I met a lot of people that, even though they have strong reasons for being vegan or vegetarian, or even work saving or helping animals, etc. have failed to follow their principles and ended up including meat again.

Almost every vegetarian or vegan person I get to know has moved to vegetarianism for the same reasons I did (I'm moving in as well):

  • Ethical reasons (i.e., not eating other animals)
  • Trying to stop animal suffering (defending animals rights).

But, are there reasons besides the ones listed above?

I'm not saying they're not great reasons, which I think they are, just trying to find out all other reasons.

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    I've heard a number of times recently people citing simply environmental impact as a reason to be vegan, it's certainly not my primary reason but it is a very good one and I've found it seems to get less stick from meat-eaters presumably because it seems more pragmatic and less touchy-feely. – David S Jan 31 '17 at 20:33
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    @DavidS Environmental is still an ethical reason, isn't it? – gerrit Jan 31 '17 at 20:48
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    Generally speaking, "give me an unbounded list of things" questions are discouraged on Stack Exchange. Questions should be specific and be fully answerable by one self-contained answer (which, to note, is different from having only one possible answer). – Matthew Read Jan 31 '17 at 21:07
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    @gerrit Yes I suppose so, but I was only using that as an example, since I would bet 90% of people who are vegan are so because they believe it's the right thing to do (or why do it), so a lot of the reasons will come back round to "because it's right" if you follow it far enough. – David S Jan 31 '17 at 21:16
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    I was raised vegetarian. I come from Indian background, and my parents did not consume any meat because of religious restrictions. And I have just continued being a vegetarian despite being non-religious, and moving to the United States about 18 years back. I found it hard to eat out when I first came to the US, but now I'm delighted to see so many vegetarian options being offered in decent places like Panera bread, Jason's Deli, Corner Bakery, and even Wendy's and McDonalds has great salad options these days. Makes my life easier while eating out :) – Megurin Nov 6 '17 at 23:18

16 Answers 16

up vote 38 down vote accepted
+50

There are multiple reasons why people are/become Vegetarian/Vegan apart from ethics, including but not limited to

  • Religion/Culture - most of the worlds Vegetarians reside in India, mainly due to culture/personal beliefs but often interlinked with some of their major religions (Hinduism/Sikhism/Jainism etc) which promote the diet. Some strains of Buddhism also look positively at not eating meat, as does the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
  • Environment - reducing land degradation, climate change, reducing harm to bio-diversity etc. Animal agriculture causes a huge amount of problems to our planet and environment.
  • Health - another major point. Being Vegetarian or Vegan won't automatically improve your health of course (it's easy to live off junk food, believe me), but there are lots of scientifically proven benefits to eat a plant based diet over a standard Western diet including a lower risk of heart disease, lower BMI, lower cholesterol etc.
  • Political - a slightly less common reason but still; some people go Vegetarian or Vegan based on their political beliefs once they realise how much the two share intersectional values (e.g. from Anarchism to Veganarchism)
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    @lifetimes I would've never imagined that point.. but I guess being vegetarian comes before joining this movement you mention – I.G. Pascual Jan 31 '17 at 20:52
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    @I.G.Pascual I've seen quite a few people do it the other way round - they start off following a political movement/ideology and realise the shared goals between those movements and Vegetarianism/Veganism – lifetimes Jan 31 '17 at 20:55
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    @EasterlyIrk This is the first answer to mention religion, which is the most common reason! Great answer – WetlabStudent Feb 2 '17 at 11:23
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    Great edit @lifetimes! Although their are less common, you could also add the non liking meat reason, and the self cultivation of Taoist in the religion/culture – I.G. Pascual Feb 3 '17 at 14:49
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    A close relative of mine was restricted to an almost-vegetarian diet (could eat seafood and chicken on occasion) due to a complication from surgery - eating red meat in any quantity or too much white meat caused life-treatening bowel obstructions. This problem lasted over a decade and I believe permanently altered her food preferences. This may be too rare to be worth including, but it is an example of a medical reason to be vegetarian (or very close) – Jeutnarg Feb 24 '17 at 20:32

Vegetarians and vegans suffer lower rates of some forms of cancer.

A 2012 analysis of all the best studies done to date concluded vegetarians have significantly lower cancer rates. For example, the largest forward-looking study on diet and cancer ever performed concluded that “the incidence of all cancers combined is lower among vegetarians.”

