V for Life position statement on vegetarianism and veganism

September 2020

Vegetarian, or Vegan, for Life – what’s in a name?

In the 19th century there were perpetual debates between those who added eggs and dairy produce to their plant-based diets and those who did not.

From 1847, both of these groups used the word ‘vegetarian’ to describe their diet – with or without appendages, such as ‘non-dairy vegetarians’.

Eventually, the term vegan was coined. First used by Donald Watson in 1944, it was made up of the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’. The word could be said to reflect a journey – one which begins in vegetarianism, but with a vegan diet as its ultimate destination.

V for Life – the charity working on behalf of older vegans and vegetarians – believes that veganism is the ideal final goal.

However, we appreciate that switching to a vegan diet involves a transition period for many people. And we further acknowledge that some will be on a longer journey than others – including those early pioneers of the movement who, in later life, might now need our care.

Our research suggests that in 2019 there were only 7,000 vegetarians and vegans combined in UK nursing and residential care – meaning that both are very much a minority in a care setting.

After over a decade of often being the sole voice advocating for older vegans and vegetarians, V for Life recognises the difficulties that we so commonly face when we are at our most frail.

Just imagine the cruelty of forgetting our long-held veg*n beliefs, should we be experiencing cognitive issues or loss of capacity – and being at the mercy of others for food and care in our final days.

We want to be inclusive in our support of vegans and vegetarians – and we don’t want to alienate or stigmatise. We don’t ‘expect’ anyone to transition to a vegan diet overnight, or possibly at all when of advanced age, experiencing frailty, or complex health issues.

For further support on adapting recipes to suit a vegan diet, please see V for Life’s Vegan Rescue Pack and Vegan Baking guide.

To read The Vegan Society's position statement on palm oil, please click here.