vegan is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.
Distinctions are sometimes made between different types of vegans and veganism. A dietary vegan (or strict vegetarian) is one who eliminates animal products (not only meat and fish, but also dairy products, eggs and often honey, as well as other animal-derived substances) from their diet. The term ethical vegan or lifestyle vegan is often applied to someone who not only follows a vegan diet, but extends the vegan philosophy into other areas of their life. Another term used is environmental veganism, which refers to the rejection of animal products on the premise that the industrial exploitation of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
The term vegan was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”; the society also opposed the consumption of eggs. In 1951, the society extended the definition of veganism to mean “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals,” and in 1960 H. Jay Dinshah started the American Vegan Society, linking veganism to the Jain concept of ahimsa, the avoidance of violence against living things.
Veganism is a small but growing movement. In many countries the number of vegan restaurants is increasing, and some of the top athletes in certain endurance sportsâ€”for instance, the Ironman triathlon and the ultramarathonâ€”practise veganism, including raw veganism. Well-planned vegan diets have been found to offer protection against many degenerative conditions, including heart disease, and are regarded by the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada as appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle. Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals, and lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. Because plant foods tend not to contain significant amounts of B12, researchers agree that vegans should eat foods fortified with B12 or take a daily supplement.