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  1. Acorn Community
  2. All-Bran
  3. Almond milk
  4. Alpen
  5. American Vegetarian Party
  6. Amirim
  7. Amy's Kitchen
  8. Animal liberation movement
  9. Animal rights
  10. Animal welfare
  11. Arkangel
  12. Artificial cream
  13. Ayyavazhi
  14. Buddhist cuisine
  15. Catharism
  16. Catholic Vegetarian Society
  17. Cereal
  18. Chreese
  19. Christian Vegetarian Association
  20. Christian vegetarianism
  21. Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre
  22. Coconut milk powder
  23. Cool Whip
  24. Donald Watson
  25. Economic vegetarianism
  26. Environmental benefits of Vegetarianism
  27. Environmental ethics
  28. Ethics of eating meat
  29. Flexitarianism
  30. Food for Life
  31. Free range
  32. Fruit
  33. Fruitarianism
  34. Hardline
  35. Herb
  36. Horchata
  37. Hummus
  38. Indian Vegetarian
  39. International Vegetarian Union
  40. In vitro meat
  41. Jainism
  42. Kokkoh
  43. Korean vegetarian cuisine
  44. Lacto-ovo vegetarianism
  45. List of vegans
  46. Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition
  47. Meat analogue
  48. Movement for Compassionate Living
  49. Natural hygiene
  50. Non-dairy creamer
  51. Nut
  52. Nutritional yeast
  53. Permaculture
  54. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
  55. Plant milk
  56. Poi
  57. Raw veganism
  58. Rice milk
  59. Salad bar
  60. Seventh-day Adventist Church
  61. Shahmai Network
  62. Simple living
  63. Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians
  64. Soy milk
  65. Soy protein
  66. Spice
  67. Spiritual practice
  68. Sustainable living
  69. Textured vegetable protein
  70. The Celestine Prophecy
  71. The China Study
  72. The Pitman Vegetarian Hotel
  73. The Vegan Sourcebook
  74. Tofu
  75. Toronto Vegetarian Association
  76. Vegan
  77. Vegan organic gardening
  78. Vegan Society
  79. Vegetable
  80. Vegetarian cuisine
  81. Vegetarian diet
  82. Vegetarianism
  83. Vegetarianism and religion
  84. Vegetarianism in Buddhism
  85. Vegetarianism in specific countries
  86. Vegetarian nutrition
  87. Vegetarian Society
  88. Veggie burger
  89. VegNews
  90. Weetabix
  91. Wheat gluten
  92. World Vegan Day
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from Vegetarian diet)
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For plant-eating, non-human animals, see Herbivore.

Vegetarianism is the practice of not consuming meat, with or without the use of other animal derivatives, such as dairy products or eggs. Some vegetarians choose to also refrain from wearing clothing involving the death of animals, such as leather, silk and fur. Veganism, sometimes called "strict vegetarianism", excludes all animal products from diet and attire, whether or not this involves the actual death of an animal (dairy, eggs, honey, wool and down feathers). Vegetarians are found in countries across the world with varied motivations including religious, financial, ethical, environmental, and health concerns.

Gnocchi with mushrooms and tomatoes, a vegetarian dish which contains few or no culinary vegetables.
Gnocchi with mushrooms and tomatoes, a vegetarian dish which contains few or no culinary vegetables.

Terminology and varieties of vegetarianism

There are many different practices of vegetarianism. The following table lists the diet's name along with the food that the diet permits.

Main varieties

Other dietary practices commonly associated with vegetarianism

  • Fruitarianism is a diet of only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
  • Macrobiotic diet is a diet of mostly whole grains and beans, though it allows the consumption of fish.
  • Natural hygiene in its classic form recommends a diet principally of raw vegan foods.
  • Raw food diet practitioners don't eat food heated above a certain temperature.
  • Raw veganism is a diet of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.


"Semi-vegetarian" varieties

The following similarly named diets are related to vegetarianism:

  • Pesco/pollo vegetarianism (semi-vegetarianism, poultratarianism) — will only eat certain meats depending on the particular diet (pesco-fish, pollo-fowl).
  • Flexitarianism — prefer to eat vegetarian food, but make exceptions

Related Concepts

  • Freeganism — argues that all commodities produced under capitalism, not only those from animal sources, contribute to exploitation and avoid buying anything, including food. May or may not be vegetarian or vegan.

Note: these technical terms may be used more to discuss vegetarianism academically than by vegetarians themselves, who may generally think of themselves as simply "vegetarians", regardless of what specific foods they do or don't include in their diet.

Vegetarian cuisine

Main article: Vegetarian cuisine

For lacto-ovo vegetarians, this generally means food which excludes ingredients derived directly from the death of animals, such as meat, meat broth, cheeses that use animal rennet, gelatin (from animal skin and connective tissue), and for the strictest, even some sugars that are whitened with bone char (e.g. cane sugar, but not beet sugar) and alcohol clarified with gelatin or crushed shellfish and sturgeon.

