Is veganism really gaining ground?

Graeme M

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Veganism remains a somewhat fringe position. Truly ethical vegans make up on average less than 1% of the global population, and even in the most vegan-supporting countries the proportion remains at around 5% (and I doubt these figures, by the way); there is a very long way to go to achieve any truly substantial representation.

Is this likely to change? I don't know but I am suspicious that it won't. The traditional vegan argument remains at odds with the everyday person's conception of the world. Worse, vegan messaging struggles to gain a real foothold. In my opinion - and backed by nothing at all - I tend to the view that the uptake of veganism falls somewhere distant from the mean on the bell curve of types (from the most caring to the most uncaring). Put another way, about as many people as naturally lean that way are already veg*n and convincing people to truly be ethical vegans becomes less effective the further we travel towards the mean.

How could this be changed? Is there any real pathway to greater success? Here's my two cents worth.

Veganism is, in the end, a personal choice. Maybe it would be better to face this fact and stop expecting the world to become vegan. If the real intention behind veganism is to reduce pain and suffering, then any reduction is a measure of success. Holding out for some distant perfection, such as in abolitionism, is a failed enterprise and likely to fall far shorter of other strategies, even such as welfarism.

If veganism were cast as simply the extension of personal moral considerations to other animals as much as possible, I believe we could travel farther towards the goal of reducing suffering by other animals. When we take a moral position towards other people, our general belief is that we should behave honourably towards them. We might well believe, for exmple, that we would want to treat them as we wish them to treat us. If we took the view that we should also act honourably towards other animals, we might be willing to take stepts to reduce the impacts of our own behaviours, just as we do with other people.

This means that vegan advocacy would focus not on conformity to some idealised norm but rather to practical ways in which people might reduce suffering. We aren't selling adherence to a standard, we are selling the wish to do better for other animals. It also means that we'd encourage individuals to endorse what, for want of a better term, we might call vegan ethics. In fact, we'd recast "vegan ethics" as everyday ethics applied to other animals wherever possible.

Boiled down, it means that we would be selling the idea that when we act into the world, we think about the consequences for other animals. That doesn't mean that someone embracing this view would necessarily stop eating animals for example, but it does mean that they might adopt a position closer to traditional veganism than they might otherwise have done.

In the end, everyone is encouraged to take the position that suits them best, so long as in doing so they have a genuine interest in reducing the suffering of other animals. I can see a lot of interesting strategies and tactics that could fall out of that idea. What do you see as the flaws/weaknesses in this idea?
 

Indian Summer

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A couple of observations:
  • In my experience, the vast majority of vegans are not abolitionist, but favour incremental improvements to animal welfare.
  • Although only a very small part of the population identify as vegans (I'm unsure accurate estimates exist), there is a lot of evidence that vegan food products have seen an unprecedented growth in popularity and availability.
  • A lot of people these days seem to be vegan-curious or use various labels related to vegetable-eating in order to describe their diets. I think health and the environment are perhaps greater concerns for the general population than is animal welfare.
Yes, I think it makes much sense to focus more advocacy on reducing our negative impact on animals through changes to our diet and other consumption. Just don't take the focus on reducing suffering to the logical extremes - mass suicide or exterminating all predators etc ....

Also: Many people like labels, and I think they can also help maintain commitment over time, rallying towards a shared goal and so on, so therefore I think terms such as "veganish" and similar might be helpful.
 
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Indian Summer

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Another thought is that perhaps the vegan movement can learn something from Christianity and other religions:

Sure, Christians have their holy bible with clear rules such as the 10 Commandments, and Jesus set many a good example in his adventures, yet few people manage to live 100% by those rules and follow Jesus' teachings perfectly throughout their lives. Despite this, the followers still identify as Christians, and all Christians, both the 'sinners' and the more successful adherents, mostly seem to agree they all count as Christians.

