What Culture is Mostly Vegan? An Exploration of the World’s Most Vegan Cultures

June 21, 2023

what culture is mostly vegan

As dawn breaks in the bustling streets of Addis Ababa, the enticing aroma of 'kik alicha,' a rich split pea stew, wafts through the air. Some thousand miles away, the vibrant markets of Delhi awaken to the sizzle of 'aloo gobi,' a delectable cauliflower and potato curry. Across the globe in Tel Aviv, patrons in modern eateries savor the creaminess of hummus, a testament to the city's thriving vegan scene. Beyond their love for food, what binds these distant places is a tradition deeply embedded in their cultures—a profound reverence for plant-based diets.

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The Global Trend Towards Veganism

This thread of plant-based traditions is not confined to these regions alone. The global trend toward veganism has swelled like a mighty wave, extending its reach into every corner of the globe. A commitment to animal rights, environmental sustainability, and health consciousness fuels this movement. For many, veganism has become more than a dietary choice—it's a way of life that aligns with their ethical convictions. From upscale bistros in New York offering vegan haute cuisine to local food stalls in Chiang Mai dishing out tofu-laden curries, the vegan revolution is undeniably here.

Significance of Identifying Vegan Cultures

But what does it mean to identify vegan cultures, and why is it important? In an age of globalization, where traditions blend, morph, and sometimes disappear, mapping the landscape of vegan cultures can provide fascinating insights into how societies adapt and maintain their ethos amid change. By understanding the cultures that have traditionally embraced veganism, we not only validate the longevity of this lifestyle but also gain valuable lessons about sustainability, coexistence, and respect for all life forms. The quest to unveil the world's most vegan cultures thus becomes a journey of discovery, an exploration of our shared human experience, intricately woven with the threads of culinary traditions and ethical choices. So, join us as we delve into this remarkable tapestry of cultures, brimming with flavorful feasts bound by love for the planet and its inhabitants, and let us find out what culture is mostly vegan.

Defining Veganism

Imagine yourself navigating the narrow, winding streets of an age-old marketplace. The air teems with a bouquet of flavors, the symphony of foreign languages, and the vibrant colors of spices and produce. Amidst the overwhelming sensory array, one thing becomes clear: in every culture, food is more than sustenance—it's a deep-rooted expression of tradition, history, and values.

At its core, veganism is no different. Defined by the Vegan Society as a way of living that "seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose," veganism is a choice to embrace a diet devoid of animal products. This includes meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and animal by-products. Instead, vegan diets thrive on the rich diversity of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and all their delicious combinations.

Ethical, Environmental, and Health Considerations

Our journey through the world of vegan cultures reveals many motivations that underscore this lifestyle choice.

From an ethical standpoint, many people adopt veganism out of compassion for animals and a desire to avoid contributing to the cruelty associated with industrial farming practices. The call of the wild—a rooster's crow, a cow's moo—becomes a reminder of the intrinsic worth of animal lives beyond their use as commodities.

The global trend toward veganism is not solely powered by ethical considerations. Environmental sustainability also plays a significant role. Livestock farming significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and water pollution. Adopting a vegan diet can significantly reduce an individual's environmental footprint—truly a way to love our Earth through our culinary choices.

Lastly, health considerations often encourage people to follow a vegan diet. A well-planned vegan diet can be rich in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants while being low in saturated fats, supporting heart health and overall well-being. The taste of crunchy fresh vegetables, the creaminess of the avocado, and the sweetness of ripe fruit suddenly become flavors and affirmations of a healthier lifestyle.

Differences Between Veganism and Vegetarianism

As we traverse through the world's culinary map, you might notice some confusion between the terms 'vegan' and 'vegetarian.' While both diets exclude meat, the difference lies in their stance on other animal-derived products.

Vegetarian diets can include eggs (ovo-vegetarian), dairy (lacto-vegetarian), or both (ovo-lacto vegetarian). A dish of 'paneer tikka' in the heart of Punjab or a slice of 'frittata' in a rustic Italian diner would be welcomed in vegetarian diets but would not align with vegan principles.