Vegetarian diet

"Most vegetarians eat milk products and eggs, and as a group, these lacto-ovo-vegetarians enjoy excellent health. Vegetarian diets are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and can meet Recommended Dietary Allowances for nutrients. You can get enough protein from a vegetarian diet as long as the variety and amounts of foods consumed are adequate. Meat, fish, and poultry are major contributors of iron, zinc, and B vitamins in most American diets, and vegetarians should pay special attention to these nutrients.

"Vegans eat only food of plant origin. Because animal products are the only food sources of vitamin B12, vegans must supplement their diets with a source of this vitamin. In addition, vegan diets, particularly those of children, require care to ensure adequacy of vitamin D and calcium, which most Americans obtain from milk products." NUTRITION AND YOUR HEALTH: DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR AMERICANS Fourth Edition, 1995; U.S. Department of Agriculture [1]

Protein is made up of amino acids and the only vegetable sources with all nine types of essential amino acids are soybeans and quinoa. There exists a misconception that dietary protein needs to be combined in the same meal. For example, rice and beans, or pita bread and hummus create a source of complete protein. Dairy products and eggs can be part of a healthy lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.


  • Vegetarianism may have been common in the Indian subcontinent as early as the 2nd millennium BC.[citation needed] Hinduism preaches that it is the ideal diet for spiritual progress and Jainism enjoins all its followers to be vegetarian.[citation needed]
  • Vegetarians in Europe used to be called "Pythagoreans",[1][2] after the philosopher Pythagoras and his followers, who abstained from meat in the 6th century BC. They followed a vegetarian diet for nutritional and ethical reasons.[citation needed] According to the Roman poet Ovid, 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." [3][4]
  • In looking for parallels in Jewish and Christian antiquity for these practices, some vegetarians feel a kinship with Nazarite, Essene, and Ebionite practices.[citation needed]
  • Gnostics were also primarily vegetarians for spiritual reasons.[citation needed] They believed by eating animals a person would be grounding themselves to this world and their body, which they believed was an evil created by the Demiurge, because they would be consuming divine sparks and thus sinning[citation needed].
  • Buddhist monks of the Mahayana school (100CE) have also historically practiced vegetarianism.
  • Many Hindu scriptures advocate vegetarian diet. The secular literature of Tirukural (circa. 100-300 AD) advocates vegetarianism.[citation needed]
  • In 1847, the first Vegetarian Society invented the term "vegetarian" — from the Latin vegetus "lively", and suggestive of the English word "vegetable" — was a person who refuses to consume flesh of any kind. Vegetarianism in the 19th century was associated with many cultural reform movements, such as temperance and anti-vivisection. Many "new women" feminists at the end of the century were vegetarians.[citation needed]
  • Seventh-day Adventists and Rastafarians, denominations founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, are also frequently vegetarian.
  • 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.[citation needed] The countries that were first to establish societies are still the ones most likely to have the greatest proportion of vegetarians within their populations.[citation needed]
  • The International Vegetarian Union, a union of all the national societies, was founded in 1908.
  • In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism steadily grew over the 20th century

as a result of nutritional, ethical, and more recently, environmental and economic concerns.

  • Today, Indian vegetarians, primarily lacto vegetarians, are estimated to make up more than 70% of the world's vegetarians. They make up 20 to 42% of the population in India, while less than 30% are regular meat-eaters.[5][6][7]
  • Surveys in the U.S. have found that roughly 1% to 2.8% of adults ate neither meat, poultry, nor fish.[8][9][10][11]

Famous vegetarians

See also: Category:Vegetarians

Some of the most notable vegetarians have been Mahatma Gandhi, Linda McCartney, Leonardo da Vinci, Leo Tolstoy, playwright George Bernard Shaw, Morrissey and Albert Einstein.

Motivations and benefits

People choose vegetarianism for various reasons.

Religious and spiritual

Main article: Vegetarianism and religion

The majority of the world's vegetarians are Hindu. Hinduism and Jainism teach vegetarianism as moral conduct while Christianity and Islam generally do not. Buddhism in general does not prohibit meat eating while Chinese Mahayana Buddhism encourages vegetarianism. Minor denominations that advocate a fully vegetarian diet include the Seventh-day Adventists, the Rastafari movement and the Hare Krishnas.

Some adherents of Eastern religions, such as Mahatma Gandhi, claim that spiritual awareness and experiences are greatly enhanced on a vegetarian diet. In the Western world there are also individuals like James Redfield who, independent from any specific religious beliefs, share the same sentiment. In the West this spirituality motivation is regarded by many as a New Age reason for being vegetarian. These people believe that vegetarianism helps an individual to explore deeper levels of consciousness, find inner peace and establish a connection with the Divine, through such practices as meditation, yoga or whirling.


A typical North Indian vegetarian Thali meal.
A typical North Indian vegetarian Thali meal.

