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For plant-eating animals, see herbivore.

Vegetarianism is a dietary practice characterized by the exclusion of all body parts of any animal and products derived from animal carcasses (such as lard, tallow, gelatin, and cochineal), from one's diet. The most common definition of vegetarianism, however, accepts the inclusion of animal-based products such as honey, milk and other dairy products as well as eggs. This is more precisely called ovo-lacto vegetarianism. Some vegetarians also choose to refrain from wearing animal-produced items, including wool, leather, silk, feathers/down, and fur.


In 1847, attendees at the meeting of the first Vegetarian Society in Ramsgate, England, agreed that a "vegetarian" (from the Latin uegetus "lively", and suggestive of the English word "vegetable") was a person who refuses to consume flesh of any kind. Prior to that time, vegetarians had often been called "Pythagoreans", after the philosopher and his followers abstained from meat (and possibly some types of beans) in the 6th century BC. These people followed a vegetarian diet for nutritional and ethical reasons. As Pythagoras said:

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.

In the western world vegetarianism became popular in the 20th century as a result of nutritional, ethical and more recently, environmental concerns. However vegetarianism has been common in Hindu and Buddhist countries, such as India, since at least the 2nd millennium BC in cultural and religious practices.

Terminology and Varieties of Vegetarianism[edit]

Different practices of vegetarianism include:

  • Ovo-lacto vegetarianism; Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but may consume animal products such as eggs and milk. The term "vegetarian" is most commonly intended to mean "ovo-lacto-vegetarian", particularly as "vegan" has gained acceptance as the term for stricter practice.
  • Lacto vegetarianism; Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but may consume milk and its derivatives, like cheese, butter, or yogurt.
  • Ovo vegetarianism; Similarly, ovo vegetarians do not eat meat but may eat eggs. This, and lacto vegetarianism, can also be known as semi-veganism.
  • Veganism; Vegetarians who avoid consuming all animal products (including eggs, milk, cheese, and honey) are commonly called vegans, though some reserve this term for those who additionally avoid usage of all kinds of animal products (such as leather and some cosmetics), rather than just food.
  • Raw food diet; Involves food, usually vegan, which is not heated above 116°F (46.7°C); it may be warmed slightly or raw, but never cooked. Raw foodists argue that cooking destroys enzymes and/or portions of each nutrient. However some raw foodists believe certain foods become more bio-available when warmed slightly as the process softens them, which more than negates the destruction of nutrients and enzymes. Other raw foodists, called "living foodists", activate the enzymes through soaking the food in water a while before they plan to eat the food. Some spiritual raw foodists are also fruitarians and many eat only organic foods.
  • Fruitarianism; Fruitarians (or fructarians) eat only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant (some fruitarians eat only plant matter that has already fallen off the plant). This typically arises out of a holistic philosophy. Thus, a fruitarian will eat beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and the like, but will refuse to eat potatoes or spinach. It is disputed whether it is possible to avoid malnutrition with a fruitarian diet, which is rarer than other types of vegetarian or vegan diet.

Religious dietary restrictions come in many forms and are sometimes compatible with the secular terminology; see below.

The following are not generally considered vegetarianism:

  • Pesco/pollo vegetarianism; Some people choose to avoid certain types of meat for many of the same reasons that others choose vegetarianism: health, ethical beliefs, etc. For example, some people will not eat "red meat" (mammal meat – beef, lamb, pork, etc.) while still consuming poultry and seafood. This is not traditional vegetarianism, but has recently been referred to in the media as semi-vegetarianism or pesco/pollo vegetarianism. Some non-vegetarians thus assume vegetarianism to be pesco/pollo vegetarianism.
  • Freeganism; Freegans subscribe to a purely environmental mentality: although meat is generally avoided, eating meat that has been discarded by others is acceptable. The environmental impact of this practice is seen as null or perhaps even beneficial (although discarded meat can be safely composted in some facilities). Freegans often prefer discarded food in any case, even if it is not meat. But producing meat is believed to have more environmental impact than other foods, so this is often the focus of freeganism.
  • Flexitarianism; Flexitarians adhere to a diet that is mostly vegetarian. However they occasionally consume meat, so can be considered semi-vegetarians.
  • Others might regard the suffering of animals in factory farm conditions as their sole reason for avoiding meat or meat based foods. These people will eat meat or meat products from animals raised under more humane conditions or hunted in the wild. Some of these people incorrectly refer to themselves as vegetarians.