On the other hand, veganism extends beyond diet into a lifestyle that excludes the use of all animal products, such as leather, fur, and certain cosmetics. Thus, in our global exploration of vegan cultures, we're not just seeking plant-based dishes but a holistic reverence for life that manifests itself in food, clothing, and everyday choices.

Historical Perspective on Veganism

Contrary to the perception of veganism as a modern phenomenon, the roots of plant-based diets burrow deep into the annals of human history. The story of veganism starts thousands of years ago when our hunter-gatherer ancestors began transitioning to agricultural societies. Their diets, which initially relied heavily on what nature freely offered – roots, berries, and other plant-based foods, became the groundwork for what we now understand as a plant-based diet.

Ancient civilizations such as the Indus Valley Civilization, recognized for their advanced urban planning and sanitation systems, are believed to have practiced vegetarianism, which was later carried forward and advocated by significant Indian religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Greek philosophers, like Pythagoras, are well-known proponents of a diet free from animal flesh, emphasizing benevolence towards all sentient beings.

The Influence of Religion on Veganism

As we travel through time and across the continents, it's fascinating to see how religious beliefs have played a crucial role in promoting plant-based diets. In India, the principle of 'Ahimsa' or non-violence, central to Hinduism, Buddhism, and especially Jainism, strongly advocates for the compassionate treatment of animals, thus leaning towards vegetarianism and, by extension, veganism.

In Ethiopia, the Orthodox Christian Church prescribes numerous fasting periods throughout the year, during which followers consume an essentially vegan diet, abstaining from all animal products. Similarly, many Buddhist monks in East Asia adhere to a plant-based diet driven by the doctrine of compassion for all living beings.

Evolution of Veganism in Modern Times

Fast forward to the 21st century, veganism is no longer confined to religious or philosophical beliefs—it has evolved into a global movement encompassing environmental, health, and ethical considerations. This shift is largely propelled by growing awareness of industrial animal farming's impact on climate change, animal welfare issues, and health concerns associated with high consumption of animal products.

The term 'vegan' was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson, marking a significant milestone in the journey of plant-based diets. Thanks to advances in food technology and growing consumer demand, we witness the rise of vegan cheeses, plant-based meats, and dairy-free milk on supermarket shelves. From 'Veganuary' campaigns to celebrity endorsements, veganism has taken center stage in discussions about sustainable development, animal rights, and healthful living.

Thus, the evolution of veganism paints a vibrant canvas that reflects our shared history, collective consciousness, and hope for a sustainable future. It reminds us that every meal is a choice—a choice that has the power to nourish us, protect other beings, and safeguard our planet. The story of veganism is a testament to humanity's capacity for empathy and our potential to create meaningful change through our daily actions.

Criteria for Identifying Vegan Cultures

In identifying vegan cultures, one must first appreciate the pivotal role of diet in shaping cultural identities. From the communal ethos of sharing a meal to the rituals and traditions encircling food, culinary practices are tangible expressions of a community's values, beliefs, and history.

A culture's inclination toward veganism often manifests in its traditional cuisine. We find vibrant arrays of plant-based dishes, innovative uses of legumes, grains, fruits, and vegetables, and traditional cooking techniques that highlight the natural flavors of these ingredients. However, it's also crucial to understand the dietary norms within the culture—do people primarily adhere to plant-based diets out of choice, religious obligation, economic necessity, or environmental consciousness?

Use of Animal Products Beyond Food

Vegan cultures extend beyond the culinary realm. The ethos of veganism discourages the exploitation of animals for any purpose, including clothing, entertainment, and other forms of human benefit. In exploring vegan cultures, one must consider cultural practices related to the use of animal products.

For example, cultures that shun the use of leather, silk, wool, and other animal-derived materials in favor of plant or synthetic alternatives exemplify vegan principles. Similarly, cultural attitudes toward activities like hunting, animal-based sports, and keeping pets can offer insights into a culture's alignment with veganism.

Cultural Attitudes Towards Animal Rights

Finally, understanding a culture's attitudes towards animal rights is pivotal in identifying vegan cultures. A community's traditions, myths, stories, and moral codes can offer deep insights into its relationship with the animal kingdom.

Cultures that view animals as sentient beings deserving of respect, dignity, and freedom from harm embody the spirit of veganism. From philosophical and religious doctrines advocating non-violence to contemporary societal norms and legislation protecting animal welfare—cultural attitudes towards animals form a key criterion in defining vegan cultures.

