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What is veganism?

A lifestyle that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey; animal derived products like leather; and, as far as possible, products tested on animals.

The Vegan Society’s formal definition is: "Veganism is a way of living which 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 protected belief

Veganism is protected as a human right under Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights

A vegan diet is recognised as a valid diet 

Veganism is widely recognised as a valid, healthy diet that everyone can thrive on. The British Dietetic Association recently stated that, ‘...well-planned plant-based, vegan-friendly diets can be devised to support healthy living at every age and life-stage.’ (Memorandum of Understanding between The Vegan Society and the British Dietetic Association, The British Dietetic Association, 12th March 2014).

How many vegans are there in the UK?

The Vegan Society estimates that there are 150,000 vegans in the UK.

The Department for Health and Food Standards Agency's (FSA) 'National Diet and Nutrition Survey' 2012 put the level of vegans at less than 1% based on a survey of 1,582 children (1.5-18 years) and 1,491 adults. The same survey puts the level of vegetarians (ie. those eating eggs and or dairy products in addition to vegan foods) at 2% of adults and children. The same study was conducted in 2010 and 2011 and the figures for vegetarianism and veganism remained stable throughout that period at 2% and less than 1% respectively.

Sale figures for vegan food products

The Mintel Meat-Free Foods UK Report for 2012 shows that meat-free and free-from sales are expected to reach a total of £949m in 2012 with meat-free sales set to reach £607m and free-from market sales expected to reach £342m.

Almost four in 10 (38%) Britons have bought vegetarian or meat-free food, while one in five (20%) has bought free-from food. The growth of the soya, rice and other alternatives to dairy milks as well as the dairy-free margarine market show the potential for this segment of the market.

About The Vegan Society

The Vegan Society works to help more people become vegan with confidence, encourage more trusted Vegan Society Trademarked products to be available in shops, and take veganism to the mainstream. It provides information and guidance on various aspects of veganism for new and potential vegans, caterers, healthcare professionals, educators and the media. It also co-ordinates a variety of campaigns to raise awareness of the lifestyle.

The Vegan Society runs a mentoring scheme to help people who would like to become vegan called the Vegan Pledge. In 2013 vegan pledging was up 39% compared to the same period in 2012.

Our multi-disciplinary Research Committee, consists of over 25 academics pursuing research on a range of topics within veganism. Please let us know if you wish to speak to a specialist we will recommend someone.

The Vegan Society is the oldest vegan organisation in the world and was founded in 1944. At the establishment of the Society, founder Donald Watson and his wife coined the term ‘vegan’ to describe the lifestyle of what were then called the non-dairy vegetarians. The word ‘vegan’ was created from the first and last letters of ‘vegetarian’.

When was the first vegan cookbook published?

The first animal-free cookery book, Kitchen Philosophy for Vegetarians, was published in England in 1849 by William Horsell of London. A review of the book claimed that “…butter and eggs are excluded” (Vegetarian Advocate, September 1849, p.10), making it the first known 'vegan' cookbook.

The first US vegan cookery book, entitled The Hygeian Home Cook-Book; or, Healthful and Palatable Food Without Condiments, was published in the USA in 1874 by Russell Thacher Trall, MD, a founding member of the American Vegetarian Society in 1850.

The first cookery book to use the new word ‘vegan’ in its title was Fay K. Henderson's Vegan Recipes published in 1946.

Famous present-day vegans

  • Lily Cole
  • Russell Brand
  • Stella McCartney
  • Al Gore
  • James Cameron
  • Toby Maguire
  • Roxy Shahidi
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Alicia Silverstone
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Casey Affleck
  • Portia de Rossi
  • Anne Hathaway
  • Alec Baldwin
  • Moby
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Samuel L. Jackson

Famous vegan athletes

  • Peter Siddle - Australian cricketer
  • Rich Roll
  • Brendan Brazier
  • Matt Danzig
  • Scott Jurek
  • Dean Howell
  • Frank Medrano
  • Robert Cheeke
  • Fiona Oakes – elite marathon runner who broke the female elapsed time record for completing the Seven Continents & Polar Ice Cap Challenge
  • Jim Morris
  • Cam Awesome
  • Meagan Duhamel - Olympic figure skater
  • Patrik Baboumian - strongman
  • Zak Covalcik, vegan track cyclist
  • Helen Fines - British runner
  • Josh Garrett - extreme distance hiker
  • Yassine Diboun - marathon Runner
  • Leilani Munter - racing driver
  • Kara Lang- Canadian womens football team
  • Esther Hahn - surfer
  • Sarah Stewart - wheelchair basketball player
  • Billy Simmonds - bodybuilder and winner of Mr Natural Universe 2009
  • Vicky Cosio -  tennis player
  • Peter Ebdon  - world champion snooker player
  • Emily Jans - kickboxer
  • Amanda reister - boxing champion and bodybuilder
  • Dr Ruth Heidrich - accomplished distance runner
  • Steph Davis - world-recognised climber
  • KennethG Williams – American bodybuilding winner
  • Michael Zigomanis - professional ice hockey player
  • Christine Varderos - cyclist
  • Keith Homes

Key spokespeople of The Vegan Society

  • Jasmijn de Boo – CEO
  • Amanda Baker – Senior Advocacy & Policy Officer