A lacto-vegetarian (sometimes referred to as a lactarian; from the Latin root lact-, milk) diet is a diet that includes vegetables as well as dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, cream, and kefir.
In India, lacto vegetarian is considered synonymous to vegetarian, while eating eggs is considered a form of non-vegetarian diet. The concept and practice of lacto-vegetarianism among a significant number of people comes from ancient India. In other parts of the world, vegetarianism generally refers to ovo lacto vegetarianism instead, allowing eggs into the diet.
Lacto-vegetarian diets are popular with certain followers of the Eastern religious traditions such as Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism. The cores of their beliefs behind a lacto-vegetarian diet is the law of ahimsa, or non-violence.
According to the Vedas (Hindu holy scriptures), all living beings are equally valued. Also, Hindus believe that one's personality is affected by the kind of food one consumes, and eating flesh is considered bad for one's spiritual/mental well-being. It takes many more vegetables or plants to produce an equal amount of meat, many more lives are destroyed, and in this way more suffering is caused when meat is consumed. Although some suffering and pain is inevitably caused to other living beings to satisfy the human need for food, according to ahimsa, every effort should be made to minimize suffering. This is to avoid karmic consequences and show respect for living things, because all living beings are equally valued in these traditions, a vegetarian diet rooted in ahimsa is only one aspect of environmentally conscious living, relating to those beings affected by our need for food. However, this does not apply to all Hindus, as majority of modern day Hindus do in fact, consume meat.
In the case of Jainism, the vegetarian standards are strict. It allows the consumption of only fruit and leaves that can be taken from plants without causing their death. This further excludes from the diet vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic.
Lacto-vegetarians and vegans
The primary difference between a vegan and a lacto-vegetarian diet is the avoidance of dairy products. Vegans do not consume dairy because of their belief that their production causes the animal suffering or a premature death, or otherwise abridges animal rights.
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- Bhagavad Gita 5.18 Archived 2009-09-17 at the Wayback Machine "The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste]."
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- Gabriel Cousens, Spiritual Nutrition: Six Foundations for Spiritual Life and the Awakening of Kundalini, North Athlantic Books, page 251
- Erik Marcus (2000). Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating.
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