What is it like to be vegan in Europe?
Vegans - we are more than we think!
From the weirdo. To the trend. To the mainstream. A brief summary of the development and number of veganism.
Vegan is now a real trend and yes - almost a lifestyle - and so after years of being looked at as “poor starved weirdos” we are almost trend-setters, even if we don't see ourselves as one or the other. From our point of view, what distinguishes us from our fellow human beings who think in this way is “only” the fact that we do not use animal products for ethical and often health reasons. No more and no less.
Even if this attitude lumps us into the same pot with other vegans and, in some overlaps, with vegetarians, we still do not see ourselves as a homogeneous group. There may be some characteristics that are typical of other people in our lifestyle that we will come back to later (education, income, women). Nonetheless, we work in a wide variety of professions, are married, singles, parents or childless, old or young. We cannot even be assigned to a political direction. There are vegans in all parties and even in our circle of friends there are quite heated discussions! We have a wide variety of leisure interests, hobbies, or a taste in music, literature and film that can hardly be reconciled and we also differ in many ways. Maybe that's why we always feel like a minority. We want to get to the bottom of it all. How big is this perceived minority today? How many of us - vegans but also vegetarians - are there in Germany or worldwide? And when did people start to avoid meat or animal products in their diet?
To do this, we have to take a look back to antiquity to follow in the footsteps of the first "animal rights activists":
Pythagoras, the first vegetarian
Not only does Pythagoras originate the well-known “Theorem of Pythagoras”, with which we already had fun in math lessons, but his name actually appears in connection with the history of vegetarianism or veganism. Even here in antiquity, the philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (approx. 570–500 BC) expressed an extraordinarily modern attitude with the saying “Everything that man does to animals comes back to man”. He and his colleagues not only rejected religious animal sacrifices, but were also convinced that eating meat made people aggressive and murderous, even with those of their own kind: whoever kills animals is also able to kill people.
Greek Orphics - the first vegan movement
The Roman philosopher Seneca as well as Ovid and Plutarch shared Pythagoras' thinking, but this did not lead to a major movement. The Greek Orphics living at the same time, who rejected the consumption of meat for religious and philosophical reasons, did not succeed in spreading these first vegetarian / vegan principles. They believed in the rebirth of both human and animal souls after death and were therefore convinced that salvation can only be found by those who keep the body pure and live ascetically.
Meat - as a staple food between ancient and modern times
Meat continued to be a popular staple food. The first forms of vegetarianism disappeared with the fall of antiquity. Even if some Christian monks refrained from eating meat for religious reasons, but not necessarily from fish and poultry, the topic did not emerge until the early modern era: Leonardo da Vinci, for example, spoke out in favor of a vegetarian diet.
Prominent representatives such as Voltaire and Rousseau are attracting more attention to the topic of vegetarianism in the Enlightenment. However, the whole thing was only established in the course of the 19th century, especially in the Anglo-Saxon region. Here in particular, the plant-based diet is considered to be healthier, and aggressive behavior and the consumption of meat are brought into a context. The first vegetarian society was founded in London in 1801, followed by the founding of the "Vegetarian Society", which still exists today, in 1847. In Germany in 1867 the “Vegetarian Association” was brought into being.
Veganism - a child of the 20th century
A distinction between vegetarianism and veganism had not been made until then. As a rule, ovo-lacto-vegetarianism was practiced, i.e. the renunciation of meat and fish, but not eggs and dairy products. When the Vegan Society emerged from the Vegetarian Society in 1944, the official history of veganism began.
The Vegetarian Union of Germany (VEBU), founded in 1892, advocates a purely plant-based diet through its chairman Bruno Wolff in the 1930s. Today it stands for the community of interests of vegetarian and vegan people.
The number of animal protection movements increased at the end of the 20th century, as did activities such as hunting sabotage and nude demonstrations; the number of vegans is increasing at the same time. The image of plant-based nutrition, which has so far been dubbed as a light food for the sick or for dingy eco-crazy, is changing slowly but steadily. The topic gradually found its way into the media at the end of the nineties, where it is also increasingly seriously discussed.
With the appearance of BSE in Germany in 2000, the vegetarian movement in Germany reached a high point: According to estimates, around 15% of Germans followed a vegetarian diet at this point in time. This proportion has fallen back to around 10% to date.
There are more and more vegans
It is currently estimated that around 8 million people are vegetarian, which corresponds to around 10% of the population. According to studies, around 1–1.3 million people eat a purely vegan diet, i.e. a maximum of 1.6% of the population. Every day there should be 200 more people. Trend: increasing if you look at the development of the numbers. In 2008 there were therefore only 80,000 people who followed a vegan diet. According to VEBU, there were already 900,000 people in 2015.
This development is also reflected in the range of vegan products and foods: Sales of vegan products have increased with annual growth rates averaging 17% since 2010 to an annual turnover of more than 700 million euros. Even at the discounter you can now buy a selection of vegan products.
The growing popularity of vegan nutrition is also reflected, for example, in the increased interest in vegan recipes: While only three vegan cookbooks were published in 2010, there were already 50 new publications in 2013, then 70 in 2014, and 119 new publications in 2015 and finally 211 a year later.
There are also 10 magazines that are exclusively devoted to the subject of “vegan” in the areas of lifestyle, fashion or cooking.
In the article about the “classic vegans” we already explained to you that vegans are well educated with a higher than average income, female and rather young. The proportion of vegans is greatest in metropolitan areas and large cities. Most of us live in cities with populations over 500,000. In regional terms, the federal states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg are the ones with the highest proportion of people who do without meat and fish.
Veganism - a global trend
Worldwide, the number of vegetarians and vegans is estimated at around 1 billion. Within Europe, Italy, Austria, Germany and Great Britain are in the lead with around 9-10% vegetarians. In Switzerland, 3% of the population are vegans and 11% vegetarians.
Worldwide, India is at the top with 38% vegetarians in the total population. Israel follows with 13% vegetarians and 5% vegans. Israel is therefore the country with the highest percentage of vegans in the world. Taiwan ranks third with 12% vegetarians. In the US it is estimated that 5% are vegetarians and 2% are vegans.
So all in all a great development. More and more people are paying attention to an animal-friendly and healthy diet, because living beings suffer and die for animal products. Factory farming harms the animals but also our environment, because it damages the soil and consumes huge amounts of water and grain and causes huge amounts of CO2.
We are many - but still not enough
Nevertheless, one thing is clear: we are getting more and more, but far too many people are still eating far too much meat! The average meat consumption is considerably above the recommendation of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). According to the Federal Association of the German Meat Industry, the average German eats around 60 kg of meat a year. This amount is 2–4 times above the health recommendation - this time from a health perspective. For this reason we are happy about the growing number of vegans, but also about the flexitarians, often called part-time vegetarians, who we so often laugh at.
According to a study from 2015, 56% of people in Germany eat meat less often and more consciously and thus belong to the so-called flexitarians. And if this not insignificant part of the population continuously restricts its meat consumption, then that is - purely in terms of quantity - a big step in the right direction. Because more and more people are increasingly orienting themselves towards a healthy diet or, through their choice of diet, support animal welfare, the environment and reduce factory farming. With this in mind, our message to you: Keep it up, because ...
In veggies we trust!
vegan life overview
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