Most major paths of Hinduism hold vegetarianism as the ideal, this is for a variety of reasons based on different beliefs. For many Hindus, it is a textually-advocated belief in ahimsa (nonviolence),[12] to avoid indulgences (as meat was considered an indulgence), and to reduce bad karmic influences. For others (especially within Vaishnavism and the bhakti movements), it is because their chosen deity does not accept offerings of non-vegetarian foods, which the follower then accepts as prasad.

Generally there is the belief, based on scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita that one's food shapes the personality, mood and mind.[13] Meat is said to promote sloth and ignorance and a mental state known as tamas while a vegetarian diet is considered to promote satvic qualities, calm the mind, and be essential for spiritual progress. The Vedic and Puranic scriptures of Hinduism assert that animals have souls and the act of killing animals without due course has considerable karmic repercussions (i.e the killer will suffer the pain of the animal he has killed in this life or the next). The principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) compels one to refrain from injuring any living creature, physically, mentally or emotionally without good reason. Most of the secular motivations for vegetarianism such as ethical considerations and nutrition apply to Hindu motivations as well.


In the Jewish religion people are allowed to consume meat, with some restrictions. Jewish law, or halakha, forbids the eating of meat and dairy products together. It also restricts which animals can be eaten to mammals with split hooves and that chew their cud, fish with fins and scales, and certain bird species. Animals are also required to be slaughtered in a manner that minimizes their suffering. There are some in the Jewish community that believe it to be a religious obligation to eat meat on the Sabbath and on holidays based on a statement in the Talmud; however, it is generally accepted that it is okay not to eat meat on those days, if one does not enjoy it. Jewish law technically requires everyone to eat meat once a year for the Passover offering, but that only applied when the Temple stood in Jerusalem. Today, some Jews choose not to eat meat simply due to the difficulty of finding kosher meat or poultry in areas far from established Jewish communities. There are also those who do not eat meat because they believe that while Jewish law permits meat, doing so is not ideal. This is based on the story of Genesis, where Noah and his family were allowed to eat meat after the Flood, whereas it had been forbidden previously. Others do not eat meat because Jewish law forbids causing needless pain to animals.


Main article: Jain vegetarianism

Followers of Jainism hold vegetarianism as the ideal diet in a similar fashion to the Hindu traditions but with a greater emphasis on the principle of all-round non-violence (ahimsa). Some particularly dedicated individuals go to the extent of straining insects from drinking water, wearing masks to avoid inhaling small, airborne creatures, and eating only fruits that have fallen naturally from trees.[14] A strict Jain is not supposed to consume honey or rooted plants such as onions, potatoes, or garlic as well as abstaining from any meat products.[15] It is believed that the people who want to sublimate their spiritual life should abstain from use of forbidden food.[16][17]

Jain vegetarianism promotes non-violence by not killing the animals or even plants by not uprooting them. Adherents are permitted to consume dairy products like butter, milk etc.[18]


Main article: Vegetarianism in Buddhism

Chinese Mahayana Buddhists oppose meat eating for their followers but not necessarily for those who do not practice Chinese Buddhism. The Mahayana schools of Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism do not consider a vegetarian diet to be essential, nor do Theravadin Buddhists, although Theravadin Buddhists will refuse meat if the animal has been killed specifically for them.

Devoted Buddhists, especially in Asia, practise vegetarianism. The same classification has been stated in the ancient Chinese medical book <<本草纲目>> published in the year 1596AD. The Chinese doctor Lee Shi Zhen spent 27 years adding, editing and correcting medical lores with the result that the book contains 1,892 types of medicinal plants and 11,096 types of medicines (or ways to cure illness). It was translated into Latin by P.MichaelBoym,1612AD~1659AD, under the title "Flora sinensis". Hare Krishnas do not eat onions and garlic, they are strict vegetarians, as well.


Main article: Christian vegetarianism

While vegetarianism is not common in Christian thought, the concept appears periodically except in Genesis 9.3 in the Book of Genesis.[19] Some Christian leaders, such as the Reverend Andrew Linzey, have supported the view that Jesus was a vegetarian. Although in Luke 24.41-43(KJV), Jesus says,"Have ye any meat?". And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" Some people believe that the Book of Daniel specifically promotes vegetarianism as beneficial.[20] However, common theology argues that in this instance Daniel is rejecting food that is considered to be unholy by his faith(eating food that had been sacrificed to pagan gods), not strictly meat. Specifically, some believe that the New Testament of the Bible says that a person's dietary choice is of small consequence and should not be a point of confrontation.[21]. Therefore, some modern Christians consider vegetarianism as a perfectly acceptable personal choice that has many of the same implications as fasting.

A text not included in the Christian Bible known as the Gospel of the Ebionites, emphasises that Jesus advocated vegetarianism, abolished the Jewish meat sacrifice system, and never ate meat. In contemporary Christianity, the Seventh-day Adventist Church promotes vegetarianism among its followers.