Numerous medical groups say that a vegetarian/vegan diet offers numerous major health benefits, including significantly lower rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and stroke. The American Dietetic Association, the largest organization of nutrition professionals, states on its website "Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer." The American Heart Association's website states "Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer."

A myth used to exist that vegetarians had to mix proteins to get all the essential amino acids. This argument has been debunked, as vegetarians get all the protein and amino acids they need from eating a normal variety of whole grains (whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice), beans, nuts, and soy (tofu, veggie burgers/dogs, etc).


Some vegetarians find meat, animal products, and their production unappetizing or emotionally disturbing.

Many vegetarians consider the conditions during the slaughtering and the subsequent production and consumption of meat and animal products as unethical and unacceptable treatment of animals. Reasons for believing this are varied, and may include a belief in animal rights or an aversion to inflicting harm on other living creatures. Many believe that the treatment which animals undergo in the production of meat and animal products obliges them to never eat meat or use animal products, even if this is a considerable inconvenience.

The spread of factory farming has led to animals being treated as commodities. Some people believe that the current mass demand for meat can never be satisfied without a mass-production system that disregards the welfare of animals, although others believe that practices like well-managed free-ranging and consumption of game, particularly from species whose natural predators have been significantly eliminated, could substantially alleviate the demand for mass-produced meat. This latter line of argument, however, fails to consider that many have grown accustomed a diet consisting solely of mass-produced food.[1]

Philosophers Peter Singer and Michael Berumen believe that if alternative means of survival exist, one ought to choose the option that does not cause unnecessary harm to animals. With the exception of a small minority of people, such as nomadic hunting and herding societies, everyone is free to choose not to eat meat or use animal products without sacrificing their health (see Health and weight-loss). Most 'ethical' vegetarians observe that the same reasons exist against killing sentient animals to eat as against killing humans to eat. They have said that killing an animal for food is wrong because the animal does not want to die and is given no choice, the family and friends of that animals will suffer as a result, the animal has hopes for future enjoyment which are denied, the animal enjoys living and the animal experiences varying levels fear and pain in the process of being killed.

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol has said: "People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic, sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are motivated to seek it, you only have to watch how cows and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a perfect English summer's day. Just like humans." [2]

Critics have however pointed to recent experiments that have shown that feelings are not limited just to animals but to plants as well.[3] By the same logic, vegetarians are supposed to abstain from eating plants and their produce as experiments by Jagadish Chandra Bose and newer experiments have proved beyond doubt that plants can respond to the environmental and physical changes. Visual examples are the sunflower and insectivorous plants that can "feel" touch and "sense" light.


The production of meat and animal products at current and likely future levels is environmentally unsustainable. It is also argued that even if sustainable, modern industrial agriculture is changing ecosystems faster than they can adapt. While vegetarian agriculture produces some of the same problems as animal production, the environmental impact of animal production is significantly greater. [4]

Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource in many parts of the world. Overuse by humans is damaging to rivers and ecosystems and leads to salinity and desertification. A vegetarian diet uses considerably less water than a meat based diet. This is because to produce meat, water must be used in the production of feed for animals, which must be fed to the animals during their entire life. The loss of water (and energy) between trophic levels is very large. When the grains go directly to humans this inefficiency is avoided. As an illustration, the water needed to produce a pound of wheat in the USA is 14 gallons whereas the water needed to produce a pound of beef is 441 gallons. More than half of the water use for all purposes in the USA is used for livestock production. L. Beckett & J. W. Oltjen. (1993). Estimation of the water requirement for beef production in the United States. Journal of Animal Science, 71, 818-8268.

Animal protein demands greater expenditures of fossil fuel energy — eight times as much for a comparable amount of plant protein. Corliss, R. (2002, July). Should We All Be Vegetarians? Time. This is wasteful of non-renewable fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Animal production also creates damaging animal waste. In the United States (the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases) livestock account for nearly 20% of total methane emissions. [5] One ton of methane has the global warming potential of 23 tons of carbon dioxide.

