many vegetarians abstain from all animal by-products, others make exceptions in their diet and attire. While most vegetarians may consume dairy products; a stricter form is veganism, which excludes dairy, eggs, and any foods that contain these or other animal products; still stricter is fruitarianism, which excludes all food but the botanic fruits of plants.
Vegetarianism has been common in the Indian subcontinent, since possibly the 2nd millennium BC for spiritual reasons, such as ahimsa (nonviolence), to avoid indulgences (as meat was considered an indulgence), and to reduce bad karmic influences. Hinduism preaches that it is the ideal diet for spiritual progress and Jainism, which claims between eight to eleven million adherents, enjoins all its followers to be vegetarian. Buddhist monks of Mahayana school have also historically practiced vegetarianism. In looking for parallels in Jewish and Christian antiquity for these practices, some Christian vegetarians feel a kinship with Nazirite, Essene and Ebionite practices.
Many Hindu scriptures advocate vegetarian diet. The secular literature of Tirukural in Tamil Nadu, India , proclaimed over 2000 years ago: "Perceptive souls who have abandoned passion will not feed on flesh abandoned by life. How can he practice true compassion, he who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?"
Vegetarians in Europe used to be called "Pythagoreans", after the philosopher Pythagoras and his followers, who abstained from meat in the 6th century BC. These people followed a vegetarian diet for nutritional and ethical reasons. 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."
In 1847, 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. 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.
Seventh-day Adventists and Rastafarians, denominations founded in the 19th and 20th centuries, are also frequently vegetarian. African Hebrew Israelites only eat an organic vegetarian diet that also excludes dairy products such as milk.
Followers of the Sikh religion are divided in their opinion on whether their religion opposes meat consumption.
Indian vegetarians, primarily lacto-vegetarians, are estimated to make up more than 70% of the world's vegetarians. They make up 20 to 30% of the population in India , while occasional meat-eaters make up another 30%. Most Asian countries had a predominantly vegetarian diet until the past few decades, when increasing industrialization and westernization changed that. A famous vegetarian group is the Hunzas that reside near the Himalayas . These people are believed to live to be over 100 years old and have an exclusively vegetarian diet.
In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism steadily grew over the 20th century as a result of nutritional, ethical, and more recently, environmental concerns.
In a survey the U.S. in 2000 estimated that 2.5% of the population (n = 968) were ovo-lacto-vegetarians. In 2003 the same source recorded 2.8% (n = 1,031). This indicated a modest growth of 4% p.a. over the 4 years. A 1994 and 1997 survey showed about 1% (n = 1,960; c.i. = 95%). The general trend has been up.
Terminology and varieties of vegetarianism
Different practices of vegetarianism include:
- Lacto vegetarianism — Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat or eggs but do consume dairy products. Most vegetarians in India and those in the classical Mediterranean lands, such as Pythagoreans, are or were lacto vegetarian.
- Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (also called eggitarian colloquially in India ) — Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat but do consume dairy products and eggs. This is currently the most common variety in the Western world.
- Ovo vegetarianism — Ovo vegetarians do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs.
- Veganism — Those who avoid eating any animal products, including eggs, milk, cheese, and sometimes honey, are known specifically as dietary vegans. Most additionally avoid using animal products, such as leather and some cosmetics, and are called vegans.
The following are less common practices of vegetarianism:
- Raw food diet involves food, usually vegan, which is not heated above 46.7 °C (116 °F) ; 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 consumption. Some spiritual raw foodists are also fruitarians, and many eat only organic foods.
- Macrobiotic diet involves a diet consisting mostly of whole grains and beans and is usually spiritually based, like fruitarianism.
- Natural Hygiene, in its classic form, involves a diet principally of raw vegan foods.
- Fruitarianism involves a diet of 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.
The following similarly named diets are not considered full vegetarianism:
- Pesco/pollo vegetarianism (semi-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. It may also be used as an interim diet by individuals who are on a path to becoming fully vegetarian.
