The History of Vegetarianism



9 Questions

What is the origin of vegetarianism as a practice?

Which religion has vegetarianism as a mandatory practice for some of its practitioners?

Which country was the first to legally declare itself vegetarian?

Which philosopher was a prominent supporter of the meatless or Pythagorean diet?

Which religion requires monks and nuns to eat an egg-free, onion-free vegetarian diet?

Which US city had the first public school to adopt an all-vegetarian menu?

Which ancient Greek religious movement may have practiced vegetarianism?

Which country has the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world?

Which philosopher was of the opinion that there cannot be any ethical duties whatsoever toward animals?


A Brief History of Vegetarianism and its Dietary Choices

  • Vegetarianism as a concept and practice originates from ancient India, especially among the Hindus and Jains, and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.

  • Vegetarianism disappeared from Europe following the Christianization of the Roman Empire in late antiquity.

  • Vegetarianism reemerged in Europe during the Renaissance and became a more widespread practice during the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • The percentage of the Western world which is vegetarian varies between 0.5% and 4% per Mintel data in September 2006.

  • Jain and Buddhist sources show that the principle of nonviolence toward animals was an established rule in both religions as early as the 6th century BCE.

  • Vegetarianism was and still is mandatory for Hindu yogis, both for the practitioners of Hatha Yoga and for the disciples of the Vaishnava schools of Bhakti Yoga.

  • The followers of Ilm-e-Kshnoom, a school of Zoroastrian thought found in India, practice vegetarianism.

  • In Ancient Greece during Classical antiquity, the vegetarian diet was called abstinence from beings with a soul.

  • The earliest reliable evidence for vegetarian theory and practice in Greece dates from the 6th century BCE; the Orphics, a religious movement spreading in Greece at that time, may have practiced vegetarianism.

  • The religions of Chinese Buddhism and Taoism require that monks and nuns eat an egg-free, onion-free vegetarian diet.

  • In China, one can find an eggless vegetarian substitute for items ranging from seafood to ham.

  • In Japan, the use of livestock and the consumption of some wild animals (horse, cattle, dogs, monkeys, birds) was banned in 675.A Brief History of Vegetarianism in Religion and Society

  • Vegetarianism was banned in Japan by Emperor Tenmu due to the influence of Buddhism. However, in the year 737, Emperor Seimu approved the eating of fish and shellfish. During the twelve hundred years from the Nara period to the Meiji Restoration in the latter half of the 19th century, Japanese people enjoyed vegetarian-style meals.

  • In 1872 of the Meiji restoration, Emperor Meiji lifted the ban on the consumption of red meat, encountering resistance from monks who attempted to break into the Imperial Palace.

  • In Greek-Orthodox Christianity, adherents eat a completely animal-free diet for fasting periods (except for honey) as well as all types of oil and alcohol. Ethiopian cuisine also contains many dishes that are vegan due to fasting periods.

  • Many early Christians were vegetarian, including Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and others. The historian Eusebius writes that the Apostle "Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh."

  • In the Middle Ages many monks and hermits renounced meat-eating in the context of their asceticism.

  • Vegetarianism reemerged in Europe as a philosophical concept based on an ethical motivation during the European Renaissance. The paramount theorist of the meatless or Pythagorean diet was the English writer Thomas Tryon. On the other hand, influential philosophers such as RenĂ© Descartes and Immanuel Kant were of the opinion that there cannot be any ethical duties whatsoever toward animals.

  • During the Age of Enlightenment and in the early nineteenth century, England was the place where vegetarian ideas were more welcome than anywhere else in Europe. The first Vegetarian Society of the modern western world was established in England in 1847.

  • In the United States, Reverend William Metcalfe and Sylvester Graham were among the founders of the American Vegetarian Society in 1850. Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, became an advocate of vegetarianism, and the Church has recommended a meatless diet ever since.

  • In Russia, Leo Tolstoy was the most outstanding supporter of vegetarianism.

  • The International Vegetarian Union, a union of the national societies, was founded in 1908.

  • Vegetarianism was frequently associated with cultural reform movements, such as temperance and anti-vivisection.

  • Class played prominent roles in the Victorian vegetarian movement. Women were especially visible as the "mascot".

  • In the 20th century, vegetarianism grew in popularity in the Western world as a result of concerns over animal welfare and environmental sustainability.History of Vegetarianism

  • The International Vegetarian Union was founded in 1908 and its 1975 World Vegetarian Congress in Orono, Maine had a significant impact on the vegetarian movement in the US.

  • Henry Stephens Salt and George Bernard Shaw were famous vegetarian activists.

  • In 1910, physician J. L. Buttner authored the vegetarian book, A Fleshless Diet which argued that meat is dangerous and unnecessary.

  • Cranks, which opened in Carnaby Street, London, in 1961, was the first successful vegetarian restaurant in the UK.

  • The Indian concept of nonviolence and the model of Mahatma Gandhi contributed to the popularization of vegetarianism in Western countries.

  • Morrissey's song and album Meat is Murder contributed to the popularity of meat-free lifestyles.

  • The Vegetarian and Fruitarian was published in Lewiston, Idaho in 1932 and promoted ethics, ideals, culture, health, and longevity.

  • The Vegan News was established in November 1944 by Donald Watson, the secretary of the Leicester branch of the British Vegetarian Society, after the society turned down a request for a section of its newsletter to be devoted to non-dairy vegetarianism.

  • The word "vegan" was coined by Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson, co-founders of the Vegan Society, based on "the first three and last two letters of 'vegetarian'".

  • Today, Indian vegetarians are estimated to make up more than 70 percent of the world's vegetarians and 20-42 percent of the population in India.

  • Roughly 6% of adults in the US never eat meat, poultry, or fish, with about half of those never eating meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. In 1994 and 1997, the number of vegetarians in the US was about one percent.

  • In 2013, PS 244 in Queens became the first public school in New York to adopt an all-vegetarian menu.

  • In 2014, Palitana City in Gujarat, India became the first city in the world to be legally vegetarian.

  • According to a 2018 survey, about 25% of evening meals consumed in the UK are meat and fish free.


Test your knowledge of the history of vegetarianism and its dietary practices with this informative quiz. From its origins in ancient India to its reemergence in Europe and the United States, learn about the religious and philosophical influences that have shaped vegetarianism over the centuries. Discover the famous figures who have championed the cause of vegetarianism, from Leo Tolstoy to Morrissey. Whether you're a seasoned vegetarian or just curious about the history behind this dietary choice, this quiz will provide you with fascinating

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