What are the differences between vegetarians and vegans? Of course, besides the obvious — vegetarians eat eggs and dairy and vegans don’t. Here’s my list:

Vegetarians have friends and vegans have comrades.

Waiters love vegetarians, vegans? Not so much.

Vegetarians have no idea how many animals are slaughtered for food every year. Vegans know it’s 10 billion land animals in the United States.

Vegetarians think you have to properly combine proteins in order to survive, vegans think you can live happily on pomegranates for the rest of your life. (Both wrong. Read “The Starch Solution” by Dr. John McDougall.)

Vegetarians tend toward the “different strokes for different folks” philosophy. Vegans can get, well, vicious, if they see somebody eating a hot dog.

Vegetarians don’t get too upset about chicken broth hiding in the minestrone soup, vegans DO get upset about chicken broth hiding in the minestrone soup.

Vegetarians don’t worry about their feet going to hell if they wear leather shoes. Vegans have learned to, if not love plastic and canvas footwear, at least get along with it.

Vegetarians hold on to the hope that “cage free” means chickens happily running about in a barnyard. Vegans don’t approve even if your companion chicken is a rescue and you feed its eggs to hungry school children.

Vegetarians look at ice cream and see, well, ice cream. Vegans look at ice cream and see a male dairy calf confused and crying for his mother in the corner of a darkened veal stall.

Vegetarians can go to dinner parties where meat is served without making a big deal out of it. Vegans go to dinner parties where meat is served and do make a big deal out of it, while trying really hard not to make a big deal out of it.

OK enough with the differences. What about the similarities between these two factions of the animal liberation movement?

Both vegetarians and vegans care about animals. Both vegetarians and vegans care about personal and public health. Both vegetarians and vegans care about the environment. And when you think about it, meat-eaters also care about animals, personal and public health and the environment.

Vegans and vegetarians forget that we, too, ate hot dogs, bacon and burgers before giving them up.

Vegans forget that most of us consumed Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream, Cheez-its and egg nog long before giving those up.

And meat-eaters forget that their vegan and/or vegetarian friend is actually a nice person underneath all that damned proselytizing.

Vegetarianism is REALLY important to the movement. Vegetarianism allows people who have concerns about the animal foods industry to still make a BIG contribution. They save animals and lessen global warming. And even your basic meat, cheese, fish and egg eater can even make a BIG contribution just by refraining from meat on Mondays.

Go vegan! Go vegetarian! Go Meatless Monday!

— A Vicious Vegan blog post —


  1. Nice piece Leslie, though as a vegetarian who, BTW, has lots of vegan Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc., etc. I would say that though I am happy that you acknowledge the alliances between all of us humans who eat food, that you characterize our differences in stereotypical ways that are not necessarily true, at least not for this 43 years and counting vegetarian mom of two almost 16 year old vegetarians since birth. There is so much more nuance and differing contexts for much of what we both care about deeply.

  2. I realize this might have been an attempt at humor, but the difference between vegetarian and vegan is that vegetarians are on a diet, but vegans do everything possible and practical to eliminate ALL forms of animal exploitation.

    A vegetarian has not unlearned speciesism, so they still exploit other animals in a variety of ways. A vegan has unlearned speciesism and is opposed to ALL exploitation and other avoidable harms. A vegan does not look at other animals as property or sources of food, materials, labor, entertainment, test subjects or any other goods or services. A vegan looks at his/her fellow earthlings with respect.

    1. Dear Lisa,

      Yes, this was my attempt at humor! I really appreciated reading your thoughts about all this. I think it is a provocative topic.

      To be honest, these blog posts are a way for me personally to work through some thorny issues.

      I have a hard time accepting the vegetarianism of others. I agree with the pig in the drawing, “Is this all you can do?” but I also know it’s extremely important for animals and for the environment that we not alienate vegetarians and, for that matter, we not alienate carnists with our commitment and passion.

      What convinced me of this was reading a few books: “Living Amongst Meat Eaters” by Carol Adams; “A Change of Heart” by Nick Cooney and most recently, “Strategic Action for Animals” by Melanie Joy. I really, really, really hope you’ll find the time to read at least one of these. (They’re not hard to get through.)

      The work we’re doing is so important! Every single person we come in contact with is an opportunity to help animals! And every contact we have gives us a chance to develop our strength of character.

      Thank you for writing me! Keep the faith.



      PS. Do you volunteer for Vegan Outreach? It can be fun and enlightening. Also you write well — have you thought of starting your own blog?

  3. I love the last few paragraphs! I’m very much of the ‘any change is a step in the right direction school’. A lovely, gentle tease of us all 🙂

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