Identifying vegan cultures is an enlightening journey that uncovers the interplay between diet, tradition, ethics, and ecology. It challenges us to look beyond the surface and delve deeper into how societies define their relationship with the environment, animals, and their food. It's a testament to the diversity and adaptability of human cultures and our capacity to live in harmony with the rest of the natural world.

Case Studies: The World’s Most Vegan Cultures

India: A Legacy of Ahimsa

Role of Religion and Philosophy

In the tapestry of Indian culture, the ancient principle of 'Ahimsa' or non-violence weaves a thread that links food, religion, and philosophy. Rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism, and especially Jainism, the practice of Ahimsa extends to all living beings, promoting a diet free from animal products. While traditional Indian diets may include dairy, the influence of Jainism and the increasing awareness of veganism have sparked a shift toward eliminating animal products entirely.

Regional Variations in Indian Veganism

India's vast culinary landscape showcases regional variations in veganism. In the southern states, where dairy is less central to the cuisine, coconut milk often replaces cow's milk, and dishes are predominantly plant-based. In contrast, North Indian cuisine traditionally relies more heavily on dairy. Yet, an increase in vegan awareness inspires chefs to create delectable vegan versions of classic dishes like 'paneer tikka' using tofu or 'ghee' using vegetable oils.

Ethiopia: Ancient Orthodox Christian Traditions

Fasting Practices and Veganism

In Ethiopia, the vegan diet stems from deep-rooted religious traditions. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church prescribes over 200 fasting days annually, during which followers abstain from all animal products. This has led to a rich tradition of vegan (or 'fasting') dishes that form a substantial part of Ethiopian cuisine.

Staple Vegan Dishes

Staple Ethiopian vegan dishes include 'injera,' a sourdough flatbread, often served with 'shiro,' a spicy chickpea stew, or 'gomen,' a collard greens dish. 'Kik alicha,' a yellow split pea stew, and 'atakilt wat,' a hearty cabbage, carrot, and potato dish, further illustrate how Ethiopian cuisine turns humble plant ingredients into a culinary feast.

Israel: A Modern Vegan Haven

Rise of Veganism in Israel

Israel represents an interesting case study of how veganism can flourish in a contemporary context. With the highest percentage of vegans per capita, Israel's vegan revolution has been driven by a blend of health consciousness, environmental concerns, and animal rights activism.

Impact of Veganism on Israeli Cuisine

With its Middle Eastern roots and Mediterranean influences, Israeli cuisine has embraced veganism with open arms. Traditional dishes like falafel, hummus, and baba ganoush are inherently vegan. The rise of veganism has further led to the creation of vegan alternatives for popular foods like 'shwarma' made from mushrooms or tofu, showcasing the versatility and innovation in Israeli vegan cuisine.

Taiwan: Buddhism and Veganism

Buddhist Principles and Dietary Restrictions

In Taiwan, the connection between Buddhism and veganism is profound. Many Taiwanese Buddhists follow a vegan diet to express compassion towards all sentient beings. This stems from Buddhist principles that discourage killing and causing harm to animals.

Veganism in Taiwanese Cuisine

Taiwanese cuisine offers a smorgasbord of vegan options. From the delightful array of vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms in 'Buddha's Delight' to the popular street food 'stinky tofu,' Taiwan's vegan food scene is diverse and exciting. The prevalence of 'pure vegetarian' (chun-su) restaurants that serve vegan food due to Buddhist influence further cement Taiwan's place as one of the world's leading vegan cultures.

Veganism vs. Traditional Diets: A Comparative Analysis

Nutrition and Health Impact

Nutrition and health impacts are paramount when comparing vegan and traditional omnivorous diets. A well-planned vegan diet can be rich in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins while lower in saturated fats and cholesterol. This can improve heart health, better weight management and lower the risk of certain diseases. However, ensuring the diet provides enough protein, vitamin B12, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids is crucial, which can be challenging in a vegan diet without proper planning.

Sustainability and Environmental Footprint

From a sustainability perspective, plant-based diets generally require fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gases than diets heavy in animal products. Livestock farming contributes significantly to deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the widespread adoption of vegan diets could help reduce environmental degradation.

