Vegetarianism by country

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Vegetarian restaurant buffet, Taipei, Taiwan.

Around the world, vegetarianism is viewed in different lights. In some areas, there is cultural and even legal support, such as in India and the United Kingdom, where food labelling is in place which can make it easier for vegetarians to identify foods compatible with their diets.[1]

Asia[edit]

China[edit]

Eating meat is still seen as a sign of prosperity in China.[2] Consumption of meat is rapidly increasing while a small but growing number of young people in large cities identify as vegan. Only an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Chinese are vegetarian.[2]

Native Chinese religion, generally falling under the label of Taoism (though this tends to confuse the native religion with the Daoist school of philosophy, represented by Laotzu, Chuangtzu, and others), is a form of animism. Similar to Shintoism in Japan, though the killing and eating of animals is not forbidden, it is considered impure.

Classical Chinese texts pointed to a period of abstinence from meat as well as sex and contact with other things that are considered impure (e.g. women in menstruation) before undertaking matters of great import or of religious significance.

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 pepper, 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.

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 doufu 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 as the emerging middle class pay attention to issues of health and diet.[3] In 2010, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao proposed a nationwide campaign of "one day of vegetarianism every week" (每周一素), mainly as part of a broader environmental platform.[4]

Taiwan[edit]

In Taiwan, 1.7 million people, or 13% of the population of Taiwan, follows a vegetarian diet at least some of the time.[5][6] There are more than 6,000 vegetarian eating establishments in Taiwan.[7] Food labelling laws for vegetarian food are the world's strictest, because around 2 million Taiwanese people use vegetarian food.[8] A popular movement of "one day vegetarian every week" has been advocated on a national level,[9] and on a local level, even government bodies are involved, such as the Taipei City Board of Education.[10]

Thailand[edit]

Buddhist monks are not vegetarians as they have to accept all food offerings. Fish sauce and oil are very common Thai food ingredients even in food described as vegetarian. The number of real vegetarians-vegans, semi-vegetarians (Pesco= eating fish) and regular part-time vegetarians (once or twice a week, or the whole 10 days during the Annual Vegetarian Festival in October that takes place only in Phuket province) is significantly growing. The number of vegetarian shops and restaurants is also increasing in 76 provinces around the country.

Israel[edit]

In the only study conducted on adults by the Ministry of Health in 2001, 7.2% of the men and 9.8% of the women identified themselves as vegetarians. In a 2004 study on youth, 11% of the boys and 20% of the girls considered themselves as vegetarians. Although Vegetarianism is quite common in Israel, the estimated percentage of vegetarians in Israel may be lower - the Israeli food industry estimated it at 5%.[11]

India[edit]

Further information: Vegetarian mark
Vegetarian mark: Mandatory labeling in India to distinguish vegetarian products (left) from non-vegetarian ones (right)

As of 2007, UN FAO statistics indicated that Indians had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world.[12] In India, 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, usually, many vegetarian (Shakahari: plant-eater, in Sanskrit) options are 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 (in addition to milk or its direct derivatives) were used.[13]

According to the 2006 Hindu-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey, 31% of Indians (over 350 million people) are vegetarians, while another 9% consumes eggs.[14] Among the various communities, vegetarianism was most common among the Jain community and then Brahmins at 55%, and less frequent among Muslims (3%) and residents of coastal states. Other surveys cited by FAO[15] and USDA[16][17] estimate 20%–42% 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 and partially economic.[17]

The recent growth in India's organized retail has also been hit by some controversy, because some vegetarians are demanding meatless supermarkets.[18]

Europe[edit]

The definition of vegetarianism throughout Europe is not uniform, creating the potential for products to be labelled inaccurately.[1]

Belgium[edit]

Since May 2009, Belgium has the first city in the world (Ghent) with a weekly "veggie day".[19]

France[edit]

In October 2011, the European Vegetarian Union reported that the French government's Décret 2011-1227 and associated Arrêté (September 30, 2011) effectively outlaws the serving of vegan meals at any public or private school in France. Similar decrees are proposed for kindergartens, hospitals, prisons and retirement homes.[20]

Studies in the 1990s showed that one million French (1.5% of the total population) called themselves vegetarians, although more recently this number has reportedly increased to 2%.[21]

Germany[edit]

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Germany has over six million vegetarians.[22] A survey conducted by Institut Produkt und Markt, found that 9% of the population (7,380,000 people) are vegetarian,[23] which the Italian research institute Eurispes reports as the third highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union (after Italy and Sweden).[24]

