Vegan is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions are sometimes made between several categories of vegan. Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances. The term ethical vegan is often applied to those who not only follow a vegan diet but extend the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and oppose the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the harvesting or industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
Donald Watson coined the term vegan in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England. At first he used it to mean "non-dairy vegetarian", but from 1951 the society defined it as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals". Interest in veganism increased in the 2010s. More vegan stores opened, and vegan options became increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants in many countries. Vegans primarily eat grains and other seeds, legumes (particularly beans), fruits, vegetables, edible mushrooms, & nuts. In claims of a common source of plant protein, vegans also consume plant milks, nut cheese, meat substitutes (mock meats) based on soybeans (tofu), wheat-based seitan/gluten, egg substitutes & others usually in the form of processed vegan meat, mince, and veggie burgers. Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron and phytochemicals, and lower in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Well-planned vegan diets can reduce the risk of some types of chronic disease, including heart disease.
Dietary vegans might use animal products in clothing (as leather, wool, and silk), toiletries and similar. Ethical veganism extends not only to matters of food but also to the wearing or use of animal products. The British Vegan Society will certify a product only if it is free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical, including animal testing. Animal products in common use include albumen, allantoin, beeswax, blood, bone china, carmine, casein, castoreum, cochineal, elastin, emu oil, gelatin, isinglass, keratin, lactic acid, lanolin, lard, rennet, retinol, shellac, squalene, tallow/sodium tallowate, whey & yellow grease. Some of these are chemical compounds that can be derived from animal products, plants, or petrochemicals. Allantoin, lactic acid, retinol and squalene, for example, can be vegan. These products and their origins are not always included in the list of ingredients.
Some vegans will not buy woollen jumpers, silk scarves, leather shoes, bedding that contains goose down or duck feathers, ordinary soap (usually made of animal fat), or cosmetics that contain animal products. They avoid certain vaccines; the flu vaccine, for example, is usually grown in hens' eggs, although an effective alternative, Flublok, is widely available in the United States. Non-vegan items acquired before they became vegan might be donated to charity or used until worn out. Some vegan clothes, in particular leather alternatives, are made of petroleum-based products, which has triggered criticism because of the environmental damage involved in their production.