Q. What's the difference between Vegetarian and Vegan?
A. A Vegan won't eat any products that are derived from animals, including eggs and dairy products. You won't find honey on a Vegan's shopping list either.
You may ask "Why those products, when the animal hasn't been killed in the process? Well ... many farming processes used to "harvest" these products are inhumane and cause great stress on the animals. For example, egg laying hens are often farmed in appallingly cramped living conditions, while dairy cows are kept in a permanent state of pregnancy, which means they are artificially inseminated. Their foetuses are aborted to create a constant yield of milk. In fact, a dairy cow will only live for around 4 years of her normal 20+ year lifespan. Once the amount of milk a dairy cow produces declines, it is unprofitable to keep her alive so she is sent to slaughter.
Vegans will not use or wear leather goods or any product derived from dead animals. In fact, to be a proper vegetarian you should also abstain from buying leather goods because if you don't eat animals for ethical / compassionate reasons you shouldn't wear "dead ones" either. Remember, the humane ethics are identical in both cases.
For more info about other terms associated with veggie-based diets (and others that you shouldn't confuse vegetarianism with), read step No 2 - becoming veggie
Q. What does "Veg*n" mean?
A. Although it's an abbreviation which may have originally been devised through the origins of this site, Veg*n is now often used across many veggie organizations and websites. It's simply a shortened way to describe "vegetarians" and "vegans" combined into one word, and its easier when describing an issue that simultaneously covers both plant-based diet options.
(what is vegetarian cheese?):
Q. Why are some cheeses OK for vegetarians and others not?
A. Many cheeses contain animal rennet, which is an enzyme often made from the stomach of calves and lambs. For example, some cheddar and traditional parmesan cheeses contain animal rennet.
However, rennet is also obtained from vegetables, such as cardoons. In the UK more cheddar cheeses are being made using vegetable derived rennet (but check the labelling to make sure). There is absolutely no difference in the taste between cheeses that are made with either animal or vegetable rennet. Animal rennet is a cheap byproduct of animal slaughter.
The other thing to watch out with cheeses is if "pepsin" has been used in the making process. Pepsin is an enzyme from the stomach lining of pigs and is also used in preparation of some other foods containing protein. The problem is that "pepsin" may not show up on a cheese ingredients listing, even if the cheese doesn't contain rennet.
ALWAYS look on the label when buying cheese to make sure it's suitable for veggies. Remember, if you eat cheeses that contain dead animals you are NOT vegetarian.
See more on food suitability at "Watch Out For"
Wine and Beer
(what is vegetarian wine?):
Note for VeggieGlobal Kids - This is for grownups! so pass on the info to your veggie parents or guardians - because they need to know!
Q. Why are some wines and beers OK for vegetarians and others not?Protein, Calcium & Iron.
A. Many wines and some beers contain clearing agents made from parts of animals and fish. For example, wine usually undergoes a process called "fining". Centuries of tradition in wine making have developed many different ways to apply fining. In its most natural course this is achieved by letting the soapy appearance of wine disperse simply by gravity. However gravity fining takes time and isn't favoured commercially. So to speed up the process, fining agents are commonly used instead and include animal derived:
In fact, a very few red wines still contain blood. Because there are so many winemakers, large and small, throughout the world - and some of these more obscure than others - it's hard to determine whether blood is always used as a fining process, or else to give red wine a deeper colour. The use of blood in wine-making is banned in France and USA.
Isinglass is mainly used in the fining of beers, often at the end of the brewing process. Isinglass is often sourced from the bladders of sturgeon fish - but can also be derived from cod. The dramatic decline of both these species means they are at high risk of becoming extinct. Sturgeon (from which caviar comes from) are a focus of concern for CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)
At VeggieGlobal we understand how difficult it is to determine which wines are veggie and which aren't - but we urge you to always ask your wine/beer merchant if they can tell you if the wine/beer you choose is vegetarian or not. Surprisingly, many wine/beer merchants don't even realize that many of these drinks contain dead animals! And remember, just because you see wines labelled as "organic" certainly doesn't mean it's animal friendly!
See more on food suitability at "Watch Out For"
Q. Do I need protein, iron and calcium to stay healthy?Organic
A. Most of them, but read all of the following ...
IMPORTANT NOTE: the following information is for guidance only. If you suffer from any nutritional deficiency or medical condition relative to your diet, you should seek advice from your medical practitioner to make sure that your vegetarian diet is tailored to your individual needs.
Proteins. It's a complete myth that veg*ns lack proper proteins.
