I am not vegan or vegetarian. I envy those who have the discipline. But, eating a veggie omelette this morning made me think critically about what vegetarians claim as their definition, as eggs don’t seem to me like a vegetarian food.
Consider the suggestion of making a “veggie” or vegetable omelette. Seems pretty straightforward: eggs, maybe cheese, and vegetables. No beef, no bacon (sad face), no ham. Just some tasty and flavorful vegetables to add to the eggy goodness.
These are definitely not “vegan”, as the eggs and optional cheese are violating the category. It’s also making them sad, angry and judgmental, but that’s for another day.
Now contrast that to the idea of an omelette being “vegetarian”. What makes an omelette “vegetarian“? The basis of a meal being vegetarian is that it has no meat. This is a clear distinction between vegan and vegetarian:
- The Vegan Society defines “veganism” as “a 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.” Thus, anything derived from animals in any way, even using animals to harvest a vegetable, is in some way in violation of this way of life.
- The Vegetarian Society defines “vegetarianism” as “someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs. A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, insects, by-products of slaughter or any food made with processing aids created from these.”
In comparing these definitions, I find that the only real differences in the two are:
- Vegans extend their definition to all aspects of negative human effects on animals.
- Vegetarians allow honey, eggs, and dairy.
For this reason, the picture above is indeed an example of a “vegetarian omelette”. To say that an omelette cannot be vegetarian is, using the accepted definition of vegetarian above, a fallacy of fact. However, there is an argument to be made that allowing eggs, dairy, and honey in an all vegetable diet makes the definition if vegetarianism oxymoronic.
Think logically about this: as a vegetarian, I am not okay with eating the substance of living things, but I am okay with eating the basic substance of a living chicken. What is the difference between eggs and meat?
It’s a similar question to the abortion debate. What is the difference between the egg of a human mother and a baby? But this, chicken eggs, is a somewhat different scenario than abortion in order of process. A chicken expels it’s eggs even if not fertilized by a rooster, approximately every 24 hours. An unfertilized egg from a chicken is much like the human egg that is expelled during menstruation. My wife likes to call these “chicken periods”, seeing as she hates eggs.
So unfertilized eggs are, by order of process, not a living cell once expelled, nor viable as the animal it was intended to be. But is it just a byproduct of the body, like milk? Conversely, milk does not carry chromosomes like an egg. In science, so far, you cannot grow a cow from milk. I say “so far” because I don’t pretend to know everything about the universe. Someday, who knows? We might be able to grow a human from a removed mole.
So I would argue here that the intent is life, therefore making it only situational different than meat. If chromosomes are a derivative of what we define as a living thing (plants and animals all use chromosomes to define their structure, characteristics, and form), then isn’t an egg closer to meat than milk?
As well, how is milk and honey not ”created from a body part of a living animal”? Milk comes from mammary glands and honey is produced by a bee’s honey stomach. It seems to me to be less of an adherence to the definition of these products and more of the fact that ”it’s too hard to avoid” in the modern consumer food supply. Because eggs, milk and honey are produced on a farm in a potentially positive process of animal stewardship and can be consumed by families off the consumer market, they are more conveniently harvested than meat and do not require killing a living thing to harvest.
These three food categories also are comparatively low cost, so it allows an inexpensive diet. Is that a consideration to vegetarians? Unfortunately, no statistics exist regarding this claim, so it is not a fact. Just an observation.
If you are going to define yourself as abstaining from eating meat and products of body parts, then I would argue that eggs, honey, and milk are a cheat to that definition. They are an uncommitted vegan, someone who likes the definition of veganism without the battle against affordable consumer goods. And while a vegetarian omelette is an allowance of that difference in the vegetarian definition, it doesn’t seem to me like much more than a benefit of convenience.
My choice for a veggie omelette was due to a lack of ham or bacon in the house at the time. This helps define how I frame my thoughts as an omnivore with real confusion around how people define their diets. But, of course, this is how the human brain works: if you cannot categorize yourself and others, there is no difference between you and them. And no one wants to be ”the same”. Ew.