- Flexitarianism — Flexitarians adhere to a diet that is mostly vegetarian but occasionally consume meat. Some, for instance, may regard the suffering of animals in factory farm conditions as their sole reason for avoiding meat or meat-based foods and will eat meat or meat products from animals raised under more humane conditions or hunted in the wild.
- Freeganism — Freegans practice a lifestyle based on concerns about the exploitation of animals, the earth, and human beings in the production of consumer goods. Many tend towards veganism, but this is not an inherent practice. Those that eat meat generally support the arguments for vegetarianism, but as freeganism is concerned about waste, freegans prefer to make use of discarded commodities than to allow them to go to waste and consume landfill space.
The majority of the world's vegetarians, according to the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians, follow the practice for religious reasons. Many religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, the Bahá'í Faith, Sikhism, and especially Jainism, teach that ideally life should always be valued and not willfully destroyed for unnecessary human gratification. Smaller denominations that prescribe the diet include the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Rastafari movement.
Hinduism, Jainism and Ayyavazhi (a religion that originated in 19th century India ) hold vegetarianism as the ideal. They believe that food shapes the personality, mood and mind. Meat is said to promote aggressiveness and a mental state of turmoil known as "Rajas" while a vegetarian diet is considered to promote Satvic qualities, calm the mind, and be essential for spiritual progress. They believe that animals have souls (a manifestation of the eternal monistic consciousness Brahman) and killing animals have karmic repercussions that are bound to be reaped later by oneself. Also, the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) compels one to refrain from injuring any living creature, physically, mentally or emotionally. Most of the secular motivations for vegetarianism such as ethical considerations and nutrition apply to Hindu & Jain motivations as well.
Different schools of Buddhism have differing opinions on vegetarianism: Chinese Mahayana Buddhists oppose the consumption of meat, and Chinese Mahayana monks observe vegetarianism. 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. (See Vegetarianism in Buddhism)
Jews and Christians are left with the biblical ideal of the Garden of Eden diet, which from all appearances is vegetarian. However, only a relative minority within these religions practice such diets, since the book of Genesis later gives permission to Noah to consume animal flesh further citing that God gave Adam and Eve dominion over them.
Some groups claim that Jesus was a vegetarian. Some Christian leaders, such as the Reverend Andrew Linzey, support some of these ideas, but mainstream theologians cite passages in the Christian Bible that support the view that Jesus ate fish and lamb.
A fruit stall in BarcelonaMost nutritionists claim that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables but low in animal fat and red meat offers numerous health benefits, including a significantly lower risk of heart disease, cancer, renal failure 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." Studies show that a vegetarian mother's breast milk has significantly lower levels of pesticide residue than a non-vegetarian's.
Some vegetable protein sources lack in one or more "essential" amino acids. For example, grains and nuts are low in lysine and legumes are low in methionine. 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 much less important than researchers once believed. 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/hotdogs, edamame, etc). The intake of such foods has to be larger since the protein percentage 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 the lower protein intake of vegetarians has even been suggested as a possible cause of some of the health benefits above. 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. Surprisingly, studies endorsed by the ADA found that this was not the case for iron or calcium. On the other hand, Vitamin B-12 and zinc from vegetarian sources other than dairy products and eggs are not readily absorbed by the body and a vegan diet usually needs supplements. 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.
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 belief also exists among vegetarians that other 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 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.
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 devoloped 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." Thus, the main protest of environmental vegetarians is primarily of intensive farming in devoloped 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."
All modern, intensive farming practices consume large amounts of fossil fuel and water resources and have 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 also those which rely on grazing, need far more water than grain crops. 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. 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. 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.
Environmental vegetarianism can be compared with economic vegetarianism. An economic vegetarian is someone who practices 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."
