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Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans or strict vegetarians eliminate them from their diet only.  Another form, environmental veganism, rejects the use of animal products on the premise that the industrial practice is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.

The term "vegan" was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean "non-dairy vegetarian"; the society also opposed the use of eggs as food. Ethical vegans entirely reject the commodification of animals. The Vegan Society in the UK will only certify a product as vegan if it is free of animal involvement as far as possible and practical.  An animal product is any material derived from animals, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, and silk. Other commonly used, but perhaps less well known, animal products are beeswax, bone char, bone china, carmine, casein, cochineal, gelatin, isinglass, lanolin, lard, rennet, shellac, tallow, whey, and yellow grease. Many of these may not be identified in the list of ingredients in the finished product.  There is disagreement among groups about the extent to which all animal products, particularly products from insects, must be avoided. Neither the Vegan Society nor the American Vegan Society considers the use of honey, silk, or other insect products to be suitable for vegans, while Vegan Action and Vegan Outreach regard that as a matter of personal choice.

Ethical vegans will not use animal products for clothing, toiletries, or any other reason, and will try to avoid ingredients that have been tested on animals. They will not buy fur coats, leather shoes, belts, bags, wallets, woollen jumpers, silk scarves, camera film, and certain vaccines, etc. Depending on their economic circumstances, they may donate such items to charity when they become vegan, or use them until they wear out. Clothing made without animal products is widely available in stores and online. Alternatives to wool include cotton, hemp, rayon, and polyester. Some vegan clothes, in particular shoes, are made of petroleum-based products, which has triggered criticism because of the environmental damage associated with production. In warmer climates, vegans tend to wear shoes made of hemp, linen or canvas.