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Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define meat only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism.

The common-use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state that diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, because fish and birds are also animals.

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Other studies, exploring animal protein's negative effects on bone health, suggest that vegetarians may be less prone to osteoporosis than omnivores, as vegetarian subjects had greater bone mineral density a 20-year study conducted by Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the government of China has established a correlation between the consumption of animal products and a variety of chronic illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel (see The China Study).

A British study of almost 10,000 men found that those who gave up meat were almost twice as likely to suffer from depression as people on a conventional balanced diet.

Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, as well as animal rights advocacy.

Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference.

Vegetarianism was also practiced in ancient Greece and the earliest reliable evidence for vegetarian theory and practice in Greece dates from the 6th century BC.

The Orphics, a religious movement spreading in Greece at that time, also practiced and promoted vegetarianism.

Some vegans also avoid other animal products such as beeswax, leather or silk clothing, and goose-fat shoe polish.

Packaged and processed foods, such as cakes, cookies, candies, chocolate, yogurt, and marshmallows, often contain unfamiliar animal ingredients, so may be a special concern for vegetarians due to the likelihood of such additions.

Vegetarians' feelings vary with regard to these ingredients.

For example, while some vegetarians may be unaware of animal-derived rennet's role in the production of cheese, and may therefore unknowingly consume the product, Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods but may include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats, on an infrequent basis.

The International Vegetarian Union, an association of the national societies, was founded in 1908.

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