There’s surprisingly a lot of controversy around this question. There are different types of vegetarians:
- lacto-ovo-vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy (some people don’t eat eggs or dairy or both… see below)
- raw foodies who only eat raw, non-cooked foods (nothing over 115 degree, some may eat raw fish and therefore aren’t, by my definition, a vegetarian)
- vegans who don’t eat any animal products (no Jell-O or gummies, no dairy, no eggs, some don’t even eat honey because bees have feelings too!)
- and many more
As a basic definition, a vegetarian is someone who chooses not to eat meat or other animal products for a particular reason. Some do it because of their religions, some because of their morals, others for health reasons.
Someone who occasionally eats meat or fish is not a vegetarian. This lack of distinction in the “accepted” definition of a vegetarian bothers me slightly. When someone offers me fish and says, “Oh, but you still eat seafood, right?” The answer is no. I eat no meat, and I try to stay away from other animal-based products besides dairy and eggs from humanely treated animals (check out my post on Certified Humane).
This is one of my favorite posts on the subject from a vegetarian blogger I follow:
I don’t care if you want to eat meat. (I really, really don’t.) But I do kind of care if you want to eat meat and still call yourself a vegetarian. You are not and you are confusing the restaurant industry about what the rest of us are willing to consume. It is because of you that when I ask for vegetarian recommendations at a restaurant that I am met with an eye roll and an offer for the fish of the day. Or the soup that “only has chicken broth in it.” I’m talking to all of you who only eat fish or only eat fish and chicken or only eat fish and chicken and that pot roast your grandmother makes and pepperoni pizza rolls when you’re drunk. Just be an omnivore. It’s ok.
She makes some good points in this blog that both vegetarians and non-vegetarians-claiming-to-be-vegetarians are guilty of:
No one cares that you’re a vegetarian. No one. I know it can be a very exciting lifestyle change at first and you want everyone in the world to know how wonderful you feel and how terrible the livestock industry is and how the cow that was the burger they just ate was probably stabbed in the throat and left to bleed out on the kill floor. But they don’t want to hear it. Do you want to hear lectures about how you’re not getting enough protein as a vegetarian? About how soy will kill you? No? Then stop lecturing meat eaters about eating meat. Live and let live.
I try not to badger other people about their food choices. It can be hard, but defending my choices against hostile questioning or mean remarks should be a reminder to bite my tongue and live and let live.
Stay tuned for some resources for those interested in learning more about vegetarianism or those considering eliminating meat and animal products from your diet.