Italy[edit]

The Italian research institute Eurispes reports that according to the European Vegetarian Union, Italy has over six million vegetarians and the highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union, at 10% of the population.[24]

Netherlands[edit]

Vegetarianism is fairly common in the Netherlands. A study has shown that the number of vegetarians out of a population of nearly 16.5 million people increased from 560,000 in 2004 to 720,000 in 2006.[25][26] It is estimated that 4.5% of the Dutch population doesn't eat meat.[27][28] The number of part-time vegetarians grew rapidly as well: around 3.5 million Dutch citizens abstain from eating meat a few days a week.[26]

The sales of meat substitutes has an annual growth of around 25%, making it one of the fastest-growing markets in the Netherlands.[26] 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.[29]

Veganism is uncommon in the Netherlands: the Dutch Association for Veganism estimates that there are approximately 16,000 vegans in the Netherlands, or around 0.1% of the Dutch population.[30]

Portugal[edit]

The Vegetarian Society of Portugal was founded c. 1908 by Amílcar de Sousa.[31] In 2007, the number of vegetarians in Portugal was estimated at 30,000, which equates to less than 0.3% of the population. In October 2012, this number was estimated at 200.000, being more noticeable in people aged 55 to 70.[32] However, the organization that supposedly carried out this study has denied it and is referring to the older number of 30,000 vegetarians and vegans.[33]

Vegan and vegetarian products like soy milk, soy yogurts, rice milk and tofu are widely available in major retailers.

Poland[edit]

A survey carried out by Lightbox in 2013 found that approximately 3.2% of the population are either vegetarian or vegan. [2]

Russia[edit]

Much of Russian traditional food is meat-based, and fast food such as McDonald's and KFC are becoming quite popular in Russia, so vegetarianism is not very widespread. Sources have implied that it is growing but the numbers are still small compared to Western nations.[34]

Spain[edit]

In Spain, different sources estimate that there are between 1.5 to 2 million vegetarians. In a 2002 article El Mundo cited 1.5 million vegetarians at the time.[35] More recent sources (Asociación Vegana) set the demographics in two millions and observed that in the latest years the trend accelerated.[36][37] In the other hand in a 2012 article, El Pais wrote that 0.5% of the population were vegetarians.[38] The European Vegetarian Union cites 1.800.000 vegetarians, a 4% of the population.[39]

Sweden[edit]

A 2014 survey of 1,000 people found that the number of vegetarians had increased to 10% (4% vegans and 6% vegetarians).[40]

Switzerland[edit]

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Switzerland has the second highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union (even though Switzerland is not in the EU, it was most likely included with the other EU countries for this study).[22] Older governmental data from 1997 suggest that 2.3% of the population never eat meat and the observed trend seemed to point towards less meat consumption.[41] Newer studies suggest that the percentage of vegetarians has risen to 5% by 2007.[41]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, increasing numbers of people have adopted a vegetarian diet since the end of World War II.[42] The Food Standards Agency Public Attitudes to Food Survey 2009 reported that 3% of respondents were found to be "completely vegetarian", with an additional 5% "partly vegetarian (don't eat some types of fish or meat)".[43] Some independent market studies suggest that vegetarians constitute 7% to 11% of the UK adult population (4 million people).[44][45][46] As of 2003, the Vegetarian Society estimates that there are between three and four million vegetarians in the UK.[47] There are twice as many vegetarian women as men.[46] Despite the clear classification by the Vegetarian Society, some people in the UK identify as vegetarians while still eating fish, either for health reasons, or because of differing ethical perspectives on vegetarianism, while others use the term "flexitarian" or part-vegetarian.[42] As of 2009, people in the UK are now also being identified with the labels "meat-avoiders" and "meat-reducers" by marketeers, denoting people who do not self-identify as vegetarians, but are reducing or avoiding meat for reasons of health or climate change impacts, with one survey identifying 23% of the population as "meat-reducers", and 10% as "meat-avoiders", although the same survey indicated the "vast majority" in the UK still eat meat, with one-in-five liking to eat meat every day.[42] According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the UK has the third highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union.[22]

Foods labelled as suitable for vegetarians or vegans are subject to provisions within the Trades Descriptions Act 1968.[48] The Food Standards Agency issues guidance on the labelling of foods as suitable for vegetarians:

The term 'vegetarian' should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of, products derived from animals that have died, have been slaughtered, or animals that die as a result of being eaten. Animals means farmed, wild or domestic animals, including for example, livestock poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustaceans, amphibians, tunicates, echinoderms, molluscs, and insects.

