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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 in common? 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. Yet these numbers equate 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 them are vegans, who do not consume animal products at all. Additionally, 10 percent of American adults (22.8 million people) say they follow a semi-vegetarian diet, which includes occasional consumption of fish.
This survey found that of the non-vegetarian respondents, 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 survey collected data on age, gender and other demographic factors, revealing that:
– 57.1 percent have followed 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 aged 18 to 34; 40.7 percent are 35 to 54; and 17.4 percent are over 55 years of age.
– 59 percent are women and 41 percent are men.
The 2008 Vegetarian Survey also found 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 wellness,” 54 percent cited animal welfare; 31 percent cited concerns about food safety, 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 2006 Mintel survey (Mintel.com), with the UK being the exception. The United Kingdom is shown to have the highest per capita vegetarians in Western Europe at 6% of the population. The large number of vegetarians in the UK is due to some extent to health hazards associated with 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. Regarding the rest of the world, data is incomplete and estimates vary between 0.2% and 4% vegetarians as a percentage of the population, excluding India and Israel.
At 8.5%, Israel has the world’s second-highest percentage of vegetarians, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health, which equates to a remarkable 595,000 people in such a small country. India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined. A 2006 survey by the Hindu newspaper found that 40 percent of the population, or 399 million people, are vegetarians.
It is estimated that more than 400 million Indians today 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 demanding it.
The Jain religion does not believe in harming other life forms. With over 7 million members, they forbid the consumption of any kind of meat, eggs or honey; root crops (which can harm soil insects when harvested); and fruit or vegetables that have been on the ground and those 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 food, others may exclude milk or eggs, and so on.
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 ailments.
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