One Step no longer talks about what percentage of the population is vegetarian because so many people choose to believe whatever number they want. Animals are what matter to us, not how many people are on our “team.”
On this measure, the data are clear and unequivocal: per-capita consumption of animals and meat are both at all-time highs. Meat consumption is surging around the globe. Even the average person in Israel – “the first vegan country” – eats more factory farmed animals than anywhere else in the world.
Animals have never been worse off, yet many people continue to rationalize “advocacy” that makes them feel good by promoting their personal views. One of the excuses we hear is that even if the average person is eating more animals now, if we have more vegetarians, we have more advocates.
Given that the vast majority of people who go vegetarian eventually goes back to eating animals (becoming an advocate against compassionate eating), this is a dubious claim at best. Furthermore, what good are advocates if society as a whole continues to cause more and more suffering?
Still, some people might have a good faith question about what percentage of people in the US are vegetarian, and if that has changed at all during our time of advocacy.
When trying to track the percentage of the population for anything, it is important to make sure we are measuring the same thing and doing so consistently over time. There have been many polls claiming to be about vegetarianism and veganism, and they often fall apart under close examination. For example, several decades ago, the magazine Vegetarian Times once found that a lot of people who labeled themselves “vegetarian” actually ate not only fish and chicken, but even beef.
If you want to look at the trend of vegetarianism in the US, the polls from the Vegetarian Resource Group are worth considering. They don’t ask people if they are “vegetarian.” Rather, they asked people what they eat. The results of their polls:
If you simply look at the raw numbers and ignore the small sample sizes and very large margins of error – as well as changes in who did the surveys for VRG and how thee surveys were done – you would think that the percentage of people who are vegetarian doubled from 2006 to 2011 and has been in steady decline ever since.
Dr. Harish Sethu of The Humane League Labs thinks the most thorough and trustworthy poll about vegetarianism in the US was Faunalytics 2014 survey. This survey had a vastly larger sample size (11,399, about ten times larger than a VRG poll, giving a much smaller margin of error). The Faunalytics poll also had a significant better sampling method.
That survey found 1.94% of the population is vegetarian, with a 95% upper bound at 2.21%.
Yet while the percentage of people who are vegetarian doesn’t change, people are eating more and more chickens, causing vastly more suffering.
Any honest look at the data is compelling – we need to rethink our advocacy. If you agree, please click and be a part of this work. Thank you!