There is considerable debate over whether humans are physiologically better suited to a herbivore or omnivore diet. Some, such as Albert Einstein, regard an evolution to a vegetarian diet as part of our human evolution, with each new generation moving slowly away from the necessity of eating meat. Others study statistical information, such as comparing life expectancy with regional areas and local diets. For example, eskimos whose carnivore diet consists of only seal meat and fish have one of the lowest life expectancies on Earth (cancer is one of the highest causes of death, although this could equally be due to the harsh climate in which they live), while the Chinese whose diet is basically semi-vegan have some of the oldest living people in the world. Other 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). It must be noted that many other influences come into life expectancy, such as clean water, sunshine, pollution, genetics, exercise and lifestyle (alcohol, smoking, stress etc), making it difficult to scientifically prove any correlation between regional diets and life expectancy. These comparisons assume food is available and no malnutrition, an overriding life expectancy influence in some parts of the world.
Some vegetarian beliefs (such as Hare Krishna and Modern Buddhism) suggest that human beings are "designed" to consume vegetable matter rather than meat. The reasons are mainly associated with the differences between predators and plant-eating animals.
Predators usually have sharp teeth or claws to tear fresh meat. Dogs, cats or lions are examples, while plant-eating animals have no sharp teeth or claws to tear meat. Horse, deer, sheep and human beings have no sharp teeth and claws.
The intestines of predators are relatively short compared with those of plant-eating animals. This allows meat eaten by predators to pass more quickly though the intestines. Since meat rots much faster than vegetables, it is necessary for predators to have short intestines to prevent meat rotting inside the body that could harm the creature. Herbivores, however, need a much longer intestine to allow sufficient time for the digestion of vegetable fibres.
According to The Straight Dope, humans have evolved to be omnivores. Human intestinal length is, taken as a ratio, half way between carnivores (such as cats and dogs) and herbivores (such as cows and horses).
The way in which predators and plant eating mammals drink is another reason that is suggested. Predators like dogs, cats or lions use their tongue to drink water as digesting meat does not consume as much water compared with digesting vegetables. Plant-eating animals like horses, deer or sheep, suck water as do humans.
Many vegetarians choose to be so in part because they find meat and meat products aesthetically unappetizing. Proponents assert that human beings are not instinctively attracted to eating live or dead meat in nature. For example, 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. 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.
As an opposing viewpoint, it may be said that wolves, leopards, ospreys, and humans are not scavengers and normally would not eat the carcass of a cow - however the fact that the cow is readily dead and likely decomposed may be beside the point as the metaphor's aim is to illustrate that a human does not instinctively consider a corpse a meal, unlike a wolf or other carnivore. Furthermore, Douglas Dunn might consider that children raised in the country kill chickens, prepare them for cooking, and eat them. On the other hand, it may be noted that children from the country may have to be "raised" to kill; thus, reaffirming Dunn's metaphor. There does not appear to be any text or reference claiming that children are born innately with the desire to hunt, kill and eat animals.
A bad experience with meat or fish could affect the individual's psychology, and thus, put someone off of eating meat such as out of date meat or even if they find a bit of bone or gristle in their burger, kebab etc. Mince is the main culprit of containing bone bits or gristle.
Various animal food safety scares over recent years have led people towards semi-vegetarianism or vegetarianism. These scares have included BSE in cows, avian flu in poultry, foot-and-mouth in sheep, salmonella in eggs, PCBs in farmed salmon and high dioxin levels in animal products. For many these dietary changes are only temporary though, returning to their original diets once the health scare has subsided.
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 and BSE, believed to be transmitted to humans through beef. According to various organisations, vCJD is strongly linked with exposure to the BSE agent. However, E.coli can be acquired from any excrement-contaminated food or human commensal bacteria.
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 avoid ostracism, or for the difficulty of buying meat in such a society.
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.
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.
