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Vegetarianism and Veganism

When it comes to the choice of diet – it is up to each one of us as individuals to make those decisions for ourselves. The only way we can make a decision that is in our best interest is to be informed because that enables ‘informed decision making’. Whether you are currently a omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, you need to be informed as to the benefits and harm these diets have for you, your family, the environment and the ecosystem at all levels. We need to take responsibility for being informed, for researching widely the impacts of each diet choice. When we know what is ‘right’ for us, we need to have the conviction to act and follow through.

From an ethical point of view a vegan diet based on organic foods is one of the best options. Vegetarianism is also an ethical choice. Most people who have a vegan or vegetarian diet do so for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. But what do we mean by ‘vegan’ and ‘vegetarian’?

Vegetarianism implies a diet based wholly on foods deriving from plant sources, including those crops which are commonly recognised as fruits and vegetables – the staple of the diet – plus the concentrated nuclei of crops in the form of seeds, nuts, pulses, (peas, beans, and lentils), and grains.

Although the term ‘vegetarian’, implies total abstinence from animal flesh, or animal products, from fish, fowl, insect or any other living creature, either alive or dead, modern vegetarians include animal products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, and eggs – in reality, all they exclude from their diet is animal flesh from any animal, fish, fowl, insect or any other living creature. They place no restriction on animal by-products such as leather, fur, wool.

The term ‘vegan’ has undergone a similar dilution in recent years. A strict vegan diet excludes all animal flesh, or animal products, from fish, fowl, insect or any other living creature, either alive or dead. This includes not using other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products. Today, people call themselves vegan if they follow a vegetarian diet but exclude milk, dairy products, and eggs.

Most people who choose either a vegan or vegetarian diet and lifestyle, do so to promote a more humane and caring world. In our current culture it is difficult to follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet. Many people have therefore called themselves vegetarian or vegan even when they are not adhering to the conditions of the definition. Both terms are ‘feel good’ terms. It is unfortunate that this overuse and misuse of the terms has occurred because what word do we now use to describe for a diet and lifestyle that strictly adheres to the original definition of vegetarian.

Other terms in common usage are lacto-vegetarian which is a vegetarian diet plus cheese and other dairy products and ovo-lactovegetarian which is a vegetarian diet plus cheese and other diary products and eggs.

Many parents wonder if a vegetarian diet is appropriate for children. A vegetarian diet provides an excellent nutrition for all stages of childhood, from birth through to adolescence. Eating habits are set in early childhood, and vegetarian diets give your child the chance to learn to enjoy a variety of wonderful, nutritious foods.

In the US the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine developed ‘The New Four Food Groups’ – whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes – as a healthy alternative to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and the old Basic Four. This new food group plan promotes a low-fat, 100 percent vegetarian diet, and it supplies all of an average person’s daily requirements.

Whole Grains:

Bread, rice, pasta, corn, millet, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, tortillas. Grains are rich in fibre and other complex carbohydrates as well as protein, B vitamins and zinc.


Vegetables are rich in nutrients: vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, calcium, fibre,phytochemicalsglyconutrients, and other vitamins.


Fruits are rich in fibre, vitamin C, beta-carotene, phytochemicals, and glyconutrients.


Beans, , lentils. Legumes are a good source of fibre, protein, iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins.

Vegetarians need to ensure they have adequate vitamin B12. This vitamin is not produced by plants or animals, but rather by bacteria and other single-celled organisms. Bacteria in the soil may contribute traces of B12 to root vegetables, and Asian foods such as tempeh and miso may contain significant amounts. B12 is often lost from food during modern processing that destroy the bacteria that make B12.