Main article: Islam and vegetarianism

Islam allows some consumption of meat, if the meat is "halal" which is meat slaughtered by the Islamic standards, and disallowed meat is haram, which is non-permitted meat or meat not slaughtered according to Islam's standards. Islam accepts the ritualistic animal slaughter done by Jews, known as shechita. (Hebrew)" Islam also excludes the consumption of pork (pig meat). Muslim vegetarians are very rare as the consumption of meat is intertwined with religious sacrificing of animals (namely caprids, bovines and camels) in Eid ul-Adha. Moreover, in Islamic jurisprudence, it is wrong to forbid what is not forbidden. When travelling to locations where it is difficult to get halal meat, Muslims eat fish instead or eat only vegetables.


Followers of the Sikh religion are divided in their opinion on whether their religion opposes meat consumption for Sikhs.[22] Although many Sikhs eat meat, some Sikhs abstain from the consumption of meat and eggs.[23]

In the case of meat, the Sikh Gurus have indicated their preference for a simple diet and depending on what one sees as a simple diet could be meat or vegetarian. Passages from the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs, also known as the Adi Granth) says that fools argue over this issue because as both meat and vegetarian food contain life, it is unclear how one is more sinful than the other. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, prohibited the Sikhs from the consumption of halal or Kutha (any ritually slaughtered meat) meat because of the Sikh belief that sacrificing an animal in the name of God is mere ritualism (something to be avoided).[22]

It should be noted that meat and eggs are never served in the Guru Ka Langar (Free Kitchen) that runs at all Gurudwaras (Sikh Temples).[24] This practice has been adopted in order to promote a mutually acceptable meal to all faiths and creeds(since the Sikh Temple is open to all), and avoid arguments over whether meat should be served or not and also avoid arguments over what type's of meat is served (e.g., Halal, Kosher, Pork, Beef etc).


Many people who choose a vegetarian diet do so because they believe it will benefit their health. Some of the reasons cited for a vegetarian diet include that it has a better nutritional balance, is better suited for the human body, and/or avoids contact with harmful bacteria, hormones, and chemicals.


Main article: Vegetarian nutrition
A fruit stall in Barcelona
A fruit stall in Barcelona

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."

As an example, American vegetarians tend to have lower body mass indices, lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less incidence of heart disease, hypertension, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, renal disease, osteoporosis, dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other disorders that may be diet-related. The health of a cohort of 27,000 vegetarians is currently being followed at a UK centre of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the largest study of the long-term effects of vegetarian diet.

Food safety

E. coli

Vegetarianism is believed to reduce E. coli infections,[citation needed] and proponents point to the link between E.coli contaminations in food and industrial scale meat and dairy farms. The most recent E. coli outbreak has once again demonstrated this link because the source of this E. coli was traced back to "a large ranch in the Salinas Valley that has a beef cattle operation" about a half-mile from the spinach fields where spinach became contaminated.[25]

There are several variants of E. coli and they can be found in a healthy human gut, but the deadly strain, O157:H7 was virtually unheard of until the 1980's. It is believed that this strain evolved in the digestive system of grain fed cattle on large industrial farms.[26] On these farms, grain is used as cattle feed because it is nutrient-packed and increases efficiency. A side effect of feeding grain to cattle is that it increases the acidity of their stomach - and it is in this acidic gut that the deadly O157:H7 thrives.

In 2003, an article in the Journal of Dairy Science found that between 30 and 80 percent of cattle carry E. coli O157:H7.[27] In that same journal article, a quick fix was pointed out: Cows that are switched from a grain diet to a forage diet saw, within 5 days, a 1,000 fold decrease in the abundance of strain O157. But until changes like this are made, the source of many E. coli outbreaks will continue to be high-yield meat and dairy farms.[28]

More likely, rather than change the way cattle are fed or raised on industrial farms there will instead be pressure to find technological solutions like food irradiation, plans for HACCP, or simply cooking burgers longer. Suggestions like this have led some experts, like Professor of Science and Environmental Journalism at UC Berkeley, Michael Pollan, to suggest that "All of these solutions treat E. coli O157:H7 as an unavoidable fact of life rather than what it is: a fact of industrial agriculture."[29]

Advocates such as Howard Lyman and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have promoted vegetarianism in response to cases of E.coli infection.

E.coli can be still acquired from any excrement-contaminated food or human commensal bacteria. The recent case of spinach and onions with E.coli contamination in USA shows that vegetarian foods are also susceptible to food safety concerns.[30][31] In 2005, some people who had consumed branded triple-washed, pre-packaged lettuce were infected with E. Coli.[32] In fact E. coli outbreaks have also involved unpasteurized apple and orange juice, milk, alfalfa sprouts, and even water.[33]

Other food scares

Various animal food safety scares over recent years have led people towards semi-vegetarianism or vegetarianism. These scares have included Avian flu in poultry, foot-and-mouth in sheep, PCBs in farmed salmon, generally high dioxin concentrations in animal products, and artifical growth hormones, antibiotics or BSE in cows. According to various organisations, vCJD in humans is strongly linked with exposure to the BSE agent which has been found in beef.[34]


Sometimes patients of alternative medicine are advised to adhere to a vegetarian diet as prescribed by the practitioners of such unconventional medical treatments. These patients are either asked to continue such a diet either for the course of the treatment or for longer durations. Ayurveda and Siddha medicine are examples of medical treatments that prescribe such a vegetarian diet. In such cases, the patient either follows vegetarianism for the defined period or sometimes continues long after the treatment is over.


