What was once a fringe minority has now become the diet of choice for many Europeans, with ever more people refraining from eating meat by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet (between 2 and 10 percent of the overall population according to the Meat Atlas, though the European Vegetarian Union estimates it at about 6 percent), while the continent leads the way for meat substitutes with 39 percent of global sales .
Though Europeans continue to be among the largest consumers of meat in the world, the environmental impact of meat and dairy production has EU policy makers changing their tune while consumers have become more conscious of the environmental, ethical and health impact of their diet. Yet, if the EU, citizens and politicians alike, are serious about the environment, they can no longer ignore the very serious facts regarding animal agriculture.
Decline in meat consumption
The 512 million EU citizens account for 6.8 percent of the world’s population, but are responsible for 16 percent of the world’s total meat consumption . The current per capita amount of meat eaten by Europeans stood at 69.3 kg in 2018 but that figure is expected to fall to 68.6 kg in 2030, according to the European Union agricultural outlook for 2018-2030 report , though dairy product consumption will climb.
One of the factors behind this projected decrease is the rise in the EU’s vegetarian population, who abstain from eating meat, and in vegans, who avoid all animal products altogether. Looking at a set of different studies, Europe has seen a significant increase in vegetarians and vegans in recent years indeed.
In 2007, the number of vegetarians in Sweden stood at 270,000 (3 percent of the population), while that figure rose to 10 percent in 2014. A 2009 study found there to be 7.4 million vegetarians in Germany (9 percent of the population), while in 2017 that figure was 9.3 million, equating to over 11 percent of the country’s population.
In a study on Great Britain 3.25 percent of the population above the age of 15 was found to be vegetarians or vegans, while the latter saw a significant rise from 150,000 individuals in 2006 to 540,000 in 2016 (a 72.2 percent increase).
In Italy, something similar is witnessed, with a 2016 study finding 1 percent of the population in 2016 was vegan, while that figure was 1.9 percent just two years later. However, the same study group which found that vegetaria