If you're simply interested in veganism or vegetarianism, this post is for you. If you already claim yourself to be a vegan or vegetarian, it is likely too late for you. Feel free to read, though. Also, I'm sure there are people who can't eat meat or animal by-products because of a medical condition. This post is not for them.
The words "vegan" and "vegetarian" carry a lot of weight with them, much of it unneeded. Most people announce their new lifestyle choice on X social media by saying "I am now a vegan!". Like many other paths of life, the "vegan life" and diet are mixed up by marketing, media, and the internet.
The difference between veganism and vegetarianism is that as a vegan you refuse to use animal products. The range of products can vary depending on what you consider an "animal", but I like to refer to it as "a creature that is alive". Therefore, something like honey is not something a vegan could eat. I don't practice strict veganism or vegetarianism, and I certainly wouldn't call myself a vegan or vegetarian. I simply don't cook with meat at home.
To be a practical vegan or vegetarian, there are three key things I believe you need to accept.
1. You must eat homecooked meals - it doesn't matter what it is.
If someone is putting in the work to feed you, it's simply not acceptable to say "oh, but I'm a vegan/vegetarian. I can't eat that." First of all, you sound pretentious and there's really no way around it. Then, of course, you have to realize that this food was made by someone for your sake. They did it out of their own kindness - to reject that is insulting and rude.
You can obviously try to eat around the meat or omit it from your plate if able, but that leads me to my next point.
2. If you are in a different place, eat the staple food.
Let's say you go to Japan for a couple weeks. There are surely vegetarian / vegan restaurants to try, and by all means try them! But don't limit yourself to that. If you go somewhere (to another country, or even just a friends house), eat what they love. Enjoy the experience and get caught up in the culture - food is a big part of it.
You can reflect this way of thinking by serving friends or family vegan recipes. If it's a baked good, I usually have them try it and then say that it's vegan. Usually, they are surprised.
3. Vegetables are alive, they just aren't cute like a cow or pig.
This really just destroys the whole vegan / vegetarian lifestyle movement. Oh, you want evidence? Here is a kindergarten to elementary grade learning program showing how to suffocate plants. Seriously though, this is stuff we learned a long time ago. You likely don't remember because plants aren't "alive" like how animals are. They move extremely slow and they can't make noises. They aren't cute like animals.
There was actually an entire group of ancient people called the Ctistae who only consumed by-products like milk and honey. You can go this route if you'd like, but I don't think it would be a very exciting life. The Ctistae were also celibate.
So, here I am telling you how to be a practical vegan or vegetarian when I'm also giving you reasons not to be. I think the terms have become something else, but it's also important to distinguish the lifestyle from the diet.
I do believe the general population should eat more vegetables. Besides obvious health concerns (in the USA), I just think they taste better than most meats. With most meats, you have to season and baste them and probably have a sauce. Many vegetables taste great just by themselves, and there's a lot of variety. I think it also encourages more people to cook at home and stop going to get fast food (which likely has meat in it).
Switching your diet cold-turkey is not a smart idea. Just start to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Also, learn how to cook properly. I started with recipes that were interesting to me, then I started to realize the fundamentals behind them. Understanding how to whip up a stir-fry or soup is indispensable. If you are interested in having a vegan or vegetarian diet, consider the points I have made, but also do your own research.