Similarly, perhaps someone who subscribe to vegan ethics/principles, but fail to adhere to it all that well, could still be welcome in the vegan "movement", and could still call themselves .... vegan-somethings? I don't want to suggest they call themselves vegans necessarily, but "aspiring vegan" or a similar term might do the trick. (Language is powerful, and I think whoever can coin and champion a good term for this would be doing veganism and animals a huge favour.)
 

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I absolutely agree with Indian Summer.

I have some thoughts on a few of his statements that I think are worth bringing up.

I my experience, the vast majority of vegans are not abolitionist, but favour incremental improvements to animal welfare.

I wonder about this. A few years back, there was an animal welfare law being proposed here in California that was not supported by PETA. There was an (IMHO) misunderstanding about why PETA didn't support it. Some people believed that PETA didn't think it went far enough (well, it didn't) but my understanding is that it extended deadlines in order to make further headway. (it was a compromise). Anyway, at a rally I heard some good speeches and one of the ones that still sticks with me is this guy who made a convincing argument that all vegans (using the accepted definition) are abolitionists. That IS the ultimate goal. And even the most hardcore abolitionists realize that the only way to get there is with incremental improvements. So the argument is not about the destination, or even the route, but the speed.

Although only a very small part of the population identify as vegans (I'm unsure accurate estimates exist), there is a lot of evidence that vegan food products have seen an unprecedented growth in popularity and availability.

There are lots of polls. Here in America, it is a number less than 5%. I've read that some people put European Vegans higher. But no matter what - it's a small fraction of the total population. No matter how you slice the pie - the animal rights "party" has very little political power.

However, there are many groups of people who partially, or inadvertently, or accidentally support animal rights. And in that case, we can bring up economic power. (voting with the wallet). Every time a vegetarian skips buying eggs, a flexitarian gets a beyond burger, a concerned mother cuts back on hot dogs, and a hipster gets his coffee with oat milk, is a "vote" for animal rights.

The other thing that is worth bringing up is one of my favorite topics: optics. The general population's view of vegans is changing - and for the better. And even way more, important, the general's population view of the livestock industry, and the role of meat is changing too. Climate change or health concerns might be the driving force (and not animal rights) but no matter - its the animals who are benefiting.
 

Lou

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Similarly, perhaps someone who subscribe to vegan ethics/principles, but fail to adhere to it all that well, could still be welcome in the vegan "movement", and could still call themselves .... vegan-somethings?
I'm not against another label. Almost vegan? Veganegetarian? Proto-Vegan?
But I don't think we need one.
There is nothing implicit or implied in the definition of vegan that requires 100% compliance. In fact, the definition states that 100% compliance is not necessary (that possible and practicable clause). The word the defintion uses is "strives". And that is just a fancy word for tries really hard.
I get some flack every time I say this on the forum but I believe that veganism is all about intent. If you want to be a vegan. Poof. You are a vegan.
Another label we could use is transitioning vegan. But it's my belief that we are all transitioning. In fact, it's my belief that if you try to judge a vegan just by the product and not the process - none of us are vegans - we are all transitioning vegans.
One of my favorite vegan authors and chefs said in one of her podcasts that veganism is not the goal. Compassion is the goal - and veganism is the path towards that goal. ( I know - very zen). Being vegan is not a state - but a process.
 

Emma JC

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along these lines - I saw this on PlantBased News YouTube channel yesterday and although I am not a fan of Cramer, he is ultimately practical... definitely worth watching

Emma JC

 
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Lou

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along these lines - I saw this on PlantBased News YouTube channel yesterday and although I am not a fan of Cramer, he is ultimately practical... definitely worth watching

Emma JC

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interesting take. He says that "Beyond Meat is skipping the whole meat chapter." That is an interesting way of saying they don't use cows.
 
