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What percentage of vegans quit veganism?

Veganism is defined as avoiding all animal products for ethical reasons. While interest in veganism continues to grow, some vegans find it difficult to stick with the diet and lifestyle long-term. This article explores research on vegan attrition rates and the common reasons why some vegans decide to quit.


Research suggests that anywhere from 50-90% of vegans and vegetarians abandon the diet. However, the true “lapse” rate is hard to pin down due to limited long-term studies. Key reasons why some vegans quit include social pressures, inconvenience, deficiencies from restrictive diets, health issues from processed junk foods, ethical inconsistencies, and unique difficulties for pregnant women.

Estimates of How Many Vegans Quit

Veganism has seen rapid growth recently. Surveys indicate there are 1-2 million vegans in the U.S. and 350,000 in the UK. However, remaining a committed vegan for the long-term is challenging for many.

According to one study, 84% of vegetarians abandon the diet. Of these lapsed vegetarians, 70% cited health reasons while 30% said social issues made them quit. Other research finds a failure rate of 85% for those attempting vegetarianism or veganism.

One survey specifically tracked long-term vegans. Of vegans with over 17 years avoiding animal products, 84% eventually abandoned veganism and went back to eating some form of meat.

However, these studies all rely on self-reported survey data. There is a lack of long-term clinical trials tracking vegan attrition rates. As such, it’s hard to pin down an exact quitting rate for veganism.

Estimates of Vegan Attrition Rates

Study Finding on Lapse Rate
Vegetarian study in Austria 84% lapse rate after 1 year vegetarian
Study on vegetarian/vegan lapse 85% lapse rate
Survey of long-term vegans 84% lapse rate after 17+ years vegan

Based on the limited data, it seems 50-90% of vegans and vegetarians abandon the diet after 1-17+ years. This high quitting rate implies remaining truly vegan for life is challenging for most.

Why Vegans Quit

Assuming an average lapse rate of around 75%, what leads so many ethically-motivated vegans to eventually give up? Here are some of the most common reasons behind vegan attrition:

Social Difficulties

Being the only vegan in a group can cause social strains. Dinner parties, work meetings, holidays and dating often revolve around non-vegan activities. Vegans may face mockery, lack of understanding, or awkwardness from friends and family.

Over time, the social pressures and inconvenience lead some vegans to revert for convenience. One study found 30% of lapsed vegetarians/vegans cited social reasons for quitting.

Nutrition Deficiencies

Well-planned vegan diets can be healthy. However, some vegans make little effort to replace vital nutrients like protein, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, iodine and omega-3s. Deficiency symptoms like fatigue, poor immunity and brain fog cause some vegans to add animal foods back in.

Junk Food Diet

A vegan diet doesn’t guarantee health if it’s loaded with processed snacks, sodas, white carbs, and sugar. “Junk food vegans” who eat mostly Oreos, fries and fake meats often feel sluggish and unhealthy, fueling vegan lapses.

Ethical Inconsistencies

Vegans aim to avoid animal exploitation. But imperfect food labeling can make it tricky to avoid hidden animal ingredients. Contamination from processing facilities that also handle animal products further clouds ingredients.

For vegans striving for purity, accidentally consuming animal products can demoralize them. Laxing their standards or quitting veganism altogether becomes tempting.

Pregnancy Difficulties

Pregnant and nursing women have exceptionally high nutrient needs. While vegan pregnancies can thrive with diligent planning, many women increase animal products while pregnant and breastfeeding even if they intend to eventually revert back.

Other Health Conditions

Some ex-vegans report other health conditions – gut issues, food allergies, cancer diagnosis, etc – forced them to add animal foods back in. However, these cases do not mean all people with health conditions must quit veganism.

Cravings and Convenience

After months or years of dietary restraint, vegans may understandably crave the taste of a cheeseburger or ice cream cone. Missing the convenience of fast food and takeout also grinds down some vegans’ resolve.

Preventing Vegan Attrition

The high estimated vegan lapsing rate may seem discouraging for long-term adherence. However, knowledge of the common pitfalls allows new vegans to succeed where others have struggled. Here are some tips to persevere as a lifelong vegan:

  • Seek support groups to ease social pressures
  • Learn balanced vegan nutrition and use supplements if needed
  • Eat mostly whole foods over processed items
  • Vet labels carefully but don’t stress over trace contaminants
  • Prepare a diligent plan to meet needs if pregnant
  • Find satisfying plant-based swaps for cravings


Current research suggests anywhere from 50-90% of vegetarians and vegans eventually revert back to consuming animal products. Reasons for lapses include social pressures, nutritional deficiencies from poorly planned diets, junk food habits, ethical inconsistencies, pregnancy challenges, cravings and convenience.

However, awareness of these pitfalls allows new vegans to take action to stick with it for life. With diligent planning, social support, and whole foods-focused eating, long-term veganism is achievable for most.