Animal Rights and Welfare

In the context of animal rights and welfare, veganism stands as a strong alternative to traditional diets. The mass production of meat, dairy, and eggs often involves practices that compromise animal welfare. By excluding animal products, veganism advocates for a shift towards more humane and compassionate food systems.

Impact of Vegan Cultures on the Global Food Scene

The global food scene is increasingly influenced by vegan cultures. Indian, Ethiopian, Israeli, and Taiwanese vegan dishes are finding their place on international menus. This fusion of cultures and flavors enriches global cuisine and expands the range of available vegan options.

Vegan Culinary Innovations

With the rise of veganism, culinary innovations are flourishing. From plant-based meats and cheeses to egg alternatives, these products are revolutionizing what it means to be vegan. These advancements are driven by demand from vegans and flexitarians seeking to reduce their animal product consumption.

Adoption and Adaptation of Vegan Diets

Across the world, people are adopting and adapting vegan diets in various ways. Some embrace veganism fully, while others opt for plant-based meals a few times a week or choose to exclude only certain animal products. This broad spectrum of dietary practices contributes to mainstreaming vegan diets.

Future of Veganism in Cultural Context

The future of veganism looks promising with the rise of plant-based alternatives. Innovation in food technology is creating products that mimic animal products' taste, texture, and nutritional profile, making the transition to veganism easier for many people.

Cultural Shifts and Veganism

Cultural shifts towards environmental consciousness, health awareness, and animal welfare advocacy bolster the growth of veganism. As more people recognize the benefits of plant-based diets, we can expect to see a continued increase in vegan and vegan-friendly cultures.

Role of Veganism in Addressing Climate Change

Veganism plays a significant role in addressing climate change. By reducing the demand for animal products, we can decrease the environmental footprint of our food systems. Thus, adopting vegan diets and growing vegan cultures are key components of global efforts to mitigate climate change.


In exploring what culture is mostly vegan, we've traversed various corners of the globe, from the ancient philosophies of India and the fasting traditions of Ethiopia to the contemporary vegan boom in Israel and the Buddhist practices in Taiwan. Along the way, we've explored the dietary, ethical, and environmental facets of veganism and analyzed the impact of vegan cultures on the global food scene.

Importance of Vegan Cultures in Global Perspectives

Vegan cultures hold an essential place in global perspectives. They challenge traditional views on food and consumption, highlighting the possibilities for a healthier, more sustainable, and compassionate world. The influence of these cultures extends beyond their geographic borders, shaping international cuisines, influencing food policies, and inspiring dietary changes around the world.

Encouraging Continued Exploration

Understanding vegan cultures invites us to explore our relationship with food and its wider implications. This exploration is far from complete—countless other cultures and perspectives await discovery. Therefore, let's continue to engage with different culinary traditions, seek out new tastes, and expand our understanding of veganism in its many diverse forms.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What cultures are mostly vegan?

Certain cultures, such as those found in India, Ethiopia, Israel, and Taiwan, have strong traditions or contemporary movements toward veganism. However, veganism varies significantly within and across these cultures.

How does veganism differ from culture to culture?

The practice of veganism can differ based on cultural attitudes, dietary preferences, and religious or philosophical beliefs. Some cultures practice veganism out of religious obligations, while others do so out of ethical, environmental, or health considerations.

How has veganism evolved over time in different cultures?

Veganism has evolved from being primarily associated with religious or philosophical beliefs to a lifestyle choice influenced by health, environmental concerns, and animal rights. The rise of veganism in different cultures is often linked to increased global connectivity, awareness of animal welfare issues, and environmental consciousness.

Popular vegan dishes vary widely. Indian cuisine features a variety of vegan curries and flatbreads. Ethiopian cuisine offers 'injera' and 'shiro.' In Israel, falafel and hummus are common vegan dishes. Taiwan is known for its vegan street food, including 'stinky tofu.'

How does veganism impact the environment and animal welfare?

Veganism can reduce the environmental footprint of our diets, as plant-based foods typically require fewer resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases than animal-based foods. It also advocates for improved animal welfare, as it rejects using animal products and, thus, exploiting animals for food and other purposes.