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I don't see this as an either/or kind of thing. Every movement experiences internal tension between hardliners and pragmatists but if the infighting can be kept to a minimum that's okay. Hardliners succeed when they force a debate on principles, and that lays the groundwork for pragmatists to take bigger steps. I think people should advocate in whatever form they feel most motivated to.

I'm not onboard with giving cover to those who choose to continue consuming animal products though. Being vegan is really easy, so unless they're under special circumstances we shouldn't lower our standards to allow those who willfully contribute to animal exploitation under the banner of veganism.
 

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Another thought is that perhaps the vegan movement can learn something from Christianity and other religions:

Sure, Christians have their holy bible with clear rules such as the 10 Commandments, and Jesus set many a good example in his adventures, yet few people manage to live 100% by those rules and follow Jesus' teachings perfectly throughout their lives. Despite this, the followers still identify as Christians, and all Christians, both the 'sinners' and the more successful adherents, mostly seem to agree they all count as Christians.
Christianity is not an example of unity but division. Yes, each person who in some sense identifies with Jesus/the bible to some extent usually goes by the label "Christian", but there are hundreds of denominations that are in competition with each other over correct doctrine and there is no shortage of judgement as to who is a "real" christian and who is a phony. Most of my life I have either been directly involved in it personally or online and know this to be true.

If in any sense unified, it's usually under the banner of belief in "original sin" and the need for a savior (from this original sin). Like most religions, you have the "high priests" and other religious "leaders" who lead/abuse their respective "flocks", who wouldn't have a job except for that original sin and their special privilege of absolution from sins.

Leaving all that aside, there are either multiple rules or just a few (depending on who you ask) that are to govern both people's minds and thoughts. I shudder to think of that being applied to being vegan - yet that is exactly what some people want to do with it - make it into a f*cking religion with them as the high priest and judge of that religion. An extension of their ego. Nothing implied here. I've seen it happen on this very board with a few members. One in particular.

Similarly, perhaps someone who subscribe to vegan ethics/principles, but fail to adhere to it all that well, could still be welcome in the vegan "movement", and could still call themselves .... vegan-somethings? I don't want to suggest they call themselves vegans necessarily, but "aspiring vegan" or a similar term might do the trick. (Language is powerful, and I think whoever can coin and champion a good term for this would be doing veganism and animals a huge favour.)
"Aspiring Vegan" acknowledges attempts and failure. It's an honest description for those that struggle, for whatever reasons (family, personal circumstances, situation etc).

Vegan, however as a philosophy or quasi-religion to me seems very dangerous. Because of the reasons above, and also because religions/philosophies typically have multiple rules/guidelines. Can you imagine someone who spends their free time working at an animal shelter, gives $$ to animal organizations, sits on the board of PETA and other organizations, attends multiple rallies, writes blogs and journals and is a "leader" of the "vegan movement" in all respects except that they eat eggs and cheese and recommend it to "aspiring vegans"? To me that's called a horrible example X 1000.
 
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Indian Summer

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Christianity is not an example of unity but division. Yes, each person who in some sense identifies with Jesus/the bible to some extent usually goes by the label "Christian", but there are hundreds of denominations that are in competition with each other over correct doctrine and there is no shortage of judgement as to who is a "real" christian and who is a phony. Most of my life I have either been directly involved in it personally or online and know this to be true.
To be clear, I'm not advocating the vegan movement should emulate Christianity in any other way than welcoming and recognising less than perfect "followers" as fellow travellers towards a shared goal. Yes, it's easy to find flaws in Christianity - they are many and serious.
"Aspiring Vegan" acknowledges attempts and failure. It's an honest description for those that struggle, for whatever reasons (family, personal circumstances, situation etc).
I like it too, but it might be too many syllables to catch on.
Vegan, however as a philosophy or quasi-religion to me seems very dangerous. Because of the reasons above, and also because religions/philosophies typically have multiple rules/guidelines. Can you imagine someone who spends their free time working at an animal shelter, gives $$ to animal organizations, sits on the board of PETA and other organizations, attends multiple rallies, writes blogs and journals and is a "leader" of the "vegan movement" in all respects except that they eat eggs and cheese and recommend it to "aspiring vegans"? To me that's called a horrible example X 1000.
Veganism is already a "philosophy", and has been from the start. A philosophy whose goal is to achieve significant social change needs organisation which again require good leadership. It doesn't just happen by itself.
 