There is considerable debate over whether humans are physiologically better suited to a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore diet. However, the existence of parasites such as Taenia saginata and Taenia solium, which rely on humans as their unique end host and can only be transmitted through eating meat indicates that human beings and their ancestors have consumed meat through important lengths of their evolution (i.e. millions of years).

Some, such as Albert Einstein (who was a physicist rather than a biologist), regard an evolution to a vegetarian diet as part of our human evolution, with each new generation moving slowly away from feeling a necessity of eating meat.

Others study statistical information, such as comparing life expectancy with regional areas and local diets. Examples include looking within countries themselves. For instance, life expectancy is considerably greater in southern France where a semi-vegetarian Mediterranean diet is common (fresh fruit, vegetables, olive oil, goats cheese and fish), than northern France where an omnivore diet is more common (also including pork, beef, butter, cows cheese and cream) [35]. It must be noted that national life expectancy is affected by many factors, which include access to adequate healthcare and medicine. This makes it difficult to conclusively prove any correlation between regional diets and life expectancy.

Some vegetarian beliefs (such as Hare Krishna) suggest that human beings have evolved to consume vegetable matter rather than meat. The reasons they cite are mainly associated with the differences between predators and plant-eating animals. Predators (such as dogs, cats, or raptors) usually have sharp teeth or claws to tear fresh meat, while plant-eating animals (such as horse and deer) have no sharp teeth or claws to tear meat. Humans occupy a middle ground between the two; they have no claws and mostly blunt teeth (molars) but also a pair of sharp canine teeth designed for tearing, which some feel is proof of a naturally omnivorous diet (gorillas are herbivorous and have very large canines, though these are at least partly for defensive purposes, while other primates with sharp canines are not strictly herbivorous and will occasionally kill and eat other animals)[citation needed]. Additionally, plant eating animals, like cows and horses, drink water with their lips, unlike lions, dogs, and cats who drink water with their tongues. Since humans drink water with their lips, some consider this evidence that humans are vegetarians by nature.[citation needed]

The intestines of predators are relatively short compared with those of plant-eating animals. Since meat is more easily digested than plant matter, the elaborate digestive system found in plant eaters is unnecessary. Herbivores need a much longer intestine to allow sufficient time for the digestion of vegetable fibers.

The Vegetarian Resource Group and others, however, have concluded that humans are naturally omnivores.[2][3][4]


Main article: Ethics of vegetarianism

Many vegetarians consider the production, subsequent slaughtering and consumption of meat or animal products as unethical. Reasons for believing this are varied, and may include a belief in animal rights, or an aversion to inflicting pain or harm on other living creatures. The book "Animal Liberation" by Peter Singer has been very influental on the animal rights movement and specifically ethical vegetarianism. This corresponds to the belief among vegetarians that other animals' lives should not have to end in order for theirs to continue. In developed countries, ethical vegetarianism has become popular particularly after the spread of factory farming, which has reduced the sense of husbandry that used to exist in farming and which has led to animals being treated as commodities. 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. This could perhaps be summed up in the phrase "Not in my name".

Some vegetarians believe that consciously taking someone else's belonging without consent is stealing and wrong. Since prey do not consent to its life being taken away, it would be immoral to consciously kill an animal and eat its flesh.

Even in the West, numerous social justice leaders, such as Cesar Chavez, have adopted a vegan/vegetarian diet in order to communicate an agenda of social harmony and fellowship. [citation needed]


Main article: Environmental vegetarianism

Environmental vegetarianism is the belief that the production of meat and animal products at current and likely future levels is environmentally unsustainable. Industrialization has lead to intensive farming practices and diets high in animal protein, primarily in developed nations and mainly the United States. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) "Most of the world's population today subsists on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets for reasons that are economic, philosophical, religious, cultural, or ecological."[36] Thus, the main protest of environmental vegetarians is primarily of intensive farming in developed nations.

According to the United Nations Population Fund "Each U.S. citizen consumes an average of 260 lb. of meat per year, the world's highest rate. That is about 1.5 times the industrial world average, three times the East Asian average, and 40 times the average in Bangladesh."[37]

All modern, intensive farming practices consume large amounts of fossil fuel and water resources and lead to emissions of harmful gases and chemicals. The habitat for wildlife provided by large industrial monoculture farms is very poor, and modern industrial agriculture is a threat to biodiversity compared with farming practices such as organic farming, permaculture, arable, pastoral, and rainfed agriculture.