This generally means food which excludes ingredients under which an animal must have died, 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 cuisine is cookery of food that meets vegetarian ethical principles and health standards. In terms of lacto-ovo vegetarianism, which is the most common type of vegetarianism in the Western world, this means food which excludes ingredients for which an animal must have died, such as meat, meat broth, cheeses that use animal rennet (some vegetarians will eat all cheeses and others none, because of its milk content), 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).
Although not essential, certain special ingredients such as tofu and TVP have often been associated with vegetarian cuisine. Although tofu and TVP play a key role in many 'mock meat' dishes, a person can be vegetarian for life and never touch them. Vegetarianism being closely linked to Tofu consumption is a largely US based phenomenon.
Ignoring the different types of vegetarians (lacto-ovo vegetarianism versus veganism, for example), one can roughly divide vegetarian cuisine into two categories:
- Meat analogues, which mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of meats, and are used in a recipe that traditionally contained meat. Meat analogues vary in quality and similarity to meats, and may be bought commercially or made at home.
- Traditional meals that have always been vegetarian.
Many vegans will simply also use analogues for dairy and eggs in traditional Western recipes. These analogues are both commercially available and homemade from recipes. But just as lacto-ovo vegetarians might never touch meat analogues, some vegans may eat, for example, traditional Chinese or Indian dishes that were vegan before the term even came into popular usage.
Cuisine that is traditionally vegetarian
These are some of the most common dishes that vegetarians eat without substitution of ingredients. Such dishes include, from breakfasts to dinnertime desserts:
- Pancakes, waffles, cereals and oatmeals, French toast, granola bars, donuts, muffins
- Potato salad, egg salad, baba ganoush, pita-wraps or burrito-wraps, vegetable pilafs, baked potatoes or fried potato-skins with various toppings, corn on the cob, smoothies
- Many sandwiches, such as grilled cheese, and cold sandwiches including roasted eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers, cheeses, avocado and other sandwich ingredients
- Fresh fruit and most salads
- Many side dishes, such as mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, some bread stuffings, seasoned rice, and macaroni and cheese.
- Classical Buddhist cuisine in Asia served at temples and restaurants with a green sign indicating vegetarian food only near temples
- Spanish foods such as tumbet and many polentas and tapas dishes
- Latin American foods such as salsa & guacamole with chips, rice & bean burritos (without lard in the refried beans), many quesadillas, bean tacos, some chilaquiles and bean-pies, chili (no 'con carne'), black beans with rice, chiles rellenos, cheese enchiladas and vegetable fajitas.
- Italian foods such as most pastas, many pizzas, eggplant rotini, eggplant crostini, bruschetta, many risottos
- Continental cuisine such as ratatouille, braised leeks with olives and parsley, many quiches, sauteed Swiss chard, vegetable-stuffed mushrooms, sauteed Brussels sprouts with mushrooms and squash
- Many Greek dishes, such as dolmas and spanakopita
- Some Russian and Slavic dishes, such as soups (vegetable borscht, shchi, okroshka), pirogi, blini, vareniki, kasha, fermented and pickled vegetables, etc.
- Many Ethiopian dishes
- Mideastern food such as falafel, hummus dips, matzo ball soup, minted-yogurts, and couscous
- A very wide variety of Indian foods such as pakora, samosa, khichris, Pulao, raitas, rasam, bengain bharta, chana masala, some kormas, sambars, & jalfrezis, saag aloo, subji's (vegetable dishes) such as bindi subji, gobi subji, etc. Also Punjabi chole, aloo matar and much South Indian food such as dosas, idlis and vadas. Chapati and other wheat/maida based breads like Naan, Roti Parathas are often stuffed with vegetarian items to make it a self sufficient meal. Many Indian dishes qualify as vegan, though many also use yogurt, cheese, cream, or milk.
- Kerala foods like Aviyal, Olan, Kadala curry, Theeyal, Pulingari, Chammandi, Chutney, and breads like Appam, Puttu, pathiri
- Chinese (and other far-Eastern) dishes based on the main ingredients being mushroom, noodles, eggplant, string beans, broccoli, rice, tofu and/or mixed vegetables
- Japanese foods such as tempura, edamame, name kojiru, and vegetable sushi; in Japan however, vegetarian often means no meat, which however includes fish - as most miso soup does.