Factory farm animal production, while having a smaller land-use footprint, requires large quantities of feed that must be grown over large areas of land. Free-range animal production requires land for grazing, which has prompted encroachment on undeveloped lands and clear cutting. The move into wild lands has increased the rate of species extinction and damaged the services offered by nature, such as natural processing of pollutants. Over-grazed lands lose their ability to support animal production, which makes further agricultural expansion necessary. According to the United Nations, ranching-induced deforestation is one of the main reasons for the loss of plant and animal species in tropical rainforests. F.A.O., United Nations. (1996). Livestock & the Environment. Overfishing and trawling are also very destructive to sea ecosystems; a recently-reported figure suggested that, with half as many professional fishers working as are today, an equal amount of seafood would still be harvested.

Compare this with economic vegetarians, who consider the meat industry economically unsound.

“The cost of mass-producing cattle, poultry, pigs and sheep and fish to feed our growing population... include highly inefficient use of freshwater and land, heavy pollution from livestock feces... and spreading destruction of the forests on which much of our planet's life depends.” - Time magazine 11/8/99

"The world's 17 major fisheries are on the point of environmental collapse because of over-fishing" - United Nations

Citing the same efficiency concerns as environmentalist vegetarians and economic vegetarians, many vegetarians see natural resources as being freed up by vegetarianism, particularly veganism.

A popular saying is that even with more food, the problem is shipping all of that food to the starving people. Yet, petroleum is one of the resources freed up for other usage by a vegan diet: Within the Pulitzer-winning book by John Robbins, "Diet for a New America," which uses data primarily sourced from the world's largest body of scientists, AAAS, Robbins explains how the petroleum used in the transportation of farm-animals, the later processing of them, and the raising and harvesting of the vast amount of crops fed to farm-animals (which is much greater than the amount of crops people would need if we were to eat the crops directly, rather than feeding them to animals, then eating the animals), adds up to greatly increase the amount of petroleum used. So, if more people adopt a vegan diet, not only is more food available, but more petroleum to deliver that food is. Critics of this view may observe that the root causes of world hunger are often traceable to harmful political structures rather than genuine resource shortages. Moreover in developing countries where hunger is more common, animals bred for meat are seldom fed food that is consumed by human beings; instead they are often free ranging cattle or goats or chicken that simply eat grass and other food stuff that is thrown away by men.


Some vegetarians are vegetarian because they were raised by vegetarians. Others may have become vegetarians because of a vegetarian partner, family member, or friend. Some people live in regions that are predominantly vegetarian (such as India), making meat-eaters a minority. When removed from the social influences that cause vegetarianism, some people will stop being vegetarian while others will remain vegetarian.

There is a widespread impression that vegetarians are more frequently female than male, at least in the Western world. This has been borne out by studies such as that of J.L. Bedford and S.I. Barr of the University of British Columbia, who found that 71% of the vegetarians in their sample were female [6].

Religious Motivation[edit]

According to the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians, most of the world's vegetarians follow the practice for religious reasons. Many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and especially Jainism, teach that ideally life should always be valued and not willfully destroyed for unnecessary human gratification.

Abrahamic religions[edit]

Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all left with the biblical ideal of the Garden of Eden diet, which from all appearances is strictly vegan (see Genesis 1:29, 9:2-4; Isaiah 11:6-9). However, only minorities within these populations actually practice and advocate such strict diets, since the same book of the Bible, Genesis, later gives permission to Noah (and presumably his descendants) to consume animal flesh. Curiously, this is not without great suffering simultaneously administered to all creatures: "The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea" (Gen. 9:2). Suffice to say, the Judeo-Christian God's permission for humankind to eat meat was not an unmixed or otherwise "unqualified" blessing. Commentators agree that meat-eating largely appears to be a divine concession to human weakness and sin, with penalties — likely including decreased life expectancy (see Gen. 6:3). (Noah's great-grandfather, Methuselah, is famously reported as having lived an 969 years, but this was prior to God permitting meat-eating in the Bible.)

