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A vegan is a person who avoids as far as possible the use of any animal products for nourishment or for any other purpose. A vegan product is one that is free of all animal ingredients. Thus, vegans are a subset of vegetarians. The word vegan, derived from VEGetariAN in 1944, when Elsie Shrigley[?] and Donald Watson[?] created the Vegan Society[?], is commonly pronounced vee-gun by its adherents.

Animal products include all forms of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, fur, leather, wool, silk, and byproducts such as gelatin, rennet, whey, and the like. The Vegan Society and most vegans include insect products such as honey in their definition as well. There is some debate on the finer points of what constitutes an animal product; some vegans avoid cane sugar that has been filtered with bone char and some won't drink beers and wines clarified with egg whites or isinglass[?] (even though they are not present in the final product). Further, some vegans won't eat food cooked in pans if they have ever been used to cook meat, while other vegans are content to simply remove meat, fish, eggs, and milk from their diets.

The term vegan was originally coined to differentiate those vegetarians who (primarily for ethical or environmental reasons) sought to eliminate animal products in all areas of their lives from those who simply avoided them in their diet. Today, however, there are some distinctions between different vegans based primarily on their motivation for following a vegan lifestyle.

"Dietary vegans" avoid animal products in their food although some are less than strict about "minor" ingredients such as honey. Dietary vegans generally choose this path for health-related reasons and do not necessarily feel strongly about animal rights.

"Ethical vegans" use as their primary motivation the concept of reducing animal suffering. Rooted in utilitarian philosophy, as expressed by authors such as Jeremy Bentham and Peter Singer, ethical veganism is the belief that humans have a moral obligation to avoid causing suffering to any other living creature. Animals are seen to have the same inherent rights as humans to a life as free from suffering as possible. Therefore ethical vegans not only avoid eating meat and dairy products but also avoid the use of any product whose production involves the suffering of animals. Depending on one's level of commitment this can include not using certain medicines because they are tested for safety on animals. Some feel so strongly about it that they refuse to have their picture taken because most films are made with gelatin. While there continues to be a debate within the vegan community regarding these issues, the overall goal of ethical veganism is to reduce animal suffering to the greatest extent possible. For this reason many vegans are also supportive of the animal rights movement.

A 1997 Roper Poll estimated the number of vegans in the U.S. to be between one-half and two million.

There are several diets similar to veganism, though stemming from different philosophy, including fructarianism, raw foods, and the macrobiotic diet. There are also numerous religious groups that regularly or occasionally practice a similar diet, including some sects of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Christian sects including the Eastern Orthodox church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

According to the American Dietetic Association[?]'s position paper on vegetarian diets, vegans eating a varied diet have ample sources of nutrients, but vegans should pay attention to intake of vitamin B12. There is a lot of evidence however that indicates it is not difficult to acquire sufficient levels of B12 provided one consumes a variety of foods that are supplemented with it. This includes many kinds of rice, soy milk[?], yeast extracts, breakfast cereals, and breads. Vegans generally have lower calcium intake than non-vegetarians but may have lower calcium requirements as well.

See also

External links

(See also external links on the vegetarianism page.)

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