Protein itself is not essential to your diet (unless you are a body builder), but slow releasing carbohydrates are essential such as brown rice and pasta. The natural intake of proteins ingested through a normal vegetarian diet is more than enough for an average person. Think about it ... a cow eats just grass, but a steak is full of protein! In other words, we create protein from within our own bodies. Protein simply adds bulk and this is why meat-eaters are normally fatter than veggies - but even vegetarians can be podgy too! (By the way, if you are an overweight vegetarian, then exercise gives quicker results than if you are a meat eater.)
Note: A report by the British Lancet said that animal fat consumption raises the risk of breast cancer among women, but vegetable fats do not.
Calcium intake can be essential and is traditionally found in dairy produce, milk for example. This has always been a so-called convenient source of calcium, but if you are moving away from dairy products, there are many soya milk or rice milk products available fortified with calcium. However, when you buy soya products, make sure that the soy beans the manufacturer uses are not from unregulated plantations created by destroying rain forests and subsequently the animals that lived there.
In fact, green leafy vegetables and fortified orange juice also provide plentiful amounts of calcium and with far fewer calories. In a study of American children between 9 and 14 it was found that cows milk leads to significant weight gain. It was also shown that most children of Asian and African origins are lactose intolerant.
Additional calcium based supplements may be necessary for some people. (Check with your doctor or dietitian) If so, make sure to source calcium supplements that are suitable for vegetarians.
Note: Only buy supplements which are not encased in gelatin bases capsules. Always read the label contents for vegetarian suitability.
Iron. Most importantly, with any vegetarian diet, keep up your iron intake.
Eat plenty of dark green vegetables i.e. broccoli, spinach and green salads, preferably eaten with tomatoes which contains vitamin C. Vitamin C helps absorb iron into the body. Or follow an iron rich meal with oranges, other citrus fruits or juices. You'll find more details on this at our nutrition guide
TIP: Don't boil your vegetables or microwave them! This destroys nearly 100 percent of all the nutrients. Lightly steam vegetables instead - this way they will only loose around 18 percent of their goodness.
Note: The Glyceamic Index is an important reference to help get you through a full day without your all important blood sugar levels dropping. You'll find details on this at our nutrition guide
Q. When food is labelled organic (or Bio) does it mean it's automatically suitable for veggies?Jewellery and Veg*ns
Organic is the trendy buzz word - now over-hyped by many manufacturers. In Europe you'll see the term "Bio" which means the same thing as "Organic". In many cases, things which contain animal products are advertised as organic or bio. Don't be fooled into thinking that you are being ethically conscientious just because you eat only organic foods ... half of them might have cost the life of an animal. Organic is a great movement in principle, but use your initiative to see through the hype and therefore understand the ethical and humane advantages of its real meaning.
Organic standards differ greatly depending on which country you live in and which standards organisation is tied in with the product. Many products are just called organic or bio but with no specific regulation being applied - so watch out for products claiming to be organic which aren't!
Whatever the contentions surrounding the organic or bio revolution, VeggieGlobal encourages you choose organic fruit and vegetables whenever you can - Organic contains far more nutrients and your body doesn't have to work so hard to rid itself of all the artificial chemicals normally found in non-organic fruit and veg. A healthier choice all round.
Q. Is all jewellery suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans?Fish Oils (Omega 3)
Pearls, coral, leather and even more controversially elephant hair are all used in the jewellery industry. Along with this, their are many aspects of the jewellery making process which involves the use of tools and supplements derived from animals. The environmental impact linked to jewellery crafting, and thus the displacement of animal life, must also be considered before a vegetarian buys a piece of jewellery which may superficially appear to be veg*n friendly.
Both natural and cultivated pearls are harvested from mussels, oysters or scallops. All such clams (bivalve molluscs) are killed to retrieve the pearl. Even some imitation pearls can be made from coral or conch - both which are sea creatures.
Although elephant hair jewellery has traditionally been harvested from the ground around trees where elephants have rubbed their bottoms on the tree-trunks, there is a considerable risk that the hair has also come from poached elephants. You can read more about the ethical risks of using or wearing elephant hair jewellery here.
Although not directly animal related, a lot of amber for jewellery is extracted from the Baltic region in a manner that's very harmful to the environment. Apart from the mining process itself, the sea in the locality of the mining process is heavily polluted by millions of tons of waste, destroying sea-life in its wake. The destruction caused by one of the largest amber mines has been measured as "one of the biggest culprits in the environmental crime of anthropogenic suspended material explusion", according to a report by the Trade and Environment Database.
