Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism

Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism

Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism

Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism


Vegetarianism in the United States did not start in the 1960s—it has a much longer, complex history going back to the early 1800s. Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism examines that history through the lens of culture, focusing on what vegetarianism has had to say to and about Americans.

This A–Z encyclopedia brings together the work of a number of scholars from diverse fields, including history, sociology, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, nutrition, American studies, religious studies, women's and gender history, and the history of medicine. Approximately 100 essay entries cover cultural and historical aspects of vegetarianism, primarily but not exclusively in relation to the United States, shedding light on the practice's roots in ancient cultures and challenging popular myths and misconceptions related to both vegetarianism and veganism. With discussions on everything from activist movements to cookbooks, the encyclopedia offers a unique, wide-ranging exploration that will appeal to students, practitioners, and anyone else who wants to know more.


Throughout time and across cultures, food has always represented more than merely the fulfillment of a physiological necessity. The ways that human beings produce, market, prepare, and consume food provide valuable insight into our conceptions of sickness and health, morality, personal identity, recreation, and family life. As individuals and as members of a global society, our attitudes toward food also have profound meanings and consequences.

Because food plays such a central role in all of our daily lives, the prohibition of a specific food or drink can be particularly revealing. Calls to avoid meat consumption represent one of the oldest and most culturally significant food taboos in world history. In spite of the recent explosion of scholarship on food consumption and practices as well as the establishment of new academic programs on food studies across the country, very little work has appeared on vegetarianism. Furthermore, both popular and scholarly accounts of vegetarianism, particularly its development in the United States, are riddled with myths and misconceptions. Ignoring the longer history of vegetarianism in the United States buries its importance as both a social movement and a cultural force.

Perhaps the greatest and most harmful misunderstanding that many Americans have about vegetarianism is that it is a new or even distinctly modern invention. While it is certainly true that rationales for adopting vegetarianism and the ways these ideals are put into practice in daily life can vary significantly, it is both inaccurate and naive to assume that vegetarianism’s recent popularity in the United States is disconnected from the past. This encyclopedia is largely intended as a step toward filling this notable historical gap. Indeed, vegetarianism has a long history in the United States, going back to the early 19th century.

Although vegetarianism in the United States is commonly associated with the 1960s and 1970s, a burgeoning vegetarian movement existed by the time of the Civil War. Nineteenth-century advocates focused primarily on the moral and physiological rationales for vegetarianism as opposed to ethical concerns for the treatment of nonhuman animals. In spite of the existence of numerous societies . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.