Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans, also known as "strict vegetarians", refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances. An ethical vegan, also known as a "moral vegetarian", is someone who not only follows a vegan diet but extends the philosophy into other areas of their lives, and opposes 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 industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.
Well-planned vegan diets are regarded as appropriate for all stages of life, including infancy and pregnancy, by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the British Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the New Zealand Ministry of Health. The German Society for Nutrition—which is a non-profit organisation and not an official health agency—does not recommend vegan diets for children or adolescents, or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There is inconsistent evidence for vegan diets providing a protective effect against metabolic syndrome, but some evidence suggests that a vegan diet can help with weight loss, especially in the short term. 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, omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. A poorly-planned vegan diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies that nullify any beneficial effects and may cause serious health issues, some of which can only be prevented with fortified foods or dietary supplements. Vitamin B12 supplementation is important because its deficiency causes blood disorders and potentially irreversible neurological damage, though this danger is also present in poorly-planned non-vegan diets.
Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson coined the term "vegan" in 1944 when they co-founded the Vegan Society in the UK. At first, they used it to mean "non-dairy vegetarian." However, by May 1945, vegans explicitly abstained from "eggs, honey; and animals' milk, butter and cheese". From 1951, the Society defined it as "the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals". Interest in veganism increased in the 2010s, especially in the latter half. More vegan stores opened, and vegan options became increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants.