We all live in information bubbles.
It seems like veganism is really catching on, with more vegan restaurants, more vegan options (e.g. the McVegan), and more grocery stores carrying vegan food (e.g. meat substitutes).
The latest Canada’s food guide update even recommends eating more of a plant based diet and lowering meat consumption (1).
But are people really embracing veganism, and is it making an impact on things like the meat industry?
It’s a difficult thing to measure for many reasons, but surveys can give us decent data to form opinions on.
There’s data on most large countries, but very little on vegans in Canada.
So, I conducted a survey to find out more about the diets of Canadians, and ended up with 1,559 responses from across the country (detailed methodology at the end of this post).
It was a very simple survey, with only a single question that asked “Which of the following, if any, best describes your eating behavior?”:
- Omnivore (You eat plants and animal products)
- Vegan (No animal products at all, just vegan food)
- Pescetarian (Vegetarian who eats fish)
- None of the above
Here are the results.
The Percent of Vegans and Vegetarians in Canada (Overall)
This is the main finding of the survey.
With 1,559 responses, we have a decent sample size and margin of error.
Not surprisingly, most people are not vegetarians of any kind (I grouped “none of the above” responses in with omnivores).
When you combine those smaller groups, you’ll find that about 12.2% of Canadians are some kind of vegetarian or vegan.
Are Plant-Based Diets in Canada Increasing?
There’s been one other major survey about Canadian eating habits, that was done in 2018 by Dalhousie University researchers.
It looked at more than just overall diet type, but that’s all we’re really looking at here.
|Dalhousie Survey (2018)||This survey (2020)||Percent Change|
|Percent of Vegetarians||6.9%||7.6%||+10.1%|
|Percent of Vegans||2.5%||4.6%||+84%|
The percent of Canadian vegetarians went up a small amount, but the number of vegans nearly doubled over this time period (~16 months).
Before getting too excited, I should mention a few caveats:
- This isn’t a like-to-like comparison – Different survey platforms and methodologies were used, and likely affect results (more on this at end of post).
- We’re dealing with small incidence numbers – For the 2020 survey here, the number of vegans is 4.6% (+1.0% / -0.8%). While that isn’t a huge margin of error, it is significant.
It definitely seems like more people are going vegan, but to conclude that the number of vegans has doubled in a relatively short time period seems unlikely.
To deal with the first issue, I’d like to make this survey a more regular thing to track results over time.
Vegans and Vegetarians in Canada By Gender
This was the most interesting result to me.
I’ve always heard that way more women were vegans than men.
That may apply in other countries, but it doesn’t seem to here.
There were more females of both main types of vegetarians.
However, 5.6% of males responded that they ate a vegan diet, compared to 3.6% of females.
Anecdotally, this seems reasonable to me. Whenever I go to vegan food festivals (in the Toronto area), it’s approximately a 50/50 split.
Veganism and Vegetarianism in Canada By Age Group
When looking at age groups, the results were pretty much as most would expect.
Younger people are more vegan in general, with an impressive 7.5% of 18-24 year olds responding that they ate a vegan diet.
Interestingly, the number of vegetarians is fairly steady throughout age groups.
Vegans and Vegetarians in Canada By Region
There weren’t enough replies to look at results by province, but there’s a reasonable sample size for more standard regions of Canada:
Here were the results:
Quebec led the way with 6.9% of respondents selecting a vegan diet.
Ontario and British Columbia had similar levels of overall vegans and vegetarians, both significantly more than the Prairies and Atlantic regions.
There wasn’t enough data to look at vegetarians and vegans in cities themselves. So while the bigger, more “progressive” cities like Toronto and Victoria likely have a bigger scene, we don’t have the data to back up that claim.
Survey Methodology and Limitations
This survey was conducted through Google Surveys. You can read about their methodology here.
It uses a combination of surveys sent through websites and mobile applications. That makes it skewed towards people who use the Internet, although that shouldn’t be a large effects these days (but perhaps significant for older age groups).
A few other notes:
- The order of the responses to choose from was randomized.
- This is a survey where people self-selected their diet types, so all the people that responded as “vegan” might not be strict vegans (i.e. “I’m basically vegan, I only eat meat and dairy once in a while”).
- This survey was conducted January 6th-11th, 2020. It’s possible that New Year’s resolutions may have affected the results.
Still, while there are limitations, I think the results are interesting and largely significant.
There is ambiguity in some areas, but overall, the number of vegans in Canada does appear to be increasing significantly (which should make it easier to meet other vegans – yay). We’ll see if this trend continues into the future.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that meat consumption is lower, since the population is also growing.