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Ever said ‘vegan’ when you meant ‘plant-based’? Or even the other way around?
While some people will let your linguistic slip slide, for others, the matter of semantics is hugely important.
As a writer, I agree that words are very important – the things we say can subtly shape our attitudes. Language is a living thing, and it develops as society develops.
But what about when it takes us a while to catch up?
When it comes to the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based’, does the use of correct terminology really matter? Or can we use them interchangeably?
Veganism isn’t a diet; it is a lifestyle and philosophy – a way of life that is deeply devoted to animal rights, and encompasses diets, politics, and ethics.
In a bid to reduce animal use and exploitation as far as practicable and possible, vegans not only get rid of animal products from their plate, but from all aspects of their life.
They won’t wear leather, fur, silk, or wool, or use grooming or household products that contain animal or insect secretions, or have been tested on animals.
Being vegan means fighting against all forms of animal abuse and exploitation. We believe that animals are not – and shouldn’t be treated as – commodities in any way.
We’re less about the food, and more about not causing suffering, harm, or death to innocent beings.
A plant-based diet focuses on eating whole plant foods and cutting out animal-based foods – it is focused on health, and not ethics.
Those who eat plant-based are generally looking to prevent or reverse chronic illnesses with the help of whole plant foods.
Plant-based eaters also prefer their food in the original, nutrient-dense plant form: unprocessed and unrefined. So although Oreos are vegan, they wouldn’t be considered plant-based.
Food writer and author Ella Woodward is known for her blog, ‘Deliciously Ella‘, which promotes plant-based eating. While purposely not branding herself as a vegan, she is still unintentionally adding momentum to the vegan cause.
However, plant-based dieters won’t concern themselves with the exploitation of animals. In other words, not eating animals does not automatically make you vegan.
The ‘v’ word
Some actively choose to stray away from the word ‘vegan’.
For many companies – and people – it has been deemed as a dirty word. Some stay away from it simply because they don’t want to be associated with the commitment and occasional backlash that comes with it.
Companies may produce a vegan product, but will label it ‘plant-based’, because they fear market rejection.
Similarly, individuals will say they’re ‘plant-based’ in an attempt to not be associated with the ‘preachy, annoying (sandal and sock-wearing?) vegans’.
Veganism is currently the hot topic – Jeremy Corbyn eats a vegan meal? It makes the front page of every newspaper on the stand.
It’s a new and exciting term for many people, who genuinely don’t know what veganism is. When you’re in what I like to think of as ‘the vegan bubble’, it can be all too easy to forget that for most people, veganism is quite a revolutionary – and confusing – topic.
So this means people make mistakes, they mix up veganism with plant-based. Should we get angry? Does that serve a purpose – or should we use these instances as an opportunity for some effective advocacy?
I would like to live in a world where ‘vegan’ takes over ‘plant-based’ – one where people know that eating animals is unnecessary and archaic, regardless of their motivation.
Plant-based eaters shouldn’t be cast aside; they are still part of an ever-growing movement that is saving lives.
And if part of that is using the terms interchangeably – would that be so bad?
While the moral case for vegans is stronger, plant-based eaters shouldn’t be put down.
‘Don’t call yourself vegan, you’re just plant-based’ doesn’t embody what the vegan belief system is all about: compassion.
Instead of calling people selfish, educate them if necessary – but ultimately, it’s each to their own.
People’s motivation for adopting a plant-based, or a vegan diet, is different.
I went vegan for the animals. Some found veganism by learning about the health benefits first. And others ditched animal products simply because they don’t want to see the planet turn to sh!t.
What matters is that we’re all sparing the lives of hundreds of beings, while also enjoying other benefits as a bonus.
I hope one day everyone will be motivated by ethics – until then, every step away from animal products is a step in the right direction.