Vegetarianism by country
This article deals with vegetarianism and veganism by country, comparing the prevalence of vegetarianism and veganism in each country when sources are available by the number of vegetarians and vegans, and listing food standards, laws and general cultural attitudes.
Some countries have strong cultural or religious traditions that promote vegetarianism, such as in India, while in other countries secular ethical concerns dominate, including animal rights and environmental protection, along with health concerns. In many countries, food labeling laws make it easier for vegetarians to identify foods compatible with their diets.
- 1 Demographics
- 2 Africa
- 3 Asia
- 4 Europe
- 5 North America
- 6 Oceania
- 7 South America
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Reliable data is lacking due to a lack of polling and the varying definitions of vegetarianism and veganism used in the polls. For example, the latest US poll defines "vegan" according to diets that exclude meat, eggs and dairy, rather than following the accepted definition of veganism as avoiding all animal products as far as possible including honey and clothing. Other polls, like the latest Australian poll, place strict vegetarians and those who follow "almost" vegetarian diets in the same category, while this poll and many others measure only vegetarianism and neglect to include veganism in the poll. Many poll results are contradicted by other poll results from the came country despite similar publication dates, implying a wide margin of error.
|Country||Vegetarian diet (%) (includes vegan diet)||Approx. no. of individuals||Data set year||Vegan diet (%)||Approx. no. of individuals||Source year||Note|
|Australia||11.2%||2,100,000||2016||As of March 2016, 11.2% of people living in Australia agreed that "The food I eat is all, or almost all, vegetarian."|
|China||4% - 5%||54,428,000 - 68,035,000||2013|
|Finland||2% - 3%||108,000 - 162,000||2011||0.5%||27,000||2013||% of vegans only an estimation|
|France||1.5% - 2%||1,988,000 - 3,300,000||2011|
|Germany||6% - 8.7%||4,786,000 - 7,000,000||2015 2011||1.0%||800,000||2011|
|India||29% - 40%||360,576,000||2009 2014|
|Israel||2.6% - 13%||1,046,000||2015||5%||421,000||2015||The numbers 13% and 5% are much higher than the results of polls a few years earlier. They are based on one newspaper/television poll and have not yet been confirmed by a more reliable poll.|
|Italy||7.1% - 10%||4,246,000||2009 2015||0.6% - 2.8%||400,000 - 1,680,000||2015|
|Latvia||3% - 5%||60,000 - 100,000||2013||estimation|
|Russia||3% - 4%||4,380,000 - 5,840,000||2014|
|Spain||0.5% - 4%||1,788,000||2007 2012||0.08%||36,800||2006||rough consumer pattern estimation|
|Switzerland||2% - 5%||375,000||2007|
|United Kingdom||2% - 12%||1,292,000 - 7,752,000||2012 2014||1.05%||542,000||2016||% of vegans over age of 15|
|United States||3.3%||8,000,000||2016||1.5%||3,700,000||Adult population|
African-diets are relatively plant-based for economic reasons, but the prevalence of strict ethical vegetarianism in Africa is reported to be low, while scientific polls are lacking. Countries in North Africa have a tradition of cooking in a vegetarian style, with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia being particularly connected with this type of cooking which includes couscous and spiced vegetables. Indian immigrants to Africa, particularly in South Africa, brought vegetarianism with them which has been documented as far back as 1895 in Natal Province. Also, some African countries such as Ethiopia have regular weekly and special periods of religious fasting requiring observance of a vegetarian diet.
Eating meat is seen as a sign of prosperity 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.
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 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 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.
In 2007, UN FAO statistics indicated that Indians had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world. India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. 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, 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 were used. Products like honey, milk, or its direct derivatives are often categorized under the green mark.
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 Lingayat, Vaishnav Community, Jain community and then Brahmins at 55%, 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.
The recent growth in India's organized retail sector has also been hit by some controversy, because some vegetarians are demanding meat-free supermarkets.
In 2016, the Government of India announced the decision to provide students, at a few of the Institutes of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (IHMCTANs), the option to choose only vegetarian cooking. Earlier, it was compulsory for all IHMCTAN students to learn non-vegetarian cooking. These IHMCTANs are located at Ahmedabad, Bhopal and Jaipur.
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, 2.6% of Israelis were vegetarians or vegans.
In 2015, according to a poll by Globes newspaper and Channel Two, 13% of the Israeli population are vegetarian or vegan (8% were vegetarians and 5% were vegans). Tel Aviv beat out Berlin, New York and Chennai, India as U.S. food website The Daily Meal's top destination for vegan travelers.
According to a 2014/12 survey 4.7% of the Japanese population are vegetarian or vegan (2.7% vegan).
21% of young adults are on a full vegetarian diet in Klang Valley, Malaysia. 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, chicken, fish and vegetables are dietary staples, mixed with a rich variety of spices, coconut, lime and tamarind. Buddhist Chinese monastics are vegetarians. Singapore is also the headquarters of the world's first international, vegetarian, fast food chain, VeganBurg. The biggest community of vegetarians and vegans in Singapore is the Vegetarian Society (VSS). Vegetarian and vegan places have a small, but active role in the gastronomy of Singapore.
