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“The vegetarian lifestyle is a long-term development”

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

According to estimates, about a billion people worldwide are vegetarians or vegans. The British Vegetarian Society reports that currently an average of 5,000 people a week become vegetarians in Britain. In Germany the equivalent figure is 4,000 people a week but, with around 7 million vegetarians, Germany currently has the highest number. Bio-Markt.Info talked to the spokesperson of VEBU – the association of vegetarians in Germany - Elisabeth Burrer about the vegetarian trend in our society, the development of the association, projects and public relations. (Picture: For a long time, being a vegetarian wasn’t particularly sexy, but that has now changed. The arguments against meat are becoming weightier all the time, says Elisabeth Burrer)

According to the website to accompany the bestseller Vegetarian Life by Armin Risi and Ronald Zürrer, there are in Britain ca. 3.6 million vegetarians, in Italy ca. 5.7 million and in the USA an estimated 10 million, but in France only around 1.3 million have renounced food of animal origin. In India, the "home of vegetarianism", the figure is about 300 million (approximately 30% of the population). (Graph by VEBU: The membership of VEBU is growing by leaps and bounds)

How high is the current number of vegetarians/vegans and how has that figure developed over the last five years? 

Elisabeth Burrer: In Germany about seven million people are vegetarians, which is 8-9 % of the population (Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach 2011). Of these, approximately 800,000 eat exclusively vegan food. In the last 5 years there has been a huge boost to the vegetarian lifestyle, and we see evidence of this in our steadily growing membership. In 2010 VEBU saw growth in membership of 30 %, in 2011 it was 40 % and in 2012 it rose by 50 %. At the moment we have over 8,000 members .

Conversely, what has been the development of meat consumption? Is there a growing number of flexitarians?

Meat consumption in Germany is declining steadily, and that’s true of last year as well, when statistically every German citizen ate only 59.6 kilos of meat, which is 1.4 kilos less than the year before. Moreover, a Forsa survey came to the conclusion that 42 million part-time vegetarians now live in Germany. This means that the majority of Germans (52 %) consciously avoid eating meat on three or more days a week.

What motivates people to eat a vegetarian/vegan diet?

People take the decision not to eat meat most frequently for ethical reasons.There are also health reasons, more and more food scandals, increasing climate and environmental problems and the whole issue of world hunger that motivate people to change their diet on a permanent basis.

What is VEBU’s opinion of the veggie trend - is it just a fad or will it become a megatrend?

Quite obviously the vegetarian lifestyle is a long-term development. The evidence is, for example, the continuing boom in vegetarian and vegan cookery books, the steadily expanding range of vegetarian and vegan products in the supermarkets and the bigger and bigger and also improving offer in restaurants, canteens and college refectories. Even the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung DGE (German Nutrition Society) now recommends a vegetarian diet on a permanent basis. Experts estimate that by 2020 a good 20 percent of Germans will have a predominantly vegetarian diet. The decisive influence driving this development is the fact that the arguments against meat are becoming more and more compelling, whereas there are hardly any arguments in favour of meat when you look at the issue from a moral, health or ecological perspective. At the same time, vegetarian food is becoming increasingly available, more varied and less expensive – so it’s getting easier to eat just vegetarian food. The assumption of the British economist Lord Nicholas Stern: “It will one day become as socially unacceptable to eat meat as it is to drink and drive.” (Picture: At VeggieWorld, plant-based products are in the spotlight)

What P.R. work does VEBU do, are there any projects or cooperation partners?

With the project GV-nachhaltig, VEBU has launched a service portal for community gastronomy. The aim is to improve and expand the vegetarian offer in canteens, refectories, hospitals and schools, and above all to make it more sustainable. With this aim in mind, GV-nachhaltig is offering a number of services like in-house cookery training, vegetarian recipes adapted for use in large-scale kitchens, an overview of the variety of vegetarian products, climate calculators, success stories and a lot more besides. Together with the Compass Group, the biggest catering company worldwide, VEBU has a specific policy of advocating meat-free and sustainable food in the workplace.To achieve its aims, VEBU is linked to other organizations. Working with foodwatch, VEBU advocates obligatory clear labelling on products and the protection of the terms vegetarian and vegan. If people don’t want to eat food of animal origin for ethical, religious or other reasons, they should have the opportunity not to do so. In a petition in which 7,292 people are already involved, the organizations are calling on the federal minister Ilse Aigner at long last to create transparency: In addition to this work, VEBU supports vegetarian and vegan product development, and it has inaugurated the trade fair for the public VeggieWorld – the fair for sustainable enjoyment. (Picture: VEBU speach at VeggieWorld)

With the VEBU Card (picture), consumers can benefit from numerous concessions when shopping, in restaurants or on holiday. In the meantime, 170 suppliers give a discount on their products and services - from vegetarian ready products and wholefoods, fairtrade clothing, environmentally friendly travel, seminars and advisory sessions to eco-electricity.

Info: since 1892, VEBU has been the biggest organization representing the interests of vegetarians and vegans in Germany.




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