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Being vegan is really easy,
Sometimes I think its easy, too. I also think there are like a million people who don't think being a vegan is easy (although probably the vast majority hasn't even tried). If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "I'd be vegan if it wasn't for ______" How many times have we heard about people stop being vegan.? It probably wasn't because they lost interest. They probably found it too hard. How many times have we had people join the forum because they were having problems with transitioning?

I'm proud to be a vegan. I consider it to be an achievement. there is nothing wrong with the people who find it hard. Actually I'm reminded of the Theodore Rosevelt quote.

“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No kind of life is worth leading if it is always an easy life. I know that your life is hard; I know that your work is hard; and hardest of all for those of you who have the highest trained consciences, and who therefore feel always how much you ought to do. I know your work is hard, and that is why I congratulate you with all my heart. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Although if we are promoting veganism we probably should concentrate on How Easy It Is. :)
 

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Veganism remains a somewhat fringe position. Truly ethical vegans make up on average less than 1% of the global population, and even in the most vegan-supporting countries the proportion remains at around 5% (and I doubt these figures, by the way); there is a very long way to go to achieve any truly substantial representation.

Is this likely to change? I don't know but I am suspicious that it won't. The traditional vegan argument remains at odds with the everyday person's conception of the world. Worse, vegan messaging struggles to gain a real foothold. In my opinion - and backed by nothing at all - I tend to the view that the uptake of veganism falls somewhere distant from the mean on the bell curve of types (from the most caring to the most uncaring). Put another way, about as many people as naturally lean that way are already veg*n and convincing people to truly be ethical vegans becomes less effective the further we travel towards the mean.

How could this be changed? Is there any real pathway to greater success? Here's my two cents worth.

Veganism is, in the end, a personal choice. Maybe it would be better to face this fact and stop expecting the world to become vegan. If the real intention behind veganism is to reduce pain and suffering, then any reduction is a measure of success. Holding out for some distant perfection, such as in abolitionism, is a failed enterprise and likely to fall far shorter of other strategies, even such as welfarism.

If veganism were cast as simply the extension of personal moral considerations to other animals as much as possible, I believe we could travel farther towards the goal of reducing suffering by other animals. When we take a moral position towards other people, our general belief is that we should behave honourably towards them. We might well believe, for exmple, that we would want to treat them as we wish them to treat us. If we took the view that we should also act honourably towards other animals, we might be willing to take stepts to reduce the impacts of our own behaviours, just as we do with other people.

This means that vegan advocacy would focus not on conformity to some idealised norm but rather to practical ways in which people might reduce suffering. We aren't selling adherence to a standard, we are selling the wish to do better for other animals. It also means that we'd encourage individuals to endorse what, for want of a better term, we might call vegan ethics. In fact, we'd recast "vegan ethics" as everyday ethics applied to other animals wherever possible.

Boiled down, it means that we would be selling the idea that when we act into the world, we think about the consequences for other animals. That doesn't mean that someone embracing this view would necessarily stop eating animals for example, but it does mean that they might adopt a position closer to traditional veganism than they might otherwise have done.

In the end, everyone is encouraged to take the position that suits them best, so long as in doing so they have a genuine interest in reducing the suffering of other animals. I can see a lot of interesting strategies and tactics that could fall out of that idea. What do you see as the flaws/weaknesses in this idea?
You do have about 900 million Indians eating more or less Vegan good. I suppose that will push up the numbers nicely :)
 
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Lou

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India is an interesting story. Although they have a lot of vegetarians, the number of vegetarians in India is decresasing as the country becomes more affluent.
they are also the biggest milk producer and consumer in the world.
But the percentage of vegans is growing. YouTube and Facebook are at least partially responsible.
For more info on India
 

beforewisdom

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I don't think veganism ( the belief that it is wrong to exploit animals ) is gaining ground. People who eat vegan diets remains small and people who believe it is wrong to exploit animals is even fewer.

