWelt estimates there to be between 250,000 and 460,500 vegans in Germany, or between 0.3% and 0.5% of the German population. The Netherlands Association for Veganism estimates there to be approximately 16,000 vegans in the Netherlands, or around 0.1% of the Dutch population.

Animal products

The term "animal product" in a vegan context refers to any material derived from animals for human use. Notable animal products include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Common animal by-products include gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, and shellac. many of these ingredients are esoteric, also have non-animal sources, and especially in non-food products may not even be identified.
Although honey and silk are by definition animal products, some vegans consider their use and the use of other insect products to be acceptable.

Ethical concerns

Vegan organizations maintain that animals have certain rights, and as such it is not ethical for humans to use animals in ways that infringe those rights. Practices seen as cruel to animals include factory farming, animal testing, and displaying animals for entertainment in circuses, rodeos, and zoos.
Philosopher Tom Regan argues that animals are entities which possess "inherent value" and therefore have "basic moral rights," and that the principal moral right they possess is "the right to respectful treatment." Regan additionally argues that animals have a "basic moral right not to be harmed," which can be overridden only when the individual's right to be harmed is "morally outweighed" by "other valid moral principles." From this "rights view," Regan argues that "animal agriculture, as we know it, is unjust" even when animals are raised "humanely." Regan argues against various justifications for eating meat including that "animal flesh is tasty," that it is "habit" for "individuals and as a culture", that it is "convenient," that "meat is nutritious," that there is an obligation the economic interests of farmers or to the economic interests of a country, or that "farm animals are legal property," and finds that all fail to treat animals with the respect due to them by their basic rights. Regan therefore argues that "those who support current animal agriculture by purchasing meat have a moral obligation to stop doing so" and that "the individual has a duty to lead a vegetarian way of life."
Legal theorist Gary L. Francione argues that animals are sentient, and that this is sufficient to grant them moral consideration. Francione argues that "all sentient beings should have at least one right—the right not to be treated as property" and that there is "no moral justification for using nonhumans for our purposes." Singer argues that an animal's interests warrant equal consideration with the interests of humans, and that not doing so is "speciesist." Singer does not contend that killing animals is always wrong, but that from a practical standpoint it is "better to reject altogether the killing of animals for food, unless one must do so to survive." Singer therefore advocates both veganism and improved conditions for farm animals as practical means to reduce animal suffering.
Steven Davis, a professor of animal science at Oregon State University, argues that following Tom Regan's "least harm principle" may not necessarily require the adoption of a vegan diet. Davis suggests that there are non-vegetarian diets which "may kill fewer animals" than are killed in the intensive crop production necessary to support vegetarian diets. In particular, Davis argues that adopting a diet based upon "forage-ruminant-based agriculture" in the United States would kill an estimated 380-450 million fewer animals annually than a vegan diet and therefore that "humans may be morally obligated to consume a diet from plant-based plus pasture-forage-ruminant sysems."
Gaverick Matheny, a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural economics at the University of Maryland, counters that Davis' reasoning contains several major flaws, including miscalculating the number of animal deaths based on land area rather than per consumer, and incorrectly equating "the harm done to animals […] to the number of animals killed." Matheny notes that Davis' proposal is "a world apart" from agriculture "prevalent in the United States" which would "greatly improve the lives of farmed animals," but argues that per-consumer, a vegan diet would kill fewer wild animals than a diet adhering to Davis' model, and that vegetarianism "involves better treatment of animals, and likely allows a greater number of animals with lives worth living to exist."
William Jarvis, writing for The National Council Against Health Fraud, characterizes veganism as "a hygienic religion that meets deep emotional needs of its followers," who revel "in self-denial and wars against pleasure," and who "cannot be trusted to be objective, reliable sources of information on anything that bears upon its fundamental paradigm." Jarvis attacks "ideologic vegetarians," whom he claims believe that "all life is sacred" and that "all forms of life have equal value," saying that these beliefs "can lead to absurdities such as allowing mosquitoes to spread malaria, or vipers to run loose on one's premises."


