Why are People Vegetarian?

green vegetable on brown wooden table

Reasons Vegetarians and Vegans Avoid Meat and Animal Products

There are a wide variety of reasons that lead to a decision to go meat-free. For some, there is one compelling idea that leads to vegetarianism. For others, there are several.


Health concerns or a history of family health problems are commonly cited as reasons for choosing to not eat meat. Vegetarianism is often perceived as healthier than meat-eating.

Scientific evidence is conflicted around whether vegetarians eat longer and suffer from less chronic disease. Vegetarians may live longer and suffer from less chronic disease. Some studies have shown that vegetarians are less like to have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers and obesity than meat-eaters. This may be because vegetarians tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than meat-eaters, more fiber, and less saturated fat and cholesterol. Or, people who are vegetarians may be more concerned with their overall health.

Ethical and Moral Issues

When someone believes that animals shouldn’t be killed for food, they are taking an ethical stance against meat-eating. Some people believe that not eating other animals helps them respect nature. Others are against animal cruelty and factory farming, while others believe that all creatures have a right to life.

Similarly, some religions are opposed to meat-eating. Seventh-day Adventists and Buddhists are well-known for their vegetarian diets.

Weight Control or Weight Loss

Some vegetarians cut out meat in hopes of losing weight. A vegetarian diet may help some people lose weight, if they stick to it. Vegetarianism may be used as an excuse not to eat meat to disguise an eating disorder, especially in children or teens.

Feeling Better

Some people feel better physically, spiritually, or mentally when they don’t eat meat. Some competitors like Iron Man triathlete Brendon Brazier say they perform better on a plant-based diet.

Environmental and Social Concerns

In the 1970s, Frances Moore Lappé exposed the high energy cost of eating meat in her book Diet for a Small Planet. Today, environmental concerns about meat-eating are more mainstream. Link to article. Intense industrialized farming, poor waste management practices, and greenhouse gas emissions are some ways animals are thought to contribute to environmental decline.

Social concerns often focus on the amount of food that goes to feed the animals we raise for food. Feeding that grain to people is more energy efficient.

Friends and Family

The influence of friends may be one reasons people become vegetarians.

Don’t Like the Taste of Meat

It is a myth that vegetarians don’t eat meat because they don’t like it. One online survey found that only 0.02% of people chose to be vegetarian because they didn’t like the look or taste of meat (Blackvegetarians.org)

Eating Less Meat

The fastest-growing group of people eating vegetarian meals are those considered “veg-curious” – omnivores who still eat meat but who are experimenting with vegetarian meals more often.