Not a diet, but rather, a world view.
Veganism is currently defined as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it from food, clothing, or any other purpose.
A plant-based diet is a way of eating that focuses on -- you guessed it -- plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
Where veganism is an ethical position against the oppression of sentient beings, plant based refers to one's dietary preferences.
The animals humans eat, use in science, hunt, trap, and exploit in a variety of ways, have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us. They are not only in the world, they are aware of it. What happens to them matters to them. Each has a life that fares better or worse for the one whose life it is.
Tom Regan, Animal Rights Activist
The term 'vegan' is defined as "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 humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
The meaning of the word 'vegan' excludes the possibility of perfection, and vegans themselves understand they cannot hold their philosophical position absolutely. However, this understanding in no way prevents them from making significant, positive changes in the world by choosing not to harm other sentient beings when and where they can.
Vegans see life as a phenomenon to be treasured, revered and respected. We do not see animals as either "the enemy" to be subdued, or the materials for food, fabric or fun that were put on Earth for human use.
Vegans see themselves as a part of the natural world, rather than its owners or its masters.
Veganism understands that gentleness cannot be a product of violence, harmony cannot be a product of strife, and peace cannot be a product of contention and conflict.
Copied from www.all-creatures.org. Reprinted with permission of Dr. Stanley Sapon
Stanley M, Sapon, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics at the University of Rochester (N.Y.), where he was Director of the Verbal Behavior Laboratory and the Child Language Development Center. Since earning his Doctorate at Columbia University in 1949, he has taught at universities in this country and abroad, and carried out extensive research in learning at Harvard University and the University of California Los Angeles. He was Director of Research in Verbal Behavior at the Britannica Center for Studies in Learning in Palo Alto, California.
Dr. Sapon has been an active proponent of a vegan lifestyle for 28 years, and his extensive writings have earned him respect as a vegan philosopher. In 1989, he and his wife Rhoda founded the Rochester Area Vegetarian Society. As dedicated hunger activists, they established, and continue to direct, the Maimonides Project- a grassroots hunger action organization. They have both served as members of the Board of Trustees of the North American Vegetarian Society.
John Muir, talking about the natural environment, once observed "Every time I bend down to pick something up, I find it is connected to something else." There is an equivalent "ecology" to our behavior. Everything we do connects to something else; every action touches on the world around us, either close at hand and noticeable, or far away and unperceived, immediate in its effect or distant in time.
Vegan ideals encompass much more than advocacy of a diet free of animal products, or a fervent defense of animal rights. Veganism excludes no sentient being---animal or human---from its commitment to compassionate, gentle benevolence. To show tender regard for the suffering of animals, yet treat humans with callous contempt, is a disheartening contradiction of vegan principles.
If veganism has a prime value, it is simply that life-respecting compassion overrides individual issues of custom, convenience, comfort or cuisine.
If there is one single concept that both generates and sustains the meaning and the power of the vegan worldview, it is found in the word mindfulness. As vegans, we strive to be thoughtful, aware and concerned about the impact of our choices, our actions and our decisions. The fruit of this awareness is inner peace, the quiet strength of ethical confidence, and an uplifting sense of fulfillment.
The term 'philosophy' is often used to mean a set of basic values and attitudes toward life, nature and society. In this sense, veganism is a "philosophy of life," guided by an essential core of values and principles: