Some countries have strong cultural or religious traditions that promote vegetarianism, such as India, while other countries have secular ethical concerns, including animal rights, environmental protection, and health concerns. In many countries, food labelling laws make it easier for vegetarians to identify foods compatible with their diets.
All percentages in the following table are raw estimates.
|Country||Vegetarian diet (%)||Approx. no. of individuals||Data set year||Vegan diet (%)||Approx. no. of individuals||Data set year||Note|
|Australia||12%||2,500,000||2018||2%||2010||In 2016, a poll of Australians found 11.2% of respondents agreed that "The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian." A 2010 Newspoll of Australians found 5% of respondents were vegetarian, and 2% were "strict vegetarian", sometimes meaning vegan.|
|Brazil||14%||29,260,000||2018||3%||6,330,660||2018||Vegan percentage derived from vegan and vegetarian respondents only, due to access bias, and calculated on top of IBOPE's survey|
|China||4% – 5%||54,428,000 – 68,035,000||2013|
|Finland||2% – 6%||108,000 – 329,000||2011 2015||0.5%||27,000||2013|
|India||31% – 33%||375,000,000||2014 2014|
|Ireland||4.3%||153,500||2018||4.1%||146,500||2018||8.2% of the Irish population defines themselves flexitarian in 2018|
|Italy||7.1% – 10%||4,246,000||2009 2015||0.6% – 2.8%||400,000 – 1,680,000||2015|
|Jamaica||10%||280,000||2015||Most of these vegetarians are Rastafarians|
|Latvia||4% – 5%||86,000||2018|
|Norway||4%||200,000||2017||0.2% – 0.4%||10,000 – 20,000||2004||6% of the Norwegian population defines themselves flexitarian in 2017|
|Poland||8%||3,072,000||2016||7%||2,688,000||2016||Survey conducted by marketing research firm Mintel. No rough data or method shown; these statistics are based on a report Plant Powered Perspectives which is not publicly available|
|Portugal||1.2%||120,000||2017||0.6%||60,000||2018||Survey conducted by marketing research firm Nielsen Holdings|
|Russia||3% – 4%||4,380,000 – 5,840,000||2014|
|Slovenia||1.4% – 1.6%||28,922 – 33,054||2007/2008||0.3% – 0.5%||6,197 – 10,329||2007/2008||Age group: 18–65; a representative sample; unbiased data (survey conducted by National Institute of Public Health); new data will be available soon (2018/2019/2020).|
|Sweden||10%||969,000||2014||4%||388,000||2014||Based on a 1000-person telephone survey.|
|United Kingdom||7%||3,250,000||2018||1.16%||600,000||2018||Although other surveys claim higher numbers (e.g. 7% vegan, 14% veg), the Vegan Society statistics are more reliable – see ref.|
|United States||5% – 8%||12,646,000 – 20,233,000||2018||3%||7,588,000||2018||"Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted 1–11 July 2018, with a random sample of 1,033 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia."|
While the prevalence of strict ethical vegetarianism in Africa is reported to be low since most of the traditional food consists of meat, there are a few vegetarian traditions in the African continent.
Vegan dishes are commonplace in Ethiopian cuisine due to mandates by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Egyptian Coptic Christianity that require weekly fasting days (fasting in this context is abstaining from all meat products).
Countries in North Africa have a tradition of cooking in a vegetarian style, with Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia being particularly connected with this type of cooking which includes couscous and spiced vegetables.
In China, consumption of meat is rapidly increasing while a small but growing number of young people in large cities are vegan. An estimated 4 to 5 percent of Chinese are vegetarian. However, in a survey conducted by SJTU researchers, only 0.77 percent of respondents labeled themselves vegetarian.
Chinese folk religion, which is distinct from Taoism, Chinese salvationist religions, and New Religious Movements is similar to Shintoism in Japan insofar as while the killing and eating of animals is not forbidden, it is considered impure and not ideal for a believer. Tofu, soy milk, and seitan, which are popular among vegetarians in the world, originate in China.
Classical Chinese texts pointed to a period of abstinence from meat before undertaking matters of great importance or of religious significance. People typically abstain from meat periodically, particularly the day before Chinese New Year. Although it's more common among adherents of Chinese folk religions, many secular people also do this.
With the influx of Buddhist influences, vegetarianism became more popular, but there is a distinction—Daoist vegetarianism is based on a perception of purity, while Buddhist vegetarianism is based on the dual bases of refraining from killing and subduing one's own subservience to the senses. Because of this, two types of "vegetarianism" came to be—one where one refrained from eating meat, the other being refraining from eating meat as well as garlic, onions, and other such strongly flavored foods. This Buddhism-influenced vegetarianism has been known and practiced by some since at least the 7th century. People who are Buddhist may also avoid eating eggs.
The early 20th century saw some intellectuals espousing vegetarianism as part of their program for reforming China culturally, not just politically. The anarchist thinker Li Shizeng, for instance, argued that tofu and soy products were healthier and could be a profitable export. Liang Shuming, a philosopher and reform activist, adopted a basically vegetarian diet, but did not promote one for others. In recent years, it has seen a resurgence in the cities among the emerging middle class.
India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. In 2007, UN FAO statistics indicated that Indians had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world. India, the world's second most populous country, has over 500 million vegetarians. Vegetarians in India have been demanding meat-free supermarkets. In Indian cuisine, vegetarianism is usually synonymous with lacto vegetarianism. Most restaurants in India clearly distinguish and market themselves as being either "non-vegetarian", "vegetarian", or "pure vegetarian". Vegetarian restaurants abound, and many vegetarian options are usually available. Animal-based ingredients (other than milk and honey) such as lard, gelatin, and meat stock are not used in the traditional cuisine. India has devised a system of marking edible products made from only vegetarian ingredients, with a green dot in a green square. A mark of a brown dot in a brown square conveys that some animal-based ingredients (meat, egg, etc.) were used. Products like honey, milk, or its direct derivatives are categorized under the green mark.
India is a strange country. People do not kill
any living creatures, do not keep pigs and fowl,
and do not sell live cattle.
—Faxian, 4th/5th century CE
Chinese pilgrim to India
According to the 2006 Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, 31% of Indians are vegetarian, while another 9% also consume eggs (ovo-vegetarian). Among the various communities, vegetarianism was most common among the Swaminarayan Community, Brahmins, Lingayat, Vaishnav Community, Jain community, and, less frequent among Muslims (3%) and residents of coastal states. Other surveys cited by FAO and USDA estimate 40% of the Indian population as being vegetarian. These surveys indicate that even Indians who do eat meat, do so infrequently, with less than 30% consuming it regularly, although the reasons are mainly cultural. In states where vegetarianism is more common, milk consumption is higher and is associated with lactase persistence. This allows people to continue consuming milk into adulthood and obtain proteins that are substituted for meat, fish and eggs in other areas. An official survey conducted by the Government of India, with a sample size of 8858 and the census frame as 2011, indicated India's vegetarian population to be 28-29% of the total population. Compared to a similar survey done almost a decade earlier, India's vegetarian population has increased.
According to a 2018 survey released by the registrar general of India, Rajasthan (74.9%), Haryana (69.25%), Punjab (66.75%), and Gujarat (60.95%) have the highest percentage of vegetarians, followed by Madhya Pradesh (50.6%), Uttar Pradesh (47.1%), Maharashtra (40.2%), Delhi (39.5%), Jammu & Kashmir (31.45%), Uttarakhand (27.35%), Karnataka (21.1%), Assam (20.6%), Chhattisgarh (17.95%), Bihar (7.55%), Jharkhand (3.25%), Kerala (3.0%), Orissa (2.65%), Tamil Nadu (2.35%), Andhra Pradesh (1.75%), West Bengal (1.4%), and Telangana (1.3%).
In 2016, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, announced the decision to provide students, at a few of the Institute of Hotel Management Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition (IHMCTANs), the option to choose only vegetarian cooking. These IHMCTANs are located at Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Jaipur. In 2018, the National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology (NCHMCT) announced that all IHMCTANs will be offering a vegetarian option from 2018 onwards.
A 2018 study from Economic and Political Weekly by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob suggests that the percentage of vegetarians may be closer to 20%; the study argues that meat-eating behavior is underreported because consumption of meat, especially beef, is "caught in cultural, political, and group identity struggles in India".
A study by the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2001 found that 7.2% of men and 9.8% of women were vegetarian. Although vegetarianism is quite common, the actual percentage of vegetarians in Israel may be lower — the Israeli food industry estimated it at 5%. In 2010, one study found that 2.6% of Israelis were vegetarians or vegans.
According to a 2015 poll by the newspaper ''Globe'' and Channel 2, 8% of the Israeli population were vegetarians and 5% were vegans. 13% consider turning vegan or vegetarian. Tel Aviv beat out Berlin, New York and Chennai as U.S. food website The Daily Meal's top destination for vegan travelers.
Vegetarian diets are categorized as lacto vegetarianism, ovo-lacto vegetarianism, and veganism in general. The reasons for being vegetarian include influence from friends and family members, concern about global warming, health issues and weight management, religion and mercy for animals, in descending order of significance.
Rice, mushrooms, vegetables are some of the dietary staples, mixed with a rich variety of spices, coconut, lime and tamarind. Buddhist Chinese monastics are vegetarians or vegans. Singapore is also the headquarters of the world's first international, vegetarian, fast food chain, VeganBurg. The bigger communities of vegetarians and vegans in Singapore are Vegetarian Society (VSS) and SgVeganCommunity. Vegetarian and vegan places have an active role in the gastronomy of Singapore.
There are more than 6,000 vegetarian eating establishments in Taiwan. The country's food labelling laws for vegetarian food are the world's strictest, because around 2 million Taiwanese people eat vegetarian food. A popular movement of "one day vegetarian every week" has been advocated on a national level, and on a local level, even government bodies are involved, such as the Taipei City Board of Education.
There are more than 908 vegetarian eating establishments in Thailand.
The definition of vegetarianism throughout Europe is not uniform, creating the potential for products to be labelled inaccurately. Throughout Europe the use of non-vegetarian ingredients are in use in products such as beer (isinglass among others), wine (gelatine and crustacean shells among others) and cheese (rennet).
A study that surveyed 2436 Belgian individuals found that "21.8% of the respondents believed that meat consumption is unhealthy, and 45.6% of the respondents believed that they should eat less meat." The major reasons persons expressed interest in a more plant-based diet was for taste and health-related reasons. The majority of vegetarians polled think that the meat industry is harmful to the planet, while more than half of the non-vegetarians surveyed disagree with this statement.
In some cities's schools in Finland, the students are offered two options, a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian meal, on four school days a week, and one day a week they have a choice between two vegetarian meals, for grades 1 to 12. In secondary schools and universities, from 10 to 40 percent of the students preferred vegetarian food in 2013. Vegetarianism is most popular in secondary art schools where in some schools over half of the students were vegetarians in 2013.
France is not known to be friendly towards vegetarians as lunches at public schools must contain a "minimum of 20% of meals containing meat and 20% containing fish, and the remainder containing egg, cheese, or offal." An Appetite study found that French women were more accepting of vegetarianism than French men.
There has been conflict between vegans and farmers in southern France. A farmers' union known as "Coordination Rurale" advocated for the French to continue eating meat through the slogan "To save a peasant farmer, eat a vegan."
In 1889, the first "International Veg Congress" met in Cologne, Germany.
In 2016, Germany was found to have the highest percentage of vegetarians (7.8 million, 10%) and vegans (900,000, 1.1%) in the modern West. A survey from "Forsa" also revealed that approximately 42 million people in Germany identify as flexitarians aka "part time vegetarians." Professionals at the German Official Agencies estimate that by 2020 over 20% of Germans will eat mostly vegetarian. The reason vegetarianism is so prevalent in Germany is not agreed upon, but the movement seems to have experienced much growth from promotion in media and the offering of more non-meat options.
The recorded history of vegetarianism in the country began with the Hungarian Vegetarian Society (HVS), formed in 1883. During this time, vegetarianism was popular because New Age ideas and counter belief systems were favored. In 1911, the first Hungarian vegetarian restaurant opened up in Vámház körút. In the 1950s, the HVS ceased operations and vegetarianism in popular culture diminished. Hungarian vegetarianism was later revived in 1989 with the fall of socialism. The "Ahimsa Hungarian Vegetarian Society of Veszprém" was founded in the late 90s.
It was reported in 2006 that sales of meat substitutes had an annual growth of around 25%, which made it one of the fastest-growing markets in the Netherlands. In supermarkets and stores, it is sometimes necessary to read the fine print on products in order to make sure that there are no animal-originated ingredients. Increasingly, however, vegetarian products are labeled with the international "V-label," overseen by the Dutch vegetarian association Vegetarisch Keurmerk.
In a March 2020 factsheet published by the Nederlandse Vegetariërsbond ("Dutch Union of Vegetarians"), calculations were made to document the different types of vegetarians. 4-6% of Dutch people (an average of about 860,000) reported they never ate meat. Of this number, 2% called themselves "vegetarian" while some 1% labeled themselves as vegan. The remaining 1-3% was pescetarian.
In a late 2019 study published by the environmental organization Stichting Natuur en Milieu ("Stichting Nature and Environment"), 59% of Dutch adults (age 16 and up) described themselves as a "meat eater" while 37% responded that they were flexitarians. 43% of respondents claimed that they ate less meat than they did four years earlier. Furthermore, almost half (47%) agreed with or agreed strongly with the statement that eating meat is an outdated practice. In their surveys, 2% identified as vegetarian, 2% as pescetarian and <1% as vegan.
In 2007, the number of vegetarians in Portugal was estimated at 30,000; which is equal to less than 0.3% of the population. In 2014, the number was estimated to be 200,000 people. Vegan and vegetarian products like soy milk, soy yogurts, rice milk and tofu are widely available in major retailers, and sold across the country.
Followers of the Romanian Orthodox Church keep fast during several periods throughout the ecclesiastical calendar amounting to a majority of the year. In the Romanian Orthodox tradition, devotees keep to a diet without any animal products during these times. As a result, vegan foods are abundant in stores and restaurants; however, Romanians may not be familiar with a vegan or vegetarian diet as a full-time lifestyle choice.
Vegetarianism in Russia first gained prominence in 1901 with the opening of the first vegetarian society in St. Petersburg. Vegetarianism began to largely grow after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Russian vegetarians were found to be mainly those who were wealthy and educated.
The number of restaurants and food stores catering exclusively, or partially, to vegetarians and vegans has more than doubled since 2011; with a total of 800 on record by the end of 2016, The Green Revolution claims.
The Vegetarian Society was formed in Britain in 1847. In 1944, a faction split from the group to form The Vegan Society.
A 2018 study by comparethemarket.com found that approximately 7% of British people were vegan, while 14% were vegetarian. The results of this study however are questioned by the UK Vegan Society who found out the sample was based on only 2,000 people. According to The Vegan Society's larger survey, the number of vegans quadrupled from 2014–18; in 2018 there were approximately 600,000 vegans in the UK, equivalent to 1.16% of the British population as a whole. As well as this, 31% are eating less meat – either for health or ethical reasons, and 19% are eating fewer dairy products.
The sign-ups for the Veganuary campaign nearly doubled in 2019, with 250,000 people signing up. In comparison, there were 168,500 participants in 2018; 59,500 in 2017 and 23,000 in 2016.
In Canada, vegetarianism is on the rise. In 2018, a survey conducted by Dalhousie University, led by Canadian researcher Sylvain Charlebois, found that 9.4% of Canadian adults considered themselves vegetarians. 2.3 million people in Canada are vegetarians which is an increase from 900,000 15 years ago. Another 850,000 people identify themselves as vegan. The majority of Canada's vegetarians are under 35, so the rate of vegetarianism is expected to continue to rise. This is up from the 4.0% of adults who were vegetarians as of 2003.