...

Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer... Similar results are found for men and prostate cancer.

And that's not all, the American Dietetic Association reported that vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce one’s risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, and a number of other debilitating conditions.

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    This is indeed a compelling one... – I.G. Pascual Jan 31 '17 at 21:25

Environmental is pretty huge. Includes CO2 emissions and antibiotic-resistance superbugs (and superbugs caused by C02 emissions for that matter). You could call that ethics but it is broader than animal welfare.

Health is mentioned a lot, although that seems to be a reason people who are not vegan think they might go vegan. I think my health has improved along with going vegan but my diet is not pristine at all and I did not magically become thin.

  • Yeah, I already called ethics for being very broad, planet seems the one I most hear about – I.G. Pascual Jan 31 '17 at 20:37
  • "antibiotic-resistance superbugs" - could you cite a source if there's a study? – sv. Jan 31 '17 at 21:33
  • @sv. done; linked the wiki page which has a comprehensive overview of the topic. it is very well known this is a problem. (wiki) – djechlin Jan 31 '17 at 21:43
  • @djechlin Ok, thanks, it's new for me. BTW, so an ideal vegan would also not use antibiotics as medication? :) – sv. Jan 31 '17 at 21:54
  • @sv the reasoning is more that if we use them for treatment and not maintenance of overcrowded farms then it's fine. – djechlin Jan 31 '17 at 21:59

Personally, I'm vegetarian by default. I dislike the taste and texture of meat and most meat products, and I am incredibly privileged to be in a position where I can eat only what I like. I don't drink animal milk and cook with very few animal products (occasional eggs for baking, cheese).

I'm certain I'm in the minority as far as reasons to be vegetarian/vegan. I have no ethical qualms about eating animal products and the destruction of the environment isn't enough of a deterrent.

Political.

Given that historically the land (and lives) of many indigenous peoples was taken for grazing. My main reason for not eating animals is ethical, but almost as importantly it is important to make the distinction that this is an industry that has done and continues to do much damage to indigenous peoples.

The history of Native Americans is well known. The bison were exterminated, in part, to create and maintain a dominant “cattle culture” across the Great Plains and the West—and, unfortunately for Native Peoples and wildlife—it worked. http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/about-buffalo/buffalo-and-native-americans

Australian indigenous people suffered a similar fate. In the face of continuing resistance, and justifying their actions by a belief in the superiority of their civilisation, the colonisers pushed Aboriginal people off the fertile lands into controlled settlements. http://www.clc.org.au/articles/info/the-history-of-the-land-rights-act/

I am uncomfortable with people having been killed, rounded up, forced into settlement (including being converted to christianity) and being effectively banned from their traditional lands which became pastoral leases or even freehold land. All so cattle can be grazed.

That is why I intentionally added the word "historically" in the answer. Australian indigenous peoples are still trying to get their lands back.

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    This would likely be a good answer if it were expanded on with a few examples or studies – WetlabStudent Feb 1 '17 at 0:02
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    @I.G.Pascual are you serious? Yes planting does take a lot of space. But historically, indigenous people were mostly displaced for grazing. There were no crops on the North American western plains nor were there any in the Australian desert. Both perfect for cattle grazing. – Steve Feb 1 '17 at 5:51
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    I totally agree. It happens right now in brazil just to give one example. Children suffering from hunger next to corn fields, because we need the grain to feed our pigs and cows in Europe! Globalization at it's best... – Mat Feb 1 '17 at 5:58
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    @TomKelly the majority of agricultural land is for animal feed, so I do see the link that Steve is making, eventhough that may not have been the case during the first days of colonialism. Land clearing for agriculture in general has displaced some native people. If we cleared less land we might not have displaced as many natives. Is that what you are saying Steve? This answer is improved but could be made clearer. – WetlabStudent Feb 2 '17 at 0:59
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    @Steve In fact the the Māori people I've discussed vegetarianism with have had little to relate to it at all since few of them are vegetarian. Meat and Seafood are a huge part of their lifestyle and culture, both in terming of hunting/fishing and giving food as gifts. If anything, it was a little embarrassing taking cooking classes alongside Māori students as a vegetarian because they could not relate to it and could not eat many of their tradition dishes. – Tom Kelly Feb 5 '17 at 6:56

Genuine Disinterest/Unappetising

I've seen people say they don't like the taste of meat, but most of these people have actually tasted meat. I've been a vegetarian all my life and have never eaten meat (and thus never tasted it). But I do not want to and have never wanted to.

