Vegetarianism in Contemporary America

Vegetarianism in Contemporary America

Surprisingly enough, in the last 30 years the proportion of vegetarians in North America has been among the lowest of all Western countries. Perhaps the majority were not members of vegetarian associations as such, although some were members of religious groups that promoted the following of a vegetarian diet. According to a poll conducted by CNN in July 2002, 4% of Americans are vegetarians. Given that there are currently 278.3 million inhabitants, this implies the existence of a figure of 11.13 million vegetarians in North America.

His original philosophy was based primarily on the nutritional and health reasons for vegetarianism. But today the statistics show that more than two-thirds of vegetarians in the United States follow this diet because they believe that animals should not be killed and eaten. Forty-two percent of all vegetarians surveyed previously, or 4.8 million American adults, consider the killing of animals to be murder.

In the early 70's, Jay and Freya Dinshah founded the "American Vegan Society", one of the pioneers, except those of a religious nature. The Society publishes the magazine "Ahimsa", which keeps its members informed about vegan thinking and different meetings.

The Vegetarian Society of North America publishes the magazine Vegetarian Voice quarterly, and holds a vegetarian festival each summer. Among others, Dr. Michael Kapler is a regular attendee and speaker at these festivals.

Since 1974 Paul Obis publishes the magazine "Vegetarian Times". is the online version. A novelty is the sale of cooking videos, nutrition, etc. And the sale of books with information that they edit themselves. Among its articles you can see a list of substitute products for those derived from meat, such as gelatin; also a glossary of vegetarian terms and many interesting links.

In 1975 the World Vegetarian Congress took place in Orono, Maine, where almost 1,500 vegetarians gathered. There they met Victoria Moran, a vegetarian since 1969 and author of Well Being and Vegetarian World (World Vegetarian and Well-being) and Paul Obis. Since then Victoria has collaborated with "Vegetarian Times". In 1992 he published The Love Powered Diet, When Willpower Isn´t Enough (The Diet Powered by Love, When Willpower Is Not Enough).

Charles Stahler and Debra Wasserman started the "Vegetarian Resource Group" in 1982, called "The Baltimore Vegetarians." VRG is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the general public about vegetarianism and its relationship to health, nutrition, ecology, ethics, and world hunger. They publish The Vegetarian Journal, bimonthly; in addition to books, pamphlets, etc. Its financing comes mainly from members, through donations and book sales.

In 2000 VRG conducted a national telephone survey using a phone book and making random calls. The following question was asked to 968 people of legal age: "Which of the following foods do you never consume: Meat, Chicken, Fish, Dairy, Eggs, Honey?" Defining vegetarians as those who never eat meat, chicken or fish, the results conclude that 2.5% of the respondents could be considered vegetarian. The percentage of people who did not eat meat was 4.5%. Previously, in 1994 and 1997 the same survey had been carried out. The number of vegetarians was 1%. Most of the people surveyed in 2000 lived in large cities on the east or west coasts of the country. The number of vegans and vegans was similar; while the number of vegetarian women was double that of men. About 6% of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 said they never ate meat, poultry or fish.

In a VRG survey of eating habits when eating out, about half of Americans said they order vegetarian dishes when eating out. Other analyzes concluded that 2% of young people between 6 and 17 years old never ate meat, fish or chicken; and that approximately 1 in 200 young people was vegan.

"People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals" is the largest organization for the defense of animals that exists worldwide. Founded in 1980 by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco, two activists in the animal liberation movement, PETA is dedicated to establishing and protecting animal rights under a simple principle: Animals are not ours to eat, dress, experiment with. them or use them to entertain us. PETA has branches in the US, Great Britain, Germany, and India.

One of the largest vegetarian groups is the "Vegetarian Union of North America" ​​or VUNA, which encompasses countless small American and Canadian associations. They meet annually. VUNA publishes a quarterly magazine. Its objective is to promote a scientific and balanced vegetarian perspective, emphasizing ethics and ecology, without neglecting nutrition and health. VUNA is affiliated with the International Vegetarian Union. Among its founders, Keith Akers, is the author of "Vegetarian Sourcebook".

In 1987 John Robbins publishes Diet for a New America (The Diet for a New America). John Robbins is the only son of Irving Robbins, the founder of Baskin Robbins, an international ice cream giant, who has dedicated his life to promoting healthy eating, rather than continuing his father's business. He founded "EarthSave" (Save the Earth), to help educate people about the benefits of vegetarianism. He has been interviewed numerous times on television.

Pamela Rice, founder of the "VivaVegie Society", leads a group of vegetarian activists who walk through crowded areas of New York wearing an outfit that says: "Ask me why I am a Vegetarian", and carrying the brochure "101 Reason Why I'm Vegetarian" (101 Reason Why I'm Vegetarian), written by her based on the book by John Robbins, and that in 2001 has reached the 5th edition.

Alex Hershaft, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, founded the "Farm Animals Reform Movement" to wake up people about how these living things are treated. It implemented the celebration of "Farm Animals Day", on October 2 of each year, the date Gandhi was born. Eva and Israel Mossman coordinate the "Vegetarian Jews of North America" ​​and publish a quarterly newsletter.

Perhaps in no other place is there so much cultural diversity among vegetarians as in the United States, with different perspectives and religions: Chinese Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, followers of Pythagoras or Gandhi, Roman Catholics, Atheists, Jews, ...

