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World Wide Populations of Vegetarians
What do Brad Pitt, Bob Dylan, Pamela Anderson, Martina Navratilova, David Duchovny and Brigitte Bardot have? All are vegetarians. With the exception of India, it is estimated that about 1% of the global population abstains from meat, poultry, and fish, and that about 0.1% are vegans, avoiding all animal products. However, these figures translate to about 60 million people worldwide, excluding India.
A large 2008 study of vegetarians [Vegetarianism in America, published by Vegetarian Times] shows that 3.2 percent of American adults (7.3 million people) follow a vegetarian-based diet. About 0.5 percent (1 million) of these are vegans, who consume no animal products. In addition, 10 percent of American adults (22.8 million people) say they follow a semi-vegetarian diet that includes occasional consumption of fish.
This study showed that of the non-vegetarians surveyed, 5.2 percent, or 11.9 million people, are “definitely interested” in following a vegetarian diet in the future. This shows that many people believe that a vegetarian diet is a healthy diet.
The vegetarian study collected data on age, gender and other demographic factors revealing that:
– 57.1 percent follow a vegetarian diet for more than 10 years; 18 percent for 5 to 10 years; 10.8 percent for 2 to 5 years, 14.1 percent for less than 2 years.
– 42.0 percent are 18 to 34 years old; 40.7 percent are 35 to 54; and 17.4 percent are over 55 years old.
– 59 percent are female and 41 percent are male.
The 2008 vegetarian study also showed that 53 percent of vegetarians eat a vegetarian diet to improve their overall health. Environmental factors were cited by 47 percent, 39 percent cited “natural approaches to welfare,” 54 percent cited animal welfare; 31 percent cited food safety concerns, 25 percent cited weight loss, and 24 percent weight maintenance.
In Western Europe the number of vegetarians varies between 2% and 4% of the population according to a Mintel survey (2006) (Mintel.com), with Great Britain as the exception. The UK is shown as having the highest per capita vegetarians in Western Europe at 6% of the population. The large number of vegetarians in the UK is to some extent accounted for by health scares relating to mad cow disease.
The number of vegetarians in Eastern Europe varies between 0.3%% and 1.9% of the population according to Mintel, which is a much lower percentage compared to Western European countries. As for the rest of the world, data is incomplete and estimates vary between 0.2% and 4% vegetarians as a percentage of population, excluding India and Israel.
Israel, at 8.5%, has the second largest percentage of vegetarians in the world, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health, which equates to a remarkable 595,000 people in such a small country. India contains more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined. A survey by the Hindu newspaper in 2006 found that 40 percent of the population, or 399 million people, are vegetarians.
It is estimated that today, more than 400 million Indians are vegetarians, mostly driven by class and religious concerns, with the Brahmin class expected not to eat meat, the Hindu religion suggesting vegetarianism and the Jain religion requiring it.
The Jain religion does not believe in harming other forms of life. With more than 7 million members, they prohibit consumption of any type of meat, eggs or honey; root vegetables (which could harm soil insects when harvested); and fruits or vegetables that have been on the ground and those that are more than 3 days old (including pickles and preserves). Water should be boiled before drinking, and all liquids should be strained before consumption, usually with a cloth held over the mouth.
There are different types of vegetarians, depending on dietary restrictions. For example, some vegetarians exclude all cooked foods, others may exclude milk or eggs, etc.
It is interesting to note that when vegetarians are compared to non-vegetarians in the same demographic (same socio-economic-cultural background), research shows that vegetarians are less healthy. In fact, peer-reviewed research shows that vegetarians have a higher incidence of cancer, dementia, obesity, heart disease, stroke, eating disorders, infertility and other illnesses.
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