How Many Vegans & Vegetarians Are There Anyway? Looking At Vegetarian Statistics & The Percent Of Vegetarians In The World

I think most of us at some point or another wonder how many vegans there are in the world. Or how many vegetarians there are in the US. I know I have. From my own deductive reasoning, and I’m no Sherlock Holmes, I figured we’d be lucky if there were 1% of the population in North American and Europe being vegan with perhaps 3% – including the 1% vegans – being vegetarian.

How did I come up with those kinds of numbers – besides pulling them out of my arse? 🙂 Well, I wrote a post about it a while back called where are all the vegans in the supermarket?

From informal observations and calculating how many folks order vegetarian or vegan meals at company events or conferences I figured maybe 1% and 3%. I was wrong. Thank god for that too.

The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) as some of you might know does a poll using the Harris Interactive Group every few years or so. They just came out earlier this month with their most recent poll which is both illuminating and quite frankly positive.

Now, before we get to the nitty gritty of the numbers – hey, patience is a a virtue and virtue is a grace and Grace is a lady with a pretty face 😉 – let’s take a look at some of the reasoning and thoughts they had, and which I share when looking forward to see what might come of the vegan poll.

Lately, the vegan and vegetarian has been getting some pretty serious airplay. We’ve spoken about Bill Clinton becoming vegan as well as some other heavyweights (excuse the pun) like Mike Tyson and Steve Wynn.

There continues to be mounting evidence that the vegetarian diet and more specifically the vegan diet is better for your body, your health and your soul. Groups are calling for Meatless Mondays and Tofurky Tuesdays so what were these kinds of campaigns having on the population at large. Is the veg*n message getting out? That you can have a total win-win diet. A diet that heals your body, heals your soul, heals our planet as is kind to the animals.

Well it appears that folks are hearing the message loud and clear. More than that they are starting to make some changes. Let’s turn to the numbers. I am only going to highlight some of the highlights :), as it was quite a thorough poll. But first, what did the poll look like.

It was a telephone conducted interview poll. The poll happened between March 30 and April 3 of 2011. As an aside, the last time VRG conducted a poll like this it was in 2008. To quote from VRT, the poll was conducted amongst a “…nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, region, number of adults in household, and number of telephone lines were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points…”

They also speak to the possibility of other errors like folks refusing to answer as well as the semantics of the questions. Anyway, it gives us an idea if nothing else.

One interesting aspect of the poll was that 1/3 or 33% of pollsters say they eat meals without animal flesh (meat, fish, seafood or poultry) a significant amount of the time. So 33% of American adults are eating vegetarian meals a lot of the time. 17% say that vegetarian meals are eaten up to half of the time. 16% say that vegetarian meals are eaten more than half the time but less than full time.

For me, one of the biggest revelations was that there are more vegans now in the US than there are vegetarians. The poll found that 5% of Americans are at least vegetarian and slightly more than half of those vegetarians who are male are vegan and half of those vegetarians who are female are vegan.

Ladies, it’s time to step up to the plate and get on the V train with your brothers. I am surprised that the poll suggested that there are more male vegans in the US than there are female vegans. I throw down the gauntlet and challenge women young and old to take the compassionate leap forward to veganism 🙂

One last interesting point that I think is worth mulling over is that there are an equal number of both Democrats and Republicans who eat more than half of their meals as vegetarian meals. That number is 15% for both. See, we can get along!

If you’d like to read the full press release you can find it at the VRG 2011 vegan poll.

Now is this sacrosanct? I don’t think so. But it gives us reason to be optimistic and hopeful that things are changing. When we’re in the trenches seeing animals suffer daily, and the numbers are huge. Billions per day worldwide, well, if we take a step back and see the forest for the trees we can see that things are changing. Compassion is getting a toehold in the American psyche and diet.

But what about the percentage of vegans and vegetarians in the world. Do we know that number?

Well some countries keep better records than others as far as statistics and polling go. My research seems to suggest that in Europe you can find the percent of vegetarians being as high as 10% in Italy followed closely at 9% for Germany with France around 2% or less and they now ban the serving of vegan meals in schools (sacrebleu!). The UK and Ireland have a hearty 6% of the population following a vegetarian diet and The Netherlands is doing well at 4.3%.

The vegetarian slackers in the European group include Portugal at around 0.3% and Poland at less than 1%.

Other countries doing a great job of embracing vegetarian living include Israel at a very healthy 8.5% of the population eating a vegetarian diet. The Swiss are vegetarian rockstars at 9%, Canada has a reasonable 4% vegetarian population and Australia at around 3%.

Of course, the birthplace of vegetarianism and of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha remains the kings and queens of vegetarian living. The champion of the vegetarian world, may I introduce you to the 40% of Indians who eat a vegetarian diet. ‘Nuff said.


Now go eat your veggies!

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