A very famous vegetarian activist couple were Linda, now deceased from breast cancer, and "Beatle" musician Paul McCartney. They were married in 1969, but were not originally vegetarian. They decided to make the switch to an ethical diet over a family meal for which a lamb had been prepared. His vegetarian convictions were based on the love of animals. In 1990 Linda wrote Linda McCartney`s Home Cooking: Quick, Easy and Economical Vegetarian Dishes for Today, which contains around 50 recipes using protein from textured soy to replace meat.
Seventh-day Adventists continue their tireless mission of spreading the medical and nutritional aspects of vegetarianism at Loma Linda University and Loma Linda Medical Center, California, as well as promoting the vegetarian lifestyle among its members.

The relationship between health problems and diets high in fat and protein has fueled medical discoveries that point to a vegetarian diet to prevent and cure diseases. In 1990, Neal Barnard presented the vision by various physicians on holistic medicine in The Power of Your Plate, (The Power of Your Plate). To counteract the negative influence of the effects of the old "Four Basic Food Groups", which fall on animal foods, he talks about the "New Four Food Groups": vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.

Vegetarian nutritionist George Eiseman founded Vegedine (The Vegetarian Diner), an organization whose members are vegetarian dietitians and with whom you can take a vegetarian nutrition course by correspondence.

The contribution of Jews to the development of vegetarianism in America has already been mentioned. There are many vegetarian Israelites. "The Vegetarian and Vegan Movement of Israel" sponsored the XXIX World Vegetarian Congress held in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in 1929. This organization publishes a vegetarian magazine in Hebrew.

The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) is the oldest in Canada, founded in 1945. Its original orientation was strictly ethical, regarding the moral obligation of man to interact in a kind and compassionate way with the animal world. During the 1970s, he began to emphasize other aspects as well, such as health and ecology.
Toronto is Canada's main vegetarian hub. Montreal also stands out; Halifax, which is the maritime city with the highest number of vegetarians; and Ottawa.
In Latin America there is evidence of a growing interest in the vegetarian diet.

Vegetarianism is said to have been particularly strong in Panama in the early 1990s.

It is in the cities of Caracas and Mérida, in Venezuela, where the largest activist movements stand out. In both cities there are excellent vegetarian restaurants. Venezuelan vegetarianism is closely linked to environmental protection and ecological concern, particularly for the preservation of its forests.

In Uruguay, and from the website, it is intended to create concern and the possibility of trying certain varieties of vegetables to those people, who do not have much knowledge about them, through a simple and simple recipe book; and to be able to show them that with few elements, a lot of ingenuity and imagination, a dish can be flavored, without the need to use other elements less suitable for our health.

The Argentine vegetarian movement is not very developed. Its origins are closely linked to naturism and hygienism, with the appearance in the first half of the 20th century of the "Naturist Association of Buenos Aires", currently dissolved. This association provided its members with organic and vegetarian food. Dr. Eduardo Alfonso y Hernán tells us, referring to their travels through Latin America in the 1950s, that "the Argentine naturist-vegetarian movement was the most important, extensive and well-organized in the entire American continent, including the United States."
On May 19, 2000, the "Argentine Vegetarian Union" (UVA) was created in Buenos Aires, due to the need to spread vegetarianism and veganism to help build a healthier, less violent and more respectful world. The main objectives of the UVA are the diffusion of vegetarianism-veganism, ecology and natural therapies, paying special attention to animal liberation, and recognizing ethics, one of the essential pillars of vegetarianism. They publish quarterly the magazine "El Vegetariano-Vegano".
On the internet, we can visit, an Argentine website that talks about cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, breakfasts, alternative food currents, and provides you with many interesting recipes and links to other vegetarian sites ., is an ecological and natural directory where news and articles on physical activity, agriculture, animals, nature, health, ecotourism and vegetarianism can be found.

Many of Chile's vegetarians are members of a group calling themselves "Los Naturistas", who combine a strict vegetarian diet with natural hygiene and living close to nature. Many naturists promote the practice of nudism when circumstances permit. Although Venezuelan naturists only eat raw fruits and vegetables, in Chile they do use cooking. There are also naturists in Colombia, in Bogotá, which can be considered as the vegetarian capital of South America, with a large number of vegetarian stores. You can also find many vegetarian restaurants in Chile.

No less significant than the naturists is the "Great Universal Fraternity," whose members run vegetarian markets and restaurants throughout Latin America. They also teach cooking classes.

In Ecuador "Ethical Treatment of Animals" (TEA), located in Guayaquil, promotes vegetarian campaigns against cruelty to animals. Its president, now deceased, Luis Escala Castro, was a member of the Spanish Vegan Association.

In Brazil, according to Marly Wincler, secretary of the International Vegetarian Union in Latin America, and translator of several vegetarian books into Portuguese:

"We do not have the number of vegetarians in Brazil, because an investigation was never done on this, but I can affirm that it is growing and it has grown a lot in the last 10 years or so. The number of vegetarian restaurants and stores that sell products has also grown a lot. Wholegrain, organic and suitable for vegetarians. Many of the young people who become vegetarians come into contact with this diet because of music. And these generally become vegan. There are many others who simply stop eating meat because they do not like it or because they had a unpleasant experience (such as seeing an animal being killed) or other reasons. There are vegetarians / vegans of both sexes, of all ages, and from different walks of life. But becoming a vegetarian is almost always accompanied by an awareness of what one eats , vegetarians in general in Brazil have a healthier diet "

In Cuba there is a growing interest in vegetarianism and in health and ethical issues. Although the economic problems they are going through make it difficult for information material to arrive on the island.

Latin America in general shows a lack of vegetarian groups. Between the International Vegetarian Union and the Vegetarian Resource Group, the "Latin America Project" is being developed. They have edited a guide to vegetarian resources in Latin America to be distributed to health professionals, consumers, and Spanish-speaking groups in the United States.

Ana Moreno
[email protected]
Excerpted from "The Vegetarian History from Adam and Eve to the XXI Century".
Mandala Editions. Foreword by David Román.

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