Vegan or Plant-based – what’s the difference and does it matter?

Louise Palmer-Masterton from, Stem & Glory, comments:

People defining themselves as ‘vegan’ sometimes seem to take exception to the term plant-based. The term plant-based was coined to make plant-based appealing for health reasons without getting into the ethical debate, but does that mean that vegans are more ethical?

The term vegan was first coined in 1944 by Donald Watson and friends, although it wasn’t until the 80s that veganism was clearly defined. Essentially, veganism is about the abstention from animal products, not necessarily with reference to healthy foods, whereas whole-food plant-based is very much focussed around the health benefits of following the diet.

So, it looks like vegans do have the ethical high ground, but I would like to suggest that the term plant-based has contributed significantly to the rise in popularity of veganism, and that they share responsibility for the rise of interest in the vegan movement.

There is another huge factor in the growth of both movements, and that’s the environment. When I became vegan, it was for the animals but back then, in the same way that health was not a key driver for those adopting a vegan lifestyle, the environment also wasn’t mentioned. Most people I know now actively try to eat fewer animal products. But are these people eating more vegan food or more wholefood plant-based food? And is one better for the environment?

A friend that questioned my veganism years ago. He held up a processed vegan product and said to me ‘this doesn’t contain animals, but it does contain humans’. He made a good point. The life blood of humans goes into processing and manufacturing, and processing is wasted energy. The more you process a food product, the more energy you use.

So, on this point a wholefood plant-based diet is definitely better for the environment and healthier than a vegan diet containing processed foods.

However, both have made a huge contribution to the growth in the movement towards living in a more compassionate and sustainable world.

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