- Some Thai cuisine, including dishes such as pad kee maow and many Thai curries.
- Creole and Southern foods such as hush puppies, okra patties, rice and beans, or sauteed kale or collards, if not cooked with the traditional pork fat or meat stock.
- Many desserts, including pies, cobblers, cakes, brownies, cookies, truffles, rice-krispy/peanut butter treats (from gelatin-free marshmallows, or marshmallow fluff), pudding, rice pudding, ice cream, creme brulée, etc.
Cuisine that uses meat analogues
These are vegetarian versions of popular dishes that non-vegetarians enjoy and are frequently consumed as fast food, comfort food, transition food for new vegetarians, or a way to show non-vegetarians that they can be vegetarians while still enjoying their favorite foods. Many vegetarians just enjoy these dishes as part of a varied diet.
Some popular mock-meat dishes include:
- Veggie burgers (burgers usually made from grains, TVP, seitan (wheat gluten), tempeh, and/or mushrooms)
- In some cases, one can order a burger made without any mock-meat at all, see: "burgerless burger"
- Veggie dogs (usually made from TVP)
- Imitation sausage (soysage, various types of 'salami', 'bologna', 'pepperoni', et al., made of some form of soy)
- Mockmeat or 'meatyballs' (usually made from TVP)
- Vegetarian or meatless 'chicken' (usually made from seitan, tofu or TVP)
- Jambalaya (with mock sausage and mock chicken, usually made from TVP, seitan, or tempeh)
- Tomato Omlette where tomatoes and a paste of flour is used to produce a vegetable omlette without the use of eggs.
Mycoprotein is another common base for mock-meats, and vegetarian flavorings are added to these bases, such as sea vegetables for a seafood taste.
Note that tofu and tempeh are components in certain cuisines in their own right, and do not necessarily take the place of meat.
Country specific information
- In India vegetarianism is usually synonymous with lacto vegetarianism, although lacto-ovo vegetarianism is practiced as well. 30% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarians and vegetarian restaurants (almost always lacto vegetarian) abound. There are usually many vegetarian (Shakahari (~plant-eater) in Hindi) options available in all restaurants ('hidden' meat ingredients such as lard, gelatin, meat stock are not used in the traditional cuisine).
- India has devised a system (since 2000???) of marking any edible product with a green dot in a green square to signify that only vegetarian ingredients were used and that no 'hidden' meat ingredients were used. A red dot in a red square is meant to convey that one or more ingredients used are of non-vegetarian content or 'hidden' meat ingredients like gelatin, lard, or meat stock may have been used. Even medicines are marked similarly, a famous Omega 3 capsule uses flax seeds to extract omega-3 fatty acids. But it is marked with a Red dot since the capsule uses non vegetarian ingredients.
- 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. Many restaurants and caterers provide vegetarian options to patrons, often explicitly indicated as such. It is also possible to order a vegetarian meal and be served meat. Polls find that 2.8% of Americans are vegetarian as of 2004. In addition, vegetarianism in the United States generally reflects regional cultural differences. It is more difficult to find vegetarian options in rural restaurants than in urban ones. The same applies to Midwestern city restaurants compared to West Coast restaurants. This seems to be slowly changing as vegetarian market innovations (such as veggie burgers) attain wider acceptance, demand, and distribution.
- 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. 5% of the UK are estimated to be vegetarians. The British Vegetarian Society regards a product as vegetarian if it is free of meat, fowl, fish, shellfish, meat or bone stock, animal or carcass fats, gelatin, aspic, or any other ingredient resulting from slaughter, such as rennet. Where eggs are used, they must be free range, and the product should not have involved animal testing.
- In Ireland , food labelling is in place.