Animals fed on grain, and those that rely on grazing need far more water than grain crops.[38] According to the USDA, growing the crops necessary to feed farmed animals requires nearly half of the United States' water supply and 80% of its agricultural land. Additionally, animals raised for food in the U.S. consume 90% of the soy crop, 80% of the corn crop, and a total of 70% of its grain.[39] In tracking food animal production from the feed trough to the dinner table, the inefficiencies of meat, milk and egg production range from 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1.[40] The result is that producing animal based food is typically much less efficient than the harvesting of grains, vegetables, legumes, seeds and fruits. This criticism could not be applied to animals that are grazed rather than fed, especially those grazed on land that could not be used for other purposes. However, this type of grazing is becoming less common worldwide, being substituted with intense farming, and in some cases leads to topsoil loss.


Similar to environmental vegetarianism is the concept of economic vegetarianism. An economic vegetarian is someone who practises vegetarianism from either the philosophical viewpoint concerning issues such as public health and curbing world starvation, the belief that the consumption of meat is economically unsound, part of a conscious simple living strategy or just out of necessity. According to the WorldWatch Institute "Massive reductions in meat consumption in industrial nations will ease the health care burden while improving public health; declining livestock herds will take pressure off of rangelands and grainlands, allowing the agricultural resource base to rejuvenate. As populations grow, lowering meat consumption worldwide will allow more efficient use of declining per capita land and water resources, while at the same time making grain more affordable to the world's chronically hungry."[41] Economic vegetarians can also include the poor people might not be averse to eating meat, but regularly eat vegetarian food, out of economic compulsions, since meat can often be a luxury. This is especially true in countries like India where a vegetarian diet is far cheaper and more economical than a diet that includes meat.


Many vegetarians choose to be so in part because they find meat and meat products aesthetically unappetizing. They cite a hypothetical example, that the carcass of a cow lying in a forest would attract a real carnivore like a wolf or leopard, but would disgust most human beings. However, it must be noted that since early humans were scavengers as much as hunters according to several anthropologists, this may not hold true in a natural setting.[42][43] The metaphor by Douglas Dunn is that if one gives a young child an apple and a live chicken, the child would instinctively play with the chicken and eat the apple, whereas if a cat was presented with the same choices, its natural impulse would be the opposite.[44] In a similar assertion, Scott Adams once humorously wrote that a human, presented with a live cow, would more likely try to moo at it than attempt to eat its backside.

Moreover, research on the psychology of meat consumption suggests that consumers of meat may need to use defense mechanisms such as psychological numbing to distance themselves from the notion that they are eating animals[45].


Some people are vegetarian because they were raised in a vegetarian household. Others may have become vegetarians because of a vegetarian partner, family member, or friend. Some people live in a predominantly vegetarian society (such as India), and so adopt this practice to be social, to avoid ostracism, or for the difficulty of buying meat in such a society.

Health effects

It is clear that many people can live healthy lives as vegetarians (vegetarian Olympic athletes are often cited) but there are also some studies that show potential ill effects of vegetarianism if there is insufficient iron or calcium. These nutrients can be found in green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts, and fortified juices or soymilk.[46]


A 1999 metastudy[47] compared six major studies from western countries. The study found that the mortality ratio was the lowest in fish eaters (0.82) followed by vegetarians (0.84) and occasional meat eaters (0.84) and which was then followed by regular meat eaters (1.0). In "Mortality in British vegetarians",[48] it was concluded that "British vegetarians have low mortality compared with the general population. Their death rates are similar to those of comparable non-vegetarians, suggesting that much of this benefit may be attributed to non-dietary lifestyle factors such as a low prevalence of smoking and a generally high socio-economic status, or to aspects of the diet other than the avoidance of meat and fish."

Among these meta studies, the Adventist Health Study is an ongoing study of life expectancy in Seventh-day Adventists following different behaviour patterns. The researchers found that a combination of different lifestyle choices could influence life expectancy by as much as 10 years. Among the lifestyle choices investigated, a vegetarian diet was estimated to confer an extra 1 1/2 to 2 years of life. The researchers concluded that "the life expectancies of California Adventist men and women are higher than those of any other well-described natural population" at 78.5 years for men and 82.3 years for women. The life expectancy of California Adventists surviving to age 30 was 83.3 years for men and 85.7 years for women.[49] However, this study of Adventist health study is again incorporated into meta studies titled "Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans?" published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which, again made the similar conclusion that occasional/low meat eating and other life style choices significantly increase the life expectancy.[50] The study also concluded that "Some of the variation in the survival advantage in vegetarians may have been due to marked differences between studies in adjustment for confounders, the definition of vegetarian, measurement error, age distribution, the healthy volunteer effect, and intake of specific plant foods by the vegetarians." It further states that "This raises the possibility that a low-meat, high plant-food dietary pattern may be the true causal protective factor rather than simply elimination of meat from the diet." In a recent review of studies relating low-meat diet patterns to all-cause mortality, Singh noted that "5 out of 5 studies indicated that adults who followed a low meat, high plant-food diet pattern experienced significant or marginally significant decreases in mortality risk relative to other patterns of intake."

Health concerns

It is already long established in science that a number of lifestyle choices such as smoking , exercise and alcohol influence health and longevity.

