Vegetarianism throughout the world

by Geoffrey Gagnon


Although we human beings consider it perfectly normal to eat meat, but, if we stop and think about it, it is a rather peculiar habit all the same.


So I wondered: is there anywhere in the world where vegetarianism is the norm? My subsequent research didn’t lead me to identify any one country where the entire population is vegetarian. However, it helped me see that a vegetarian lifestyle is becoming more and more widespread and popular; it is a cultural phenomenon that is constantly growing in importance.



Social norms

Indeed, even if our social norms lead us to believe that vegetarianism is rare or unusual, this is not necessarily the case all over the world, as statistically¹ proven. 


In India, for example, 40% of the population is estimated to be vegetarian, i.e. 450 à 500 million people. In India, restaurants and market food sellers all clearly indicate whether their dish is vegetarian or not. In certain regions of India, particularly the sacred cities, the majority of the population is vegetarian. The state of Gujarat is the most beautiful example, where 80% of the population is vegetarian, i.e. 40 000 000 people.

Less impressive perhaps, but nonetheless significant, it is estimated that 9% of the German population (7 380 000 people) is vegetarian today. In Italy, 6 million people are vegetarians. In England, there are 7 – 11% vegetarians, and 4% of the Canadian population has opted for a vegetarian diet. In the United States, there are presently 25 million vegetarians.  In the Middle East, it is Israel that has the most vegetarians, with 8.5% of the population.

New initiatives

Interesting initiatives regarding vegetarianism have been adopted in many countries, notably in Ireland, where vegetarian and non-vegetarian products are clearly labelled.  In Belgium, the small city of Ghent was the first in the world to propose a Veggie Day once a week. This initiative was quickly adopted in France and other countries.  



Throughout history

It is also interesting to know that many important historical figures were vegetarian, including  Plato, Pythagoras, Plutarch, Buddha, Saint-Francis of Assisi, Voltaire, Leo Tolstoy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi and Marguerite Yourcenar. Similarily, whole communities have adopted this lifestyle, such as the Albigensians and the Bogomils in the West, as well as the majority of people following the Janist, Buddhist and Hindu traditions in the East. 

Nowadays, in ever-increasing numbers, people of all ages and from all social backgrounds, including environmentalists, writers, yoga practitioners, athletes, and renowned public figures, choose to be vegetarian.   

Hence, for thousands of years, the daily reality for hundreds and thousands of people does not include meat. For these people, nothing is more normal that being vegetarian.

So we shouldn’t always use social norms as our one and only benchmark. Other lifestyles exist, and when they are as harmonious and beneficial as vegetarianism, we can only gain by following their example. 


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

– Mahatma Gandhi



Even if our social norms lead us to believe that vegetarianism is rare or unusual, this is not necessarily the case all over the world…



¹ Voir « Végétarisme » sur Wikipédia:égétarisme