As you may know, VeggieGlobal regularly reminds its visitors that detrimental effects to the ocean is a major cause of planetary deterioration. When buying amber products make sure it has come from traditional gathering methods and ethically processed for use as jewellery.
The mining of gems and precious metals is now commonly known to be associated with human rights issues ... but dig deeper and the environmental cost to the earth caused by any form of gem and precious metal extraction (fair-trade or not) continues to cause a ecological catastrophe which is cumulatively destroying once pristine environments and causing massive displacement of wildlife habitats; a combined area easily the size of two large European countries. Is it worth it ... all for the sake of vanity?
VeggieGlobal and our sister site Looking-Glass has been extensively researching the ethical / eco jewellery hyperbole spreading across the internet and have discovered a myriad of jewellery web sites claiming to be "responsible". But scratching beneath the sparkly, galvanized surface, we have found that an unhealthy number of ethical claims in jewellery making practices to be riddled with contradictions, half-truths or plain lies. With no proper regulation of how a jewellery seller, goldsmith or their suppliers can use the term "ethical", they lavish the customer with eco-friendly marketing jargon while keeping quite about the bulk of their business practice which isn't.
However, one small goldsmith atelier genuinely shines through as an ethical liberation in the art of fine jewellery making; embracing the true meaning of such words by illiminating every questionably unethical aspect of the making process down to fine details that most wouldn't even have considered - and all without any compromise in quality. As an "Eden" for lovers of true ethical arts; Designer goldsmith Kerstin Laibaich offers a sincerely genuine ethical approach, hand crafting very high quality bespoke, sculptural jewellery based on unique principles ... Atelier Laibach is so green to the point that we have endorsed it with VeggieGlobal honours as the planet's most unique and genuine ethical goldsmith ... and have been happy to lend much support towards its ethical mission.
All Laibach jewellery is of course vegan friendly and the Atelier has also designed a beautiful collection of veg*n inscribed jewellery. www.kerstinlaibach.com/vegan
"The reality is that all raw extraction of stones and metals leave environmental scars and displaces / destroys habitats and ecosystems wherever and however it takes place. There is absolutely no process which can genuinely claim to the contrary" ... "the only way in which ecological full-proofing can be achieved is if gold and precious stone extraction ceases completely" .
Atelier Laibach ... www.kerstinlaibach.com
Useful external link on amber extraction:
Q. Do I need Omega 3 from fish oil to stay healthy?
Although "Omega 3" is often considered an essential oil, you certainly don't need to kill a fish to obtain it.
You can source a far more refined and even safer form of Omega 3 from flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Either snack on pumpkin seeds or walnuts on a daily basis or buy ready-made organic Omega 3 oils and pour over salads, pastas, pizzas - or anything else you fancy.
Omega 3 is an EFA (essential fatty acid), and various studies have often suggested that an Omega 3 enriched diet can help reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure, cut the risk of cancer and even help memory loss.
In fact the list seems endless as to what researchers claim to be the benefits of Omega 3!
However, in 2006 the UK's University of East Anglia reviewed 90 studies which found no clear evidence that Omega 3 fats where of any use at all. Those studies suggested that Omega 3 did nothing to prevent a recurrence of chronic heart conditions, and excessive amounts from eating too much fish even increased the risk of heart disease. In fact, fish turns out to be the source of Omega 3 to stay clear of; Oily fish was shown to be potentially unsafe to eat because of high levels of contaminated pollutants, such as dioxins, PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) and mercury.
NOTE: High levels of PCBs and dioxins can affect the development of an unborn baby.
When it comes to determining the true benefits of Omega 3 fat, most scientists admit that it's still difficult to tell for sure either way, and research continues to try and discover the true benefits of this unique "essential oil".
VeggieGlobal suggests that Omega 3 oils sourced from vegetables (nuts, pumpkin seed etc) is a wise choice and a moderate amount of the oil should be consumed daily through these natural sources to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
Reminder: You are NOT vegetarian if you eat fish.
NOTE / DISCLAIMER: Always consult your medical practitioner before embarking on any changes to your diet.
Q. What Food Additives are suitable for Veg*ns?
A. This is a complex question to answer.
Even though a list of additives may be present on a food or beauty product, it's almost impossible to determine if the additive has been derived from an animal or vegetable source. This is because an additive with the same name can be made using different source materials. If you would like to find out more about which additives may or may not be suitable for veg*ns, see our Non-Vegetarian Food Additives List. To help eliminate this confusion you can also vote on our Ethical Labelling Campaign