The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends what they call the "Four New Food Groups." They suggest that vegans and vegetarians eat at least three servings of vegetables a day, including dark green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, and dark yellow and orange such as carrots; five servings of whole grains (bread, rice, pasta); three of fruit; and two of legumes (beans, peas, lentils). in part because vegan diets are often high enough in fruit and vegetables to meet or exceed the recommended fruit and vegetable intakes.
Benefits of vegetarian diets might be valid also for strict vegan diets: according to the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada, diets that avoid meat tend to have lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. People who avoid meat are reported to have lower body mass index than those following the average Canadian diet; from this follows lower death rates from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. A 2003 study of British vegetarians, including vegans, found similar mortality rates between vegetarians and other groups.
A 2006 study found that in people with type 2 diabetes a low-fat vegan diet reduced weight, BMI, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol and did so to a greater extent than the diet prescribed by the American Diabetes Association.


Specific nutrients

The American Dietetic Association has said that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." vitamin D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. These deficiencies have potentially serious consequences, including anemia, rickets and cretinism in children, and osteomalacia Although clinical B deficiency is rare in vegans, In a 2002 laboratory study, more of the strict vegan participants' B and iron levels were compromised than those of lacto- or lacto-ovo-vegetarian participants.
The Vegan Society and Vegan Outreach, and others, recommend that vegans either consistently eat foods fortified with B or take a B supplement. Tempeh, seaweed, spirulina, organic produce, soil on unwashed vegetables, and intestinal bacteria have not been shown to be reliable sources of B for the dietary needs of vegans.
The authors of The China Study argue that osteoporosis is linked to the consumption of animal protein because animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acidity of blood and tissues which is then neutralized by calcium pulled from the bones. The authors add that "in our rural China Study, where the animal to plant ratio [for protein] was about 10%, the fracture rate is only one-fifth that of the U.S."
For light skinned people, adequate amounts of vitamin D may also be obtained by spending 15 to 30 minutes in the sunlight every few days. Dark skinned people need significantly more sunlight to obtain the same amount of vitamin D, and sunlight exposure may be difficult for vegans in areas with low levels of sunlight during winter; in these cases supplementation is recommended. Certain mushrooms and some Vitamin D2-fortified foods (where the Vitamin D2 is derived from yeast) are the only food sources of Vitamin D suitable for vegans.
Iodine supplementation may be necessary for vegans in countries where salt is not typically iodized, where it is iodized at low levels, or where, as in Britain or Ireland, animal products are used for iodine delivery. The American Dietetic Association also considers well-planned vegan diets "appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation," Vitamin B deficiency in lactating vegetarian mothers has been linked to deficiencies and neurological disorders in their children. Some research suggests that the essential omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and its derivatives should also be supplemented in pregnant and lactating vegan mothers, since they are very low in most vegan diets, and the metabolically related docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential to the developing visual system. A maternal vegan diet has also been associated with low birth weight, and a five times lower likelihood of having twins than those who eat animal products.
Several cases of severe infant malnutrition and some fatalities have been associated with a poorly planned vegan diet, and provoked criticism of vegan diets for children. Parents involved in these cases were convicted on charges ranging from assault to felony murder. Addressing criticism of veganism, Dr. Amy Lanou, an expert witness for the prosecution in one of the cases, asserted that the child "was not killed by a vegan diet" but that "the real problem was that he was not given enough food of any sort."

Eating disorders

The American Dietetic Association indicates that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders but that the evidence suggests that the adoption of a vegetarian diet does not lead to eating disorders, rather that "vegetarian diets may be selected to camouflage an existing eating disorder.".