In the Bible, the Book of Genesis teaches that human beings were originally vegetarian, but that later, following the Deluge, God permitted people to eat meat as well. Many Judeo-Christian vegetarians interpret this to mean that God originally intended human beings to be vegetarians, and that people would do well to be vegetarians, even though meat-eating is permitted. Additionally, some Biblical prophecy suggests that in the Messianic age, there will be universal vegetarianism, even among normally carnivorous animals (for example, Isaiah 11:7 says, "The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.").


Rabbinical Judaism discourages ascetic practices in general. With respect to food, this teaching may be summarized by the Talmudic statement, "Man will have to account for everything he saw but did not eat." (This refers to permissible or kosher foods only, not to forbidden animal species such as pork.) On the other hand, the Talmud discourages indulgence and states that it is preferable that one's diet consist mostly of non-meat products. To Jewish vegetarians wishing to remain consistent with this teaching, vegetarianism is not a form of self-deprivation, because the vegetarian does not desire to eat meat and believes it is healthier not to eat meat.

Genesis 1:29 states "And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit - to you it shall be for food." According to some classical Jewish Bible commentators this means that God's original plan was for mankind to be vegetarian, and that God only later gave permission for man to eat meat because of man's weak nature. Other commentators argue that people may eat animals because God gave Eve and Adam dominion over them.

Generally speaking, Judaism has not promoted vegetarianism. However, some prominent rabbis have been vegetarian, among them the first Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, Abraham Isaac Kook and fomer Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Goren.

Some Orthodox authorities have ruled that it is forbidden for an individual to become a vegetarian if they do so because they believe in animal rights; however, they have ruled that vegetarianism is allowed for pragmatic reasons (if kosher meat is expensive or hard to come by in their area), health concerns, or for reasons of personal taste (if someone finds meat unpalatable). Some believe that halakha encourages the eating of meat at the Sabbath and Festival meals, thus some Orthodox Jews who are otherwise vegetarian will nevertheless consume meat at these meals.

There are several arguments from Judaism used by Jewish vegetarians. One is that, since Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat meat and that, according to some opinions, in the Messianic era, the whole world will be vegetarian, not eating meat is something that brings the world closer to that ideal. A second one is that the laws of shechita are meant to prevent the suffering of animals and today, with factory farming and high-speed, mechanized slaughterhouses, even kosher slaughterhouses are considered by some authorities not to fulfill enough of the requirements to render the meat kosher. A third one is that the Sages only mandated eating an olive's bulk of meat during festivals, but even then, this was because in Talmudic times, meat was considered essential for one's diet (whereas a vegetarian will probably be of the opinion that current science has shown otherwise).


In Christianity, Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans that although he himself ate meat, the choice to eat meat or abstain from meat should be a matter of personal conviction: "The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him." (Romans 14:3). Several Christian monastic groups have encouraged vegetarianism, including the Desert Fathers, Trappists, Benedictines, and Carthusians. Some Christian groups, such as Seventh-day Adventists and Christian anarchists, take a literal interpretation of the Biblical prophecies of universal vegetarianism and encourage vegetarianism as a preferred, though not required, lifestyle. However, most evangelical groups are unaware of the existence of any such prophecies, and point instead to the explicit prophecies of temple sacrifices in the Messianic Kingdom, many of which are eaten—see Ezekiel 46:12 where peace offerings and freewill offerings will be offered, and Leviticus 7:15-20 where it states that such offerings are eaten. Some key Christian historical figures such as St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi became vegetarians for ascetic reasons, not necessarily because of a religious edict to that effect. In the nineteenth century, members of the Bible Christian sect established the first vegetarian groups in England and the United States.

However, it has been argued that the anthropocentric viewpoint of the Bible encourages human exploitation of animals and meat eating. The bible says: "..And God said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepth upon the earth.", "And God blessed them, Be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the earth; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." As a result of this attitude, the Christian mind could exploit Nature and non human animals without the qualms that many other cultures had in disturbing a living, evolving process.