The best hope for the animals is advanced lab meat technology that does not kill any animals, produces a product very similar to meat, and that produces a product slightly cheaper than meat.

It is my belief that if lab met is "close enough" and visibly less expensive most people will just eat much lab meat than real meat.
 
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Lou

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I don't think veganism ( the belief that it is wrong to exploit animals ) is gaining ground. People who eat vegan diets remains small and people who believe it is wrong to exploit animals is even fewer.

The best hope for the animals is advanced lab meat technology that does not kill any animals, produces a product very similar to meat, and that produces a product slightly cheaper than meat.

It is my belief that if lab met is "close enough" and visibly less expensive most people will just eat much lab meat than real meat.
I disagree. All the non-vegans I know think animals have the right to live. They just think their whatever is more important. I think the people who believe that animals do not have the right to live are few and far between. Its just that a lot of them don't really associate meat with murder. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well.

I think the best hope for animals is education. Although I am constantly amazed by how resistant some people are to logic and reason - I was like that once - so I have hope.

I don't know much about lab-grown meat, and I think it's fine for people to research it. But I think a whole food plant-based diet has the best chance to feed people in a healthy way without livestock, economically, healthily, and a low carbon footprint.
 
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PTree15

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I disagree. All the non-vegans I know think animals have the right to live. They just think their whatever is more important. I think the people who believe that animals do not have the right to live are few and far between. Its just that a lot of them don't really associate meat with murder. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well.
Agree. I get so disappointed when I see people fighting for the lives of pets who have no problem chowing down on burgers or hot dogs. :( I have to remember that I once suffered from that cognitive dissonance as well. Animal farming is so ingrained in the culture, but I still have hope that someday it will be abandoned. There is a lot more awareness now, but people who are informed still dismiss it because they just don't want to deal with change or give up their flesh-eating ways.
 

silva

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I disagree. All the non-vegans I know think animals have the right to live. They just think their whatever is more important. I think the people who believe that animals do not have the right to live are few and far between. Its just that a lot of them don't really associate meat with murder. Cognitive dissonance is alive and well.

I think the best hope for animals is education. Although I am constantly amazed by how resistant some people are to logic and reason - I was like that once - so I have hope.

I don't know much about lab-grown meat, and I think it's fine for people to research it. But I think a whole food plant-based diet has the best chance to feed people in a healthy way without livestock, economically, healthily, and a low carbon footprint.
The first paragraph is largely my experience in the people I know. I meet very few that feel ok with using animals the way they do. They've seen Earthling, Meet your meat, and while couldn't watch it, most all felt horrible and disgust, and many tried to buy 'humane' meats, but they ended up eating what they've been eating, because that's what they want, but mostly, because that's what's there.
Non dairy milks, and now plant based meat like Beyond, are making huge impact on animal farming--because people like how they taste, and they're broadening out to become available. Make the cost the same, and i would guarantee you'll find many converts

Education. Only if it begins in schools. People have heard the research of how much better plant based nutrition is- even in processed forms. They know about sugar, and dairy, and meat, but also hear they need more protein, eggs are good for you, low fat dairy and yogurt helps in weight loss. What they want to hear sticks

I know nothing about lab grown meat. Sounds awful. I so want that for my cats!
 

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I started my career by working at a small private agency that served blind people. My job was to teach orientation and mobility skills to people with no vision or low vision. The pay was low. The work was challenging in a good way. Petty workplace politics was nearly nonexistent.

