"As long as human beings are ruthless with living creatures, they will never know health and peace. If men continue to slaughter animals, they will also remain killing each other. Indeed, he who sows murder and pain cannot reap joy and love."
said the Greek philosopher Pythagoras around 500 years before Christ.
As we can see from the Pythagorean quote, the history of veganism is not a modern invention. It originated long ago and has spread worldwide for thousands of years. Some anthropologists believe that early humans harvested and ate mostly plants. Occasionally they supplemented their diet, which was primarily plant-based, with animal protein and meat.
A lifestyle gaining in popularity
, more than a diet, is a lifestyle. World Vegan Day was created in 1994 by Louise Wallis, the then president of The Vegan Society UK, to mark the 50th anniversary of the association and the birth of the word vegan.
According to The Vegan Society, "Veganism is a philosophy and way of life that aims to exclude - as far as possible and feasible - all forms of exploitation and cruelty against animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and, by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partially from animals."
In recent years, an increasing number of people, who opt for a plant-based diet, have been analyzed, with the main reasons for adopting this lifestyle being health issues, as a vegan diet
helps reduce the risk of certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Environmental concerns also justify this increase - adopting a vegan diet is one of the most effective decisions we can make to reduce our ecological footprint. Massively producing and consuming meat and other animal products is a major contributor to global warming, widespread pollution levels, deforestation, soil degradation, water shortages, and species extinction.
Veganism and vegetarianism around the world
Although there is no hard data on the vegetarian and vegan population around the world, it is estimated that:
- The UK's number of vegans and vegetarians is almost 5 million people (7% of the population).
- In the US, it is estimated that there are already around 11 million adults (or 3.3% of the total population).
- In Canada, there are already approximately 3.5 million vegetarians and vegans (10% of the population).
- In Germany, there are 3.5 million (4.3% of the population).
- In Brazil, about 30 million people declare themselves vegetarian or vegan (14% of the population).
- According to AVP, a statistical study recently published by Nielsen reveals that the number of vegetarians in
- Portugal has quadrupled in the last decade, and in 2017 there were 120,000 people following a vegetarian diet, or 1.2% of the Portuguese population, of which 60,000 are vegans.
Some countries with a strong vegan culture
A little all over the world, it is possible to find cultures that favor the vegan diet. Often this diet is rooted in tradition and religious beliefs. In Indian culture, for example, the practice of nonviolence, or ahiṃsā, has grounded a meatless way of life.
This diet is present in several religions such as Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The idea that all living things, including animals, have a spark of divine energy inspires the concept of ahiṃsā, inherent in these religions.
In China, Buddhism has had a significant impact on the country's cuisine. It has also been the basis of regional dishes in other Southwest Asian countries, namely Korea, Cambodia, and Thailand. Plant-based food is also part of Japanese cuisine.
Vegetarianism has a long history, from philosophical texts from Ancient Greece where explicit references to animal protection are found to the formation of The Vegan Society in the 1940s. We have seen the Pythagorean Diet transformed into the vegan diet, and more and more people are following this way of life.