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I've been vegan since 2007. At that time, when we were standing in the street with our collective demonstrating against animal cruelty, most people didn't even know what vegetarianism was. Now, 10 years later, everybody talks about veganism: newspapers, TV programs, and the number of online communities about veganism is skyrocketing. Veganism is now a major trend.

I'll make an example. Here in the picture you can see the number of google searches related with Veganism all over the world, since 2004. There's a cutoff around september 2010. Veg trends

This is pretty similar to my own perception: veganism has become more popular in the last 5 years.

My question is: how did it happen?

  • "veganismo" would be in a handful of Latin languages, not worldwide? Personally, being from The Netherlands, I have not noticed an increase in vegetarianism since I became vegetarian in the mid-1990s. It might be that this increase is not worldwide, so one should first establish that it is. – gerrit May 12 '17 at 9:34
  • Your perception is interesting, perhaps the topic in The Netherlands is well known since before. Just curious, what do you get if you make a similar research on google trends? – Attilio May 12 '17 at 21:18
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    Dutch "vegetarisch": pretty flat since 2004, although there appears to be a seasonal cycle in recent years. For the Dutch word for vegan, there is an upward trend but not as strong as for your example. – gerrit May 12 '17 at 21:59
  • @gerrit The trend you showed on the word "veganistisch" actually went from 23 in april 2004 up to 100 in dec 2016, which is the same trend as shown in the graph that Attilio posted in the original question. – MJB May 15 '17 at 12:44
  • @MJB Ah, true. I was going to say veganistisch was a Dec 2016 outlier and it otherwise hovers around 80, but that's true for the Spanish version as well. Perhaps there was increased media coverage due to Christmas. – gerrit May 15 '17 at 13:10
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I would suspect that it's related to the same reason that other subcommunities (such as LGBT*, "furries", etc) have become popular: a combination of the Internet and people moving into dense cities.

10+ years ago, it was hard to find others who feel the same way. When only a small proportion are interested in something like vegetarianism, you had to rely on running into similar people "in real life", or actively seeking out events.

Now, when I moved to a new city, I searched Facebook and Meetup and stuff for veg* groups, and found a bunch where I could join and meet new people. And it's awesome!

Another piece, which might be correlation or causation, is the evolution of food science. Even 10 years ago, when I became vegan, there wasn't really a good tasting fake cheese. Now, there are dozens are my local store. Not to mention fake meats and nut milks and lots of other vegan options. It makes it way easier to ease into a vegan lifestyle.

I suspect that much of that evolution is because there's more vegans, not causing more vegans, because it's really, really easy to make a really good nut cheese at home (not to mention seitan and other replacements). It could be a critical mass situation, though: the sheer number of options for somebody without having to cook for themselves makes it an easier step.

So yeah, I'd say it's a combination of the Internet bringing people together to form a critical mass, making it far easier for others.

  • Your point about food science brings up another question of cause and effect. More vegans => more animal product replacements OR more animal product replacements => more vegans? – Dan May 19 '17 at 20:47
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    Yeah, I don't really know. Probably both, I bet! A self-reinforcing cycle. – Ron Bowes May 19 '17 at 22:57
  • Um … I would consider changing the phrase “nut milks” to something else. – can-ned_food Jun 21 '17 at 6:38
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There are multiple factors which have contributed to the rise of "vegetarianism" food habits. Although I disagree it has risen only in past few years, it has been growing consistently over several decades. Let's look at these factors closely

Factor 1: Migration from Indian subcontinent

Vegetarianism as a stable food habit existed mainly in Indian subcontinent (India and its neighbours). There is a massive migration wave from India for last 100 years or so. These have established vegetarianism food markets, spread cooking styles and dishes in almost every country in world, specially USA.

Importantly, recent rise of Indians at world stage whether its science, economics and politics has added to the spread of "Indian" way of doing things.

Factor 2: Health

Rising health problems is severe concern among high income groups. Although they spend a lot on good food, health problems are not going down. Meat products were severely marketed over plant products before as major source of protein, important for sound growth. However, such myths have been busted. Health practitioners are increasing advocating reduction of red meat consumption to enhance health.

Factor 3: Business of Vegetarianism

Although plant products are cheaper to produce than animal products by several factors, their costs in market are at par with each other. How? There is lot of branding around "organic" going on and they are pushing their products over meat based.

Factor 4: Spread of Yoga

Yoga has been accepted increasingly among world populations, specially higher income groups. Yoga has proven to be productive and has been endorsed by people in variety of fields. There are many among yoga practitioners who are adopting "vegetarianism" form of lifestyle.

Factor 5: Spread of Hinduism

Since Vivekananda, there has been growing interest in Hinduism across the world. Currently, several gurus have established centers for spreading Hindu philosophy, including their eating habits and associated whys and whats. Very briefly, food items are divided among "Sattvic, Rajsic and Tamsic" which loosely translates into "Pure", "Productive" and "Destructive". Several plants, like onion and garlic, fall under "Destructive" category (and hence are prohibited from consumption among many stricter vegetarians!). Similarly, some animal products fall under "Pure" category, like Milk and Honey. Nevertheless, it does loosely generalise into "plants products are purer than animal products".

Factor 6 : Global warming, Animal Cruelty, Internet etc Raising animals for food contributes significantly to green house gases. Concern for global warming among people have risen. They are adopting lifestyles having less carbon footprint.

Animal cruelty is a very personal subject, however, large economies have taken strong steps to reduce public consumption of animal cruelty (like films).

The internet has spread practically everything good and bad, whether its terrorism or vegetarianism. So I'd call it a neutral factor.

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    the question asks about veganism, not vegetarianism, but +1 since some of these factors are probably related. hmmm I feel this question is too opinion-based – Zanna May 23 '17 at 8:30
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    @Zanna indeed author is not interested in the difference between the two concepts but the rise of the concepts in general. It is in this context I specifically explained why animal products are used popularly in Hinduism because segregation is not based on plants vs animals but their effects on our psyche. – Shaurabh Bharti May 23 '17 at 8:54

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