In the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed a dramatic rise in the adoption of veganism and vegetarianism, particularly among younger people. This is due in part to an increasing awareness of environmental impact, compassion for animals, health consequences, and an overall improvement of vegan and vegetarian food.
The History of Vegetarianism Around the World
While veganism and vegetarianism are more recent phenomena in the West, the concept of avoiding animal-based products can be traced back to eastern Mediterranean and ancient Indian societies. The term vegetarianism was coined by Pythagoras of Samos in around 500 BCE. He was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who promoted benevolence among all species. Jeremy Bentham, an 18th-century utilitarian philosopher, compared animal suffering to human suffering and condemned the idea of human superiority.
In the United States, vegetarianism started gaining momentum in the 18th century. There were small groups of Christian vegetarians who believed in the health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Reverend William Metcalfe, a prominent member of the Bible Christian Church, was an advocate for vegetarianism. In 1850, he founded the American Vegetarian Society in New York City along with Sylvester Graham, Russell Trall, and William Alcott.
Throughout history, other noteworthy individuals practiced vegetarianism including Benjamin Franklin. He became a vegetarian at the age of sixteen but returned to eating meat later in life. Vegetarianism was also embraced by Ellen G. White, one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and a meatless diet has been recommended to members ever since. In the late 19th century, American vegetarian cookbooks began popping up such as E.G. Fulton’s “The Vegetarian Cookbook.” While early vegetarian cookbooks revolved around meat alternatives, later versions focused on flavorsome meatless meals without the need for substitutes.
Today, vegetarianism is advocated by followers of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, backed by the belief that humans should not inflict suffering on other creatures.
The Current Scenario
The results of a recent poll showed that the number of vegetarians in the United States has increased by 70% in the last couple of years. Many parents are bringing up their children as vegetarians due to the many perceived health benefits that come with this lifestyle.
Initially, people were puzzled about preparing vegetarian food, because of the limited, tasty options available. But today, supermarkets are filled with excellent vegan and vegetarian items, and there’s no shortage of delicious, nutritious recipes, thanks to the internet.
In the last ten years, vegetarian foods have become a lot more accessible, and vegan items such as soy milk and veggie burgers are available at most deli counters and local grocery stores. In fact, many families find that having a vegetarian in the household can improve the overall eating habits of the entire family.
We’ve seen many food trends come and go, but vegetarianism is more than just a passing craze. Vegetarian food will continue to rise in popularity, and the consumption of animal products is on the decline. There are delicious vegetarian substitutes available to most meat-based dishes. Even when it comes to comfort food, wholesome veggies are replacing carb foods loaded with carbs and meat.
An increasing number of summer camps, schools, and colleges are adding vegetarian options to their menus. Fast food chains and restaurants are also on board with this trend, and most of them have tasty food choices for vegetarians. It is easier than ever to adopt a plant-based lifestyle and more people are embracing it every day.
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