Resources and the environment

People who adopt veganism for environmental reasons do so on the basis that veganism consumes far fewer resources and causes less environmental damage than an animal-based diet. Animal agriculture is linked to climate change, water pollution, land degradation, and a decline in biodiversity. Additionally, an animal-based diet uses more land, water, and energy than a vegan diet.
The United Nations released a report in November 2006 linking animal agriculture to environmental damage. The report, Livestock's Long Shadow concludes that the livestock sector (primarily cows, chickens, and pigs) emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to our most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases - responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. In comparison, the proportion of total CO2 emissions by passenger vehicles is 12% of the total CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). Those numbers are confirmed in a 2007 article in the British medical journal The Lancet, which concludes that reducing consumption of animal products should be a top priority, especially in developed countries where such a measure would also entail substantial health benefits.
A 2006 study by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, found that a person switching from the average American diet to a vegan diet would reduce CO2 emissions by 1,485 kg per year.
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis argues that while most meat production in industrialized countries uses inefficient grain feeding methods through intensive farming, meat production is not invariably a poor use of land, especially in countries like China and Brazil. Since a proportion of all grain crops produced are not suitable for human consumption, they can be fed to animals to turn into meat, thus improving efficiency. Nevertheless this does not apply to the majority of grain crops worldwide, but only to small parts of them in developing countries. Further, greenhouse gas emissions are not limited to animal husbandry; but also to several plant based sources such as rice cultivation.
A 2007 study which simulated various diets' land use for the geography of New York State concluded that although vegetarian diets used the smallest amount of land per capita, a diet which included some meat and dairy—though significantly less than consumed by the average American—could support more people on the same available land, since animal food crops can be grown on lower quality land than crops for human consumption.
It has been noted that the production of some vegan food substitutes like soy, used to produce soymilk amongst other items, is partly to blame for the deforestation of rainforests. However, massive amounts of soy are used as animal feed rather than for direct human consumption. And while it takes several pounds of soy to produce a single pound of meat, a single pound of soy can be used to produce several pounds of soy-based foods for humans.

Similar diets and lifestyles

seealso Vegetarianism and religion
Diets such as raw veganism and fruitarianism are related to veganism, but have significant differences from standard veganism. There are also numerous religious groups that regularly or occasionally practice a similar diet, including adherents to some Buddhist traditions, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jains, Hindus, Sikhism, Rastafarians, and Seventh-day Adventists.


see also Vegetarian cuisine
Also see the Wikibooks Cookbook articles on vegan cuisine and vegan substitutions and its listing of vegan recipes.
The cuisines of most nations contain dishes suitable for a vegan diet, including ingredients such as tofu, tempeh and the wheat product seitan in Asian diets. Many recipes that traditionally contain animal products can be adapted by substituting plant-based ingredients. For example, nut, grain or soy milks can be used to replace cow's milk and eggs can be replaced by applesauce or commercial starch-based substitute products, depending upon the recipe. Additionally, artificial "meat" products ("analogs" or "mock meats") made from non-animal derived ingredients such as soy, gluten, or mycoprotein, including imitation sausages, ground beef, burgers, and chicken nuggets are widely available.


External links

vegan in Asturian: Veganismu
vegan in Catalan: Veganisme
vegan in Czech: Veganství
vegan in Danish: Veganisme
vegan in German: Veganismus
vegan in Modern Greek (1453-): Αυστηρή χορτοφαγία
vegan in Spanish: Veganismo
vegan in Esperanto: Veganismo
vegan in French: Végétalisme
vegan in Indonesian: Veganisme
vegan in Italian: Cucina vegana
vegan in Hebrew: טבעונות
vegan in Luxembourgish: Veganismus
vegan in Lithuanian: Veganizmas
vegan in Hungarian: Veganizmus
vegan in Dutch: Veganisme
vegan in Norwegian: Veganisme
vegan in Polish: Weganizm
vegan in Portuguese: Veganismo
vegan in Russian: Веганизм
vegan in Simple English: Veganism
vegan in Slovak: Vegánstvo
vegan in Finnish: Veganismi
vegan in Swedish: Veganism
vegan in Turkish: Vegan
vegan in Chinese: 純素食主義
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