Not just because I don't like animals being killed to be eaten, but because I genuinely do not see how anyone would want to eat the dead flesh of any living creature.

I see raw meat (and sometimes cooked meat) and think "who in their right mind thought that looks like something that would be edible, let alone taste good". I see raw meat and my mind only sees 'flesh' not 'food'. Maybe it's a lamb shank, but my mind just equates it as 'animal flesh', and categorises it next to 'giraffe shank' and 'human shank'. The animal is abstract, it's still a severed body part and I don't find severed body parts particularly appetising.

Somtimes this will even be my main reason for not eating meat, my senses overriding any moral/ethical qualms, at which point the answer to the cliché hypothetical situation(1) of "if you don't eat this chicken we'll kill another chicken" is "sod the chicken, I'm not eating a corpse".

Then there's the smell. The smell of certain meats can make me feel ill. Particularly raw fish. I remember one time I walked past a fishmongers and the stench made my eyes water and I had to run swiftly past so I couldn't smell it anymore. Similarly I find the scent of certain meats cooking to be quite offputting. (I admit that I used to say Morrisey was being silly for walking off stage when someone was cooking meat, but there are times I can certainly empathise if his reasons were genuinely because of the smell).


(1) I have genuinely had at least 8-10 people propose this situation to me over my lifetime, some of them twice.

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    This was the original reason for me gradually becoming vegetarian at age ~13 - I just found the smell and taste and texture and look of meat increasingly horrible. Ethical concerns came later and led me eventually to go vegan. I'm surprised it hasn't already been mentioned. (And yeah, omnivores propose weird hypotheticals to me all the time too o.O) – Zanna Mar 24 '17 at 4:39
  • @Zanna In fairness Tom Kelly briefly mentioned that they've never enjoyed the taste of meat and LizMGagne mentioned that they dislike the taste and texture. Naturally though, there is more to 'food' than taste and texture, especially to someone who has never eaten said 'food'. Smell and appearance are equally crucial. – Pharap Mar 24 '17 at 23:01

Self-cultivation.

I chose this word rather than religious practice because Taoism is not generally considered religion but rather a philosophy.

This is what led me to be vegan in the first place, and initially it was as much about the benefits to my development as anything. It was only through mindfulness practices that my view of the world changed and I found that a meat-free diet was now in harmony with that world-view.

Prior to that my girlfriend was vegetarian and none of her subtle attempts to persuade me ever had any impact I'm sorry to say, I think ultimately people will act in their own interests first and only then if they see there's a benefit to themselves will they start to consider integrating it into their life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoist_diet

The main reasons in Western cultures (apart from ethics) are Health, Environment, and Economic. Many people are vegetarian for one or several of these reasons and it varies vastly between people. The perceived health and environmental benefits are a major reason for many people.

Another huge reason internationally is religion and culture, particularly in India where vegetarianism is the norm in some regions.

Bear in mind that some vegetarians do not have strong ethical or political reasons for their lifestyle. Some simply are due to financial constraints or they don't enjoy the taste or texture of meat.

Personally, I've never enjoyed the taste of meat and had trouble eating it, this may be due to an underlying medical problem as child but I've never seen eating meat as an option. Some of the other benefits have grown on me but none was the conventional "reason" and I wouldn't assume everyone even has one. Long-term vegetarians simply don't know any different.

Inheritance from a family Member

I know many people who are vegetarian primarily because some of their close family member is vegetarian. This goes for me as well. I never had meat since I was 3 years old. Now I feel it is very young age for a child to follow the above mentioned reasons. So, after so many years when I look back I feel The reason is my father being vegetarian. I followed his footsteps at an younger age and after many years I started defining my own logics to support my vegetarianism.

I have two more friends who are vegetarian for this reason.

