photo: Vanilla Black's gipsy toast with refried beans, tomatoes and home-made brown sauce. The restaurant is one of only two Michelin-recommended vegetarian establishments in Britain. Photograph: Gary Calton
Veggie eating boosted by cost, health and green concerns
Trend for eating less meat fuels rise in demand
The number of high-end vegetarian eateries is rising fast, despite the recession, prompted by culinary innovation by leading chefs, interest in healthy lifestyles and a growing belief that carnivorous cuisine is bad for the environment.
And the majority of the food enthusiasts are the increasing number of meat-eaters who are now consuming less flesh - so-called "meat-reducers" - and not the estimated 5 million Britons who are wholly or partly vegetarian.
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The London mini-chain Eat & Two Veg has recently ceased trading. But Vegetarian Society members responded to a Guardian request for information about the sector by identifying far more recent openings than closures, in places as far afield as Wigan, Eastbourne, Paignton, Leigh-on-Sea and York.
"The vegetarian food market has been growing for decades," said the society's head of communications, Liz O'Neill. "Although the number of committed vegetarians has remained stable in recent years, the number of meat-reducers has increased enormously.
"Both groups often choose vegetarian meals when eating out, partly because it's the only way to be sure that you're not eating factory-farmed meat and partly because they've realised that good food doesn't have to include a dead animal."
The Vegetarian Society is a member of the International Vegetarian Union: www.ivu.org