- In Spain , most vegetarian meals will be served with egg, or even tuna. Stock is normally used in vegetable soups and many sauces.
- In France the situation is similar to that in Spain , but is slightly less unfavourable.
- 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. However widespread Wholefood emporia provide sources for vegetarian foods in even remote areas.
- 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.
- In Norway , conditions are similar to Germany , except pollo-vegetarianism is largely unknown and organic foods stores are less wide spread. Ovo-lacto-vegetarians make out 1-2% of the population, and food targeted for vegetarians is sold mainly in health food stores and supermarkets that focus on selection. Most restaurants will have one or two vegetarian entries on the menu, or at least produce something on request.
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:
- 1847 — United Kingdom
- 1850 — United States of America
- 1867 — Germany
- 1880 — France
- 1886 — Australia
- 1889 — India
- 1890 — Ireland
- 1893 — Switzerland
- 1894 — Netherlands
- 1895 — Sweden
- 1896 — Denmark
- 1896 — Hungary
- 1899 — Belgium
- 1900 — Austria
The International Vegetarian Union, a union of all the national societies, was founded in 1908.
There are three main criticisms of vegetarianism, based on health, environment, and mortality.
Vegetarian diet and longevity
Life expectancy is arguably the most objective and quantifiable measure of health. Most recent studies consistently show that vegetarian sample populations have longer life expectancies than the general populations. However, it has been pointed out that people who are vegetarian tend to have a higher socio-economic status, which is associated with a healthier life style with respect to smoking, alcohol, exercise and "better diet" (such as increased intake of fruits and green vegetables which does not relate to the decision not to eat meat). The question is whether being vegetarian alone could account for any increase in life expectancy when these factors have been taken out.
In "Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies", six major studies (three in Britain, one in Germany, one in U.S and one in Italy) of this kind were cross examined. It was found that the mortality ratio was the lowest in fish eaters (0.82) followed by occasional meat eaters (0.84) and vegetarians (0.84) which was then followed by regular meat eaters (1.0) and vegans (1.0). These statistics do not mean that fish eating is the healthiest diet. In "Mortality in British vegetarians", 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."
It is already long established in science that a number of lifestyle choices such as smoking, exercise and alcohol influence health and longevity. However, scientific studies so far fail to show that the decision to forgo meat contributes independently to people's life expectancy.
Another claim repeatedly made by vegetarian advocacy groups is that vegetarians suffer less from heart problems. This claim is true as was in the case of mortality rate. Studies which include the above, consistently confirm that vegetarians suffer less mortality from ischemic heart disease. Since there is no evidence that a vegetarian diet causes longer overall life expectancy, one cannot equate decreased mortality rate from ischemic heart disease to overall decrease in mortality or overall health. Moreover, occasional meat eaters also achieve statistically similar mortality rates indicating that this does not relate to the decision to exclude meat completely. Yet, both vegetarian and vegan advocacy groups invariably promote their diet as healthy while claiming that the diet which includes meat and/or fish is inherently unhealthy. Critics argue that these groups are engaging in scientific misrepresentation in direct opposition to public interest by diverting people's attention from already scientifically proven health factors. These include moderate exercise, moderate alcohol intake, not smoking and sufficient intake of fruits and green vegetables.
Some question the assumption that food given to livestock could instead be used to feed humans. In developing countries particularly, such food is usually of poor quality and not fit for human consumption, though the land it utilizes could be turned over to human food production. Cornell scientists have advised that the U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat. However, diverting this grain away from livestock would not resolve the economic causes that prevent starving (poor) people from buying food.
Also, there exist some types of terrain (such as mountains, desert fringes, and regions with very poor soil) that are suitable for grazing animals, but not suitable as farmland. Environmentalists counter that these "marginal lands" should not be used at all, and that grazing livestock on these lands exerts more pressure than they can carry and/or directly competes with native wild animal species which would graze the same land.