Another claim repeatedly made by vegetarian advocacy groups is that vegetarians suffer less from heart problems. Studies which include the above, consistently confirm that vegetarians suffer less mortality from ischemic heart disease. Critics argue that these groups are engaging in scientific misrepresentation rather than focusing on scientifically proven health factors, such as moderate exercise, moderate alcohol intake, not smoking and sufficient intake of fruits and green vegetables.

Further confusion lies in the amount of protein in the diet. Meat-based diets are not necessarily richer in protein than vegetarian diets. An excess of protein in the diet reduces life expectency and the risk of disease.[51][52]

Yet the unhealthiness of a largely meat-based is not easily disputed; for example, meat is devoid of fiber.[53][54] To begin to be healthy a carnivorous diet must include the whole animal, including organs and bones.[51][52] Without fiber or the numerous vitamins and minerals lacking in meat,[55] disease may result. However, it must be noted that consumption of some fish could help to reduce the cancer risk.[56]

Eating meat also reduces the ability of the stomach to digest food safely by introducing and encouraging acid-fearing bacteria, which produce many dangerous toxins that can--and do--enter into the blood stream. While a high-protein diet of vegetables produces a similar effect, the flesh-eating bacteria are discouraged on vegetable matter because of the higher amount of sugar--meat has very little sugar to encourage the enemies of these acid-fearing bacteria.[51][52]

Nutritional deficiencies

Main article: Vegetarian nutrition

Some vegetable protein sources lack in one or more essential amino acids. While everyone should eat a variety of foods to ensure a balanced nutrition, the body's requirement for essential amino acids now appears to be less important than researchers once believed.[citation needed] Vegetarians, taken broadly, do not suffer malnutrition, and so must receive at least most of the protein and amino acids important to humans from eating a variety of incomplete complementary plant proteins.[citation needed] If ideal nutrition is possible, intake of such foods must be larger since the protein percentages in these foods are comparatively lower than in a similar serving of meat. Attaining sufficient protein intake is rarely a problem in developed countries, and vegetarianism advocates have alleged that possible lower protein intake of vegetarians may cause some of the health benefits below.

A vegetarian diet does not include fish - a major source of Omega 3, though some plant-based sources of it exist such as soy, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil and, especially, hempseed and flaxseed.

Some suggest that vegetarians have higher rates of deficiencies in those nutrients which are found in high concentrations in meat. However, studies endorsed by the ADA found that this was not the case for either iron or calcium. Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D from vegetarian sources other than dairy products and eggs are not readily absorbed by the body and a vegan diet usually needs supplements. [57] Nonetheless, these nutrients are now commonly supplemented in milks and cereals in the western world, and are not necessarily a problem in a vegetarian diet.[5] Numerous studies demonstrate that vegetarians who are not taking B12 supplements can improve their health by improving their B12 status.[6]


A study in the British Medical Journal found that "Higher IQ at age 10 years was associated with an increased likelihood of being vegetarian at age 30 [...] IQ remained a statistically significant predictor of being vegetarian as an adult after adjustment for social class (both in childhood and currently), academic or vocational qualifications, and sex"[58][59].

Vegetarianism and gender

Some studies show that vegetarian women are much more likely to have female babies. A study of 6,000 pregnant women in 1998 "found that while the national average in Britain is 106 boys born to every 100 girls, for vegetarian mothers the ratio was just 85 boys to 100 girls."[60]

Country-specific information

Main article: Vegetarianism in specific countries
Labeling used in India to distinguish vegetarian products from non-vegetarian ones.
Labeling used in India to distinguish vegetarian products from non-vegetarian ones.

Around the world vegetarianism is viewed in different lights. In some areas there is cultural and even legal support, but in others the diet is poorly understood or even frowned upon. In many countries food labeling is in place which makes it easier for vegetarians to identify foods compatible with their diets.

In India, not only is there food labeling, but many restaurants are marketed and signed as being either "Vegetarian" or "Non-Vegetarian". People who are vegetarian in India are usually Lacto vegetarians, and therefore to cater for this market, the majority of restaurants in India that say they are vegetarian do not serve food made from eggs, while most Western vegetarian restaurants do.

In other countries with less of a vegetarian culture, a request for a vegetarian meal may result in one being served fish or a vegetable soup made with meat stock.

Vegetarian clothing

Vegetarian Chelsea boots
Vegetarian Chelsea boots

Some vegetarians will choose not to wear leather. Because leather footwear and other accessories are expected in some workplaces, there are many specialist suppliers that sell belts, shoes, safety boots, jackets and briefcases that share the appearance of leather but are in fact made of synthetic materials generically known as Vegan leather. High fashion designer Stella McCartney is famed for her refusal to use leather, fur or other animal products in her range of clothes and accessories and is thus popular with wealthier vegetarians.