The attitude of dominion is then disputed with the translation of dominion as the authority to rule over animals and not consume them. Further reading in Genesis lends credibility to this belief by stating in Genesis 1:30: "And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so." Continuing into Genesis 1:31, the bible says: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The only time the phrase "very good" appears in the bible as stated by God is in Genesis 1:30. This indicates that God's original plan was for vegetarianism. The introduction of sin later changed the plan to include blood sacrifices to atone for sin with death being the price for sin. Upon the sacrifice of the final lamb, Jesus Christ, animal sacrifices were no longer needed and vegetarianism became a part of Chritianity as indicated by various references in the New Testament.

Conversely, there are many verses of the Bible that endorse the 'goodness' of meat. (e.g. I Timothy 4:1-5)


Islam explicitly permits the eating of some kinds of meat, but does not make it compulsory. There are several hadith that support a vegetarian lifestyle and recommend kindness to animals rather than eating them. "Masih(the messiah,Jesus) said, ‘Flesh eating flesh? How offensive an act!’"(Al-Raghib al-Isfahani (early fifth/early eleventh century), Mahadarat al-Udaba', 1:610.) According to Karen Armstrong, "The Koran does permit meat-eating, but it also encourages healthful foods (which, many Muslims conclude, does not include animal products). Given these traditions, many Shi'ite Muslims and the Islamic mystics, such as the Sufis, see vegetarianism as the Islamic ideal and choose this diet. " - A History of God by Karen Armstrong


Rastafarians generally follow a diet called "I-tal", which eschews the eating of food that has been artificially preserved, flavoured, or chemically altered in any way. Many Rastafarians consider it to also forbid the eating of meat.


Hindus of certain castes, especially Brahmins, are forbidden from consuming anything gained at the expense of an animal's suffering, such as meat, eggs, animal byproducts such as rennet and gelatin (including gelatin capsules), and honey. The milk of cows, buffalo, and goats as well as dairy products (other than cheese containing rennet) are acceptable, as milk is traditionally given willingly. Leather from cows who have died of natural causes is acceptable for some Hindus

The diet of the orthodox Hindus excludes animal products (apart from milk products), alcohol, as well as "overly-stimulating" foods such as onions and garlic). However, not all Hindus are vegetarian.


All dietary rules listed for Hindus apply to Jains, in addition to which Jains must take into account any suffering caused to plants and suksma jiva (Sanskrit: subtle life forms; refers to what would later be termed "microorganisms") by their dietary choices. They are forbidden from eating most root vegetables (such as potatoes) and deem many other vegetables acceptable only when harvested during certain times of the year.


In Chinese societies, "simple eating" (素食 Mandarin: sù shí) refers to a particular restricted diet associated with Taoist monks, and sometimes practiced by members of the general population during Taoist festivals. It is referred to by the English word "vegetarian"; however, though it rejects meat, eggs and milk, this diet does include oysters and oyster products.


The first lay precept in Buddhism prohibits killing. Many see this as implying that Buddhists should not eat the meat of animals. However, this is not necessarily the case. The Buddha made distinction between killing an animal and consumption of meat, stressing that it is immoral conduct that makes one impure, not the food one eats. In one of the Pali sutras belonging to the Theravada lineage of Buddhism, the Buddha says that vegetarianism is preferable, but as monks in ancient India were expected to receive all of their food by begging they had little or no control over their diet. However, since vegetarianism was a norm in ancient India, it would have been extremely rare that the monk be offered meat. The Buddha did not wish to lay an extra burden on his lay followers by demanding that the food should be vegetarian, and there was no general rule requiring monks to refrain from eating meat. At one point the Buddha specifically refused to institute vegetarianism, and the Pali Canon records the Buddha himself eating meat on several occasions. There were, however, rules prohibiting certain types of meat, such as human, leopard or elephant. Monks are also prohibited from consuming meat if they witnessed the animal's death or knows it was killed specifically for them. This rule was not applied to commercial purchase of meat in the case of a general who sent a servant to purchase meat specifically to feed the Buddha. Therefore, eating commercially purchased meat is not prohibited.

On the other hand, the Buddha in certain Mahayana sutras strongly denounces the eating of meat. In the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha states that "the eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion", adding that all and every kind of meat and fish consumption (even of animals already found dead) is prohibited by him. The Buddha also predicts in this sutra that later monks will "hold spurious writings to be the authentic Dharma" and will concoct their own sutras and mendaciously claim that the Buddha allows the eating of meat, whereas in fact (he says) he does not. A long passage in the Lankavatara Sutra shows the Buddha weighing strongly in favor of vegetarianism, since the eating of the flesh of fellow sentient beings is said by him to be incompatible with the compassion a Bodhisattva should strive to cultivate. Several other Mahayana sutras also emphatically prohibit the consumption of meat.