Then I decided to get a job working for a public school district on the other side of the nation for the money. The only reason anybody works at that district is for the money. Flipping hamburgers at McDonald's requires more intellectual effort than my job at the school district. A new innovation at the district usually meant more paperwork and nothing more.

Many students had severe disabilities that will inevitably cause them to die within a few years. These students will make no progress as their bodies and minds deteriorate. I had several students who usually slept most of the day. I think they were most happy at school when they were asleep. Still, teachers would wake up students who were in a deep sleep to give them a lesson. The kid would start screaming and the lesson began. I thought the kids should die in peace instead of receiving painfully unpleasant lessons. Lots of teachers agreed with me in private.

The lessons were officially for the students' "own good." In reality, the teachers gave them lessons as a means to ensure job security. I made the mistake of referring to my self as a wh0re, my boss as a pimp, and my job as a sham. I p!ssed off numerous people over the decades for saying what I said. I thought to myself, "Why the heck can't I keep my mouth shut?"

Many, many farmers actually refer to farm animals as family members. I think they are completely truthful. But, I do not share their perceptions about farm animals.

I also had an uncle who loved his children. He did unthinkable things to his 5 kids. He would rape them. He would lock them in a dark attic for days at a time. He would deny his kids of food. He beat them. The kids were underweight and sickly in appearance. The true story is much worse than what I described. Still, I think he loves his children to this day.

I enjoyed eating animals for decades. I even said to friends and acquaintances, "that pig must have suffered for a lifetime so I could enjoy eating him tonight.

In conclusion. we believe what we want to believe. Maybe we believe wild and crazy things because we feel that we have no choice. We must go with the flow. To do anything else, could cause a person to become a social outcast. Or as Alex Durig said, "Experience a social death."
 
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beancounter

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It been hovering at around 3% (U.S.) for decades.

Unfortunately I don't see that changing as long as certain squeaky wheels keep on making veg*ns look bad in the eyes of the general public.

Veg*ns don't spontaneously appear, they are drawn from the ranks of the general public, so....
 
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David3

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I've found these polls quantifying the percentage of Americans who are vegetarian:

1994 Roper Poll: 1% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Link: Vegetarian Journal Sep/Oct 97 How Many Vegetarians Are There? -- The Vegetarian Resource Group

1997 Roper Poll: 1% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian (no change from 1994).
Link: Vegetarian Journal Sep/Oct 97 How Many Vegetarians Are There? -- The Vegetarian Resource Group

2000 National Zogby Poll: 2.5% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Link: https://faunalytics.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Citation170.pdf

2005 CBS News Poll (last item in the report): 2% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Link: How And Where America Eats

2012 Gallup Poll: 5% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian:
Link: Snapshot: Few Americans Vegetarian or Vegan

2016 Harris Poll: 3.3% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Link: Harris Poll | Vegetarian Journal | Vegetarian Resource Group

2018 Gallup Poll: 5% of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.
Link: Snapshot: Few Americans Vegetarian or Vegan


Note that these polls differed in the details of their questions. Some of the surveys asked specific questions about if/how often the individuals ate beef, pork, chicken and/or fish; these surveys would be more accurate than surveys that simply inquired about vegetarian self-identification.

Nevertheless, it appears that the % of vegetarian Americans has increased over the past 25 years.
 
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A Veganism is taking over my life General 6
M Desperate need of help for my thesis work connected with veganism Support 6
D Survey Could you guys spare 3 minutes to answer my veganism survey? Marketplace 2
Amy SF When high-profile vegans quit veganism General 1
R Veganism and thyroid Health & Body 12
S Veganism curing sciatica? Transitioning 9
shyvas Has Veganism Gone Too Far ? - Veganuary General 3
Simon Does Veganism extend to Banking? General 5
Elisa Soares How can veganism gain momentum in the tourism industry ? Holidays & Travel 6
W Partner is veggie but not on board with veganism Transitioning 8
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