What is the difference between plant based and vegan?

I do get asked this a lot. When people find out that I follow a vegan lifestyle, they almost always ask ‘oh, so you must be plant based then”. Which then brings the discussion regarding what the difference is between ‘plant based’ and vegan’. So I thought it would be fun to open up the discussion here!

The main difference

After some research online, the general consensus seems to be that ‘plant based’ is a diet, whereas ‘vegan’ is a lifestyle choice. They are not exclusive though, as many people who follow a vegan lifestyle will also follow a largely plant based diet, but there are many vegans out there (and for the most part I would include myself in this) who do not follow a fully plant based diet, just as there are many who do eat a plant based diet who do not also follow a vegan lifestyle.

What does ‘vegan’ really mean?

The Vegan Society’s formal definition is: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

I also want to highlight that the Vegan Society definition is that veganism is a lifestyle – it is not just about what you eat. A plant based diet however is just that, a diet. While some lifestyle changes may be needed to always ensure you are eating a plant based meal, this diet only extends to one aspect of your life – what you eat.

Lifestyle vs diet

I for one will always say that I follow a vegan lifestyle, and not just the ‘vegan diet’ part of it all. I do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey or any other product that comes from an animal. I also do not wear leather, silk or fur and do my utmost to ensure that I do not buy any product at all that contains any sort of animal products – this can be anything from the type of glue I use in crafting projects to the type of laundry detergent I use.

A diet on the other hand, is purely the food. Now if you have read even the smallest part of my blog, you know full well that I am as far from p’plant based’ as one could possibly get. Now while this is something that I am working to change for my own health reasons, I do not follow a vegan diet purely for the health benefits that come with it. Quite frankly it has only been very recently that I actually started to take my own health seriously (which can be a discussion for another day). But from what I have been able to see online, those who do follow a purely plant based diet do it largely for their health. While animal welfare may be a concern of theirs, it is not the deciding factor. You will no doubt have seen the stories in the news of athletes and celebrities who follow a plant based diet who make a point of saying that this is purely for the health benefits that come with it. As mentioned above, you can be plant based but not vegan.

I always like to take the opportunity to highlight the part that says ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ because I think that this is very important to remember. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. It is a myth and a very damaging standard to try to achieve. If you need medication in order to simply get through the day, then take this even if it is tested on animals. If the only thing that gets you through hay-fever season is local honey or bee pollen, then take this. The way I like to think of veganism is that everyone should be doing their best, and this will look very different to everyone involved. At the end of the day, you have to be well enough in yourself in order to promote veganism in the way you want to, so if you don’t look after yourself for fear of being deemed an ‘imperfect vegan’ then you would never achieve anything.


It seems quite obvious that being ‘plant based’ and being ‘vegan’ are not exclusive, and there is of course a large degree of overlap between the two. But I also think that they need to be considered individually when you are first getting started on your own vegan or plant based journey, because the two terms can be used interchangeably and has even confused me a few times!

What do you guys all think? Please do leave a comment or even email me privately if you wish to add any comments or have any other questions you would like discussed.

T xx

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