  • Good point! The first time I knew veg people was 16 years ago in Ireland. They were an entire family, and of course the children had little choice of eating meat at that moment – I.G. Pascual Feb 9 '17 at 7:39
  • @I.G.Pascual: Same goes for Indian vegetarian families. – neophyte Feb 9 '17 at 8:46
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    I agree with this to a degree, but generally this is only why people become vegetarian, not why they continue being vegetarian. There are people who have been raised as vegetarians who go on to become meat eaters because they decide that they're missing out or they don't have any reason to stay vegetarian. – Pharap Mar 25 '17 at 3:44

Avoiding animal products which may not meet criteria of your religion. Some people's religions allow the eating of meat or other animal products, but have restrictions on it. (As opposed to lifetimes' answer about religions that prohibit meat or animal products outright)

A workmate at a previous job eats vegetarian/vegan when she goes to restaurants because the meat (possibly dairy) may not be kosher.

Appeal over baby-killing butcher's $3000 compensation mentions a Queensland prisoner who chose vegetarian food because he was (incorrectly) told that halal food was not available.

I thought I heard about some case involving prisoners choosing vegetarian/vegan because they were offered food described as halal but were not confident the food was really halal, but all I can find is a mention of Guantanamo Bay's food being mainly vegetarian.

  • In case people want to complain that I'm using prisoners as an example of choosing vegetarianism/veganism, note that I'm also giving an example of a butcher being convicted of murder. – Andrew Grimm Mar 24 '17 at 11:28

Because it fits into ones sense of self-image (inward or outward), or you feel you have something to prove. This might sound cynical, like a description of manipulative/egoist/hipster behaviour on the surface - but the whole affair gets more complex if you look at the message you are choosing to send. Among several fashionable messages (to send) available, you chose one about nonviolence (or responsibility for your violence footprint) and ecological responsibility. When choosing to be different, you chose to be different in a manner that has direct positive effects. You made a lifestyle choice after discovering that the modern view of lifestyle choices being exempt from political reasoning has doubtful merit.

So even a reasoning that veg*ns are often accused of ... translates into ethical (aka political) and aesthetic (self cultivation, style) reasons...

  • Sad face, man... you think self-cultivation is aesthetic? :) – David S Mar 29 '17 at 21:13
  • In a way it is... unless you imply shallowness in the word aesthetic. I wasn't doing that at all. – rackandboneman Mar 30 '17 at 7:34

In the United States - anyway - several anabolic steroids are used in our meat industry. They include Trenbolone, Testosterone, and Estrogen. A mixture of 50/50 Estrogen and Testosterone is injected into the animal beginning at a young age. The combination has effects including better conversion of protein, water retention, and it also increases fat retention. Trenbolone is a bulking agent and is used by athletes who chose to use steroids for the same reason it is also injected into cattle because more pounds equals more profit, Testosterone is the main hormone in men, and has a number of effects ranging from aggression to larger size. I have heard, though not confirmed the estrogen is put there to deter steroid users from it. That is somewhat plausible, but so is anything cheap that increases the holy specification of "weigh in at slaughter." I want to add a couple things here that always seem to go without ever being brought to the mind of the popular collective which is, according to the “National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit — 2007, the average weight of cattle at slaughter in 1975 was 475 pounds. In 2007 it was 1,375 pounds! During that same time span the average weight of men went from 166 pounds to 195.7 pounds, and the world health organization states that 2 billion people are obese today.

My own personal account is my own proof; I began life as a vegetarian after a family photo left me asking who the heck that person was, I was shocked to be informed the very large man was myself facing away from the camera. I weighed over 300 pounds! As I aged and bought clothes I guess I just ignored the fact the waist size kept increasing. When I stopped eating meat in 2012 I weighed 321 pounds. Within 10 months I did what no diet program could believably even think about claiming, which was losing over 140 pounds. In 2015 I began finishing my degree, and found about zero time for that pesky meal thing, and began eating meat again. I stopped in 2016 at 280 pounds.

Now a little over 1 year off meat again, I weigh 175. My energy is greater, my mind is clearer, I feel better about life, and death. When I ate meat all three of those topics were things I just avoided.

Allergies

Most people who have allergies are allergic to things like milk, nuts, gluten etc. However, some people - like my mother - are allergic to meat. She is a vegetarian not by choice, but because if she eats meat she will be sick. It started with just pork when she was younger, so she used to still eat things that claimed to be 100% beef (not pork) - these claims were often sadly proven false by her. This lack of ability to trust manufacturers and increasing sensitivity over the years to all meat causing her to be ill meant she became vegetarian.

This means that we as a family have two of everything when it comes to cooking - two frying pans, two sets of saucepans, two sets of certain utensils, two sets of leftovers pots (colour coded) and even different plates for vegetarian food versus food containing meat.

