‘Vegan’ or ‘Plant-Based’? A Kind Way of Life Versus a Misleading Label

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3 min read

What’s the difference between the terms vegan and plant-based? To get to the root of it, vegan MEANS something—plant-based doesn’t.

person shopping and looking at a label for the word 'vegan'

Digging Into the Details: ‘Vegan’ vs. ‘Plant-Based’

Just as it’s important to know the distinction between vegetarian and vegan, it’s crucial to grasp the difference between plant-based and vegan. Vegan means having respect for all our fellow animals and never using them for experimentation, food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose. Plant-based can be a misleading, wishy-washy marketing term that’s ambiguous about the presence of animal-derived ingredients.

Plant-based has become a buzzword because of its trendy association with health and wellness. Some nonvegan companies have exploited the popularity of vegan foods by slapping “plant-based” labels on products that contain eggs, dairy, and even meat.

Plant-based products aren’t necessarily vegan, so that label can be deceptive. Going vegan and ensuring that nothing you purchase—whether it’s food or anything else—supports animal exploitation is the best way to be a compassionate consumer. But being vegan doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. It’s not about personal purity or worrying over .000001% of a product’s ingredients—it simply means always doing your best.

Not Your Mom Not Your Milk cow

Much of the mainstream discourse about these terms comes from economics and marketing publications interested in boosting sales of plant-based products. These outlets are rarely concerned about the most compelling reason for people to be vegan: respect for our fellow animals.

chickens crammed into cages at a factory farm

An international survey has shown vegan to be the more consistently understood term, revealing that consumers don’t understand what plant-based means and recommending labeling products “vegan” when appropriate. PETA urges companies to make those labels big and bold.

Parting With ‘Plant-Based’: PETA Is Making ‘Vegan’ Mainstream

With over four decades of dedicated advocacy resulting in countless major victories for animals, PETA is doing everything possible to make the word vegan mainstream in a positive way—just as we’re intent on exposing speciesism and ending it.

PETA is leaning away from the term plant-based. We’re passionate about promoting the importance of being vegan, especially to younger people, who have a natural affinity for animals and will one day be responsible for ensuring their well-being.

a PETA-approved VEGAN label with white text over a black background

Being vegan benefits all animals, including humans, and helps do the following:

colorful pesto bowl

What You Can Do

Use the term vegan often to help normalize it. Pledge to go vegan—it’s easy with the help of PETA’s free vegan starter kit—and urge everyone you know to go vegan:

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