Are vegans more ethical than those defining as plant-based? And why do vegans sometimes have a go at people describing themselves as plant-based? This is something that comes up often at Stem & Glory, most recently because our new tagline is ‘Gloriously Plant-based. I get asked quite frequently, does this mean I have abandoned veganism?
I find that curious as, for me, they are the same. In fact, if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, Stem & Glory is all about whole food plant-based ingredients, ethically sourced, low carbon, circular, compassionate and cruelty-free. So, is that vegan or plant-based? And what’s the difference anyway?
The term vegan was first coined in 1944 by Donald Watson (founder of the Vegan Society) and friends, although it wasn’t until the 80s that veganism was clearly defined:
“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…”
Interestingly, Dr. T. Colin Campbell coined the term ‘plant-based around the same time, following research which showed the therapeutic impact of a low-fat, high-fibre, vegetable-based diet on cancer.
In other words, veganism is about the abstention from animal products, not necessarily with reference to healthy foods, whereas whole-food plant-based is very much focussed on the health benefits of following the diet.
It looks like vegans do have the ethical high ground, but from that perspective, it looks like my business is neither vegan nor wholefood plant-based, but rather vegan AND wholefood plant-based.
Looking at my own evolution within the movement, in the early 80s, veganism was very fringe, and plant-based unheard of. But through the 80s and 90s people’s consciousness started to shift and, once we turned the corner into the noughties, the term plant-based began to break into the mainstream.
But it was as we moved into the ‘Teenies’ that the movement, and the term, suddenly started to gain traction. But is it a bad thing for the vegan movement that the term plant-based was popularised? I would suggest that the term plant-based has contributed significantly to the rise in popularity of veganism, and that they share responsibility for the rise of interest in the vegan movement.
So please, wholefood plant-based and vegan people, make your peace with each other. You have both made a huge contribution to the growth in the movement.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Palmer-Masterton is the founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible wholefood plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients. Stem & Glory also offers a range of ready meals and recipe kits available for delivery across the UK. www.stemandglory.uk