A solution to this problem arose when monks from the Indian sphere of influence migrated to China, as of the year 65 AD. There they met followers who provided them with money instead of food. From those days onwards Chinese monastics, and others who came to inhabit northern countries, cultivated their own vegetable plots and bought everything else they needed in terms of food in the market.

In the modern Buddhist world, attitudes toward vegetarianism vary by location. In China and Vietnam, monks typically eat no meat (and with other restrictions as well – see Buddhist cuisine). In Japan or Korea some schools do not eat meat, while most do. Theravadins in Sri Lanka and South-east Asia do not practice vegetarianism. All Buddhists however, including monks, are allowed to practice vegetarianism if they wish to do so.

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

The Bahá'í Faith prefers a vegetarian diet, although it is not required. Furthermore, Bahá'ís believe "Fruits and grains" will be the foods of the future and the time will come when meat will no longer be eaten [7].


In Sikhism, only vegetarian food is served during religious occasions, but Sikhs are not bound to be meat free. However, Kosher or Halal meat is forbidden because of the cruelity involved in animals' slow manner of death.

Country Specific Information[edit]

  • In the United States, vegetarianism is usually synonymous with ovo-lacto vegetarianism. However, vegetarians are sometimes wrongly assumed to be pesco/pollo vegetarians who will tolerate some meat. It is also possible to order a vegetarian meal and be served meat.
  • In the UK, voluntary labelling of vegetarian foods is widespread, but far from universal. Many manufacturers will label food as "suitable for vegetarians" though there is currently no agreed definition of this. In addition, the Vegetarian Society operates a scheme where foods that meet its strict criteria can be labelled as "Vegetarian Society-approved". Cheese is often labelled as well, making it possible to identify cheeses that have been made with non-animal rennet. Flavourings in ingredients lists do not need to specify if they come from animal origin, which can make identifying vegetarian foods difficult if they are not otherwise labelled as such.
  • In Ireland, food labelling is in place.
  • In Germany, the confusion of vegetarianism with pesco/pollo vegetarianism is also common. There is no food labelling in place, and buying only vegetarian foods can involve having to read the fine printed ingredients list ("Zutaten") on many food products.
  • In Australia the same conditions apply as in Germany. Some manufacturers who target the vegetarian market will label their foods, however except for foods intended for export to the United Kingdom, this labelling can be inconsistent. 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.

Vegetarian Societies[edit]

Vegetarian societies (apart from India) were first formed in majority meat eating European countries both as a means to promote the diet and to gather together vegetarians for mutual support. By 2000, most western and developing nations had functioning vegetarian societies. The countries that were first to establish societies are still the ones most likely to have the greatest proportion of vegetarians within their populations.

The first societies were:

The International Vegetarian Union [8], a union of all the national societies, was founded in 1908.


  • Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet - Albert Einstein.
  • The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men - Leonardo da Vinci
  • I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals - Henry David Thoreau
  • A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite - Leo Tolstoy.
  • I do feel that spiritual progress does demand, at some stage, that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants - Mohandas K. Gandhi.
  • To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana - Buddha.

Fictional Vegetarians[edit]


There are some people who criticise vegetarianism on the grounds that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get a sufficient amount of B12 and protein from a strictly vegetarian diet. Some people have suffered from health problems because of various types of vegetarian diets [9]

There are also some people who question some of the basic reasons for vegetarianism. For example, it is erroneous to assume that food given to livestock could instead be used to feed humans. Such food is usually of poor quality and not fit for human consumption. Also, there exists some types of terrain (such as mountains) that is suitable for grazing animals, but not suitable as farmland.

More detailed critiques of vegetarianism can be found here: [10] [11] [12]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

See the external links at veganism.

Subjects in eating ethics and other related topics
omnivorism | flexitarianism | vegetarianism | veganism | fruitarianism
Related topics: food | animal rights | animal liberation