In Taiwan, 1.7 million people, or 13% of the population of Taiwan, follow a vegetarian diet at least some of the time. 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.
The definition of vegetarianism throughout Europe is not uniform, creating the potential for products to be labelled inaccurately.
According to a study of ISEF from 2013 (n=500), 9% of Austrians are vegetarian or vegan.
There is no recent data about amount of vegetarians or vegans in Finland. In 2015, according to a survey by meat producers' association Lihatiedotusyhdistys, 6% of the population, or 329,000 people, did not eat meat. In 2014, the percentage was 5%; it was 10% among 25–34 year old people. The survey did not ask about eating fish. Otherwise, it is estimated that 2–3% of Finns are vegetarians and 0.5% vegans. By combining the data of three surveys (a sample of 24,000 people) published in 2008, 3.3% of Finns identified themselves vegetarians but only 0.66% actually followed a vegetarian diet. 1.4% ate fish but not meat. 0.18% were vegans or lacto-vegetarians.
In Helsinki city schools 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 percents 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.
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%.
In 2011, the French government issued decree 2011-1227 declaring that French school lunches must contain animal products.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Germany has over six million vegetarians. A survey conducted by Institut Produkt und Markt found that 9% of the population (7,380,000 people) are vegetarian.
However, the statistically representative German National Nutrition Monitoring (NEMONIT) only found there to be slightly less than 2% vegetarians in the German population in 2012.
It is estimated that 4.5% of the Dutch population doesn't eat meat.
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. 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.
The sales of meat substitutes have an annual growth of around 25%, making 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. 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 population.
A survey carried out by Lightbox in 2013 found that approximately 3.2% of the population are either vegetarian or vegan.
Vegan and vegetarian products like soy milk, soy yogurts, rice milk and tofu are widely available in major retailers.
A 2012 article in El Pais stated that 0.5% of the population are vegetarian, but that interest in vegetarianism is growing.
In Spain, different sources estimate that there are between 1.5 and 2 million vegetarians. In a 2002 article El Mundo stated that there are 1.5 million vegetarians. More recent sources (Asociación Vegana) estimate the number to be two million and observe that in recent years the number of people adopting a vegetarian diet has been growing.
A 2014 survey of 1,000 people found that the number of vegetarians had increased to 10% (4% vegans and 6% vegetarians).
1997 government figures suggested that 2.3% of the population never ate meat, and the observed trend seemed to point towards less meat consumption. A 2007 study suggested that the percentage of vegetarians had risen to 5%.
In the United Kingdom, increasing numbers of people have adopted a vegetarian diet since the end of World War II. 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)". The UK's National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) reported in 2014 that its four-year study found 2.6% of adults and 1.9% of children were vegetarian. Some less formal market studies suggest that vegetarians constitute 7% to 11% of the UK adult population (4 million people). There are twice as many vegetarian women as men.
Despite the clear classification by the Vegetarian Society, some people in the UK misidentify as vegetarians while still eating fish, either for perceived "health reasons", or because of differing ethical perspectives on vegetarianism, while others use the terms "flexitarian" or "part-vegetarian". As of 2009, people in the UK are now also 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. Even among professed vegetarians, a study found that 39% admitted to having eaten a kebab while under the influence of alcohol.
According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the UK has the third highest rate of vegetarianism in the European Union. According to research carried out in 2014, 12% of British are either vegetarian or vegan. This number rises to 20% among people aged 16–24. Flexitarianism is also becoming more popular in the UK. Foods labelled as suitable for vegetarians or vegans are subject to provisions within the Trades Descriptions Act 1968. 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
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". 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. 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.
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 were vegetarians as of 2003[update]. A 2015 survey conducted by the Vancouver Humane Society and administered by polling company Environics "shows that 33 percent of Canadians, or almost 12 million, are either already vegetarian or are eating less meat." Broken down, the figure includes 8% of respondents who are already vegetarian or mostly vegetarian, as well as 25% of Canadians who say they are trying to eat less meat. The online poll, which surveyed 1507 Canadian adults, found that younger Canadians (between 18-34) are most likely to be vegetarians, while older Canadians are more likely to say they are eating less meat.
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, while a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey of 500 respondents found that 13% of Americans are either vegetarian or vegan—6% vegetarian and 7% vegan. 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.
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.
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.
Roy Morgan Research in August 2016 reported, "Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Australian adults whose diet is all or almost all vegetarian has risen from 1.7 million people (or 9.7% of the population) to almost 2.1 million (11.2%), the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research reveal."
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.
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 has the most vegetarians in absolute terms (792,120 people), while Fortaleza has the highest percentage, at 14% of the total population.
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, 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. 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 and live in the Central-Southern half of the country. Since the 1990s, and especially since the 2000s, several vegetarian and vegan restaurants have appeared in the metropolitan regions of São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro.
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