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Vegetarians in Mongolia

[Christian Science Monitor]

An unlikely vegetarian movement is taking root in Mongolia, where livestock outnumbers people 14 to 1 and meat consumption tops 200 pounds per person a year.

The first vegetarian restaurant in Mongolia, Ananda’s Cafe, opened in 2006. Today more than 20 vegetarian and vegan restaurants pepper the capital, Ulan Bator, and a handful of others are scattered throughout the country. Ananda’s has launched a catering service, and another popular restaurant, Luna Blanca, now sells frozen faux-mutton dumplings in supermarkets.

The restaurateurs, mostly Mongolians, belong to Christian and Buddhist-influenced spiritual movements that promote vegetarianism, some of them fringe foreign meditation sects.

Mongolians are turning to vegetarianism “mostly because of health. Also because of meditation – they’re following this trend,” says Solongo, a former assistant doctor for the United Nations, who like most Mongolians uses only one name. She estimates that vegetarians number around 30,000 or 40,000, just over 1 percent of the population. In the US, about 3 percent of adults are vegetarian, according to Vegetarian Times.

Increased trade with Russia and China and expanding Internet access are providing more information about food and nutrition, she adds.

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