Further reading

  • Tristram, Stuary (2006). Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times W W Norton & Co Ltd. ISBN 0-393-05220-6
  • Tristram, Stuary (2006). The Bloodless Revolution: Radical Vegetarians and the Discovery of India HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-712892-4 Reviewed
  • Spencer, Colin (1993) The Heretic's Feast: History of Vegetarianism Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-85702-078-2


  1. ^ Porphyry. ca245-ca305. De abstinentia ab esu animalium. II. Taylor, Thomas (trans.). 1823. On Abstinence from Animal Food, Book II p.65
  2. ^ Spencer, Colin. (2002). Vegetarianism: A History. Four Walls Eight Windows; 2nd edition. p. 38. ISBN 1-56858-238-2
  3. ^ Jon Wynne-Tyson,The extended circle, ISBN 0-7474-0633-2.
  4. ^ Ovid. Metamorphoses. XV
    Kline, A. S. (trans.), 2000. Metamorphosis Tales. Book 15. Pythagoras's Teachings: Vegetarianism.
  5. ^ Indian consumer patterns
  6. ^ Agri reform in India
  7. ^ Diary and poultry sector growth in India
  8. ^ Vegetarian Resource Group, 1997, How Many Vegetarians Are There? in Vegetarian Journal, Sep/Oct 1997, Volume XVI, Number 5
  9. ^ Vegetarian Resource Group, 2000, How Many Vegetarians Are There? in Vegetarian Journal, May/June 2000
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  11. ^ "How Many Vegetarians Are Vegetarian?", Vegetarian Journal, 2006, Issue Four
  12. ^ 'Hinduism and Vegetarianism' by Paul Turner, Mar. 2000.
  13. ^ Bhagavad Gita Chapter 17, Texts 7-10
  14. ^ World Religions, Fourth Edition, Chapter 5: Jainism and Sikhism, p. 180, Warren Matthews, 2004, Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc., ISBN 0-534-52762-0
  15. ^ "Jainism" at
  16. ^ [ "Vegetarianism Good For The Self And Good For The Environment"] at The Jain Study Circle
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  18. ^ "Cultural Histories of Vegetarian Cuisine," Holly Steward at Earthsave Canada website
  19. ^ Old Testament, Genesis 1:29, "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Although Genesis 9.3(KJV) states, "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things".
  20. ^ New Testament, Daniel 1:8-16
  21. ^ New Testament, Romans 14:19-21
  22. ^ a b "Misconceptions About Eating Meat - Comments of Sikh Scholars," at The Sikhism Home Page
  23. ^ "Langar," at
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  31. ^ Taco Bell removes green onions after outbreak Dec. 6, 2006 MSNBC
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  33. ^ Marler Clark, Dole Lettuce E. coli Outbreak,
  34. ^ WHO 2002 "Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease" , Fact sheet N°180
  35. ^ Trichopoulou, et al. 2005 "Modified Mediterranean diet and survival: EPIC-elderly prospective cohort study", British Medical Journal 330:991 (30 April);330/7498/991
    News story based on this article: ScienceDaily, April 25, 2005 "Mediterranean Diet Leads To Longer Life"
  36. ^ Commission on Life Sciences (1989) Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk
  37. ^ unfpa 1999 U.S. Scorecard
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  39. ^ Vesterby, Marlow and Krupa, Kenneth S. 2001 Major Uses of Land in the United States, 1997 Statistical Bulletin No. (SB973) September 2001
  40. ^ Cornell Science News, Aug. 7, 1997 U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists Future water and energy shortages predicted to change face of American agriculture
  41. ^ Worldwatch Institute, News July 2, 1998, United States Leads World Meat Stampede
  42. ^ Hunting ancient scavengers - some anthropologists say early humans were scavengers, not hunters
  43. ^ Man's early hunting role in doubt 6 January 2003, New Scientist
  44. ^ Dunn, Douglas. 1999 "Eating Without Killing: Vegetarian Health without animal cruelty"
  45. ^ Joy, Melanie. "Food for Thought: Carnism and the Psychology of Eating Meat" last accessed 2006/09/11
  46. ^ Soymilk at
  47. ^ Key, Timothy J, et al., 1999 "Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies" American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 3, 516S-524S, September 1999
  48. ^ Key, Timothy J, et al., "Mortality in British vegetarians: review and preliminary results from EPIC-Oxford" American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 78, No. 3, 533S-538S, September 2003
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  50. ^ Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans? -- Singh et al. 78 (3): 526 -- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Abstract
  51. ^ a b c Kellogg, Dr. John Harvey, Natural Diet of Man, 1923
  52. ^ a b c Kellogg, Dr. John Harvey, Autointoxication, 1923
  53. ^ "Meatless Diet" by Jamie Adams, Red Cross Volunteer, Nutrition Care Division, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
  54. ^ Chapter: "Maintaining Good Nutrition" in The Merck Manual of Health and Aging, Mark H. Beers, MD, (Editor-in-Chief), Copyright © 2005 by Merck & Co., Inc.
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  57. ^ CyberParent 2006 Doubtful Nutrients for Vegans and Vegetarians,
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  59. ^ High IQ link to being vegetarian. BBC news (2006-12-15). Retrieved on 2006-12-19.
  60. ^ 'More girl babies' for vegetarians
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