Even now we're really careful about where we go to eat due to the lack of awareness about people with meat allergies resulting in cross-contamination of vegetarian meals. We know which restaurants are not as careful as they say they are, because my mum will be sick after eating there.

  • When you mention meat allergy, do you mean the Alpha-gal allergy or something else? What got me thinking this might be some different allergy is that Alpha-gal does not mean allergy to poultry and fish. It would be great if you could add some more factual information to enhance your answer. Thanks for sharing your experience. – Alexander Rossa Dec 12 '17 at 12:22
  • she's never had it formally diagnosed, it's just a fact of life for us (she's had it since she was little). She could eat fish and chicken, but she's become sensitive to them as well. She had a nasty experience in Nandos - a British chain - because they grilled their nuts for their salads with their chicken (fools) – Gladiator Kittens Dec 12 '17 at 13:03

In my country it depends on the caste,well in my caste we must eat non-veg, but i decided to become a vegetarian.The reason is same ,i don't like to kill or hurt other living creatures for my sake.

  • Hi there, welcome to Vegetarianism Stack Exchange. I just wanted to say that if you include country as a reason in your answer, it could be helpful to say which country it is :). – Alexander Rossa Dec 15 '17 at 22:07
  • India,before it was a custom but nowadays most of'em won'tfollow thosw customs – The_Grey_Hood Dec 17 '17 at 7:54

As the question has been answered adequately, I shall confer my own reason for transitioning to veganism that does not entail moral considerations and is distinct from the considerations evinced in other answers.

Expressed succinctly: my transition was experientially induced.

After perceiving the developmental and intellectual benefits of no fap, and understanding that this practice is suitably conducive to my principal ideals (developmental and intellectual actualisation, clarity and vigour), I pledged to myself that I will dedicate my efforts to the sustenance of this practice by renouncing onanism (and perhaps sex) altogether. This is distinguishably called celibacy.

About two years proceeding this revelation, bacon and egg sandwiches were becoming increasingly grotesque with each bite, and so were other animal products as a result (except beef). Eventually, there was this faint suspicion that 'I might go vegan' in the back of my head.

I quit bacon and eggs altogether due to how sickly it had become. I continued eating beef nonetheless. I started preparing my own burgers with ground beef -- and I enjoyed it. But veganism was still roaming around in the back of my head.

I decided to try a plant-based meal, a curry consisting of tofu and vegetables, the night after eating a home-made beef burger. It was markedly obvious that I did not experience the chronic lethargy that was the natural outcome after having eaten meat. I realised that I derived energy without feeling tired or struggling to digest my food.

The night after I had another beef burger. My last animal product.

What I realised immediately is that eating meat, compared to eating plants, drained my intellectual energy -- I could feel a slow descent from wakefulness to inertia. I find this sensation contemptable, and it is precisely this sensation that is antithetical to my ideals and the practice of celibacy because the descent of energy would counteract my intent to raise the energy (focus) into my mental faculties.

Note: this practice is not religiously motivated, but may entail spirituality.

This descent of energy, I observed, increased the likelihood of nocturnal ejaculation (wet dream), which compromises the practice of cultivating energy, whereas plant-based meals did not.

Essentially, it was this experience of chronic fatigue and intellectual inertia that repulsed me and repelled me from eating animal products again. I went vegan overnight and realised the intellectual and moral consistency of this practice later with further inquiry -- especially when I was brave enough to watch footage of the animal holocaust.

After assimilating the implications of eating meat compared to plants, it was imperative that I make the transformation -- especially if I am genuinely concerned about and value my developmental and intellectual welfare.

Which I do.

And so I did.

And I would have done it earlier if I ever had a plant-based meal to make the distinction that I needed to make.

Process quantity - vegan food required the least amount of effort to process often it requires a seed and some soil. However at the other end of the scale water can't be created yet through any amount of human effort to process it. In between vegan food and water on the process quantity scale is meat which often requires vegan food just to feed the animal as well as the creation of the animal as part of a process to create and feed two other animals, a male and a female of the same species.

To eat by process quantity I combine the amount of effort necessary from the Earth with the amount of effort necessary from human/animal activity as a vegan I tend to leave the bulk of the effort to the Earth (with the exception of course of water) rather than leaving the bulk of the effort to other humans and/or animals.

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