—Food Standards Agency[49]

The FSA's definition has now passed into European law, with legislation due in 2015.

In addition to voluntary labelling, the Vegetarian Society operates a scheme whereby foods that meet its criteria can be labelled "Vegetarian Society approved".[50] Under this scheme, a product is vegetarian if it is free of meat, fowl, fish, shellfish, meat or bone stock, animal or carcass fats, gelatin, aspic, or any other ingredient resulting from slaughter, such as rennet.[51] Cheese is often labelled as well, making it possible to identify cheeses that have been made with rennet derived from non-animal sources. Many hard cheeses in continental Europe contain rennet derived from animal sources.[52]

The Americas[edit]

Brazil[edit]

In 2004, Marly Winckler, President of the Brazilian Vegetarian Society claimed that 5% of the population is vegetarian.[53] According to a 2012 survey undertaken by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics, 8% of the population, that is, 15.2 million people, identified themselves as vegetarian. The city of São Paulo has the most vegetarians in absolute terms (792,120 people), while Fortaleza has the highest percentage, at 14% of the total population.[54]

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 an animal feeding, and a minor percentage for edible oil processing (being direct human consumption for use as food nearly negligible),[55] claims that are widely known to have a basis.[56][57][58][59]

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, are very common among Brazilian anarchists, punks and members of other groups in the counterculture and/or left-wing movements. Other beliefs generally associated with Brazilian vegetarians are Eastern philosophies and religions, New Age and Spiritism, while it is also commonly said to be related to the emo and indie youth subcultures as influence from the local punks. Brazilian vegetarians reportedly tend to be urban, of middle or upper class[53] and live in the Central-Southern half of the country. Since the 1990s, and especially since the 2000s, several vegetarian and vegan restaurants appeared in the metropolitan regions of São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro.[60]

Canada[edit]

In Canada, vegetarianism is usually synonymous with ovo-lacto vegetarianism. However, vegetarians are sometimes wrongly assumed to be pescetarians or pollotarians. Approximately 4.0% of adults are vegetarians as of 2003.[61]

United States[edit]

In 1838, a resolution commending an exclusive diet of starchy vegetables and fruits with limited milk consumption as "preferable to any other" was brought forward to the American Health Convention,[62] but it is unclear whether this resolution was adopted.[63] In 1971, 1 percent of U.S. citizens described themselves as vegetarians.[64] A 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found 13% of Americans identify as vegetarian (6%) or vegan (7%).[65] A 2012 Gallup poll found 5% of Americans identify as vegetarian and 2% as vegan.[66] A 2008 Harris Interactive poll found that 10% of adults "largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet," with 3.2% following a vegetarian diet and 0.5% identifying as vegans.[67] A 2000 Zogby Poll found that 2.5% of respondents reported not eating meat, poultry, or fish; while 4.5 percent reported not eating meat.[68]

Many children [in the United States] whose parents follow vegetarian diets follow them because of religious or ethical beliefs, for animal rights, or for the environment or other reasons.[69] In the government's first estimate[70] of how many children avoid meat, the number is about 1 in 200.[71][72] Also, the CDC survey included children ages 0 to 17 years. Possibly, older children are more likely to follow a vegetarian diet, so differences in age could explain some of the difference in results between the surveys.[69]

U.S. vegetarian food sales (meat replacements such as soy milk and textured vegetable protein) doubled between 1998 and 2003, reaching $1.6 billion in 2003.[73]

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.[74][75] However, there are exceptions. For example, certain trace ingredients that are "ingredients of ingredients" do not need to be listed.[76]

Oceania[edit]

Australia[edit]

In Australia, some manufacturers who target the vegetarian market will 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 01 – 7 October every year,[77] 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.[78]

A 2000 Newspoll survey (commissioned by Sanitarium) shows 44% of Australians report eating at least one meat-free evening meal a week, while 18% said they prefer plant-based meals.

According to a 2010 Newspoll Survey, 5% of Australians identify themselves as vegetarians with 2% actually eating a diet defined by the survey as vegetarian.[79]

New Zealand[edit]

Similar to Australia, in New Zealand the term vegetarian refers to individuals who eat no animal meat such as pork, chicken, and fish; but may still consume animal products such as milk and eggs. In contrast, the term vegan is used to describe those who do not eat any by-products of animals.[80] In 2002 New Zealand's vegetarians made up a minority, between 1-2% of the country’s 4.5 million people [81]

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.[82]

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