Vegan or Plant Based?
Why do we say vegan, and not plant based?
To answer this question, we need to ask ourselves why we say Vegan, and not “vegetable eater”, after all, we often call those who eat meat “meat eaters”.
Melanie Joy, in her book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism” argues that describing people by their actions alone can and does lead to a separation between action and morality, which she calls cognitive dissonance.
With this in mind, we call ourselves Vegans rather than “vegetable eaters” in an attempt to eschew this cognitive dissonance, that is to say, we’re not mindlessly eating plants - we’re eating them as an extension of our moral code and “bringing our ethics to the dinner table”.
Melanie argues that so-called “meat-eaters” also bring their ethics to the dinner table, and argues that if “vegan” is the ideology of plant eaters, then “carnist” should be the ideology of meat eaters.
Plant Based, I argue, is relevantly similar to saying “vegetable eater” or “plant eater”, it’s vegan with the ideology stripped away. It’s a description of a meal or a description of a behaviour, without any of the underpinning philosophy that goes with animal rights and animal liberation.
Ellen Jaffe Jones, described the origins of the term “Plant Based” as a shorthand that took the emphasis off what she called “the v word”, as calling food products “vegan” could be considered too extreme of a position, potentially scaring people away from the movement.
I argue that this movement has grown past the concern of scaring people away, vegan, or rather “plant based” is now so mainstream that I see it everywhere. Which is why it’s so important to keep saying Vegan, to keep animal rights at the core of this movement.
“Plant based” is less offensive for those who Melanie calls carnists, which is why we’re encouraged to use it, which is why so many companies choose to use it to promote their vegan (and, awkwardly, sometimes their non-vegan) offerings.
I’ve seen “Plant-Based” used to refer to Vegan Food, Ovo-Vegetarian food, Lacto-Vegetarian food and I’ve even seen it used to refer to food that contains fish meat, or chicken meat - it creates confusion.
We’re not just people who eat plants - we’re standing up against animal cruelty and animal slaughter. We bring our ethics to the dinner table every day, and the way we speak should reflect that, the way we speak should demonstrate that we’re proud of that.
- Jessica Bailey