Vegetarianism can be said to have existed for about 5 million years. Our ancestor, Australopithecus Anamensis, fed on fruits, leaves and seeds, living in perfect harmony with the smaller animals, which they could easily catch for food. But these hominids were peaceful and did not hunt animals, and they continued to do so until the appearance of Australopithecus Boesei, about 2.4 – 1 million years ago.

With the mastery of fire and the development of weapons, Homo Neanderthalensis (127,000 – 30,000 years) hunted, in groups of 10 to 15, large animals such as mammoths and smaller ones such as deer, of which everything was meticulously tapped.

In later times, human populations began to create fixed plant cultures, which began to attract animals such as wild pigs, sheep, dogs, goats, birds, rats and small cats, which were being domesticated and became part of their diet.

Around 3200 BC, vegetarianism began to be embraced in Egypt by religious groups, who believed that abstinence from meat created a karmic power that facilitated reincarnation.

In Ancient China and Japan (around the 3rd century BC), the climate and terrain were conducive to the practice of vegetarianism. The first Chinese prophet-king, Fu Xi, was a vegetarian and taught people the art of plant cultivation, the medicinal properties of herbs, and the use of crops for clothing and utensils. Gishi-wajin-den, a history book of the time, written in China, reports that in Japan there were no cows, horses, tigers or goats and that people lived off rice plantations, fish and shellfish that they caught. Years later, with the arrival of Buddhism, the ban on hunting and fishing was welcomed by the Japanese populations.

In India, animals such as cows and monkeys have been worshiped over the years for symbolizing the incarnation of deities. The Indian king Asoka, who reigned between 264-232 BC, converted to Buddhism, shocked by the horrors of the battles. He banned animal sacrifices and his kingdom became vegetarian. India, linked to Buddhism and Hinduism, religions that have always emphasized respect for living beings, considered cereals and fruits as the best (more balanced) way to feed the population. Along with these religious practices, certain exercises, such as Yoga, were associated with not eating meat, to achieve harmony and ascend to higher spiritual levels.

For the Celtic and Aztec peoples, closely linked to nature, meat was reserved for great occasions: the festivals that served to strengthen social ties and link the human world to that of the pagan gods. For the rest, when it was not linked to sacrifice, meat consumption depended on hunting. Only hunting escaped the logic of sacrifice, but in the value system of Celtic culture it was a marginal activity, not part of the daily life of this people.

For nearly 2,500 years, Europeans and Americans called those who followed vegetarianism Pythagoras (or Pythagoreans).

The term vegetarian was not commonly used until the founding of the British Vegetarian Society in 1847. Pythagoras’ argument for a meatless diet had three “corners” (like a triangle): religious veneration, physical health, and ecological responsibility. And these reasons continue to be cited today by people who prefer to live their lives without meat.

While there have always been vegetarians in the world population, many chose this path more out of necessity than preference. The medieval world considered vegetables and cereals as food for animals. Only poverty forced people to replace meat with vegetables.

The Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and the Roman philosopher Plato preached non-cruelty to animals. They noted that the advantages of a vegetarian diet were enormous and that it was the key to peaceful coexistence between humans and non-humans, focusing that the slaughter of animals for consumption made people’s souls brutish. Pythagoras’ arguments in favor of a meatless diet had three points: religious veneration, physical health, and ecological responsibility. These reasons continue to be cited today by those who prefer to lead a more responsible life.

In the early Renaissance era, vegetarian ideology emerged as a rare phenomenon. Famine and disease prevailed, while crops failed and food was scarce. Meat was little and a luxury only for the rich. It was during this period that classical (Greek-Roman) philosophy was rediscovered. Pythagoreanism and Neoplatonism again became a major influence in Europe.

By the 1880s, vegetarian restaurants were popular in London and offered inexpensive, nutritious meals. At the turn of the 20th century, the British population was still in a state of poverty. The Vegetarian Society, during the 1926 crisis, distributed food to communities. Due to food shortages during World War II, the British were encouraged to “Dig For Victory” (Dig For Victory) to grow their own vegetables and fruits. The vegetarian diet maintained the population, and with it, people’s health improved a lot during the war years.

Since the 1980s, humanity has increasingly focused on a healthy lifestyle. Vegetarianism then became associated with health and some studies pointed to meat as the cause of numerous diseases. Consequently, the non-consumption of meat and other animal products was associated with non-violence and respect for animals. Since then, organizations for animal protection and the promotion of vegetarianism/veganism began to gain more and more strength and to develop actions worldwide.

With the global population growing progressively and resources declining terrifyingly, vegetarianism and veganism have come to be considered by many as the solution to all of humanity’s problems and will greatly influence the future of generations to come.