In 1971, 1 percent of U.S. citizens described themselves as vegetarians. In 2008 Harris Interactive found that 3.2% are vegetarian and 0.5% vegan. U.S. vegetarian food sales (dairy replacements such as soy milk and meat replacements such as textured vegetable protein) doubled between 1998 and 2003, reaching $1.6 billion in 2003.
In 2015, a Harris Poll National Survey of 2,017 adults aged 18 and over found that eight million Americans, or 3.4%, ate a solely vegetarian diet, and that one million, or 0.4%, ate a strictly vegan diet.
Many American children whose parents follow vegetarian diets follow them because of religious, environmental or other reasons. In the government's first estimate of how many children avoid meat, the number is about 1 in 200. The CDC survey included children ages 0 to 17 years.
By U.S. law, food packaging is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and generally must be labeled with a list of all its ingredients. However, there are exceptions. For example, certain trace ingredients that are "ingredients of ingredients" do not need to be listed.
In Australia, some manufacturers who target the vegetarian market label their foods with the statement "suitable for vegetarians"; however, for foods intended for export to the UK, this labelling can be inconsistent because flavourings in ingredients lists do not need to specify if they come from animal origin. As such, "natural flavour" could be derived from either plant or animal sources.
Animal rights organisations such as Animal Liberation promote vegan and vegetarian diets. "Vegetarian Week" runs from 1–7 October every year, and food companies are taking advantage of the growing number of vegetarians by producing meat-free alternatives of popular dishes, including sausages and mash and spaghetti Bolognese.
Similar to Australia, in New Zealand the term "vegetarian" refers to individuals who eat no animal meat such as pork, chicken, and fish; they may consume animal products such as milk and eggs. In contrast, the term "vegan" is used to describe those who do not eat or use any by-products of animals. In 2002 New Zealand's vegetarians made up a minority of 1-2% of the country's 4.5 million people. By 2011 Roy Morgan Research claimed the number of New Zealanders eating an "all or almost all" vegetarian diet to be 8.1%, growing to 10.3% in 2015 (with men providing the most growth, up 63% from 5.7% to 9.3%). In New Zealand there is a strong enough movement for vegetarianism that it has created significant enough demand for a number of vegetarian and vegan retailers to set up.
As New Zealand and Australia work together to form common food standards (as seen in the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code), there is also a lot of ambiguity surrounding the "natural flavour" ingredients.
According to a Nielsen survey on Food preferences from 2016, vegetarians make up 8% and vegans 4% of the population across Latin America. Across the continent there are thousands of vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
In 2004, Marly Winckler, President of the Brazilian Vegetarian Society, claimed that 5% of the population was vegetarian. According to a 2012 survey undertaken by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, 8% of the population, or 15.2 million people, identified themselves as vegetarian. The city of São Paulo had the most vegetarians in absolute terms (792,120 people), while Fortaleza had the highest percentage, at 14% of the total population. A new survey undertaken by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics in 2018 showed that the proportion of the population identifying as vegetarian grew to 14% (a 75% increase relative to 2012), representing 29 million people.
Marly Winckler claims that the central reasons for the deforestation of the Amazon are expansive livestock raising (mainly cattle) and soybean crops, most of it for use as animal feed, and a minor percentage for edible oil processing (being direct human consumption for use as food nearly negligible), claims that are widely known to have a basis.
As in Canada, vegetarianismo (Portuguese pronunciation: [veʒiˌtaɾjɐ̃ˈnizmu]) is usually synonymous with lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, and vegetarians are sometimes wrongly assumed to be pescetarians and/or pollotarians who tolerate the flesh of fish or poultry, respectively. Nevertheless, veganism, and freeganism, have now become mainstream in the country, being present in nearly every family. Brazilian vegetarians reportedly tend to be urban, of middle or upper class and live in the Central-Southern half of the country. Since the 1990s, and especially since the 2010s, hundreds of vegan and vegetarian restaurants have appeared in the major cities of the country.
- List of vegetarian festivals
- List of vegetarian organizations
- List of countries with vegan school meals
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