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Different Types of Vegetarianism

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Vegetarian Vegetarianism Animal Animal

If you’re new to vegetarianism, or considering making this lifestyle switch, you may be interested to find out that there are actually a few different types of vegetarianism. Some types of vegetarianism listed here are hotly disputed, and many vegetarians themselves consider that such types of vegetarianism should not be classed as vegetarian at all.

However, this article serves as a guide to the different definitions, as well as providing some extra information about how to avoid certain hidden animal products in food.


A person who chooses to be vegan will not only exclude all animal products from their diet – dairy, honey, eggs and other animal products such as rennet and gelatine – but also exclude using any animal products in their everyday lifestyles. This includes animal products and fibres in their clothes, such as leather, wool and silk, as well as animal products in things such as cosmetics and household cleaners.

Total Vegetarian

Many people will also classify a ‘total vegetarian’ as a vegan. A total vegetarian will follow the same diet rules as a vegan by excluding all animal products from their diet, but may wear animal fibres.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

Perhaps one of the most widely recognised types of vegetarianism, lacto-ovo vegetarians do eat dairy and egg products. However, a lacto-ovo vegetarian will commonly still avoid animal bi-products such as rennet, gelatine, cochineal and lanolin in both their diet and other products they use.

Lacto Vegetarian

This type of vegetarian will include dairy products in their diet, but does not eat eggs.

Ovo Vegetarian

This type of vegetarian will include egg and egg products in their diet, but will not include any kind of dairy product, including lactose. This is not a particularly common type of vegetarianism.

Pesco-Vegetarian, or Pescatarian

One of the more hotly disputed types of vegetarianism that is not recognised by the UK Vegetarian Society as worthy of vegetarian classification. This is because a pesco-vegetarian or pescatarian will eat fish, but not meat products. Because many vegetarians classify fish along the same lines as meat (sentient, living/breathing, nervous system, ethical rearing and farming issues etc.), they strongly believe that a pescatarian is a whole different diet to vegetarianism, and should not be classified as such.


Again, this type of vegetarianism is extremely controversial, as it describes a person that includes poultry in their diet. It is a very rare definition to use, and is most definitely not recognised as a definitive type of vegetarianism by the UK Vegetarian Society and many vegetarians alike.

Check Out the Ingredients Label

As most people who follow a vegetarian diet are classified as lacto-ovo vegetarians, there may be a few instances when they inadvertently eat hidden animal products. These are usually products that are extracted after the slaughter of an animal, and are commonly found in cakes, confectionery, cheese, mousses, yoghurts, low fat spread and some sauces.

If in doubt, always look for a ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ label. However, here is also a quick-list of some of the ingredients that vegetarians should check for:

Gelatine/Gelatin – Beef or Pork gelatine is a thickening agent present in many chewy sweets, cakes, yoghurts, mousses, cheesecakes and other products. It is derived from animal bones and hides, tendons and cartlidge and contains collagen.

Fish Gelatine (Isinglass) – You might be surprised to learn that many alcoholic drinks are not suitable for vegetarians, as they contain Isinglass, an ingredient derived from fish bladders (gelatine). Look for the Suitable for Vegetarians label on your wine and alcoholic products.

Cochineal – This is a dark red dying agent (carmine) derived from the cochineal beetle, commonly using in baking as well as cosmetics and fabrics.

Suet – Although vegetable suet is available, many foods may contain animal-based suet.

Rennet – Cheeses and sauces with cheese (such as pesto) not labelled as suitable for vegetarians may contain rennet. Rennet is an enzyme taken from the stomach lining of a slaughtered calf. Vegetarian cheese use fungal or microbial enzymes instead.

These are some of the more common animal products that you may have to look out for if you’re considering switching to a vegetarian diet. For a more comprehensive guide to animal products, you can find more information on the Vegetarian Society’s information sheets provided via their website.

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